July 2008 has been a bad month so far for the French nuclear power industry with two nuclear spills already, and the month is not finished yet.
The first nuclear accident occurred on Monday 7th July 2008 at the Tricastin facility, where 74 kg of liquid uranium was spilled and entered the water table.
Interestingly, or not, at the time of writing this, the original Tricastin nuclear spill story I read on The Daily Telegraph website at this URL France orders tests on all nuclear power stations after leak has been removed (it seems back again, although edited perhaps, as the edit date is inconsistent with the Google Cache version). However, while it lasts, here is the Google Cache version.
As if the first nuclear spill at the Tricastin site at Bollene was not embarassing enough, there was a second nuclear spill at another Areva-controlled nuclear plant at Romans-sur-Isere, south-eastern France on Saturday 19th July 2008, which you can read about here: Second Nuclear Leak In France. Inspectors reportedly found that the pipe had been broken for several years and did not meet safety standards. Tut, tut, but never fear, as French Environment Minister Jean Louis Borloo has called for tougher controls at nuclear power plants, suggesting automatic problem detection and alerting systems be used in future. Now, which companies sell that cool technology, and why aren’t they already using them if they exist? Borloo’s comments will no doubt soothe any fears any potential buyers of French nuclear technology might have.
Currently, France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy is on a global tour selling nuclear power station technology including the new, unproven design called EPR (European Pressurised Reactors), which have higher power yields than existing designs, and claim to be safer. There is a big new power plant being built using this design at Flamanville, Normandy in northern France, and you can read the BBC’s Mark Mardell’s report on it here: France builds nuclear future.
The British Government seems to have decided to go on a big nuclear power plant rollout, and Mark Mardell says it’s possible Britain will decide to buy the EPR as well.
Let’s hope that Sarkozy explains well the potentially $90 billion costs and dangers of highly toxic nuclear waste storage when he gives his pro-nuclear sales pitches, as nuclear power does have considerable risks with safety of operation of plants, transportation of waste, and the big issue of waste storage, which remains highly toxic for a very long time, and where water entering the repository must be avoided.
Checkout this amazing video of the Yucca Mountain Repository in Nevada. It seems a huge project and was meant to open for use in 1998, but we’re 10 years on and it still hasn’t opened. Apparently, according to what I read, it won’t probably open until 2020 at the earliest, but due to fierce lobbying and opposition, it seems possible it might never open.
See more about the Yucca Mountain Project here: http://www.ymp.gov/.
You can read all about the horrors of nuclear contamination leaking into the water table in areas surrounding the French nuclear dump sites at the Greenpeace site here: Radioactive waste leaking into Champagne Water Supply. It makes pretty dismal reading, and its seems clear that continuing to scale up the building of nuclear power plants is a big, big mistake until the waste timebomb is resolved. And from all the reading I’ve done, it seems clear that there is currently no solution for safe, long-term storage of these lethal radioactive waste products.
Here’s a selection of interesting links:
- The reality of France’s aggressive nuclear power push
- Franco-American conversations: Another leak at the Tricastin nuclear power plant
- Is exporting nuclear power to the U.S. such a good idea?
- Again! Nuclear waste leak
- Nuclear leak in France
- 4.5 Billion Years in Provence
- CRIIRAD: The Independent Commission For Radioactivity Research and Information (in French)
- France hid info on effects of Chernobyl cloud
- Too Many French Nuclear Workers Contaminated
- Defects found in nuclear reactor the French want to build in Britain