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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Commissariat à l'énergie atomique
Atomic Energy Commission

The French Atomic Energy Commission is in charge of ensuring France with the mastery of the atom (energy, industry, research, health, safety, and defense) and contributing specifically to national technological research and to the transfer of high technologies to the industry. The staff numbered over 15,000 people at the end of 1999.

France began the development of its nuclear energy program in 1945 with the creation of the Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique, or CEA, by the provisional government of General de Gaulle. The CEA has supervised the development of all atomic applications in France ever since, following the long inheritance from French scientists in nuclear physics.

The CEA worked with Electricité de France, the state-owned only French utility, to develop and industrialize a 100% French reactor type: UNGG technology (Natural Uranium, Graphite moderated, Gas cooled). EDF began commercial operation of the first UNGG reactor in 1963 at the site of Chinon. FRAMATOME is resposible for nuclear power design and engineering services, and nuclear fuel manufacturing. COGEMA is specialized mainly in products and services for the nuclear fuel cycle, while ANDRA is resposible for long term waste management and storage.

One of the missions the French government entrusts to CEA is to take complete charge of designing and manufacturing the nuclear warheads of the French deterrent force. CEA designs the warheads, including the payload and casing, and is responsible for manufacturing and maintaining them, as well as dismantling them. The CEA Military Applications Division also helps in developing new conventional weapons such as torpedoes.

CEA plays a major role in nuclear deterrence, continueing the missions entrusted to it by the government, especially as concerns the development of the Simulation program tools to ensure the lasting credibility of the French deterrent force after the end of all nuclear tests in 1996. The Military Applications Division has re-organised its missions around four poles: nuclear materials, from fundamental research to manufacture, non-nuclear materials, physical research on weapons, and numerical simulation.

When the nuclear warheads currently in service reach the end of their lifetime, they will have to be replaced. CEA will have to design and manufacture the replacement warheads and guarantee them without further nuclear testing, since the signature of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, in September 1996.

The Simulation program consists in ensuring the reliability and safety of nuclear weapons without recourse to full-scale testing. To do so, controlled experiments will be performed along with numerical modelling studies, to understand in fine detail the physical and chemical phenomena involved in the operation of the weapons. CEA is thus working to perfect major experimental facilities like Airix, an X-radiography machine installed on the Moronvilliers experimentation centre near Rheims. This is used to observe hyper-rapid deformations of materials in order to validate the corresponding computation models.

In the field of naval propulsion, the two nuclear reactors of the Charles De Gaulle aircraft carrier were tested in 1999 and CEA also did work on the design of new missile-launching and attack submarines. CEA contributed to surveillance of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

The increase of the means of calculation of the direction of the military applications of the CEA is carried out within the framework of the project Tera . The Tera 100 machine, whose calculation capacity is 100 times greater than the first machine entered into service in 2002 (Tera 1) and 20 times higher than that of Tera 10, entered into service in 2006, was delivered in early 2010. It was commissioned in 2011. It was envisaged the realization of a new machine petaflopic class 5( * ) in 2015 (power multiplied by 30 compared to TERA 100), then an exaflopic machine 6( * ) (power multiplied by 1,000 compared to TERA 100) by 2020;

The X-ray machine Airix (Radiography Induction Accelerator for X-ray Imaging), intended for the study of non-nuclear weapons operation . Airix is ??located on the experimentation area of ??the CEA / DAM Moronvilliers for twelve years. The evolution of the needs of the simulation and the instruction of the feasibility studies started in 2005 for the second phase of the AIRIX program (obtaining a multi-axis and multi-flash capacity, for an optimized cost of ownership) led the CEA / DAM to propose to acquire a new X-ray experimental complex at its center in Valduc, called EPURE (Physics Experiment Using Flash X-ray), which will replace AIRIX.

The CEA is an operator of the State with the status of EPIC (Public Establishment with Industrial and Commercial Character). Not being an industrialist, it is not intended to produce. Thus, from the finalized development, he entrusts most of the production to an industrialist by transferring technology and financing the establishment of means and skills.

An important French economic actor, CEA / DAM represents 4700 direct jobs distributed in regions, within its five centers. In past years, it has generated through contracts awarded to industry and French services and by the valuation of its technologies, nearly 10,000 indirect jobs. For example, the construction of the Megajoule laser near Bordeaux, requires a workforce of 300 CEA / DAM employees, and generates more than a thousand industrial jobs in the Aquitaine region.

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Page last modified: 21-01-2018 18:39:43 ZULU