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Non-nuclear energy


Fission and radiation protection

Jules Horowitz Reactor – Coordination Action

In most European countries nuclear power is a reliable and significant source of energy. This industrial capacity has been supported by research infrastructures established over some 40 years of operational nuclear power plants. However, these infrastructures now need renewal – in particular, there is a requirement to develop a new Materials Test Reactor (MTR) in Europe. The JHR-CA project will define innovative experimental devices that will be implemented in this new MTR.

Defining a new European materials test reactor

Jules Horowitz reactor (Courtesy: CEA)
Jules Horowitz reactor (Courtesy: CEA)
The Jules Horowitz Reactor Project (JHR) aims to define, develop and construct a new material testing reactor in Europe, operated as an international user-facility, for studying material and fuel behaviour under irradiation. The JHR project is leaded by CEA and the reactor will be established in Cadarache (France).

Start of operation for the JHR is expected in 2014. Renewing the irradiation capability is an important and structuring stake for the fission research in Europe in order to continue safe and optimised operations of existing reactors, to support Generation IV R&D and to keep alive competences. The first step of this shared implementation was performed in the FP5 within a thematic network FEUNMARR (Future European Union Needs in MAterial Research Reactors, Nov. 2001 – Oct 2002) that allowed to elaborate a joint conclusion:

“There is clearly a need as long as nuclear power provides a significant part of the mix of energy production sources” “Given the age of current MTRs, there is a strategic need to renew MTRs in Europe; At least one new MTR shall be in operation in about a decade from now”.

Starting from this shared statement, the second step is provided by the present JHR-CA. Because the period 2003-2005 corresponds to the definition phase of the JHR project, the two-year JHR-CA (2004-2005) will involve European research institutes, utilities and vendors in the specification of the JHR facility through the experimental devices definition. For this purpose, the JHR-CA has a balanced structure with i) the Experts-Group to define state-of-the-art experimental devices and ii) the Users-Group to issue end-user’s requirements and assessing their consistency towards the JHR definition.

The third step will be the joint development of selected experimental devices (2006-2010). This devices development phase will require the networking of the irradiation community in a tight organisation between involved research institutes and the JHR integration team. Testing and qualification of JHR innovative components or processes will be performed on existing MTRs.

These three steps will produced jointly developed experimental devices and associated processes. Because the irradiation activity governs a large part of the fission R&D activity, this will impact on future Euratom programmes.

Applications, recommendations and requirements

The JHR-CA is organised in to three sets of work packages.

The first set of work-packages is dedicated to irradiation applications stakes:

High temperature materials experiment. The in-core device will have to accommodate high neutronic flux and temperatures such as 1000°C. This device will be used to develop new materials such as ceramics that will be used for very high temperature reactors or for fusion applications.

In core material irradiation, with on-line controlled stress and precise measurements. Taking into account significant progresses in modelling and numerical simulation, these high-quality experiments are necessary to support the prediction capability.

Corrosion under irradiation experiment. Intricate couplings between corrosion, stress and irradiation require matching the power reactor environment conditions. This is a key topic to optimise reactor operation and the reactor time life.

Fuel thermal-mechanical behaviour and fission gas release studies. This in-reflector device will

address a wide range of LWR fuel experiments. As an important capability, the connexion with the fission product laboratory allows the on-line monitoring of fuel behaviour. These separate effects experiments give the best status of the fuel under irradiation.

Fuel for gas cooled very high temperature reactor. This inreflector experiment will have to accommodate temperature higher than 1000°C, to load a large number of samples for statistic assessment and to be connected to the fission gas laboratory which allow the early detection of particles failure and activity release quantification.

Radioisotope production for medical application. The prospect of a renewed European capability, with the JHR and the “Medical valley” in the Netherlands, offers the opportunity to build up a European strategy in this important public health field. The overall process from the irradiation to the sample delivery will be optimised in order to minimize the production lead-time.

A second set of tasks is:

  • to issue (2004) the “integration requirements files” defining the general conditions for implementing a device in the JHR,
  • to assess (2005) the integration of some experimental devices proposed in previous work-packages.

The third set of work-packages is dedicated to the MTRs Users community. The JHR-CA consolidates the European MTRs Users community in order to issue a Recommendations and Requirements Report. Starting from the existing MTRs experience, the JHR-CA Users-Group will worked out a set a recommendations that will be discussed with other European utilities and vendors for building a consensus.

Networked and novel experiments

The JHR-CA definition process will lead to the joint development of experimental devices that will be proposed to the last FP6 call. This development activity will require increased networking between the research institutes and the use of existing materials testing reactors to test and qualify innovative experimental devices.

The JHR-CA project provides the framework to promote the establishment of a new MTR in Europe and support stateof- the-art designs for experimental devices and related programs. Doing so, JHR-CA will improve integration of national programmes and initiatives by gathering European expertise and human skills, and by pushing a progressive coherent European policy in the field of material and fuel under irradiation studies.

Key results are technological breakthroughs in JHR experimental devices that could be implemented (in totality or partly) in existing European MTRs. Best pratices definition for JHR operation and building of a cooperative strategy between existing MTRs are also valuable outcomes.

Extending skills for safety and competitiveness

The development of JHR and its experimental devices will make a significant impact on fission R&D activities and future EURATOM programmes. The facility with its experimental programs will preserve cutting-edge expertise in Europe and provide the long-term capability not just to support the continuing safe operation and competitiveness of the nuclear power plants in Europe, but to provide a necessary resource for the development of advanced future reactor designs.