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Video | Interview | Nuclear energy | 2nd and 3rd generation reactors
Why carry out R&D on the current fleet of nuclear reactors? How does the CEA contribute to this R&D? How does this R&D shape the future of the nuclear sector? Find the answers to these questions in a video interview with Patrick Dumaz, Head of Research & Development on the current nuclear reactor fleet at the CEA.
Research for the current fleet of reactors
Three questions for Patrick Dumaz, the head of R&D on the current nuclear reactor fleet
Why carry out R&D on the current fleet of nuclear reactors?
The 58 nuclear reactors comprising the current French fleet were steadily commissioned from 1977 through to the late 1990s. These reactors have evolved a great deal since, first and foremost in their design. The most recent reactors operate at much higher power and are equipped with fully automated control rooms. These upgrades are the result of the industry's efforts to continuously improve nuclear safety. None of these improvements would have been possible without significant research and development. The CEA has been working in close collaboration with EDF and Areva since the start of these reactors. In 2014, EDF, Areva and the CEA breathed new impetus into this historical collaboration by setting up a three-party institute to more efficiently pool the R&D resources of the three organisations.
How does the CEA contribute to this R&D?
The French nuclear giants, EDF and Areva, rely on the CEA not only to provide the expertise of its teams of engineers, researchers and technicians, but also to carry out multidisciplinary studies. The R&D required for the current fleet covers a range of scientific fields: material science, chemistry, solid mechanics, fluid mechanics, and neutronics. These skills allow the CEA to implement large experimental facilities and computer-based simulation tools. The CEA both uses and develops such numerical simulation means. It is absolutely essential to take into account the advances made in research and the new generations of super computers. On another level, facilities known as "hot" laboratories are used to analyse the properties of irradiated materials. This is the case for materials used to make the reactor vessel, which is an irreplaceable component. The CEA has the role of providing the nuclear industry with baseline data, calculations and numerical simulations that can be used to carry out studies to determine whether it is possible to extend the operating lifetimes of these reactors while guaranteeing nuclear safety. Beyond this, the CEA is entrusted with promoting innovation, especially in the fields of materials and numerical simulation.
How does this R&D shape the future of the nuclear sector?
The extensive knowledge accumulated on the current reactor fleet is a precious asset to the French nuclear sector. This database is providing decisive feedback for reactors currently under construction, such as the EPR in Flamanville, and for new EPR designs. Both are based on pressurised water reactor technologies, which means the data is directly transposable. Such knowledge also provides a solid foundation for studies on more innovative reactor designs based on other technologies such as the fast reactor. In the future, the French nuclear industry will continue to rely on world-class research infrastructures operated by highly qualified teams.
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.