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A nuclear method for restoring our heritage

A competition open to French and Romanian municipalities is helping to consolidate and halt the deterioration of objects of high heritage value by resin impregnation and gamma irradiation.

Published on 10 April 2017

​In order to help municipalities protect their heritage and provide them with access to the technologies developed by the ARC-Nucléart[1] laboratory, the CEA created the Save your community heritage competition in 2002, in conjunction with the Association des Maires de France et des présidents d'intercommunalités (the Association of Mayors of France and inter-municipal authority presidents). Over 15 years, 68 artworks out of a total of 610 applications have been treated and restored by ARC-Nucléart.

In 2015, the operation was extended to Romania as part of a collaboration between the IFIN-HH, the IFA[2] and the CEA. The aim of the Saving Romania's heritage together competition is to help Romanian municipalities to restore their own heritage by making additional resources available to the teams in both countries.


Thanks to this sponsorship, the winning French and Romanian municipalities have their artworks restored by the ARC-Nucléart laboratory and are recognised at an award ceremony to present the wining objects.



The winning candidates of the Save your community heritage competition

Philippe Lemessier, representing the Mayor of La Colle-sur-Loup, Pierre Guyot, Mayor of Moutier-Malcard, Pierre Cebe, representing the Mayor of Quarante, with Hervé Bernard, Director, Special Advisor to the General Manager of the CEA and Philippe Bourguignon, Director of CEA Grenoble,

Mireille Quaix, representing the  Association des Maires de France, Martine Jullian, representing the City of Grenoble, Chair of the Board of ARC-Nucléart and Karine Froment, Director of ARC-Nucléart – Photo credit: ARC-Nucléart


The award ceremony for the 1st prize of the "Saving Romania's heritage together" competition was held at the Institut Français in Bucharest on 1st February 2017. The prize went to the town of Sibiu, for the restoration of a wooden clock mechanism. This rare object will be transported to the ARC-Nucléart site, in Grenoble, in order to be consolidated using a special nuclear treatment (gamma ray curable resin impregnation), then restored. It will return to its home town once the work is completed, where it will go on show.

On Thursday 23 March 2017, the CEA, in partnership with the Association des maires de France (AMF) unveiled the three winning objects of the Save your community heritage competition in 2016, selected from a total of 56 submitted projects:

  • a 17th century reliquary bust of Saint Donat, proposed by the municipality of La Colle-sur-Loup (8,500 inhabitants, Alpes-Maritimes department),
  • A 15th century statue of Saint Barbara, proposed by the municipality of Moutier-Malcard (540 inhabitants, Creuse department),
  • a wood panel from a 4th century sarcophagus, proposed by the municipality of Quarante (1,800 inhabitants, Hérault department).

For the latter two pieces, ARC-Nucléart has applied a gamma ray disinsectisation treatment.

[1] The ARC-Nucléart laboratory was created at CEA Grenoble in the 1970s following the development of a wood consolidation process using a radiation-cured resin ("Nucléart" treatment) to restore an 18th Century parquet floor in the old Town Hall of Grenoble. Since then, the properties of gamma radiation have been routinely used by the laboratory to disinfect and/or consolidate organic materials. The activity of workshop was subsequently extended to include other methods of treatment and restoration of archaeological, historical and ethnographic collections.

[2]  Institute of Atomic Physics (IFA) et Horia Hulubei National Institute for Physics and Nuclear Engineering (IFIN-HH)

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