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Radiography facilities: from Airix to Epure

The performance of the X-ray machines engineered by the DAM, which operate on a principle similar to that of medical X-ray machines, make it possible to examine extremely fast materials (moving at rates of several kilometers per second) with extremely high densities.

Airix facility

The X-ray machine at the Airix facility (induction accelerator for X-ray radiography and imaging) is a powerful X-ray generator that operated at the PEM experiment center in Moronvilliers between 2000 and 2012.

Induction and accelerator cells. © CEA
Induction and accelerator cells. © CEA
Comparison of calculation and experiment for Airix. © CEA
Comparison of calculation and experiment for Airix.

The experiments conducted with this machine are used to study the non-nuclear phase of operation of weapons. They involve the use of chemical explosives and inert materials (i.e., which do not release nuclear energy), which replace those used in weapons.

They provide a precise description, with a high degree of spatial and temporal accuracy, of materials during their compression by explosives (interface position, instabilities, shocks, etc.). They make it possible to discriminate digital models and thus validate simulation codes..

Epure physics experiments using flash radiography

In 2008 it was decided to increase the capacity of Airix facility by adding two additional high-power X-ray facilities. These facilities are the Epure system, which is being built on CEA's Valduc site.

The Airix facility was shut down in 2012, and the X-ray machine was moved and reassembled in full on CEA's Valduc site. It is the first X-ray component of the Epure facility, which has been commissioned in October 2014.

CAD view of Epure. © CEA
CAD view of Epure. © CEA

It will eventually be possible to obtain, during the same experiment, three X-ray images of these materials at moments selected by the scientists in charge of weapon dependability. Measurements such as these are crucial for weapons control over the long term.

Epure, June 2014. © CEA Epure, June 2014. © CEA
Epure, June 2014 © CEA

Within the context of the Defense 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 November 2, 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 CEA's Valduc site. They have also agreed to cooperate on joint technological developments (diagnostics, X-ray machines of the future) at a facility known as the Technology Development Center, located at the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston in the U.K.

This cooperation will allow both countries to guarantee the reliability and long-term future of their nuclear deterrent forces, without any nuclear tests, in accordance with the international commitments made by the French and British governments.


MàJ: 15/04/2015
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