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Fatal accident at Marcoule nuclear facility

By Mike Campbell - 12 Sep 2011 13:52:1 GMT
Fatal accident at Marcoule nuclear facility

A worker was reported to have been killed in an accident at the site of the Marcoule nuclear facility in France. The incident, which left four other people injured, one seriously, involved a fire and an explosion near a furnace in a radioactive waste storage area, but authorities are stressing that there has been no release of radiation to the environment at this stage.

The explosion occurred at 11:45 CET today (12/09/11). A security cordon has been established around the site against the possibility that any radiation may leak from the damaged building.

The Marcoule facility is in southern France and lies between the towns of Orange (to the west) and Bagnols-sur-Ceze (to the east) in the Departement du Gard. The facility is one of the oldest in France was established in 1955 and is home to one of ten CEA research centres (the Commisariat de L'energie Atomique, the French Nuclear regulatory authority).

The original role of the facility was linked to production of plutonium for the French nuclear weapons programme, but the last of the site's nuclear reactors was shutdown in 1983.

Currently, the site is involved in the production of mixed oxide (MOX) fuel rods which contain uranium and plutonium oxides from nuclear reprocessing facilities.

The furnace, near where the explosion took place, is used to melt metallic waste containing a low level of radioactivity. The furnace is in the Centraco facility which is used by Socodei, a member of the EDF group. However, much of the work being conducted at Marcoule relates to the decommissioning and clean-up of the site itself. The site is operated by Areva, a leading French nuclear concern and the CEA.

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