France finds second nuclear leak

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The Independent Online

A uranium leak has been discovered at a nuclear power station in France, the second in a month.

Radioactive liquid escaped from a broken underground pipe at the site in the country's south east, the national nuclear safety authority said today.

Experts are trying to determine how much leaked uranium is present at nuclear company Areva's plant in the town of Romans-sur-Isere, the Nuclear Safety Authority said.

The pipe is believed to have ruptured several years ago, said the authority, adding that the pipe "was not in line with the applicable regulations, which require shock resistance ability sufficient to avoid rupture."

An Areva spokesman said the leak of lightly enriched uranium did not spread outside the site and had "absolutely no impact on the environment."

He said the factory hoped the leak would be classified as a level 1 problem - the most minor of seven possible rankings.

However the announcement was a new blow for Areva after a similar incident last week, when a liquid containing traces of unenriched uranium leaked from a factory in Tricastin in southern France. Areva said that problem "did not affect either the health of employees and local populations, or their environment."

France is the most nuclear power-dependent country in the world, with 59 reactors producing nearly 80% of its electricity. The French state owns Areva, which is the key to France's international nuclear influence.

The incidents have prompted questions about the still-secretive nuclear industry, and the French government ordered a check of the groundwater around all its nuclear sites.