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Airix, an induction accelerator for x-ray radiography and imaging, is a powerful x-ray generator which began operating at the Polygone d'expérimentation de Moronvilliers in the Champagne-Ardenne region, in 2000.

Operating on a similar principle to that of radiographic machines used in medicine, its high-performance allows it to probe materials, which are moving very rapidly (several kilometres per second) and have extremely high density.
The x-ray flash produced lasts only 60 billionths of a second and delivers an intensity around 50,000 times as large as that used during a medical x-ray.

LEFT - Airix, experimental zone. RIGHT - Induction and accelerator cells. © CEA

Experiments at Airix

Comparison of calculation and experiment for Airix.
Comparison of calculation and experiment for Airix.

These experiments are used to study the non-nuclear phase of a weapons operation.
They use chemical explosives and inert materials, i.e. not releasing nuclear energy replacing those used in weapons.
They provide a precise description, with great spatial and temporal detail, of the evolution of materials (position of the interfaces, instabilities, shocks, etc.) during their compression by the explosion.
They make it possible to discriminate between the numerical models and to validate the simulation codes.


The Airix facility will be closed in 2012. The radiographic machine of the facility will be disassembled and then reassembled at the CEA Valduc site; it will become the first radiographic axis of the Epure facility when in service in 2014. Epure will be completed with two additional high-power radiographic machines.

Epure, CAD View
Epure, CAD View. © CEA

In this way, it will be possible to obtain three X-ray images of these materials at moments selected by the engineers responsible for weapon dependability. Measurements such as these are crucial for accurate weapon simulation in the long-term future. Most of the trials will be performed using non-fissile materials to simulate plutonium.

Construction site in October 2011
Construction site in October 2011. © CEA
Construction site in March 2012
Construction site in March 2012. © CEA

Within the context of the Defence Treaty between France and the United Kingdom signed in London, the French President and the British Prime Minister signed a treaty relating to joint radiographic and hydrodynamic facilities on 2 November 2010. The two countries have decided to cooperate on two experimental physics facilities. Further to this decision, they have agreed to build and operate jointly a radiographic and hydrodynamic facility called “EPURE”, which will be located at the CEA Valduc site. They have also agreed to cooperate on joint technological developments at a facility known as the Technology Development Centre, located at the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston in the United Kingdom.
This cooperation will help each country guarantee the reliability and long-term future of their nuclear deterrent, with no nuclear testing, in accordance with French and British government commitments.
MàJ: 02/10/2009
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