EDF’s digital reactors ready for the end of 2023?

The digital reactors of EDF's 58 French nuclear reactors officially enter a new development phase this Friday, January 1, 2021. The objective is simple: to have a prototype of an ergonomic and easy-to-use digital reactor by the end of 2023. To do this, eight organizations, led by EDF, have joined forces to pool their engineering, computer and physical skills.
Qu'est-ce qu'un réacteur numérique ?

The digital reactors of EDF’s 58 French nuclear reactors officially enter a new development phase this Friday, January 1, 2021. The objective is simple: to have a prototype of an ergonomic and easy-to-use digital reactor by the end of 2023. To do this, eight organizations, led by EDF, have joined forces to pool their engineering, computer and physical skills. Focus on one of the largest projects to pool the expertise of players in the French nuclear sector.

Digital reactors tested since 2018

In 2016, EDF announced its new strategy for the digitalization of its activities. In its plan to digitize nuclear power plants, the development of digital twins is a major focus. One year later, the engineers created the first digital twin of a nuclear power plant enclosure based on the 1/3 scale VeRCoRs model. The objective is to capitalize on the accessible data of the model of a real nuclear power plant. On the other hand, we are not yet talking about a digital reactor.

We have to wait until 2019 for this and the development of the first reactor with 100% digital control tools. The PUR-1 atPurdue University ‘s U.S. School of Nuclear Engineering in Indiana is the first reactor to have a digital clone. Developed by engineers from EDF and its subsidiary Métroscope, this project is close to a real digital reactor. So is there a difference between a digital twin and a digital reactor?

What is the digital reactor?

A digital reactor is a digital twin, the reverse is not true. The difference between the two is the degree of similarity to a real nuclear reactor. A digital twin is a digital interface for data retrieval, a digital reactor is also a simulator. It’s a “digital and functional replica of a nuclear power plant,” says Benoît Levesque, head of the EDF R&D project.

On a digital reactor, operators can train in virtual reality to perform maintenance or operating tasks in a nuclear reactor. At the same time and with the same tool, engineers can study the behavior and the environment of this same nuclear reactor. The aim of the project is therefore to improve the safety and operation of nuclear reactors by numerically anticipating their behavior.

At the heart of the nuclear industry’s digitalization strategy

The phase that opened on January 1 will then accelerate the development of digital reactors for the deployment of the first ones by 2025. Nine players have come together in the framework of the PSPC, including EDF, the French Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies Commission (CEA) and Framatome. All of this is under the umbrella of the FrenchNuclear Energy Industry Group (GIFEN), which brings together companies in the sector, as well as the Nuclear Valley nuclear industry competitiveness cluster.

The 186 specialists from EDF, Framatome and the CEA now have four years until the end of 2023 to develop an ergonomic and user-friendly interface. The first difficulty lies in the pooling of technologies and expertise of the different actors involved in a single homogenized interface. The second difficulty lies in the development of a complete individualization of the digital reactors. Initially, however, EDF had planned to develop a single common interface that could be partially adapted to the various nuclear reactors.

If the project is successful, EDF will be able to consider international markets, particularly for the 250 nuclear reactors it currently operates and/or maintains around the world.

Taking part in the French energy strategy

The number of reactors operated and/or maintained by EDF around the world shows that French nuclear know-how is recognized worldwide. Of the 2,600 large companies, SMEs and VSEs in the sector, at least 50% export their expertise. The country’s 3ᵉ industrial sector is then receiving support from the government, which has announced that it is investing 472 million euros in the French nuclear industry.

This large-scale project is part of a dual strategy of digitalization and development of the competitiveness of the French nuclear industry. For EDF and the organizations involved, this major challenge in the short term will allow them to strengthen their know-how. By the same token, to ensure better protection against the risks associated with nuclear facilities and to take better account of digital technology in the transformation of the sector.

The digital transformation of the French nuclear industry is one of the development priorities set out in the French nuclear industry’s strategic contract. Signed on January 28, 2019, this contract will preserve French nuclear know-how. More generally, to give concrete expression to the country’s nuclear energy policy.

Dans cet article :​
Articles qui pourraient vous intéresser ​

Europe’s largest gas supplier declares pipeline safety checks trouble-free

Recent safety inspections of Norway’s offshore pipelines, carried out in the wake of the Nord Stream pipeline explosions, have produced reassuring results, according to Europe’s leading gas supplier. However, despite this confirmation, the risks remain, raising concerns about the safety of these crucial infrastructures.

EDF Renewables Ireland and Simply Blue Group sign partnership deal on Western Star and Emerald floating offshore wind projects in Ireland.

EDF Renewables Ireland and Simply Blue Group join forces to develop floating wind projects in Ireland, as part of a strategic collaboration to meet the government’s ambitious renewable energy targets. These promising projects open up new prospects for offshore wind energy and strengthen the position of both partners in the Irish energy market. By combining their expertise and commitment to the energy transition, they aspire to generate a significant amount of clean electricity to meet the needs of millions of Irish households, while helping to protect the environment and coastal communities.

France to supply nuclear fuel to Slovakia

Slovakia is seeking to reduce its dependence on Russia for nuclear fuel supplies. With this in mind, the French company Framatome has undertaken to supply nuclear fuel similar to that manufactured by Russia, to power Slovakia’s Soviet-designed nuclear power plant. This initiative is part of an international context in which many European VVER plant operators are seeking to develop a sovereign European energy solution.

Stellantis to supply Mulhouse plant with geothermal energy

Stellantis embarks on a promising initiative in partnership with Vulcan to integrate renewable geothermal energy at its Mulhouse plant. This collaboration aims to reduce the plant’s carbon footprint while exploring the possibility of extracting lithium from geothermal water.

TotalEnergies: request to the courts to suspend future fossil fuel projects

Oil giant TotalEnergies is facing a coalition of NGOs and local authorities, including the cities of Paris and New York, calling for a halt to all new hydrocarbon projects worldwide. This request, deemed “unfair” by TotalEnergies, is a provisional measure pending the court’s ruling on the obligation to align the Group’s climate strategy with the Paris Agreement. The coalition cites scientific and institutional reports in support of its claim, while TotalEnergies defends its climate strategy and warns of the consequences of suspending the projects. This case illustrates the growing tensions between the oil industry and climate advocates, and could set a major legal precedent.