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Nuclear Leak Vaucluse

At this time of year hundreds of thousands of Brits, and other nationalities, will be heading for the popular Provence area of France for their summer holidays.

On Monday, 7th July 2008, 74 kg of untreated uranium leaked out of the Tricastin nuclear waste treatment centre, run by Socatri, in Bollene, in the Vaucluse region. It spread into the ground and surrounding water system, according to press releases by parent company Areva.

Swimming, water sports and crop irrigation have been officially banned. The uranium has been detected in the local rivers. Local residents have been instructed not to drink water or eat fish from nearby rivers.

According to reports, the spill occurred when uranium overflowed into a spill tank, but the spill tank had a leak because repair work was being carried out on it.

Abnormal levels of radiation have been detected in several rivers and lakes. The 74 kg of uranium was in the form of 6.26 cubic metres (or 30 cubic metres in an early Areva press release) of liquid containing 12 grammes of uranium per litre.

Internet coverage of the incident seems sketchy at best - although the story is getting a lot of play on local radio. Most French articles seem to stress the fact that radiation levels are dropping rapidly.

The French authorities have now ordered the temporary closure of the Tricastin facility.

The best article I have found is this Yahoo report. Here is the ASN report from the 11th of July (in French), which says very little, other than they have classed the incident as Level 1 (of 7) - the least serious level. Here's a map of the facility, the map, the Vaucluse local government site, with their drinking and bathing advice (in French), and the official Areva press releases.

If you are in the area, we would be interested to hear if and how you have been affected, in the comments below.
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