Explosion at nuclear site in France

Deadly explosion at nuclear waste site confirmed, though no radioactive leaks detected.

    An explosion at a French nuclear waste management site near the Marcoule nuclear site killed one person [Reuters]

    A nuclear waste site in southern France has had an explosion that killed one person, seriously burned another and slightly injured three others, France's nuclear safety body said.

    The Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) said no radioactive leaks have been detected in the blast that occurred at 1037 GMT on Monday.

    "According to initial information, the explosion happened in an oven used to melt radioactive metallic waste of little and very little radioactivity," the organisation said in a statement.

    The Nuclear Safety Authority said three other people suffered lesser injuries in the blast in the Centraco nuclear site.

    The Centraco site is located next to another nuclear site, Marcoule, located in Languedoc-Roussillon near the Mediterranean Sea.

    The Centraco facility processes and conditions low-level radioactive waste according to the company's website.

    No contamination

    Police said there was no contamination outside the site, which is about 30km from the city of Avignon and about 80km from the Mediterranean coast.

    Officials also stressed that there was no nuclear reactor on the site and that no waste treated at the site of the explosion came from a reactor.

    "It's an industrial accident and not a nuclear accident," said Eric Besson, Industry Minister. "There have been no radioactive leaks and there have been no chemical leaks."

    Spokesperson Carole Trivi said a fire broke out after the explosion, but it was quickly brought under control.

    "The cause of the blast was not immediately known, and an investigation has been opened," Trivi said.

    A news report posted on the website of the local Midi Libre newspaper said no quarantine or evacuation measures had been undertaken.

    Staff at the plant reacted to the accident according to planned procedures, the ASN said in a statement.

    Nuclear debate

    France is the world's most nuclear-dependent country in the world, with the lion's share of its electricity coming from the 58 nuclear reactors that dot the country.

    France is also a major exporter of nuclear power, treats nuclear waste from around the world, and state-owned nuclear giant Areva is one of the country's most prominent companies.

    The debate over using nuclear power that swept the world following Japan's March 11 tsunami and the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant have been largely absent in France, which has stuck firmly to its pro-nuclear policy.

    In June, President Nicolas Sarkozy pledged that France will stick to a plan to invest $1.37bn in future nuclear reactors.

    By contrast, neighboring Germany took eight of its older reactors off the grid in the wake of the Japanese disaster and lawmakers have voted to shut the country's nine remaining nuclear plants by 2022.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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