Monday, September 12, 2011

A Furnace Exploded at French Nuke Processing Facility, 1 Killed, 4 Injured, No Leak

or so they say for now. The facility is just outside Marseilles. The French Safety Authority has already declared the event as "closed" as of 4:56PM French Time.

First, from Reuters (9/12/2011):

(Reuters) - An explosion in a furnace at the Marcoule nuclear waste treatment site in southern France Monday killed one person, but there was no leak of radioactive material outside the site, officials said.

Four people were injured, one with serious burns, in the blast at the Centraco site, owned by French power utility EDF and adjacent to the Marcoule nuclear research center. The Centraco site does not house any nuclear reactors.

Fatalities in accidents at active nuclear sites in France are extremely rare, although deaths occasionally occur during plant construction.

Monday's blast comes amid heightened safety concerns in the wake of Japan's Fukushima disaster in March.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said it was seeking information from France about the explosion and had activated its incident and emergency center.

France's ASN nuclear safety watchdog said it was launching an inquiry into the cause of the explosion at 13:06 p.m. (1106 GMT) that hit shares in EDF, France's main power utility.

EDF said the blast was contained within the furnace, which is used to melt waste with levels of radioactivity ranging from low to very low.

"There was an explosion at the site of Marcoule at 13:06 p.m. causing one death and four injured," an EDF spokeswoman said. "We don't know the cause," she added.


Local emergency services said there were no traces of radioactivity on the four people injured.

"The risk of fire is over and there is no radioactive or chemical contamination of either the interior or exterior of the site," a rescue worker said.

Police also said there was no contamination outside the Centraco complex, in operation since 1999.

The Centraco site is next to the town of Codolet in the Gard region, about 30 km (18 miles) from the city of Avignon and about 80 km from the Mediterranean coast.

The complex, employing some 350 people, processes scrap metal such as valves and pumps used in nuclear plant operations in a melting plant and also burns combustible waste in an incinerating plant, according to Centraco's website.

France -- the world's most nuclear-reliant country -- is carrying out stress tests on its 58 nuclear reactors in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster when the Japanese nuclear site was damaged in an earthquake and tsunami.

EDF shares, listed since late 2005, extended an earlier 3 percent loss to sink 6 percent in heavy volume, briefly touching a lifetime low of 17.89 euros. The stock later stabilised down 5 percent at 18.5 euros.

In its 2010 annual report, the ASN says that in 2008 it identified some weak spots in the Centraco site, operated by EDF subsidiary Socodei, that prompted it to ask Centraco to put forward an action plan to improve safety. It said the situation had improved since then at the site.

Malcolm Sperrin, director of Medical Physics and Clinical Engineering at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, England said: "The French authorities are highly competent at disaster management and also in the implementation of safe practice in all industrial environments.

"It is unlikely that there will be significant, or any, releases of radiation into the wider environment but this will need to be confirmed in the next few hours or days."

The announcement by the French Safety Authority (ASN) says "End of the event":

The event that occurred this morning in Centraco, nuclear installation located near Marcoule site (Gard) is considered as closed.

The explosion of a furnace dedicated for the melting of the metallic radioactive waste triggered a fire that ended at 13h00 (11.00 UTC)

The building where the explosion occurred was not damaged. Injured people do not suffer from any radiological contamination and all measures conducted by the licensee outside of the building have shown no trace of radioactive contamination.

One worker died and 4 others have sustained injuries, one of whom suffered deep burns.

This event does not involve any radiological issue and no protective actions was required for the population.

ASN, the French Nuclear Safety Authority, has suspended its emergency organization; ASN is still in permanent contact with the prefecture of Gard and the licensee Socodei. ASN will conduct dedicated inspections in liaison with Labour inspection in order to analyse the reasons of the accident.

Centraco is owned by SOCODEI. The installation is dedicated to the treatment and conditioning of low level radioactive waste, either by melting of metallic waste or by incineration of incinerable waste.


Anonymous said...

oh great, just how do you tell when it's: "Don't look too close time!" *We* declare the *non-event* to be over! Well, sure, why did you report it to begin with?

Apolline said...

CRIIRAD said no radioactive problem.

Lantzelot said...

@Anonymous 11:24 AM:
"Well, sure, why did you report it to begin with?"

Because it's an industrial accident with one person dead and several with severe burns. That the news media gives it higher priority than the accident with an exploding oil pipeline in Kenya with over 120 dead is because they can play the nuke scare all over again, even though it has nothing to do with the accident. It's like putting every house fire on the headlines with the title "Nuclear inferno" because the house has a smoke detector containing Am-241.

This blog falls for it due to the use of the word "nuclear", and people like you have to play the "cover up" card. The radiation ghost is indeed powerful.

Anonymous said...

Was this a glovebox incident?

