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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.

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