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Latest ITER Newsline

  • Upper ports | A very international effort

    The 18 upper ports of the ITER vacuum vessel are procured by Russia, manufactured in Germany, and mounted (in part) on the vessel sectors by contractors in Ital [...]

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  • Paint job | One level done, five to go

    The job is done and the effect is spectacular. At the deepest basement level (B2) of the Tokamak Building, the floors, walls, and ceilings are now perfectly whi [...]

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  • On site | Through the eyes of a crane operator

    Sitting in his cabin 80 metres above the ground, Alex Dumonteil enjoys a most spectacular view. To the north, on a clear day, he can see as far as the Alpine ri [...]

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  • Poloidal field coil #6 | The home stretch

    In Hefei, China, a 400-tonne ring magnet procured by the European Domestic Agency is entering the final phase of production—resin impregnation. In just over one [...]

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  • Neutral Beam Test Facility | SPIDER gets a beam for its first birthday

    Just one year ago, on 11 June 2018, the world's largest negative ion source was inaugurated at the ITER Neutral Beam Test Facility with the ignition of a brief [...]

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Of Interest

See archived entries

Rethinking the unthinkable

Robert Arnoux

A seasoned folk and blues guitar player, the CEA-Cadarache director has long played the semi-professionnal circuit. (Click to view larger version...)
A seasoned folk and blues guitar player, the CEA-Cadarache director has long played the semi-professionnal circuit.
In the weeks that followed Fukushima a few things changed at CEA-Cadarache. "We had to ask ourselves new questions," explains Director Maurice Mazière. "Nuclear safety has always been about thinking the unthinkable. Now, after Fukushima, the unthinkable must be redefined ..."

It had gone without saying, for instance, that in the case of a power failure in a nuclear installation, redundant diesel generators would automatically provide electricity wherever it was needed. This safeguard, however, did not work in Fukushima where the generators were drowned by 15-metre-high waves from a monster tsunami.

Tsunamis, of course, are unlikely to happen in Cadarache. "Still," confides Mazière, "what happened in Japan has led us to ask ourselves some hard questions." Some of these "hard questions" have led to swift action: on the Jules-Horowitz Reactor (RJH) work site, diesel generators were moved to higher grounds—some 15 metres above the original location.

Also, more-or-less-dormant research projects on severe accidents have been revived. For years CEA-Cadarache had been conducting studies and accumulating data on the behaviour of corium, the molten lava that results from core meltdown; this project, termed "Vulcano," is now receiving high priority.

Interest in "passive system" concepts, developed years ago by CEA's Reactor Studies Department, has also been renewed. "The ultimate safety challenge in a reactor," says Mazière, "is the evacuation of residual power when all cooling systems fail. Ideally, in a 'passive system,' heat evacuation occurs naturally. We are assigning new teams to pursue the development of such systems."

Thirty-six years after he first passed the gates of Cadarache as a young intern from École Centrale in Paris, Maurice Mazière has to steer CEA's largest nuclear research centre in the post-Fukushima world. "I see Fukushima as the starting point for a deep reflection process. We have to ask ourselves the right questions, dig into the tiniest details and devise rescue systems able to withstand 'unthinkable' events or situations. Whatever political decision might be taken in the future, we will continue, in the meantime, to stick to the course we've set."


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