Word from the President

A major milestone for European nuclear research and development

On March 19, the first stone of the new Jules Horowitz research reactor was laid by French Industry Minister François Loos in Cadarache, France.

The Jules Horowitz reactor (JHR) is designed to be a highly versatile 100 MW thermal materials testing reactor. Operation is planned to start up in 2014, at which time it will progressively replace the Osiris reactor as well as a number of other aging European research reactors.

Jules Horowitz reactor (JHR)

In his speech during the stone laying ceremony, Philippe Pradel, Director General of the CEA’s Nuclear Energy Division stated that:

"The JHR will offer for a large part of this century a high performance experimental capacity for studying materials and fuel behaviour under irradiation, including:

  • Important neutron flux;

  • The Environment relevant for different reactor technologies

  • The Enhancement of online instrumentation

  • A modern safety standard

This will meet public and industrial needs for generation II, III, IV, with regards to the different reactor technologies (PWR, BWR, HTR, GFR, SFR …):

  • Operation and lifetime management for existing reactors

  • Optimisation of generation III reactors

  • Fuel behaviour in incidental conditions

  • Innovative materiasl and fuel for generation IV reactors

As an important secondary objective, JHR will contribute to radio-isotope production for medical applications by producing 25% of Europe’s needs. This is a major public health stake."

The construction costs (estimated at 500 M€) will be met by a consortium of CEA (50%), Electricité de France (20%), EU research institutes (20%) and Areva (10%). Today, the participating research institutes are SCK-CEN in Belgium, NRI in the Czech Republic, CIEMAT in Spain and VTT in Finland. By the time this report goes to press, the EC is expected to have joined the consortium too.

Jules Horowitz research reactor

During the ceremony, I was asked to give a short speech on behalf of the signatories and here it is:

After the famous 'Atoms for Peace' address that was given by President Eisenhower in 1953, many countries began pursuing the development of the peaceful applications of nuclear energy by building or acquiring research reactors. Consequently, most high-flux reactors now in operation in Europe are more than 45 years and are scheduled to be shutdown during the next decade. This will leave Europe with a shortage of research reactors and without even the essential tools required to carry out nuclear physics research and to develop reactor technology - including fuel and structural materials testing etc...

The applications of fission research reactors are not limited to just generating nuclear fission power. R&D on structural materials that can withstand the extreme conditions inside fusion reactors such as ITER, innovative nuclear fuel development and radioisotope production for medical and industrial use all require irradiation sources that are provided by research reactors - optimised to suit specific applications. Does Europe want to continue play a leading role in nuclear research and development as well as on the industrial scene? If the answer is yes, then we need to develop new state-of-the-art research reactors.

Whatever the long-term role of nuclear energy in the world energy mix is, nuclear power and its bi-products will continue to be vitally important for generations to come. The non-power applications of nuclear energy will most probably remain techniques of choice in specific niche areas such as medical diagnosis and therapy, and will certainly be developed in other areas like water desalination or hydrogen production. Finally, let us not forget that even where nuclear energy is being phased out – a scenario that is favoured by some countries - the legacy of today’s nuclear activities has to be managed optimally for decades to come. Let us not forget either that radiation is a natural phenomenon and has been present all around us since the beginning of time. Whatever the future of nuclear power might be, we need to retain and develop nuclear knowledge and expertise. Consequently, we need new nuclear scientists and engineers to move things forward.

Training and educating this future generation of nuclear scientists and engineers requires a special infrastructure that is adapted to meet future needs. The Jules Horowitz reactor clearly provides an extremely useful tool in promoting technological development and supporting the achieving of these educational objectives.

Today, we sign the consortium agreement for the construction of the Jules Horowitz reactor, which is named after one of your greatest nuclear scientists. Between now and when first criticality is reached, various supporting research and qualification programmes will have to be performed with regards to fuel, materials etc... I do not doubt that the genealogical roots of the Jules Horowitz reactor will lead to existing European research reactors being ready and willing to implement these supporting programmes.

In addition to the French initiators of and partners in this project - CEA, EDF, AREVA - I also see here today consortium members from Spain, Finland, the Czech Republic, Belgium and, last but not least, the European Commission. This is proof of the new scientific culture that exists today whereby scientific advances are achieved through international collaboration that benefits mankind in general, rather than simply serving local interests. As such, the signing of this agreement today is a foretaste of similar initiatives to come in the future.

The Jules Horowitz reactor will meet many of the future research needs in the field of thermal reactors. We know that the road to even more sustainable nuclear energy will involve the use of fast neutrons. There undoubtedly is a need for a major experimental European fast spectrum neutron reactor. In this context, a significant European effort is already underway and we look forward to seeing the advances that it will bring. Similarly, it would be reasonable to assume that just such an effort will help ensure the long-term availability of radioisotopes for medical and industrial use by means of a specially-designed and dedicated reactor.

France, and in particular the CEA, has well understood that in today's European context a project like the Jules Horowitz reactor has to be a European venture involving prominent European partners. I know that I express the opinion of all partners present here today when I thank you, most sincerely, for your vision and your proposal to be part of this challenging venture to which all of us are committed and which all of us look forward to seeing bear fruit. I also want to congratulate you for your organisation of this very nice ceremony. The 19th of March 2007 will certainly be remembered as a major milestone for European nuclear research and development.

Frank Deconinck
President of the ENS

Home l Top l Disclaimer l Copyright l Webmaster