Two workers suffered minor injuries on Wednesday when a blast of oxygenated steam escaped in an auxiliary building in the Fessenheim nuclear power station in eastern France and triggered a brief fire alert.

Électricité de France (EDF), which owns the country’s oldest nuclear plant, said in a statement that the steam leak occurred at about 3 p.m. Two workers had been "slightly burned through their gloves."  All nine employees present during the incident had been examined, and were able to return home later that evening, the French utility said. 

The incident is understood to have resulted from a chemical reaction when hydrogen peroxide reacted with water in a reservoir, leading to the release of "oxygenated" steam. About 50 firefighters had been reportedly deployed after the escape triggered fire alarms.

The 1977-opened Fessenhiem is scheduled for shutdown in 2017. The plant has been the subject of routine protests by anti-nuclear groups, which claim that it is vulnerable to seismic activity and flooding.

France relies on nuclear power for nearly 80% of its energy needs. Newly elected French President Francois  Hollande, who is a supporter or renewable energy, has pledged to reduce the share of nuclear power to 50% by 2025.

Sources: POWERnews, EDF

—Sonal Patel, Senior Writer (@POWERmagazine)