Explosion at French Nuclear Waste Plant Leaves 1 Dead, 4 Injured, No Apparent Radiation Leak

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"Explosion at French Nuclear Waste Plant Leaves 1 Dead, 4 Injured, No Apparent Radiation Leak"

The French nuclear safety body says one person died and another was seriously injured Monday in an explosion at the Marcoule nuclear site in southern France.  The Nuclear Safety Authority said there have been no radiation leaks outside of the plant, which treats nuclear waste with little radioactivity.  Three other people were injured in the explosion, the statement said.

This is a breaking story, so details are scarce.  I welcome any links or comments from readers in France.

Here is the official internal translation of the statement from the French nuclear safety authority (ASN):

ASN has activated its emergency center at 12:30 (located at its headquarters in Paris XII) following an accident at the nuclear facility Centraco (Center for processing and packaging of low-level waste) located at Codolet commune near the site of Marcoule (Gard).

According to preliminary information, it is an explosion of a furnace used to melt the metallic radioactive waste of low and very low activity.

A first assessment reported one dead and four injured including a serious one.

There are no release[s] outside the installation.

The operator has activated its emergency plan in accordance with the procedures.  Centraco is operated by SOCODEI. The installation is dedicated to the treatment of waste of low or very low level either by fusion for metallic waste, or by incineration of incinerable waste.  The ASN is in constant contact with the prefecture of the Gard and the operator. It mobilized its division of Marseille … and has sent inspectors to the prefecture and the site.”

France Info -

More details will be posted as they come.

UPDATE:  Here is a second statement by ASN:

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.

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21 Responses to Explosion at French Nuclear Waste Plant Leaves 1 Dead, 4 Injured, No Apparent Radiation Leak

  1. stu says:

    According to France2 TV station website, the explosion ocurred in a part of the site that treats waste. The oven which exploded was used to treat “low radiactivity” waste. The 4 injured workers were not exposed to radiation.

    The site is run by Socodei, a branch of EDF, the nation’s semi-state-owned national power providir.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      Lets wait and see what the facts really are. If there is one industry with a well-honed capacity for self-serving disinformation it surely is nuclear power.

  2. Joan Savage says:

    http://fr.euronews.net/2011/09/12/france-explosion-meurtriere-sur-le-site-nucleaire-de-marcoule/

    Gave a link to the company, an affiliate of EDF, Socodei

    Socodei nuclear waste processing
    http://www.socodei.fr/traitement-des-dechets/

    The company’s press release link

    http://www.socodei.fr/actualites/detail-de-lactualite/article/usine-centraco-de-marcoule-accident-dexploitation-maitrise-avec-aucun-rejet-radioactif/

    Includes:
    Un salarié a été tué ce matin à la suite d’une détonation survenue dans le local du four de fusion de déchets métalliques

    “four de fusion de déchets métalliques” is a scrap-melting furnace.

    The company has an English language page
    that describes the waste.
    http://www.socodei.fr/traitement-des-dechets/

    Of the 849 tons of all types waste produced each year in France, 3,4% are toxic chemical waste and 0.05% are radioactive waste from the nuclear industry, hospitals, and research laboratories.

    “FMA-VC and TFA” radioactive waste, with low or very-low activity levels and short half-lives*, account for only 3% of total radioactivity but for 90,8% of all radioactive waste total weight produced in France. The remaining waste (HA, HA-VL or FA-VL) represents 95% of the activity and 10% of all radioactive waste total weight produced in France.

    SOCODEI processes low or very-low-activity waste, type FMA-VC and TFA, in order to condition it into a solid, non-dispersible, and chemically stable form, to reduce its volume considerably (to one tenth or one twentieth of its initial volume, depending on the process). Furthermore, SOCODEI discusses how valuation of these products once processed for recycling within the nuclear industry. SOCODEI recycled to date some of the scrap metal as shielding container of radioactive waste.

    * Materials with a radioactive half-life not exceeding 30 years.

  3. Mike says:

    Is there a nuclear power plant there or it is just a waste processing facility? Is the waste from power plants?

  4. Joan Savage says:

    The quote Joe Romm got from ASN that “ASN, the French Nuclear Safety Authority, has suspended its emergency organization” looked bizarre, but it might be correct.

    ASN (l’Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (l’ASN)) now has an English language press release that doesn’t sound quite so alarming, but it does reveal that inspectors have to travel from Marseilles to Marcoule (Gard).

    http://www.french-nuclear-safety.fr/index.php/English-version/News-releases/2011/Information-on-the-accident-in-Centraco-Gard-press-release-1

    It reads:
    ASN, the French Nuclear Safety Authority, activated its emergency centre located in Paris XII at 12.30 following the accident that took place in Centraco (centre for treatment and conditioning of low level radioactive waste) located in Codolet near Marcoule (Gard, South-East of France).

