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Authorities in Southern France Ban Water Supplies After Nuclear Site Leak

Liquid containing traces of un-enriched uranium leaked Tuesday at a nuclear site in southern France, and some of the solution ran into two rivers, France's nuclear safety agency said...

Another nuclear safety agency official, Charles-Antoine Louet, said the liquid contained about 360 kilograms (794 pounds) of un-enriched natural uranium, which he said is only slightly radioactive although toxic.

Ah yes, the downside of nuclear power.

by paving on Tue Jul 8th, 2008 at 07:52:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
360 kilograms in 30 m³ of water? Is that a mistake in English translation, or what kind of process was this water used in?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jul 9th, 2008 at 04:36:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The incident apparently concerns the enrichment facility Eurodif next to the the three-block nuclear power plant Tricastin that powers it (all of it!), so that's why there could be such a high amount in the water. Read the Wikipedia article on Eurodif - very interesting, with connections to Iran and a delayed replacement with a gas centrifuge plant.

French independent nuclear watchdog CRIIAD comments on storage of nuclear waste at the site and on the emission level of the release.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Jul 9th, 2008 at 06:04:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The second report criticises the authorities for giving the release in grams, but not in nuclear activity. They say that if the release was uranium with a natural isotope ratio (i.e. not enriched), the release was one of 9200 MBq - vs. an annual into-the-river emission limit of 71.7 MBq set for the plant.

They also compare their estimated activity level of 300,000 Bq/l with the limit set for liquids after treatment, 50 Bq/l.

The first report is actually totally unrelated: it was released just ahead of the incident by chance. It discusses their research into illegal/improper dumping of nuclear waste at the site. There is an earth mound on the site that is the apparent source of high radiation levels that hides nuclear waste from 1969-76, improperly (no groundwater shielding, defense against erosion), but it appeared in the national registry of nuclear waste only in 2002, with lacking detail, and the nuclear authority carries out no checks just trusts the owner.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Jul 9th, 2008 at 06:38:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
is being replaced by a new plant with thechnology that allows it to cut its power needs 20-fold (down to 50MW or so) - this alone is freeing up 2 nuclear tranches for EDF.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Jul 9th, 2008 at 07:19:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yep, gas diffusion vs. gas centriguges. However, at present it has a delay of at least 3 years, opening tabled for 2009; reasons included geological security issues as far as I know.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jul 9th, 2008 at 07:38:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
but...but..this is France !! Where nuclear power and waste management is government controlled to ensure that it is always safe and controlled anad managed to the very highest possible safety.

Nucleaire ?? Non merci !!!

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Jul 9th, 2008 at 05:13:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This looks, for now, as a minor incident with the regulatory authority taking proper action to ensure that no risk, however minor, can further follow. This sounds like what you do when a truck with chemicals has an accident; it would be nice if the same were done for all industries and, more to the point with respect to water supplies, with all agro-industrial facilities.

I fail to see how this is an indictment of either the nuclear industry or the French regulators.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Jul 9th, 2008 at 07:22:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, I'm not denying that their response was as good as might be expected. And I'm relieved to hear that the incident was minor.

However, it wouldn't have to be much worse to become a major problem, one where a government would have difficulty putting the jhin back in the back. We know that, as the Finnish can agree, even with the best will in the world, governments cannot enusre that things are as they should be.

And when nuclear goes wrong, it is catastrophic.

And just cos the government pays, it still doesn't mean that dismantling and making safe is effectively costed into the current price of the electricity. Nasty legacy to leave for a civilisation that will probably be struggling with the post-oil mess we bequeath it.

So i'm just voincing my skepticism about the safety and economics.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Jul 9th, 2008 at 08:49:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure about the meaning of "minor". As I quoted upthread, the unspecified release of radioactivity must have been to the scale of what was allowed for the plant for a century.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jul 9th, 2008 at 08:59:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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