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Agence France Presse

New Uranium Leak Discovered at French Nuclear Site


PARIS - French nuclear safety authorities said Friday that a broken pipe at a nuclear fuel plant in southeast France had caused a radioactive leak but no damage to the environment.0718 01 1

The latest uranium spill at the plant run by nuclear giant Areva in Romans-sur-Isere came amid much public concern over a leak at another facility last week that polluted the local water supply.

Residents in the Vaucluse region of southern France have been told not to drink water or eat fish from nearby rivers after the liquid uranium spill on July 7 at the Tricastin nuclear plant.

According to the ASN nuclear safety authority, the pipe defect at the FBFC plant at Romans-sur-Isere in the Drome region may date back several years.

"Results from initial tests show there has been no impact at all on the environment, because the quantity of uranium was very small, in the order of a few hundred grammes," said ASN spokeswoman Evangelia Petit.

The FBFC plant produces nuclear fuel for some of France's 58 reactors, the world's largest network after the United States and which produces 80 percent of the nation's electricity.

Areva late Thursday notified the nuclear authority of the leak and three inspectors were dispatched to the site in the early hours on Friday to assess the damage.

Petit said the spill did not reach the ground water and that there was no sign of contamination.

Areva president Anne Lauvergeon was later Friday due to inspect the Tricastin plant, which is run by its subsidiary Socatri.

After admitting to a safety lapse at Tricastin, Areva on Thursday replaced Socatri's director and announced an internal audit to determine what went wrong.

French Ecology Minister Jean-Louis Borloo has announced that tests of the ground water near all nuclear reactors will be carried out to reassure residents following the Tricastin leak.

Swimming and water sports have also been forbidden as is irrigation of crops with the contaminated water.

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

Copyright © AFP 2008

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