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Explosion at Nuclear Facility in France Kills 1, Injures 4
September 12, 2011
Six months after the
Fukushima nuclear disaster started in Japan, there are reports of another
nuclear accident. An explosion in the furnace of the Marcoule nuclear
site in southern France has killed one worker, and injured at least four others.
PSR raised concerns in a recent news conference about the inadequacy of the
U.S. response to Fukushima. This latest accident once again shows
the need for the U.S. to closely examine such accidents and to use these
findings to inform policy decisions.
Since 1995, the Marcoule facility
has produced MOX fuel, which is made from plutonium mixed with uranium, for use
in commercial reactors. MOX has more
plutonium than nuclear reactor spent fuel used in the United States, and thus
poses more health and safety risks. MOX
increases the dangers of nuclear proliferation, because it requires reprocessing,
a process to separate plutonium from spent fuel. Separated plutonium is more vulnerable
to theft or diversion for weapons use than plutonium that is still contained in highly radioactive spent
fuel. MOX is also thermally hotter than
uranium spent fuel, and can cause more stress on reactors, and as a result poses
a greater risk of an accident and increased risk to public health.
Thus far the French nuclear
authorities have reported no radiation leaks, but we will continue to monitor
the situation as it unfolds.