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News & Media

Latest ITER Newsline

  • A world in itself

    From a height of some 50 metres, you have the entire ITER worksite at your feet. The long rectangle of the Diagnostics Building stands out in the centre, with [...]

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  • US completes toroidal field deliveries for ITER

    The US Domestic Agency achieved a major milestone in February by completing the delivery of all US-supplied toroidal field conductor to the European toroidal fi [...]

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  • Thin diagnostic coils to be fitted into giant magnets

    Last week was marked by the first delivery of diagnostic components—Continuous External Rogowski (CER) coils—from the European Domestic Agency to the ITER Organ [...]

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  • Addressing the challenge of plasma disruptions

    Plasma disruptions are fast events in tokamak plasmas that lead to the complete loss of the thermal and magnetic energy stored in the plasma. The plasma control [...]

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  • Blending (almost) seamlessly into the landscape

    Located in the foothills of the French Pre-Alps, the ITER installation blends almost seamlessly into the landscape. The architects' choice ofmirror-like steel c [...]

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Of Interest

See archived articles

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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