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Inauguration of the Analytical On-Site Laboratory at La Hague

Press release

June 06, 2000

Transports of radioactive samples for Euratom Safeguards from large reprocessing facilities over long distances to a qualified safeguards analytical laboratory will be drastically reduced in future. Instead, the analyses will be performed in situ thus providing results within days and reduce costs.

On June 6, 2000, the on-site analytical laboratory, constructed on behalf of the Euratom Safeguards Office will be inaugurated at the COGEMA-La Hague site.

The laboratory was designed and installed jointly by the Societé Genérale pour les Techniques Nouvelles (SGN) and the Institute for Transuranium Elements (ITU) at Karlsruhe (Germany), a European Commission service. In order to reduce drastically the increasing number of transporting Safeguards samples from large plutonium processing plants, the Euratom Safeguards Office (ESO) recognised in the early nineties the advantages both time wise and economically of analysing plutonium samples in-situ.

The Institute for Transuranium Elements in Karlsruhe (Germany), part of the Joint Research Centre, experienced in nuclear materials analyses, was chosen by the Euratom Safeguards Office in Luxembourg to provide technical support in developing and installing a safe, efficient, and economic tool for nuclear materials analysis, the on-site laboratory (LSS).

In close co-operation with ESO, the plant operator COGEMA, and SGN, ITU scientists and technicians designed and implemented the analytical instrumentation of the LSS, whereas the development and implementation of the complete infrastructure was executed by SGN supported by COGEMA. Located within the new analytical Laboratory building of UP3, the laboratory essentially houses a chain of hot cells and glove-boxes, which contain carefully selected and tested high-precision analytical instruments.

The choice of analytical techniques was driven by a policy of waste minimisation using the possibility of recycling chemically untreated samples. A high degree of automation was introduced with the integration of robots and automatic sample changers capable of performing analyses on more than 1500 samples annually in continuous operation. Specific software was developed at ITU for laboratory information management, analysis optimisation and data evaluation.

The operating procedures comply fully with the COGEMA site specific conditions. Analysts received thorough theoretical and practical training in the ITU laboratories at Karlsruhe and at their new work place at La Hague.