Sfen Prize 2022

Since 1983, Sfen has awarded annual prizes for works, studies, dissertations, or other contributions dealing with nuclear energy, its industrial applications, and safety. These works can be scientific, technical, biological, medical, social, or economic.

Sfen received 42 applications at the beginning of April and would like to thank all the people who have worked hard to send us these high-quality dossiers. Without further ado, here are the 2022 winners of the Sfen Awards.

The Teaching and Training Prize

The Teaching and Training Prize is awarded to Reynald Boillot, Xavier Wohleber, Louis-Joseph Bonnaud, and Sylvain Fabre from INSTN for the multimodal teaching and training platform “EVOC” Enhanced Virtual Open Core developed by INSTN in collaboration with CEA-LIST and with the contribution of Light & Shadows, a French company specialized in synthetic imaging and the creation of real-time 3D solutions.

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The EVOC teaching platform offers life-size immersive training thanks to a realistic multi-physics 3D simulation developed by the CEA-LIST. EVOC also integrates a knowledge management plan that has made it possible to capitalize on the knowledge, data, and know-how of the personnel operating the ISIS training reactor during its 40 years of operation. This reactor will be shut down in 2018. EVOC allows the simulation of all situations that can be encountered during the operation of a reactor: normal, specific (e.g., loading-unloading), degraded, or accidental, thanks to a realistic digital control panel, a connected cloakroom, and a mixed reality reactor hall that allows students wearing virtual reality helmets to move freely and interact with a realistic environment.

This unique platform is used to train future national and international engineers in the Atomic Engineering program at INSTN and the Nuclear Energy Master’s program at the University of Paris-Saclay. International development avenues have also been identified within the framework of the European Nuclear Experiment Education Platform (ENEEP) project and with the IAEA, whose Seibersdorf neutronics platform could be connected online with EVOC to complete the IAEA’s practical training courses, particularly those on accident situations.

This unique platform could, in the future, become one of the first indispensable steps for countries wishing to install power or research reactors on their soil.

The Technological Innovation Prize
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The innovation prize is awarded to Bertrand Stepnik, Émile Liboutet, Michel Grasse, Florence Vanni, and Sylvain Lorand of Framatome’s CERCA division for “Additive manufacturing of UMo nuclear fuels.”

The CERCA Research and Innovation Laboratory (CRIL), created in 2019, achieved a world-first last year in 2021: the production of U-Mo fuels by additive manufacturing, a new material production technique that lends itself very well to small quantities and specific production, a specialty of CERCA.

This technique, increasingly studied for applications in the nuclear field, was applied for the first time by CRIL to nuclear materials, uranium metal alloys. To respect the conditions of using uranium powders, the additive manufacturing equipment was modified to be introduced in an Argon inert glove box. This inert environment also limits the carbon and oxygen contamination of the manufactured parts. After a qualification study that enabled the process to be chosen, CRIL manufactured several U-Mo cubes with a geometry close to that of research reactor fuels, i.e., 8 mm on each side, using Laser Beam Melting. These objects were obtained from U-Mo powders also produced in the CRIL laboratory. These parts have no geometric defects or cracks. The desired density of over 95% was obtained, with less than 1% porosity.  No contamination was detected, and their microstructure was homogeneous.

This UMo fuel would allow research reactors to operate using low-enriched uranium, thus reducing the risk of proliferation. We hope these fuels developed by additive manufacturing will soon be tested in a reactor to determine their behavior under flow.

Jean Bourgeois Prize for the best thesis
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The Jean Bourgeois Prize was awarded to Chloé Cherpin for her thesis entitled “The modeling of corrosion products in the colloidal form in the primary circuit of PWRs.”

Chloé Cherpin carried out her thesis at the Nuclear Group of the University of New Brunswick – Canada, and at the Laboratory of Contamination and Chemistry of Heat Transfer Media and Tritium of CEA Cadarache (DTN – STMA) in the framework of a partnership between the two laboratories. She worked under the supervision of Mr. Derek Lister from the University of New Brunswick and Frédéric Dacquait from CEA Cadarache. Her work deals with the prediction of the contamination of the primary circuit of PWRs by corrosion products, this contamination having a direct impact on the dosimetry of the participants and on the behavior of colloidal particles at a high temperature which presents surface charges playing a primordial role in their deposition and agglomeration.

Chloé Cherpin designed and built a device for measuring the zeta potential, making it possible to characterize the surface charges of colloidal particles. She installed it in a high-pressure recirculation loop at the University of New Brunswick under chemical conditions representative of PWR circuits and for high temperatures of up to 240°C, which enabled her to obtain data on the behavior of these particles that did not exist to date and to develop a new deposition model incorporating these specific characteristics of colloidal particles. The results of this model were successfully compared with on-site measurements of surface contamination in the park’s primary circuits.

This model will be integrated into the next version of the calculation code OSCAR, Outil de Simulation de la ContAmination en Réacteur (Reactor Contamination Simulation Tool), which has been developed for years at the CEA within the Tripartite Institute I3P and which predicts the contamination levels in the primary and auxiliary circuits of PWRs.