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

"This blog falls for it"?? Excuse me? Linking a piece of news about a French nuclear waste facility accident is to "fall for it" ? That's a new English usage for me. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

@ 3:59
No, they use the furnace to burn things like working dresses and to melt low level radiated metals to ashes and metal bars. in another part of the facility those become fused to larger glass blocks. they used to make MOX-fuel there but this part is being already deconstructed till 2035. Even the shut-down Phenix-breeder is part of this complex.

btw, did anybody know:

'On 9 August (2003), taking advantage of the summer "silence", the French Ministry of Economy, Finances and Industry published a decree stipulating that information related to physical protection, emergency planning or transports of any "nuclear materials" will, from now on, present a character of secret for national defense and will be hit with "forbidden"... Indeed, according to the law, are named "nuclear" all the materials that contain fissionable, fertile or fusionable elements such as uranium, plutonium, thorium, lithium-6, deuterium and tritium. Thus, all types of nuclear fuel and most of nuclear waste are concerned. So, the secret defense extends from the nuclear fuel processing to reprocessing and storage.'

Full text (by CRIIRAD) here:

Please sign the petition:

Anonymous said...

Henri Nella
A foundry worker who was near the oven died. Among the injured, a man burned at 80% was evacuated by helicopter to University Hospital of Montpellier, where he was in a coma in the early evening. The other three were hospitalized in Bagnols-sur-Ceze (Gard).
The containment of personnel in Socodei and CEA were lifted in the afternoon and traffic restored on the site. "We did not at all worried, there is no risk. We followed the procedure, we do not know what happened. Our feeling is to have lost a colleague," testified that an employee at its output.

The co-director of the Socodei, a subsidiary of EDF, Roland Vierne, told reporters September 12, 2011 after the explosion at the site of Marcoule
No measure of protection of the population has been taken but the schools have taken the initiative to temporarily confine their students.
According to the Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety, the furnace contained four tons of metal whose radioactivity was 67,000 becquerels, "without any action with what is contained in a reactor."
Environmental organizations and the opposition saw an illustration in the accident risks of nuclear power, six months after the catastrophe of Fukushima in Japan.
Greenpeace has called for "immediate and full transparency," Acting for the Environment noted "that the nuclear risk, such as radioactive clouds, knows no boundaries." "The energy alternatives exist, the time has come to phase out nuclear power", launched Eva Joly, Europe Ecologie candidate-Greens for president.

h/t D'un Renard

Anonymous said...

Just so people know the Marcoule site alternately operates two PWR reactor.

The Marcoule site operates the Célestin PWR to create Tritium in addition the Pheneix reactor that was just shut down in 2010 along with shuttered reactors G1,G2,G3.


The main facility for the production of plutonium for military purposes is the complex located at Marcoule, in the commune of Bagnols-sur-Ceze in the Gard. Founded in 1952, Marcoule was equipped with France's first plutonium production reactor, the natural uranium fueled, graphite moderated, gas-cooled G1 reactor, and its first plutonium separation plant, known as UP1. Plutonium production for weapons use ceased in 1992. Larger versions of the G1 known as G2 and G3, 250 MW each, were built in the mid-late fifties. These three reactors accounted for about half of France's total military plutonium production. Also located Marcoule are the 190 MW (thermal) Celestin I and II reactors, and the Phenix prototype breeder reactor. The Celestin reactors are heavy water designs fueled with plutonium (originally) and later with enriched uranium. These reactors have been used for civilian isotope, tritium, and military plutonium production. The 563 MW (thermal) Phenix was intended as a prototype for larger breeder power reactors, but its plutonium production appears to have been primarily for military purposes.

The G1 reactor went critical 7 January 1956, reached full power (40 MW thermal) September 1956, and was decommissioned October 1968. G1, and its larger sister reactors G2 and G3, were dual-purpose - producing both plutonium and electrical power. G2 and G3 were both 250 MW (the same size as the original Hanford reactors in the U.S.). G2 went critical July 1958, reached full power in March 1959, and was decommissioned February 1980. G3 went critical June 1959 and was decommissioned July 1984.

The first Celestin reactor went in to operation in May 1967, and the second in October 1968. Originally dedicated to radioisotope and tritium production, they began producing military plutonium by the mid-70s. Around the decommissioning of G2 it appears their function became primarily military plutonium production. Since 1991 they have been alternating operation, only one operating at any given time. Since military plutonium production was discontinued in France in 1992, presumably these reactors are now being used primarily for tritium production again. They are expected to remain in service at least until the end of the century. These reactors have the capacity to produce some 1.5 kg of tritium annually. In their current alternate operation mode they could be producing 750 g a year, an ample amount to maintain the current and planned French arsenal (which probably requires less than 200 g annually).

Phenix started operation in 1973 and is still in service. It could have produced up to 1400 kg of military plutonium by the end of 1997, but actual production is probably substantial less.

Construction on UP1 began July 1955 and the plant reached full operation in January 1958. UP1 employed the Purex solvent extraction process. By August 1984 it had reprocessed over 10,000 tonnes of gas-cooled reactor fuel and separated more than 2.5 tonnes of military plutonium. Production of plutonium halted at UP1 in 1992, and the dismantlement of the plant began in 1998."

Anonymous said...

there was/is radiation peaks in Avignon. link in french:

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