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Nuclear accidents ‘under-declared’

A nuclear waste treatment plant in Normandy has been criticised for not owning up to dangerous incidents

A NUCLEAR waste treatment plant in Basse-Normandie has been rapped for under-declaring dangerous incidents.

In its report for 2010 on nuclear installations in Normandy the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) said Areva’s plant at Beaumont-Hague in the Manche was had an “unsatisfactory” record last year when it came to its declarations process.

Nuclear facilities are meant to declare accidents that occur, on a Nuclear Events Scale from 0-7, from the least to most dangerous.

According to the ASN report, it had to intervene during 2010 a number of times to demand that various incidents be declared or to modify the classification level Areva proposed. On three occasions Areva proposed level 0, a procedural “anomaly” without significant safety risks, which had to be reclassified as 1.

Level one can include matters like a member of the public being exposed to more radiation than the permitted limits, minor problems with safety components without serious consequences or a minor incident of a lost or stolen radioactive source.

Last year there were 58 “events” in total compared to only 25 the year before at the plant, which is one of the sites which houses the most radioactive material in the world. Out of these, six were classed at 1, the rest at 0. The plant last had a level 2 incident in 2009.

The report also found that a problem with old “quite radioactive” waste produced by the plant before 2000 had not been resolved despite ASN asking for to be stored more satisfactorily a year ago. ASN said it was going to enforce a calendar for work.

Overall however, it said the plant’s record was satisfactory as concerned exposure of staff to radiation and respecting limits for discharges.

p class="captions">Photo: Truzguiladh

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