Diversifying and enriching
partnerships to advance nuclear
safety and radiation protection

New European and international opportunities for IRSN

“2023 was marked by the increase, worldwide, in the interest expressed by many countries in nuclear power and by particular attention to SMR technology.

IRSN has supported this momentum, ensuring, from a scientific and technical point of view, that the related nuclear safety issues are taken into account. We have therefore been able to strengthen our position as a “European expert in radiological risk”. The events organized in 2023 at Maison Irène and Frédéric Joliot-Curie in Brussels strengthened our relations with the European Commission and all our European partners. The appointment, last June, of IRSN’s Director General, Jean-Christophe Niel, as Chair of ETSON, the European network of TSOs, underlines France’s leadership in nuclear safety. Furthermore, with our leading involvement in the PIANOFORTE project, we contribute, together with our partners, to the definition of the European research strategy in radiation protection.

Lastly, at the international level, the Institute has continued its cooperation with the IAEA, particularly in the context of the war in Ukraine and the risks it poses to Ukraine’s nuclear facilities, and has strengthened it in the field of health and the fight against cancer (“Rays of Hope” program).”

Cyril Pinel
European and International
Affairs Director

International agreements

IRSN provides technical support to six nuclear safety organizations.

In the fields of nuclear safety and radiation protection, in 2023, IRSN responded to four tenders for Southeast Asia (ASEAN), Turkey, Bulgaria and Ukraine, and won the last two. The six-month contract with the Bulgarian safety authority concerns safety studies of VVER reactors. As for Ukraine, this is a continuation of the previous ones, financed by the European Commission. Indeed, IRSN has been working with Ukraine for a decade now. Additionally, IRSN was already involved this year in four multi-year contracts to provide appraisal services for the Nuclear Safety Clearinghouse (managed by the European Commission’s Joint Research Center), Iraq, Norway and the Netherlands. These appraisal contracts illustrate IRSN’s scientific and technical excellence, as well as its commitment and international reach. Furthermore, as in each year, in 2023, IRSN also investigated the sales files of licenses for calculation codes developed by IRSN, in particular the ASTEC code. This code can be used to simulate all phenomena involved in a core meltdown accident of a water-cooled reactor.

10 employees

within the Business Unit for International Business Development.

11 responses

to international tenders since January 2021, with a success rate of 50%.

Jean-René Jourdain
Assistant Director for International Business Development.

“The Business Unit for International Business Development contributes to IRSN’s international reach by exporting the French approach and expertise in respect of nuclear safety and radiation protection. This unit’s activities also contribute, through international contracts, to maintaining rare skills within the Institute (for example, knowledge of the VVER reactors widely used worldwide) and to acquiring new skills. They also participate in the training of the Institute’s young experts.”

IRSN takes part in the IAEA General Conference

In September 25 – 28, 2023, IRSN’s Director General, Jean-Christophe Niel, led the Institute’s delegation attending the 67th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in Vienna, Austria.

The risks to nuclear safety caused by the war in Ukraine were key areas of concern, as was the growing interest of many countries in nuclear energy. Jean-Christophe Niel met with IAEA’s Director General, Rafael Mariano Grossi, to discuss the Institute’s cooperation with the Agency’s emergency center (IEC), and the Institute’s contribution to the Rays of Hope program to fight against cancer. IRSN will also receive IAEA accreditation in 2024 for its training offer in this area.

In addition, Jean-Christophe Niel held face-to-face meetings with the leaders of the Institute’s main foreign partners and, as Chair of ETSON, with the European Commission, WENRA and Lydie Evrard, IAEA Deputy Director General in charge of Nuclear Safety and Security. At the INSAG forum organized alongside the Conference, he spoke on the theme of Resilience to strengthen safety and IRSN experts participated in other parallel events dedicated, among others, to the crisis or SMRs.

ETSON Conference

On October 11 – 12, 2023, Jean-Christophe Niel participated in the second ETSON conference[1], organized in Brussels by BEL V, the Belgian counterpart of IRSN. The occasion for the forty participants from the 15 members of the European network to discuss the main issues, in a specific context for stakeholders in the safety area. IRSN presented its actions related to openness to society, corium stability, and the various projects underway in ETSON’s technical groups.

[1] Entitled “TSO Challenges in a Rapidly Evolving Environment”.

United Arab Emirates: Renewed cooperation

At the IAEA General Conference in September 2023, the Emirates Safety Authority (FANR) and IRSN renewed their framework cooperation agreement. On this occasion, they were able to share the success of the MORAD project, an atmospheric radionuclide dispersion study program. This program, which also involves the Khalifa University, started in 2018 in the framework of the progressive commissioning of the Barakah nuclear power plant. The last workshop of this collaboration took place on October 9 and 10, 2023 in Abu Dhabi, where the prospect of a new collaboration program was discussed.