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A mention is awarded this year to Lana Abou Zeid for her thesis entitled “Evaluation of the affinity and selectivity towards uranium of different classes of peptides by hydrophilic interaction chromatography coupled with elemental and molecular mass spectrometry.”

Lana Abou Zeid carried out her thesis at CEA Saclay at the Laboratory of Nuclear, Isotopic, and Elemental Analytical Development of the Physico-Chemistry Department under the supervision of Pascale Delangle, research director at CEA Grenoble, and Carole Bresson of CEA Saclay. The thesis is part of the uranium toxicology studies. Her work focused on identifying biomolecules specifically binding uranyl, the majority cation in the biological environment.

For this purpose, she developed during her thesis a unique and “simple” analytical method for preserving the integrity of uranyl-peptide complexes, which is essential for determining the affinity of peptides (amino acids constituting proteins) for the uranyl ion, UO22+. This single-analysis strategy is based on the simultaneous coupling of chromatography to separate the various complexes and molecular mass spectrometry (ESI-MS) and elemental mass spectrometry (IC-MS) to simultaneously identify the peptide-UO22+ complexes and quantify the uranium contained in each complex. After the very delicate development of this new analytical method, the work showed that peptides with a high degree of phosphorylation offer a greater affinity for uranyl and that cyclic complexes are more stable than linear complexes, all of which constitute an essential and original data set that could lead to the selection of peptides that would be exciting candidates for decorporation of uranyl in vivo.

Jacques Gaussens Young Researcher Prize

The Jacques Gaussens Prize is awarded to Marie Dumerval, a research engineer in the Applied Metallurgical Research Department of the Nuclear Materials Department at CEA Saclay (DMN), for her work on the “behavior of fuel cladding in each phase of the Primary Coolant Loss Accident.”

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After defending her thesis entitled “Effects of implantation defects on the corrosion mechanisms of austenitic stainless steels in the primary environment of PWRs” in 2014, Marie Dumerval was hired at the Applied Metallurgical Research Department of CEA Saclay. After working on the materials of the internal structures of PWRs during her thesis, she moved closer to the reactor core by joining the SRMA. Indeed, her studies now focus on the behavior of PWR fuel cladding under accident conditions during the Primary Coolant Loss Accident (PCLA). She is therefore studying the behavior of Zr-1Nb M5 zirconium alloy tubes during the various phases of this accident: ballooning and bursting of the cladding tube, then its oxidation and oxidation and quenching during core reflooding. In this context, she works in close collaboration with EDF and Framatome within the framework of the tripartite institute I3P.

The work carried out and led by Marie Dumerval feeds into EDF’s safety files with the ASN and Framatome’s export files. Because of her expertise in current PWR fuel cladding, she also contributes to studies on new cladding concepts developed to improve their behavior in accident conditions: ATF cladding (Accident Tolerant Fuel). Thus, the behavior of Zr-1Nb M5 zirconium alloy tubes coated with chromium and SiC/SiC tubes is studied to establish their licensing.

In parallel with this essential experimental work, Marie is developing a new phase transformation and creep model for zirconium alloys, notably in the context of Romain Borrossi’s thesis, which has just been successfully defended in November 2021.

Sfen Grand Prize
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This year’s Sfen Grand Prix is awarded to “DEM and MELT: a robust, simple and versatile process for the vitrification of nuclear decommissioning waste”, presented by CEA, ORANO, ECM Technologies and ANDRA. DEM and MELT stand for Dismantling and Melting. Congratulations to the winners: Maxime Fournier, Alain Artico, Myriam Beldassi, Florent Bochu, Milène Delaunay, Isabelle Giboire, Christophe Girold, Jean-François Hollebecque, Isabelle Hugon, Stéphane Lemonier, Caroline Michel, Hélène Nonnet, Yann Papin, Hubert Alexandre Turc, Aliénor Vernay from CEA Marcoule, Laurent David, Régis Didierlaurent, Thierry Prevost from ORANO, Guillaume Lecomte, Lionel Nicollet, Julien Roudaut from ECM Technologies and Benjamin Frasca from ANDRA.

DEM and MELT is an in-can vitrification process to contain high and intermediate-level waste from clean-up and dismantling or post-accident operations. This in-situ, one-step process is being developed by CEA, Orano, and the ECM Technologies group, a manufacturer of industrial furnaces and a world leader in low-pressure cementation, with the support of ANDRA under the PIA investment program. This process can treat solid waste, including powdery, liquid, sticky or pasty. It is sufficiently compact and modular to be implemented in an existing facility or near the waste to be treated.

At this stage of development, the DEM and MELT process has reached technological maturity level 7 (TRL 7), the final R&D stage before the construction of an industrial unit in a radiological environment, with the existence of a scale 1 pilot on the CEA Marcoule site, to be commissioned in December 2020. Trials have demonstrated the capabilities of the process at scales of 1/3 and 1 for a wide variety of waste: contaminated effluents, ash from incineration processes, fission products in solid or liquid form, and zeolites. Several tests have also been successfully carried out under contracts with the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) on objects corresponding to secondary waste from the treatment of contaminated water after the Fukushima-Daiichi accident.

The DEM and MELT process achieves high waste incorporation rates. It considerably reduces the volume of waste.

Published on 29th June 2022

By Sfen

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