Reports: France Suffers Nuclear Explosion

By Kennedy Maize

Washington, D.C., September 12, 2011, 9:30 a.m. — There are multiple reports this morning of an explosion at the French nuclear site at Marcoule. According to the BBC, one person has been killed and four injured. Few details are available.

This morning’s New York Times said French nuclear regulators had confirmed the explosion but refused to supply any additional details. CNN cited an unnamed Elecricite de France official that an “oven” had exploded. Other accounts, with little specificity, suggested a waste explosion.
The Marcoule site in southern France houses both the French government’s nuclear research facility and AREVA fuel cycle facilities. A YouTube video is available: http://www.google.com/search?aq=f&hl=en&gl=us&tbm=nws&btnmeta_news_search=1&q=marcoule.
According to an analysis by the BBC, the Marcoule site houses France’s first fast-neutron breeder reactor, the Phenix plant. Most recently, the BBC said, the site has been involved in cleaning up a mess left from the days of the French atomic weapons program and its early experiments with nuclear power.
According to the World Nuclear Association  in London, Marcoule houses three gas-cooled, graphite-moderated reactors that operated from 1956 to 1984 and were apparently used in the nation’s nuclear weapons program. The WNO site says,  “Near Marcoule is the 233 MWe Phenix reactor, which started operation in 1974 and was jointly owned by CEA and EdF. It was shut down for modification 1998-2003, returned at 140 MWe for six years, and ceased power generation in March 2009, though it continued in test operation and to maintain research programs by CEA until October 2009.”