Water ban upheld after French nuclear leak

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French authorities extended the ban till Friday following a uranium leak at a nuclear plant in southern France.

11 July 2008

MARSEILLE - French authorities Thursday upheld a ban on drinking water following a uranium leak at a nuclear plant in southern France, although the ecology minister insisted there was "no imminent danger" to the local population.

Residents have been told not to drink water or eat fish from local rivers after the leak Monday night at the Tricastin plant in the Vaucluse region, in which 75 kilogrammes of untreated liquid uranium spilled into the ground.

Authorities extended the ban until at least Friday morning, while waiting for the full results of a safety inspection at the site.

"Preventative measures have been taken," Ecology Minister Jean-Louis Borloo told reporters during a field trip in central France, saying there was "no imminent danger".

"Initial measurements taken after the radioactive uranium spillage appear reassuring," he added.

The leakage occurred when liquid was transferred from one container to another on the site of the nuclear installation run by Socatri, a subsidiary of French nuclear giant Areva.
Socatri said Wednesday that tests carried out on the groundwater, three local wells and the rivers had shown "no abnormal elements."

But the Nuclear Safety Authority ASN said abnormal radioactive levels had been detected in rivers and lakes in the Vaucluse region although these were decreasing.

According to an ASN report on nuclear safety, Socatri was singled out in May over "repeated leaks" in 2007 from an ageing canalisation at the site.

The incident at Tricastin ranked as a level-one incident on the seven-point scale to rank nuclear accidents.

One of France's 58 nuclear plants, Tricastin is located some 50 kilometres from the city of Avignon, which is currently hosting a major theatre festival.

[AFP / Expatica]

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