Information sheets

The IRSN is the public expert in research and assessment of nuclear and radiological risks. As part of its mission to inform the public (the general public, scientists, members of parliament, etc.), the IRSN provides information sheets to present its missions and areas of expertise and research.

  •  IRSN, the public scientific and technical expert in nuclear and radiological risk assessment

As a public expert in nuclear and radiological risk assessment, IRSN contributes, through its research and assessment work, to the development and implementation of public policies for the prevention and protection against risks associated with the use of ionising radiation in the energy, environment and health sectors.

  • IRSN, the public expert in nuclear and radiological risk at the service of society

Faced with the safety and radiation protection issues associated with major nuclear projects and, more generally, with the use of ionising radiation, civil society is expressing increased demand for transparency and a desire to play an active part in risk assessment upstream of political decisions, thereby contributing to risk management through citizen vigilance.

  • IRSN and the protection of the public against exposure to low doses of ionising radiation

The concept of "low doses", far from being set in stone, has evolved in step with advances in knowledge about the effects of exposure to ionising radiation on the body. Over time, the levels considered to be "low doses" have steadily decreased. Today, one of the most widely accepted definitions is that given by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), which considers cumulative doses of less than 100 mGy to be "low".

  • Research at IRSN

As a public expert in nuclear and radiological risk assessment, IRSN contributes, through its research and assessment work, to the development and implementation of public policies for the prevention and protection against risks associated with ionising radiation in the energy, environment and health sectors. Within this framework, the research carried out by the Institute is divided into research programmes aimed at producing data and tools to support public service missions, particularly in the field of nuclear safety, and more fundamental research programmes aimed at advancing the field of knowledge, particularly to understand the effects of ionising radiation on health and the environment. One of IRSN's distinctive features is the variety of sectors in which it is involved and the broad spectrum of scientific disciplines it draws on: nuclear sciences, engineering sciences, geosciences, environmental sciences, life sciences, medical and health sciences, etc.

  • Extending operation of France's 900 MWe nuclear reactors, the role of IRSN

Built in the 1980s, the 32 900 MWe reactors in the French nuclear power fleet are gradually reaching the 40-year operating life assumed at the time of their design. EDF wanted to extend their operation beyond 40 years. Through its technical expertise on this subject since 2014, as part of the periodic review associated with the 4th ten-yearly outage programmes for these reactors (RP4-900), IRSN is supporting the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) in its decisions. The safety objectives of this review, defined by the ASN, aim in particular to approach the safety level of new-generation reactors, i.e. to reinforce the prevention of fuel meltdown accidents and the protection of installations against the effects of hazards, and to limit the consequences of accidents for the population and the environment.

  •    Radioactive waste management: IRSN serving risk prevention

The assessment carried out by IRSN focuses in particular on assessing the characterisation of waste and its packaging, from the point of view in particular of the suitability of the waste packages produced to the specifications of the disposal channels likely to receive them, as well as the conditions under which these packages are stored and then transported to the disposal centres.

  •     IRSN's contribution to the 5th national radioactive materials and waste management plan

In France, the management of radioactive materials and waste is governed by a national plan resulting from the application of the programme law of 28 June 2006 on the sustainable management of radioactive materials and waste. The objectives of this plan are defined in article L. 542-1-2 of the Environment Code. Published for the first time in 2007, the plan was updated in 2010, 2013 and 2016. IRSN experts have contributed to the various stages of the public debate on the 5th NGPDR, providing information based on their expertise and research to enable everyone to form their own opinion and, ultimately, to inform public decision-making.

  •   Nuclear or radiological crisis: IRSN's missions and organisation

In the event of an incident involving sources of ionising radiation, IRSN's mission is to propose to the authorities technical, health and medical measures to ensure the protection of the population, workers and the environment. The aim is to be in a position to provide technical advice for any situation that might arise in France or any event abroad that could have an impact on the country. The Institute also has a communication mission, on the one hand by providing educational support for the State's communication on understanding the situation and the radiological risk, and on the other hand on the measurements of radioactivity in the environment that it centralises, interprets and makes available.

  • Fukushima-Daiichi accident and nuclear safety enhancement: IRSN's contribution

The Fukushima-Daiichi accident highlighted the fact that a nuclear power plant could be exposed to natural hazards (earthquakes, tsunamis, etc.) at a higher level than that taken into account when it was designed. This observation led the public authorities to request additional safety assessments (ECS) of the country's nuclear facilities. As a public expert in nuclear safety and radiation protection, IRSN has analysed the results of these safety assessments in France and their European equivalent, the stress tests. Following this analysis, the Institute recommended to the ASN that nuclear facilities should be equipped with a "hard core" of material, human and organisational resources designed, for EDF power plants, to prevent reactor core meltdown in the event of a so-called "extreme" event, and to limit the consequences should such a meltdown nevertheless occur.