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Work stops with safety fears at French nuclear plant

Watchdog suspends work at French plutonium plant

PARIS, Oct 15 (Reuters) – The French nuclear safety watchdog ASN has suspended work dismantling a plutonium technology plant over worker safety fears, after almost three times as much plutonium was found at the site than expected.

The watchdog said it was only told of the problem on Oct. 6, although the Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), the state body that supervises the plant in Cadarache near the southern port of Marseille, had been aware of the problem since early June.

Around eight kilograms (16 pounds) of plutonium were believed to have been stored at the site when it was in operation, but some 22 kilograms had been discovered to date and the final figure could be closer to 39 kilograms, the nuclear safety watchdog ASN said.

French industrial giant Areva (CEPFi.PA: Quote, Profile, Research), which produces nuclear reactors, operated the plant.

The underestimation of the quantity of plutonium sharply reduced safety margins designed to prevent fissile material reaching critical mass, “which could potentially have serious consequences for the workforce,” the ASN statement said.

The incident revealed gaps in the safety culture of those responsible for the plant, which produced fuel for nuclear power stations. ASN said dismantling work could only resume with its agreement…………. In October, French media reported that waste from French power stations was being deposited in the open air in Russia….


October 16, 2009 - Posted by | France, safety | , , ,

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