UGXR Test benches for Jules Horowitz Reactor
Finland | France
Experimental fission reactor facilities are essential for the development of nuclear technology for peaceful uses. New formulations and configurations of nuclear fuels are studied, critical operating conditions are experimented on to improve the safety of current and future designs, materials subjected to extreme neutron radiation flux are studied and, as a by-product, essential isotopes are obtained for use in medicine, biological research and other cutting-edge applications
All countries with nuclear technology have one or more of these reactors. Inevitably almost all reactors of this type are reaching the end of their useful life and, in most cases, there are no plans to replace them, especially in Europe. To deal with this problem, France has decided to design and build an advanced experimental reactor, the Jules Horowitz Reactor (JHR). The purpose of this project – whose construction is well advanced in the facilities of the Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique (CEA) in Cadarache – is to provide a unique infrastructure in Europe with the latest technology for pure and applied research in the nuclear field.
France has brought together a consortium of countries that will be able to use the facility, and who are participating in its construction with in-kind contributions. One of these countries is Finland. The Finnish contribution is especially relevant, as it involves the provision of the key equipment to analyze the experimental samples in different phases, after having remained in the core of the reactor or in specific cavities of high neutron radiation called reflectors.
This complex equipment includes the UGXR (Underwater X-Ray and Gamma-Ray Radiography and Tomography) stations that analyze the test devices with experimental samples, in the reactor pool itself – immediately after their extraction from the core or the reflector locations – or in later phases in one of the storage pools. In these stations, the internal structure of the materials (fuel or not) is analyzed by means of X-ray radiography and tomography, gamma-ray scanning and gamma-ray emission tomography. This equipment is essential for the experimental purpose of the facility.
VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, responsible for providing this equipment for the JHR, commissioned IDOM to develop the conceptual and detailed design, the manufacturing, testing, installation in the JHR, and the commissioning of all this equipment.
The design of this equipment stands out for the positioning accuracy and unprecedented movements of the manipulator. In the case of the UGRX stations, over 4-m long poles of different shapes and diameters are positioned underwater with a point-to-point accuracy of 25 μm in linear movements and of 36 ‘’ in rotating movements. Likewise, the station allows the micrometric positioning and horizontal alignment of the X-ray camera