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The CEA Fontenay-aux-Roses research centre


The CEA’s Fontenay-aux-Roses research centre, which hosts specialist disciplines spanning nuclear engineering to bioengineering, continues to confirm its capacity to meet the needs of wider society: before, it was harnessing nuclear sciences to resolve energy issues, and today and on to tomorrow, it is harnessing life sciences to resolve health issues. In 2010, the centre employed 1450 permanent staff across its four core sites: Fontenay-aux-Roses of course, but also Évry (the Genomics institute), Paris (the Saint-Louis Hospital blood immunology research department) and Caen (Ci-Naps – Cycéron centre).

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Biomedical research and innovation

Since 2005, the Fontenay-aux-Roses centre has been a branch of the CEA’s Life Sciences Division (DSV). It ultimately aims to become a biomedical imaging and technology research and innovation cluster with pan-European reach. Its roadmap, started in 2002, is an extension of the CEA’s backbone mid-to-long-range strategy to form research and innovation clusters with pan-European reach. Since 2004, the centre has progressively become home to several cutting-edge facilities:

  • 2004 – Inauguration of the NeuroPrion platform, missioned with developing research and innovative investigative methods to iron out the remaining uncertainties over the potential prion-related risks to public health and the wider environment.
  • 2005 – Installation of a technical radiation facility enabling radiation biologists to study the effects of ionizing radiation on living organisms, particularly at low-dose exposures.
  • 2007 – Integration of the Genoscope-CNS sequencing platform dedicated to genome analysis and the national genotyping platform (CNG) that aims to find genes potentially involved in common diseases such as asthma. The two Évry-based platforms become affiliated to the DSV’s Genomics institute.
  • 2008 – Inauguration of the integrated MIRCen platform which hosts preclinical imaging trials to drive the development and validation of novel therapies for neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis, as well as hepatic, cardiac and infectious diseases. The co-run CEA/Inserm facility has been up and running since 2009, and activity is set to intensify over the next few years.

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Other activities being hosted

The centre hosts the CEA’s Risk control cluster (Nuclear Safety and Protection division, Central Security Division, Nuclear Power and Safety Division), together with several teams from the Institute for nuclear safety and radiation protection (IRSN), which was officially made a CEA spin-out by ministerial order published in February 2002.

The Fontenay-aux-Roses site is also home to the CEA Information Systems Division Archives Department which is missioned with conserving and creating value from CEA’s research legacy and current assets.

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Cleanup and decommissioning

As the CEA’s original founding site in 1946, Fontenay-aux-Roses instantly played a pivotal role in developing the nation’s nuclear electricity sector. ZOÉ, France’s first atomic reactor, was built there, starting up in 1948 and running up to 1976 before twice being upgraded to new-generation nuclear facilities. These new-generation facilities were progressively phased out between 1982 and 1995, ahead of the cleanup and decommissioning programme which started in 1999. Since January 2008, the Fontenay-aux-Roses centre’s nuclear facilities cleanup programme has been grafted onto a project dubbed Aladin. This project is being co-steered by the Nuclear Energy Division and the Life Sciences Division, and is built on experiential feedback from a similar project led in Grenoble. Aladin targets four core objectives: full process control over safety–security, full process control over the human resources mobilized, full process control over costs and deadlines, and expanded internal and press communications.
Note that cleanup and decommissioning are distinct phases in the lifecycle of a mainland nuclear facility. Cleanup involves removing all chemical and radioactive matter from the facility and decontaminating all facility equipment to get rid of as much radioactivity as possible. Decommissioning involves dismantling the facility’s main structural components and eliminating radioactivity from the buildings.

In fulfilment of our policy on transparency and accountability to the public and local communities, CEA/Fontenay-aux-Roses annually publishes the Public information report on nuclear safety and radiation protection at the facility and the Environmental information bulletin. Furthermore, CEA/Fontenay-aux-Roses also inputs website content for the national environmental radiation monitoring network.