France's Nuclear Worries: Chain of Accidents Prompts Soul Searching
France's confidence in atomic energy has been shaken by a recent series of mishaps at nuclear facilities. Although none of the incidents appears to be on a major scale, politicians and the population are starting to question industry practices.
People demonstrate outside the Tricastin nuclear facility near Avignon, which has been the site of a number of mishaps in the last three weeks.
"What concerns us," EDF spokeswoman Carline Muller told the Associated Press, "is less the level of the people contaminated than the number of people contaminated."
The sheer number of recent mishaps has succeeded in shaking the usually steely confidence of Areva, the French nuclear giant which runs the Tricastin facility through its Socrati subsidiary. A top executive at the facility has lost his job, and law enforcement authorities have searched through his office as part of an investigation into whether facts have been covered up.
After initially downplaying the seriousness of the accidents, France's government has now been goaded into action as well. Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo has now acknowledged that France's nuclear facilities have experienced a total of 115 "small irregularities" this year. Borloo has stated the government will require a comprehensive examination of France's atomic industry, but anti-nuclear groups claim the measures don't go far enough.
"I've been told that everything is under control," Borloo told the French daily Le Parisien on July 17. "I intend to make sure."
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