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Jules Horowitz research Reactor (JHR)

Published on 9 March 2016
The Jules Horowitz research Reactor (JHR), a project conducted by the CEA Nuclear Energy Division, is an answer to a key technological and scientific challenge: testing fuel and material behaviour under irradiation in support of current and future nuclear reactors. JHR, currently under construction at CEA Cadarache site, will represent in Europe a unique experimenting tool available to nuclear power industry, research institutes, nuclear regulatory authorities and their technical supports. It will also ensure the production of radioelements for nuclear medicine and non-nuclear industry.

​A research reactor for testing and qualifying fuels and materials under irradiation

Studies related to fuel and structural material behaviour under irradiation are a fundamental challenge in terms of safety and competitivity of current and future nuclear power plants and their lifetime extension.

The JHR will allow these studies to be performed quickly and safely. With its technical and scientific platform and the broad scale of tests proposed, the JHR will be a unique experimental tool for observing and understanding material behaviour in an extreme nuclear environment.

The JHR: a very efficient research tool

The JHR is an experimental reactor. As opposed to a production reactor, it is not intended to generate electrical power, but only to provide scientific data concerning nuclear fuel and material behaviour when they are exposed to very high stresses (high neutron fluxes).

The JHR will submit the samples of components that researchers or industrial partners would like to test under an intense neutron flux. Within JHR experimental devices, theses samples may also be exposed to extreme pressures and temperatures if required. These components will thus undergo accelerated ageing, and will be pushed beyond the limits of their normal use, if required up to incidental and accidental situations, which will allow an experimental qualification before their use in industry.

The JHR: a supplier of radioelements for the nuclear medicine sector

The JHR will also be used for nuclear medicine. It will supply hospitals with short-lived radioelements used by medical imaging units for diagnostic purposes. These radioelements, such as technetium-99m, have a limited lifetime of a few hours.

They therefore need to be produced on an ongoing basis. The JHR will contribute to 25% of the European production of these radioelements on a yearly average or even up to 50% if required.

Enhanced safety standards for research reactors

The JHR is built in compliance with the highest level of safety required by the French nuclear safety authority (ASN):

  • Increased resistance to seismic loading
  • Containment building resistant to external hazards
  • Separated emergency diesels
  • Emergency heat sink in air
  • Backup control panel

An international project

The JHR project, currently under construction at CEA Cadarache site, gathers within an international consortium around the CEA, French industrial partners EDF and AREVA, the European Commission, together with Belgian, Czech, Spanish, Finnish, Indian, Israeli, Swedish and British research institutes, the CEA being the owner, nuclear operator and contracting authority.

In exchange of their financial participation, JHR consortium members will benefit from guaranteed access to experimental capacities of the facility to carry out their own research on material behaviour under irradiation.

Working meeting - JHR
Working meeting - JHR © L. Godart/CEA

The worksite and the economical impact

  • The JHR construction will, on average, generate 100 to 300 direct jobs and 300 to 1,000 indirect jobs depending on the different phases of the project. Nearly 150 people will be needed during the operation phase (scheduled for 50 years).
  • The JHR is scheduled to be commissioned by the end of the decade.
  • The successful installation of the reactor dome in December 2013 was a major milestone of the reactor construction process.

View of the construction site at CEA Cadarache research centre (2015) © G. Lesénéchal/CEA

Environmental monitoring

The JHR, like all other Cadarache nuclear facilities, will undergo chemical and radiological monitoring under the supervision of Government authorities. The cooling water in particular will be constantly checked (temperature and absence of radioactivity).

Current partnerships within the JHR consortium: research centres and  industrial companies - 2015

The JHR project is backed by an international consortium led by the CEA who is the project owner, nuclear operator and contracting authority of this facility. The consortium agreement for the construction and operation of the JHR was signed in March 2007, thereby uniting the very first consortium partners of the project. The consortium includes AREVA and EDF for France, as well as CIEMAT (Spain), NRI (Czech Republic), SCK.CEN (Belgium), VTT (Finland) and the European Commission. The consortium expanded in 2009 when it was joined by the DAE (India), followed by the IAEC (Israel) in 2011, NNL (Great Britain) in 2014, and STUDSVIK (Sweden) in 2015. The JAEA (Japan) also joined the JHR programme at the same time.