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The French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) is a key player in research, development and innovation.
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Media kits | Nuclear energy | Materials
Though it is a well-defined industrial product that has been duly tested over several decades, nuclear fuel nonetheless remains the focus of numerous innovations. It needs to be optimised on a regular basis not only to meet economic and industrial imperatives, but also to prepare for the future and any emerging issues. And for good reason, since nuclear fuel is a complex and complicated product to use, which requires reconciling ever-increasing performance and safety requirements. Researchers at the CEA are rising to this challenge, by bettering our control over the knowledge and skills accumulated in all fields from design to post-irradiation characterisation and numerical simulation.
Though the small-sized pellets of uranium oxide have hardly changed shape since the 70s, their composition and behaviour are still the subject of in-depth research at the CEA. Nuclear fuel needs to be optimised according to the different applications: power generation, propulsion, test reactors, or fourth generation reactors. Yet the overriding aim is to constantly improve its safety and performance requirements.
Involved from the design phase right through to fuel characterisation, numerical simulation is an essential tool. In tandem with experimentation, it helps us understand how fuel behaves under irradiation from the scale of an atom to that of the whole fuel assembly, and guides researchers throughout the process of producing the precious product.
Design, fabrication, experimentation and characterisation: each of the stages in research on fuel is a testing ground of innovation for the teams at the CEA.
To qualify a fuel, researchers study its behaviour under irradiation. To do this, they are equipped with powerful experimental and microanalysis equipment. This dictates whether or not innovations to improve its performance and safety are worthwhile.
How do we guarantee energy independence and secure supplies, while improving safety standards, optimising our management of materials, and minimising waste production? And all this without emitting greenhouse gases? These are the specifications for future nuclear systems defined by the Generation IV International Forum (GIF).
The CEA’s Nuclear Energy Division is developing innovative solutions in the field of nuclear dismantling which are already the subject of industrial transfers.
The CEA developed most processes in use today, and is pursuing research to improve, extend, and adapt the treatment and the recycling of spent fuel to tomorrow’s challenges.
Guaranteeing the safety, lifespan and performance levels of current reactors, while designing and qualifying new materials capable of resisting the specific constraints of future nuclear systems, are the main issues investigated at the CEA in the field of nuclear materials.
CEA is a French government-funded technological research organisation in four main areas: low-carbon energies, defense and security, information technologies and health technologies. A prominent player in the European Research Area, it is involved in setting up collaborative projects with many partners around the world.