At least 1 person is dead and four others injured due to an explosion at the radioactive waste storage facility of the Centraco Nuclear Plant near Marcoule, in Southern France, about 18 miles from Avignon near the Mediterranean coast. The explosion occurred around 11:45am local time, 9:45 GMT, after a fire broke out at a furnace used for processing spent radioactive fuel. The facility recycles weapons grade plutonium and makes MOX fuel for use in nuclear reactors. France produces 75% of their electricity from 58 nuclear power plants. The Marcoule facility is one of the oldest in France, opened in 1955 and is owned by EDF, a large French utility corporation, which owns Centraco. While there is no reports of radioactive leaks yet, the radiation associated with MOX fuel′s plutonium and uranium is very dangerous with a very long period of radioactive decay.
The Marcoule nuclear plant played a major role is France becoming a nuclear power. The first plutonium, as well as tritium for building thermonuclear weapons, came from there. The facility also has a civilian division, which develops experimental reactors, such as the Phenix, a fast-breeder reactor designed to use MOX fuel. The site is also a potential candidate for becoming the home of the joint European Pressurized Water Reactors program, EPRs, which will develop the next generation of nuclear reactors for producing electricity.
Today′s explosion at the Marcoule nuclear plant owned by EDF has left 1 dead and 4 injured according to early reports. No radiation leaks have been detected yet. The blast occurred after a fire broke at at a furnace at the facility′s waste storage area. The site has no active, power-producing reactors. Throughout most of its history, the Marcoule plant produced weapons grade material for France′s nuclear arms program. In later years, its primary function has been to turn weapons grade material and radioactive waste into MOX fuel for use by other reactor sites which produce 75% of all of France′s electricity. MOX fuel is quite dangerous with a long radioactive decay period. The plant is close to the Mediterranean coast near the city of Avignon in Southern France.