3. Saclay (CEA – SOLEIL)

CEA Saclay

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Activities at the Saclay center have been organized around two key subjects: simulation and materials. The center’s motto: simulation and fundamental sciences for nuclear energy. The nuclear activities on this site employ about one thousand people, including four hundred researchers in various disciplines, e.g. mathematics, physics, chemistry, mechanics, metallurgy and material sciences.

Within the CEA, the Nuclear Energy Division (DEN) provides the French government and industry with technical expertise and innovations in nuclear energy systems to develop sustainable nuclear energy that is both safe and economically competitive.

To rise to this challenge, the DEN is engaged in three main areas of investigation:

    • Future nuclear systems: 4th-generation reactors and their fuel cycle
    • Optimisation of the existing nuclear industry
    • Development and operation of large-scale experimentation and simulation tools that are essential for its research objectives

At the same time, as a nuclear operator, the DEN manages and develops its own fleet of nuclear facilities. It implements construction and refurbishment programs for its facilities, together with clean-up and dismantling programs for those that have reached the end of their service life.

SOLEIL Synchrotron

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SOLEIL is a very powerful light source that can be used to explore matter. More specifically, it is a research center that produces and uses synchrotron radiation. This radiation is provided by a storage ring with a perimeter of 354 meters, in which high energy electrons circulate at close to the speed of light. Harnessed at different points around the ring, this radiation is directed to exits, the SOLEIL beamlines. Each beamline is a laboratory in its own right, equipped to prepare and analyze the samples under study and to treat the data collected. The experimental program foresees the availability of 26 beamlines with an average of 2,000 users per year.

Inside the main ring high-energy electrons are subjected to a magnetic field in order to bend their trajectory. They then lose some of this energy, released in the form of ultra-bright radiation. This light source, 10,000 times brighter than that of the sun, is emitted in the form of radiation from the infrared to the X-ray region, including ultraviolet. It is so intense that it can penetrate deeply into materials: interactions with the photons emitted make it possible to study both the structure (surface or 3-D) and properties of a sample (object, material, living cells, surfaces, etc). The brilliance of this light is particularly well-suited to the study of nano-objects or very complex samples.

The private company Synchrotron SOLEIL was created in 2001 by CNRS and CEA to oversee the construction, then
the of running of SOLEIL. The total budget for SOLEIL for 2002-2012 (construction and setting up) has been around 600 million euros (M€), and the annual running cost is about 60 M€.

The skills required at SOLEIL are found in various organizations and laboratories in France and elsewhere. The staff is about 350 persons all year round, and about fifty PhD students and post-docs should be added to this total. Personnel are either on secondment from organizations such as CNRS, CEA or universities, or recruited directly. 80 % of personnel have a scientific or technical background and 20 % administrative or managerial. SOLEIL caters for 2,000 users per year, mainly from public and private research laboratories.

Visit program

Please note that due to access to controlled areas pregnant women and people with pacemakers can not take part in the visit. High heels shoes are also forbidden during the tour.

  • 08:30: Transfer by bus from Paris to the CEA Saclay research center
  • 09:30: Welcome coffee and presentation of nuclear activities
  • 10:30: Tour of the Tamaris platform in the Seismic Mechanic Studies Laboratory
  • 11:00: Tour of the ORPHEE experimental nuclear reactor
  • 12:00: On site lunch
  • 14:00: Transfer to the SOLEIL synchrotron and presentation of the facility
  • 14:30: Tour of the main ring and one or two beamlines
  • 16:30: Transfer back to Paris
  • 17:30: End of visit