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Defence and security

Published on 29 June 2016

The CEA provides defence and security-related services in various fields, including nuclear warheads for airborne and seaborne deterrent devices, nuclear reactors and cores for submarine and aircraft carrier propulsion, and the fight against nuclear proliferation and terrorism.

​CEA defence and security research

The CEA is responsible for the design, manufacture, operational maintenance and then dismantling of the nuclear warheads equipping the French airborne and seaborne nuclear forces. The CEA also designs and builds nuclear reactors and cores for the French navy’s ships, submarines and aircraft carriers. It supports the French navy with in-service monitoring and operational maintenance of these reactors.

The CEA also supplies strategic nuclear materials for deterrent purposes.
In a world that is undergoing profound change, the CEA also contributes to national and international security through its technical support to the authorities on issues associated with combating nuclear proliferation and terrorism, and disarmament.

Since 2010, the CEA has also provided its expertise to the French department of defence in the field of conventional weapons.

Simulation programme

Simulation programme

The safety and reliability of the nuclear warheads that will replace existing weapons that are approaching the end of their lifetime now has to be ensured without performing any new nuclear tests. The Simulation programme, started in 1996, meets this requirement. It is based on modelling the phenomena which occur during the operation of weapons, converting them into equations incorporated in major computer codes run on high-powered computers. The results are validated at the Epure and Megajoule Laser (LMJ) major experimental facilities.


The supercomputers are sized to meet the design and reliability requirements of nuclear weapons.  The Tera 100 supercomputer can perform 1.3 million billion operations per second (1.3 petaflops). Its successor, Tera 1000, is being built and will reach 30 petaflops in 2017.

The Epure facility

The Teutatès Treaty between France and the United Kingdom, signed on 2nd November 2010, concerns the sharing of radiographic facilities for the purposes of their respective nuclear deterrent programmes. The Epure radiographic facility, currently being constructed at the Valduc Centre, is part of this agreement. It will eventually have three high-powered radiography systems. Since its commissioning at the end of 2014, the first radiography system has been used for high-precision characterisation of the state and hydrodynamic behaviour of materials, under the conditions encountered in the pre-nuclear phase of weapon operation.

Megajoule laser

The Megajoule Laser, at the Cesta Centre, is an essential tool for simulating the nuclear phase of weapon operation and for certifying the competence of the physicists responsible for designing the weapons. At the end of 2014, following its commissioning by the Prime Minister of France, the first weapon physics experimental campaign was successfully conducted.

Nuclear propulsion

Nuclear propulsion

The French Navy’s fleet of nuclear-powered vessels has twelve steam supply systems equipped with nuclear reactor cores in service. This includes four new-generation nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (“Le Triomphant” class), six nuclear attack submarines (“Rubis” class) and the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier.

The Barracuda programme

France’s current fleet of nuclear attack submarines will start to be replaced by a new generation in 2017. This replacement is the subject of the Barracuda Programme, jointly coordinated by the DGA (the French defence procurement agency) for the vessels and the CEA for the design and manufacture of the nuclear steam supply systems and the associated cores, together with all the logistical resources required for their maintenance.

The RES programme

Meeting fleet availability objectives and providing a high level of safety is based on rigorous maintenance of equipment, having skilled teams and the availability of land-based resources. These resources are located at the Nuclear Propulsion Division at Cadarache, attached to the DAM/Île-de-France centre. They include the test reactor (RES), the construction of which is almost complete. This test reactor, which is representative of the nuclear reactors and cores on board French Navy vessels, will be an invaluable simulation tool for their design and operational maintenance.

Combating nuclear proliferation and terrorism

Combating nuclear
proliferation and terrorism

The CEA provides its expertise in combating nuclear proliferation and terrorism, based on its knowledge of nuclear technology and its expertise in detection and identification technologies.
To inform the French authorities in the event of a nuclear test, the CEA is involved in the implementation of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) verification methods.
The CEA is also responsible to the French government and department of defence for conducting the “Global security programme: combating nuclear, radiological, biological, chemical and explosive terrorism (NRBC-E) and promoting cybersecurity”.

Conventional defence

Conventional defence

The CEA, mainly at the Gramat centre, provides project management assistance to the DGA on conventional defence activities, making use of its expertise in the effects of weapons and weapon system vulnerability.