The foundation of Europe's newest research reactor, the Jules Horowitz Reactor (RJH), a 100 MWt reactor, is about to be poured at Cadarache in southern France.
RJH, which began site preparation in March, is being built under the framework of an international consortium of research institutes from France, the Czech Republic, Spain, Finland, Belgium and the European Commission plus companies such as Electricité de France (EdF) and Areva.
Partners from India and Japan have recently joined the consortium and the potential remains open for European or international partners, according to the international group.
The French atomic energy commission the CEA (Commisariat á l'énergie atomique) is funding 50 percent of $790 million (€500 million) construction costs, with the remainder coming from EdF (20 percent), research institutes (20 percent) and Areva (10 percent).
The reactor is scheduled to be commissioned in 2014.
RJH will be primarily used for research into the performance of nuclear fuel at existing reactors, testing designs for fuel for future reactors, including fusion reactors and the production of radioisotopes for use in medicine
Gilles Bignan, user facility interface manager at RJH, said that the reactor will be much needed by the time it starts up, because all of Europe's existing material test reactors were built in the 1960s and will be reaching the ends of their lives between 2015-2020.