CEA (Atomic Energy and Alternative Energy Commission) is a French government funded research organisation dedicated to the fields of energy, defence, security, information technology and health technology. It conducts fundamental and applied research into the design of nuclear reactors and the manufacturing of integrated circuits.
CEA plays a major role in sustaining the French nuclear deterrent capabilities in the long term. Since nuclear testing ended in 1996, the operation and safety of weapons in the French deterrent force have been guaranteed by means of computer simulation. A key part of the simulation programme is Airix (Accélérateur à Induction pour Radiographie pour l’Imagerie X), an exceptionally powerful induction accelerator dedicated to X-Ray radiography of dense metallic objects. It consists of an accelerator generating high energy electrons, a target allowing the conversion of such electrons into X-rays, an experimental setup and an imaging system.
Thales has been involved in this programme by supplying, on the basis of a CEA design, the complete electrostatic accelerator.
The main characteristics of the Thales supply are:
Electron beam energy: up to 20 MeV
Current: 3.5 kA
Pulse length: 60 ns
32 x 250 kV HV generators
Furthermore, in 2011, Thales was involved in the detailed mechanical design studies and re-engineering and supply of the command control of the accelerator as well as the studies related to seismic requirements, especially the design of equipment under seismic conditions. This involved the geographic transfer of the Airix accelerator from the Champagne-Ardenne region to the CEA Valduc. The transfer required the disassembly of the radiographic machine and its reassembly at the Valduc site.
The services provided by Thales to enable successful completion of the first phase of the project were:
Complete transfer of the machine (dismantling, packing, assembly reassembly, calibration)
Mechanical design of the end of the beam-line accelerator
Upgrade of HV generators (250 kV)
Analysis of the EGF (Espace de Glissement et de Focalisation - Slide and Focus Space) beamline equipment to take into account the new requirements
Re-engineering of instrumentation and control (production of functional analyses, development and production of new automation and supervision application, production of 35 electro-technical bays)
Development of the command control (automatism and supervision, 10 000 I/O)
On site qualification
On site integration and commissioning of the complete accelerator
Technical support during operation
The successful passage of the system was primordial in order to qualify the most modifications possible to the accelerator equipment and thereby limit the scheduling risk for the reassembly phase at Valduc which began in September 2013. In parallel, the re-engineering of the instrumentation and control associated with the specific features of the new site, the completion of the EGF studies and the launch of production of the new equipment will now be able to start.
After having addressed several obsolescence issues, in particular for the controlcommand system, Thales disassembled the unit, reintegrated and calibrated the accelerator.
Thanks to the work of the Large Research Infrastructures product line teams, CEA successfully passed the return to service milestone for the X-ray generator accelerator at Moronvilliers, at the end of the first upgrade phase.
Thales has a high degree of expertise in the design and production of complex systems and testing protocols and equipment. The Airix project required Thales expertise in:
New design, new procurement
Full integration and validation
Working closely with customers Thales develops the solution needed for each research program, from drawing up specifications through production and in-service support.