French nuclear reactor shut down following fire

17th May 2004, Comments 0 comments

STRASBOURG, France, May 16 (AFP) - Authorities shut down a reactor at one of France's largest nuclear power plants on Sunday following a fire in a non-nuclear portion of the plant, officials said.

STRASBOURG, France, May 16 (AFP) - Authorities shut down a reactor at one of France's largest nuclear power plants on Sunday following a fire in a non-nuclear portion of the plant, officials said.

Managers at the atomic energy plant in Cattenom in the Moselle region of northeastern France said a fire had broken out in the electrical cables in the conventional part of the factory.

"According to procedure, the reactor (number two) was shut down," they said, adding that the incident led to the declaration of an internal emergency for the plant operator Electricite de France.

The fire at the plant some 280 kilometers (175 miles) east of Paris, was put out by mid-afternoon, fire and regional government officials said. The reactor, one of four at Cattenom, is to remain shut pending the outcome of an investigation.

The fire was classified as a level one incident on an international scale of nuclear accidents that goes up to seven for the most serious, authorities said.

The campaign group Sortir du nucleaire (Out with the nuclear), denounced the Cattenom plant as one of the most worrisome nationwide and said Sunday's fire could have had "catastrophic consequences."

"Even though today's fire didn't have any serious consequences, a fire in a non-nuclear zone can still have catastrophic consequences," said spokesman Stephane Lhomme. "You could have a domino effect and the fire could spread to the nuclear installation."

He said nuclear plants in France, which derives well over 80 percent of its electricity needs from atomic power, were outdated and deteriorating, which could explain Sunday's fire.

Lhomme recalled two recent incidents at the plant, one on February 20 in which a leak in a hose led to slightly radioactive water spilling out into the Moselle river, and one a few days earlier in which maintainance workers had been slightly contaminated while working on one of the plant's four reactors.

The Cattenom plant's spokeswoman Catherine Heich said Sunday's fire was probably due to a cable that overheated inside a wall.

The 30 or so firefighters who rushed to the plant had to break down the wall in order to put out the blaze, she added.

© AFP

Subject: French news

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