France to build EU nuclear research reactor

15th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 15, 2007 (AFP) - France's Atomic Energy Commission will lay the cornerstone Monday of a nuclear research reactor that will test the longevity of materials used in a future generation of nuclear energy reactors.

PARIS, March 15, 2007 (AFP) - France's Atomic Energy Commission will lay the cornerstone Monday of a nuclear research reactor that will test the longevity of materials used in a future generation of nuclear energy reactors.

"We have not seen the construction of a research tool like this anywhere in the world for nearly thirty years," the commission's general manager, Alain Bugat, said in a press conference Thursday.

The Jules Horowitz reactor, to be built in Cadarache near Marseille in southeastern France, will serve several countries in Europe, said the project's director, Daniel Iracane.

It 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.

The commission will pay for half of the 500-million euro reactor. Partners in Spain, the Czech Republic, Belgium and Finland with pick up another 20 percent of the tab, as will Electricite de France, the country's main electricity utility.

French nuclear energy group Areva will cover the last 10 percent of construction costs.

Other potential partners, notably in Japan and Canada, have expressed an interest in investing, Bugart said.

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.

Even if digital simulation techniques have improved enormously, commission officials said, real-world tests remain essential.

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.

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 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.

The 58 French reactors currently in service -- built under a vast programme launched 30 years ago during the first oil crisis -- will begin to age out of operation beginning in 2015.

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

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