France bans water consumption over nuclear leak
9 July 2008
MARSEILLE – Residents in southern France were told not to drink water or eat fish from rivers on Wednesday despite tests showing an uranium leak at a nuclear plant was not as serious as previously thought.
French nuclear officials had initially said 360 kilogrammes of untreated liquid uranium had leaked from the Tricastin nuclear plant in Bollene on Tuesday but that amount was pared down to 75 kilogrammes on Wednesday.
Officials banned the drinking of water, fishing and consumption of fish in three rivers and three ponds. Swimming and water sports were also forbidden as was irrigation of crops with the water containing the toxic material.
The ban went into effect on Tuesday and officials from the Vaucluse regional administration said the measures would remain in effect for the time being.
Part of France’s popular Provence summer tourist destination, the Vaucluse draws legions of holidaymakers to its picturesque towns.
Tests carried out on the ground water, three wells belonging to local residents and the two rivers showed "no abnormal elements", said the Socatri safety agency, a subsidiary of nuclear giant Areva.
Charles-Antoine Louet, from the Nuclear Safety Authority ASN, said radioactive levels detected in rivers and lakes in the Vaucluse region since Tuesday were decreasing.
The incident at Tricastin ranked as a level-one incident on the seven-point scale to rank nuclear accidents.
The nuclear power plant is located some 50 kilometres from the main city of Avignon, which is currently hosting a major summer theatre festival.
[AFP / google / Expatica]