French Navy: possible admission of the Suffren submarine to active service at the end of 2020?

Le nuclear attack submarine Suffren, head of the Barracuda program, experienced the first divergence of its nuclear reactor this Tuesday, December 17, 2019. This new symbolic event, after the closure of the hull (April 2016), the launch (July 12, 2019) in the presence of the President of the Republic, Mr. Emmanuel Macron and the launching (August 1, 2019; see illustration), opens up very practical perspectives, that is to say the start of sea trials of the boat at during the year 2020. The French Navy remains discreet on the subject but the objective of admission to active service at the end of 2020 remains.

The reactor K15 (150 MW thermal) was designed with the Atomic Energy Commission as prime contractor (CEA), project owner TechnicAtome. Naval group was responsible for integrating the nuclear boiler compartment into the submarine and connecting the various utilities with the propulsion compartment.

Fuel loading of the nuclear boiler room K15 du Suffren would have taken place in September 2019, according to information communicated in June and July 2019, within the Secret Base Nuclear Installation (INBS) Cachin. A mobile intervention workshop made it possible, thanks to its handling means, to load the nuclear reactor with fuel rods.

The first divergence of the nuclear reactor was planned for November 2019 after a set of dockside tests following a gradual ramp-up of the submarine's nuclear boiler module. It appears that there has been a schedule slippage of three to four weeks.

It was finally this Tuesday, December 17 that took place for five hours the first divergence of the nuclear boiler room of the nuclear attack submarine Suffren. In concrete terms, this involves the activation of a neutron source allowing the start of the fission reaction within the nuclear core. The reaction is controlled through actions on the moderator materials arranged in a mechanism that can be raised or lowered in the reactor vessel. Acting on the height of this mechanism allows fission to increase in power and lower it, to slow down, or even almost stop it.

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