    An oven dedicated to melt low and very low radioactive metallic waste exploded inside the building. The radioactivity was contained inside the building.

    According to a first estimations, there are one casualty and four injured persons, including one severely injured. None of them is contaminated.

    There are no releases outside the installation.

    The licensee activated its on-site emergency plan accordingly to the procedures.

    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.

    ASN is in permanent contact with the prefecture of Gard and the licensee. The division of ASN in Marseille is also following the situation and sent inspectors to the prefecture and to the site.

  5. Tony says:

    From WikiLeaks:

    http://www.cablegatesearch.net/search.php?q=france+nuclear+MOX&qorigin=0&sort=1

    Cablegate’s cables: Full-text search for “france mox nuclear”

  6. john tucker says:

    Sad. Its interesting these kind of things get picked up just because of the word nuclear; evoking potential in the unknown – these – not so much:

    2 killed in smelting furnace blast
    Sep 7, 2010, 04.33am IST

    Two persons were killed on the spot and eight were injured when a smelting furnace exploded in a steel unit in the south of GT Road Industrial Area around 8.45am on Monday. ( http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2010-09-07/delhi/28224137_1_furnace-cylinder-explosion )

    Nairobi pipeline fire kills 120 people
    TODAY
    ( http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/africa/news/article_1662490.php/Nairobi-pipeline-fire-kills-120-people )

    • Joe Romm says:

      Oh, I think it’s safe to say we have covered the pipeline story and the oil spill story and the mine disaster story and the air pollution story and the water pollution story and the impending catastrophic global warming from fossil fuel combustion story….

      • john tucker says:

        Obviously Joe aside probably from more efficient combustion, nuclear power is still the most successful limiting factor of greenhouse gases in power generation.

        The reason this kind of thing bothers me is that in a way it inevitably becomes a Gish Gallop argumentative line against nuclear power.

        Also I am seeing some environmentally horrific ideas coming out of the antinuclear movement.

        Greenpeace for instance put out a new plan for japan DRASTICALLY increasing reliance on fossil fuels.

        Gas: increase average capacity factor of all gas power plants and use them as base load power plants over the coming years. By 2020 the average capacity factor will be back on “standard levels”

        Backup power: Gas power plants will be used to cover dips in flexible generation, and no additional capacity will be needed as current gas power generation capacity is
        more than enough to cover the entire time period 2012 – 2020

        ( http://www.greenpeace.org/japan/Global/japan/pdf/er_summary_eng.pdf )

        Considering we coming out of a world recession, the variability of renewables and the amounts being currently invested. Unless its supported buy valid argument its reckless and inexcusable.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      To pretend that industrial accidents involving nuclear waste are completely alike in their possible long-term consequences with other such accidents is preposterous. Nuclear power is demonstrably not just another industry.

      • john tucker says:

        There have been several instances of long term studies to exposure of radiation. Do you have literature to support that. Do you have any evidence of a large causality event scientifically related to radiation and nuclear power. You can even use Chernobyl.

        • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

          I’m sure the ‘studies’ are as pertinent and reliable as those that approved genetically engineered food crops. Oh, I forgot-these crops were simply declared to be ‘substantially equivalent’ and, therefore, no studies were necessary. The only studies that were undertaken, such as Arpad Pusztai’s work, were not so reassuring, and, in Pusztai’s case led to his loss of employment. Furthermore we have the constant scandal of rigged medical trials for new medications, the Vioxx outrage one of the worst. And, as we discovered recently, the WHO came to a secret agreement in the 1950s with the IEA to help promote nuclear power. Nuclear harm denial is easy, as most of the deaths occur decades later and are easily denied-you just need the right personality type to engage in it. Or you could act like the Japanese regime that, after Fukushima, simply increased the permissible exposure levels by five times, and increased the use of expendable untermenschen, like the burakumin and Koreans.

  7. Nicolas Huillard says:

    Well. I can’t add more to the previous comments, except: I had to read CP to know about that, even though I watched the news this evening (OK, I missed the first few minutes, this news MUST have been part of those few minutes).

  8. malcreado says:

    So much for the poster child of how to do Nuclear Safely.

  9. Chris Winter says:

    “FMA-VC and TFA” radioactive waste, with low or very-low activity levels and short half-lives*, account for only 3% of total radioactivity but for 90,8% of all radioactive waste total weight produced in France.

    This sounds contradictory. Radioisotopes with short half-lives have high activity levels. It could be that they mean these substances are very dilute in the waste stream, so that the total dose would be low.