France's Areva says uranium leaked into river

Reuters: Muriel Boselli - Jul 8, 2008

PARIS (Reuters) - French nuclear firm Areva said on Tuesday 30 cubic meters of a liquid containing natural uranium was accidentally poured on the ground and into a river at a site in southeastern France.

The uranium, which was not enriched, was poured on the ground during the cleaning of a tank at the Socatri group, an Areva subsidiary, on the site of the Tricastin nuclear plant.

"Around 30 cubic meters of a liquid containing uranium, with a concentration of 12 grams of uranium per liter, was poured on the ground," France's nuclear safety authority said in a statement, adding that it will carry out an investigation on July 10 to determine the causes of the accident.

Socatri specializes in the maintenance and dismantling of nuclear material as well as managing nuclear waste.

Part of the liquid soaked into the ground at the company's premises while the rest ran into the Gaffiere and Lauzon rivers, which flow into the Rhone.

A Socatri spokesman said the firm will monitor the impact of the accident on the environment.


French uranium leak smaller than thought: Areva

Reuters: Joseph Tandy and Muriel Boselli - Jul 9, 2008

PARIS (Reuters) - French nuclear firm Areva said on Wednesday a leak of liquid containing uranium from a site in southeastern France was smaller than initially thought.

Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo said the nuclear safety authority (ASN) would inspect the area on Thursday to determine the precise causes of the incident.

"All the conclusions will be drawn, notably in terms of any eventual legal or administrative follow up," Borloo said in a statement.

Areva said late on Tuesday that 30 cubic meters of liquid containing uranium, which was not enriched, was accidentally poured on the ground and into a river at the Tricastin nuclear site.

"Thirty cubic meters was poured but part of it was caught by a security system, which means that only 18 cubic meters actually fell on the ground and in the water," a spokesman for Socatri, an Areva subsidiary, said.

The prefecture or local government council of Vaucluse said a total of 74 kilograms of natural uranium fell into the water while 150 kilograms remained on ground on the Socatri premises.

Socatri specializes in the maintenance and dismantling of nuclear material as well as managing nuclear waste.

The Prefecture of Vaucluse added that the leaked uranium should only be found in micrograms in river water. "The risk for the population is therefore low," it said in a statement.

The nuclear safety authority said the uranium concentration stood at 12 grams per liter.

The prefecture added that in surface waters, the levels of uranium have remained far more than the norm, but had significantly diminished since the leak occurred.

Tests carried out at local lakes showed no uranium contamination, meaning that 100 evacuated bathers had not been affected, the prefecture added.

By way of precaution, the prefecture has banned all fishing, sailing and swimming in the affected area, as well as the use of affected waters for consumption or irrigation.

Environmental group Greenpeace France attacked Socatri for not alerting the relevant authorities fast enough.

"Contrary to what has been said, the leak took place on July 7 at 2300 (2100 GMT)," Greenpeace said in a statement.

"Socatri alerted the Nuclear Safety Authority on July 8 at 0730 (0530 GMT)," Greenpeace and the ASN said, adding that the company only realized the importance of the leak at noon, allowing the prefecture to take precautionary measures by 1300 (1100 GMT).

"Those delays are unacceptable," said Yannick Rousselet, head of energy campaigns at Greenpeace.



The maximum recommended concentration of uranium in drinking water, according to the World Health Organization, is 2 micrograms per litre. In the USA, the maximum recommended is 20 micrograms per litre.

Thus a spill of 74 kilograms of uranium would require 37 billion litres of water to dilute it to the maximum pollution levels recommended

by WHO (that's 37 million cubic metres), or 10 times less water to meet the maximum pollution levels considered acceptable by US authorities (that's 3.7 billion litres = 3,700,000 cubic metres.)

G. Edwards.

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