In brief

State-of-the-art training

The IAEA regularly calls on IRSN experts to provide state- of-the-art training in the area of the medical and health management of radiological and nuclear emergencies. Last example dated May 2023 at the Barakah nuclear power plant, United Arab Emirates. The training, which included doctors, nurses and physicists, focuses among others on examples of radiation accidents and practical exercises on decontamination procedures.

Memorandum of Understanding signed with Ukraine

In September 11 – 14, 2023, IRSN received the visit of Ihor Shevchenko, Director of Ukraine’s State Scientific and Technical Center for Nuclear and Radiological Safety (SSTC NRS). The occasion for Jean-Christophe Niel to sign a memorandum of understanding with him, strengthening cooperation in many areas (emergency situations, ASTEC code, etc.), while the aggression facing Ukraine continues to threaten the safety of its nuclear facilities.

IRSN’s expertise recognized again by international bodies

2023 was marked by the international recognition of the quality of France’s expertise. The appointment of Jean-Christophe Niel as member of the International Nuclear Safety Advisory Group (INSAG) was renewed on March 24 by the IAEA through to 2026. He was also elected Chair of ETSON, the European Technical Safety Organization Network, on June 14. At the same time, on August 24 the appointment of Louis-Michel Guillaume, Deputy Director General, as member of the IAEA Advisory Group on Nuclear Security, AdSec, was renewed for three years.

IRSN certified by the Polish Nuclear Safety Authority

On July 11, 2023, Strategy Director visited Warsaw for the official signature of the Institute’s certification by the Polish Nuclear Safety Authority (PAA). Sign of a strengthened partnership, this referencing offers IRSN the opportunity to be consulted by the PAA as technical and scientific support in order to assess the safety of future nuclear installations in Poland.

Maintaining continued collaboration with Japan

2023 was marked by two major meetings between IRSN and Japan. The safety of fuel cycle facilities and the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear site were among the major topics that were discussed.

As part of the French-Japanese cooperation, a remote seminar was organized on 24 and January 25, 2023, so that the IRSN Nuclear Safety division could exchange ideas with its Japanese counterpart (NRA) and the Japanese Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA). The main objective was to discuss the safety of fuel cycle facilities. In total, thirty employees shared the latest information on the facilities in each of the two countries, the difficulties encountered, the ongoing appraisal and the progress of their R&D programs in support of the assessment of discharges.

Common issues

A few months later, on June 26 – 27, IRSN received a Japanese delegation composed of members of the NRA and representatives from the Nagaoka University of Technology (NUT). They discussed possible collaborations regarding the analysis of the explosion that occurred in reactor no. 3 of the Fukushima-Daiichi power plant. Among others, the performance of combustion tests in addition to those implemented by the NRA with the NUT was addressed. They may be carried out by the CNRS ICARE laboratory in Orléans. Thus, by their diversity all the discussions between IRSN and its Japanese counterparts illustrate the consistency of their cooperation in all the Institute’s fields of expertise.

In brief

Spotlighting IRSN research in Brussels

As a permanent member of Maison Irène and Frédéric Joliot-Curie, a link between French research and European institutions, IRSN organized several events there in 2023: a meeting on September 13 on the safety of SMRs, highlighting the PASTIS facility, and an event on December 8 on the ASTEC project’s contribution to the European Commission’s goals in the field of nuclear safety[2].

[2] See also “Fighting cancer: towards better use of ionizing radiation”, Chapter 1.

The Rencontres Internationales for High School students on Radiation Protection

The 2023 Rencontres took place on May 23 – 24 at CEA Marcoule (Gard). 93 high school students and their teachers from France, Japan and Moldova presented their work and scientific workshops on radiation protection. A great opportunity to demonstrate their involvement and share their research, co-constructed, on a voluntary basis, during the year with their teachers and experts, in particular from IRSN, for example, on the effect of irradiation on cells.

Welcoming a delegation from the European Commission’s Joint Research Center

Following an invitation extended by IRSN in November 2022, a delegation from the European Commission’s Joint Research Center (JRC), led by its Deputy Director General, Bernard Magenhann, and its Safety and Security Director, Ulla Engelmann, visited Cadarache (Bouches-du-Rhône) on October 16, 2023. The program included visiting the security research platforms and a presentation of IRSN’s activities and projects in the field, with a particular focus on the ASTEC code and the PASTIS project.


Protecting the health
of people and
the environment



At the start of a decade of major
challenges for safety appraisals

Mobilizing teams and
expanding capacities
for action