European nuclear research reactor inaugurated

20th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

CADARACHE, France, March 19, 2007 (AFP) - France and four European partners on Monday laid the cornerstone of a nuclear research reactor that will test the longevity of materials used in a future generation of nuclear power stations.

CADARACHE, France, March 19, 2007 (AFP) - France and four European partners on Monday laid the cornerstone of a nuclear research reactor that will test the longevity of materials used in a future generation of nuclear power stations.

The Jules Horowitz reactor, to be built in Cadarache near Marseille in southeastern France, "will provide us with updated expertise that is vital both for France and the whole of Europe," France's Junior Industry Minister Francois Loos said at the inauguration ceremony.

"It is all the more strategically important since the European research reactors currently in services are to be gradually shut down over the next 10 years," he said.

Loos said the new reactor was an essential research instrument for the European nuclear sector and would help Europe meet its target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020.

The reactor will not only replace an ageing French research facility that will be nearly 50 years old by the time the new one is completed in 2014, it could also replace reactors in Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway and the Czech Republic that are approaching obsolescence.

France's utility Electricite de France and the nuclear energy group Areva, as well European partners Spain, the Czech Republic, Belgium and Finland, signed an agreement Monday formalising their participation in the project.

France's Atomic Energy Commission will pay for half of the 500-million euro reactor. Its European partners will pick up another 20 percent of the tab, as will EDF. Areva will cover the last 10 percent.

Other potential partners, notably in Japan, have expressed an interest in investing, according to the project's director, Daniel Iracane.

The 100-megawatt reactor will make it possible to recreate the physical and chemical environment of current and future nuclear energy reactors.

Scientists will study the capacity of steel and zirconium -- used in the construction of the reactors and the casing for fuel rods -- to resist high temperatures and the constant bombardment of neutrons. New materials such as ceramics will also be tested.

France derives around three-quarters of its electricity from nuclear power, the highest ratio of any country in the world, and many of its reactors are nearing the end of their usefulness.

The 58 French reactors currently in service will begin to age out of operation beginning in 2015.

Construction of France's first so-called "third-generation" European Pressurized Water Reactor (EPR), located in Flamanville near the English Channel, is slated to begin by the end of the year.

The EPR design was developed in the 1990s by Germany's Siemens and France's Framatome-ANP, a subsidiary of Areva.

It reportedly uses 17 percent less fuel than the types of reactor currently operating in France, and is designed to generate power for 60 years.

Cadarache will also be the site of a multibillion-dollar experimental nuclear fusion research project, aimed at emulating the power of the sun to provide limitless, clean energy.

The facility is to be built over a decade starting 2008.

If it is successful, a prototype commercial reactor will be built, and if that works, fusion technology will be rolled out across the world.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article