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French nuclear waste plant rocked by explosion

One worker is said to have died in a blast at Marcoule nuclear waste processing plant in southern France

[Image: Marcoule-nuclear-plant-007.jpg]Marcoule nuclear plant in southern France. Photograph: Guillaume Horcajuelo/EPA

One person has been reported killed and four injured in an explosion at a nuclear waste processing plant in France.
An oven reportedly exploded at the Marcoule nuclear site near Nimes in the south of France. The site produces MOX fuel, which recycles plutonium from nuclear weapons, and is partly used by the Frenchnuclear power giant Areva.
Part of the process involves firing superheated pellets of plutonium and uranium in an oven to reduce them in size to make them easier to store.
The local newspaper Midi Libre reported that one person had been killed and four others injured, including one seriously, in the explosion at 11.45am (10.45 BST).
The papers said the body of one male worker at the plant had been "found carbonised", but it added that there was no evidence that the explosion had "caused any radioactive leak".
A spokesman for the French atomic energy authority told journalists: "For the moment, there is nothing coming out."
The French nuclear safety authority said in a statement that the explosion had taken place in an oven used to melt metallic waste of a "weak and very weak" level of radioactivity.
Cécile Duflot, secretary general of the political party Europe Ecology, called for "real time" and "transparent" information on the incident on Twitter.
Fire officers said a safety cordon had been thrown around the plant. The explosion happened in the Centraco centre used by the firm Socodei, a sister company of the French electricity giant EDF.
The Marcoule site is located in Languedoc-Roussillon, in southern France near the Mediterranean.
That's the first big [reported] nuclear accident in France. Carbonized!.....hmmm....only two ways of that happening...extreme temperatures without explosion or extremely high radioactive flux. No way!....stay tuned....
No nation produces a greater percentage of their electrical energy from nuclear power, than does France!......high motivation to avoid any mention of radiation leakage.....the truth will eventually be known. Radiation doesn't lie.

France hid info on effects of Chernobyl cloud

PARIS, Dec 15, 2005 (AFP) - French authorities deliberately suppressed information about the spread of radioactive fallout from the May 1986 Chernobyl disaster over France, according to details of an experts' report leaked Thursday.

Two independent physicists say in the report that the state-run Central Service for Protection against Radioactive Rays (SCPRI) knew of high levels of contamination in Corsica and southeastern France but kept the details under wraps.

The study was commissioned by magistrate Marie-Odile Bertella-Geffroy, who since 2001 has been examining allegations that the atomic cloud from Chernobyl caused a surge in cases of thyroid cancer in parts of France.

This week Bertella-Geffroy handed over the report -- originally completed in March -- to civil plaintiffs in the case, who passed details to AFP.

"Now we have proof that there was a breakdown in the system. So now the judicial case will succeed -- I can't see how it can do otherwise," said Chantal Hoir, president of the French Association of Victims of Thyroid Cancer.

The report states that the SCPRI issued imprecise maps that concealed the high levels of fallout in certain areas, according to sources who saw the document.

It also states that with full information health authorities could have taken targeted steps to reduce the exposure of vulnerable people such as children and pregnant mothers.

It was the first time an independent study gave substance to long-standing accusations from anti-nuclear groups that the French government deliberately played down the risk posed by the nuclear cloud.

"There was a veritable campaign of lies instigated by the state in order to protect the image of the French nuclear industry," said the campaigning organisation Sortir du Nucleaire (Get Out of Nuclear Power), welcoming details of the report.

"As in other European countries, people should have been told not to eat fresh vegetables and milk products, which absorb most radioactivity, or to let their children play in sand-pits and so on," it said.

Earlier this year anti-nuclear campaigners demanded that SCPRI's director at the time of the disaster, Pierre Pellerin, be placed under judicial investigation in the case.

However scientific opinion remains deeply divided, with several renowned physicists sending an open letter to President Jacques Chirac in June commending Pellerin for not giving way to panic in his handling of the crisis.

In April, France's high court of appeal confirmed a conviction for libel against leading Green party deputy Noël Mamère, who wrongfully accused Pellerin of claiming that the Chernobyl nuclear cloud stopped at the French border.

Doctors also question the supposed link between Chernobyl and the rise in thyroid cancer, a trend which began in the mid-1970s.