July 2000

French inspectors demand shutdown of nuclear plant on quake faultline

AFP (Paris), July 19, 2000

[Posted 20/07/2000]

France's nuclear inspection authorities are demanding the closure of a factory manufacturing nuclear fuel in the south of the country because it lies on an earthquake fault-line.

After five years of fruitless pressure on the Cadarache plant, which makes mixed oxide fuel (MOX) for export to Germany, government inspectors this week took the unprecedented step of releasing documents at the centre of the environmental row.

A 1994 survey showed that the area round Cadarache, near the mouth of the river Rhone, had experienced a "significant growth" of seismic activity since the end of 1993, and that "destructive" earthquakes could be expected to recur once a century.

The last recorded earthquake was in 1913.

The Directorate for the Safety of Nuclear Installations (DSIN) held a meeting with the plant's operators Cogema in 1995, in which it said that "a rapid closure of the installation is necessary."

It asked for a "plan for the future of the factory including a definitive closure date not long after 2000."

Copies of the survey, minutes of meetings and letters were given to nuclear watchdog the World Information Service on Energy (WISE-Paris), and their existence confirmed for AFP by a spokeswoman for the DSIN.

According to the documents, DSIN director Andre-Claude Lacoste wrote a second letter in 1997 saying it was "not acceptable" that he had yet to receive any response to his closure order.

Later, without questioning the seismological survey, Cogema offered to encase the plutonium treatment plant in a concrete shell, a proposal judged "full of uncertainties" by the DSIN.

WISE-Paris director Mycler Schneider said Cogema was unwilling to close Cadarache because it has orders to produce 40 tonnes of MOX fuel for Germany every year, and has no other capacity for manufacturing it.


Note WISE-Paris:

This AFP story has been withdrawn from the wire within a few hours for unknown reasons.

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