Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bottled Water for Dogs and Birds

All is not well with the nuclear industry.

This time the mishap was not in
Russia, but in France. During a draining operation at the nuclear treatment centre, about 75kg of uranium seeped into the ground and into the Gaffiere and Lauzon rivers which flow into the Rhône, according to the Guardian.

A field of sunflowers in front of the Areva Tricastin nuclear plant in in Bollene, in the south of France. Photograph: Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty images

After the incident there was a ban on drinking the groundwater, using it to water fields (as all local farmers do) or swimming or fishing in local lakes and streams. Men in green overalls from the nuclear site appear at local residents’ doors to collect the daily sample of water from their taps to analyse it for uranium. Levels have fluctuated daily.

A few days after the major incident, a tiny amount of lightly enriched uranium leaked but not beyond the plant. This week, about 100 staff at Tricastin's nuclear reactor number four were contaminated by radioactive particles that escaped from a pipe. EDF described the contamination as "slight".

The French government has now ordered tests on the groundwater around all nuclear sites in France. The environment minister, Jean-Louis Borloo, said there were 86 level-one nuclear incidents in France last year and 114 in 2006.

According to the Guardian, President Sarkozy recently announced that France will build a second new-generation nuclear reactor, a European pressurised water reactor or EPR. He said nuclear power was France's best answer to soaring energy prices and global warming. France is of course wanting to be a major player in the building of UK’s new generation of Nuclear Reactors.

For now the Rhone wine industry is under the shadow of the Tricastin leak. Coteaux du Tricastin wanted to change their name.

The locals continue to be cautious. To wash up, locals go out to the yard and fill a bowl from a specially delivered plastic tank of purified water on a fork-lift tractor. They carry the water up to the bathroom to wash.

Even the dog drinks bottled water, and the same is left out for the birds.

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