Inria, Framatome team up on digital nuclear safety solutions

17 June 2022

Framatome and Inria, the French national institute for research in digital science and technology, have entered a strategic partnership to accelerate studies for long-term advancements and enhanced safety of operations for the nuclear industry.

The signing of the agreement by Inria Deputy CEO François Cuny (left) and Stéphane Bugat, Director of R&D Framatome (Image: Framatome)

The two organisations will develop complementary skills that can be used in the integration of digital innovations to simplify the design, manufacture, operation, maintenance or decommissioning of nuclear power plants.

The partnership will include regular collaborations and exchanges on research programmes, industry challenges and ad hoc training. Identified research themes include digital security, cybersecurity, embedded implementation of complex metamodels, industrial use cases, quantum computing, data science and artificial intelligence.

"Framatome designs nuclear reactors, which are by nature complex objects by their multi-physical and multi-scale nature," Inria said. "This design relies heavily on numerical simulation, which makes it possible to describe and predict the evolution of the state of the system in scenarios of particular interest, typically with a high potential impact on the safety of the reactor and its environment.

"However, the size of the space of the system under consideration as well as the uncertainties associated with models and data are major obstacles to 'certifiable' simulations. Inria is involved in this subject by combining the complementary skills of several research teams (model reduction, large-scale optimisation, propagation of uncertainties, etc)."

Inria also noted the nuclear reactors managed by Framatome are structures with a long lifespan (several decades), "which is not in line with the life of the computer code for managing these reactors since computer technology evolves much more quickly". It said a major difficulty is to gradually ensure the migration of the computer systems in place around the reactors to systems with more modern functionalities, while 'certifying' the validity of the new computer code.

The setting up of the first joint challenge with Inria is currently under way with the implementation of a complex metamodel concentrating on numerical simulations, Framatome noted. The partnership between Framatome and Inria will set up joint research teams to address the data system's capacity and the uncertainties associated with modelling.

Inria said its partnership with Framatome will develop in different forms, whether it is the supervision of theses, collaborations and regular exchanges on research programmes, joint challenges, joint responses to calls for projects, the incubation of startups, the implementation of ad hoc continuing education systems on software, the development of software technologies, etc.

"We are pleased to partner with Inria and to continue investing in research for the advancement of reliable, low-carbon energy generation," said Alexis Marincic, senior executive vice president, Engineering & Design Authority, Framatome. "Inria's diverse innovation pathways inspire scientific, digital and engineering excellence which makes them an excellent partner as we transform digital solutions for the future."

Inria CEO Bruno Sportisse added: "This strategic agreement with Framatome is part of our proactive approach to the French industrial framework in areas identified as critical. The partnership with Framatome covers all fields: from the identification of research topics inspired by industrial cases to technological development and the creation of technological start-ups."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News