Blast at French Nuclear Waste Facility Kills One

The Centraco facility.


An explosion at a French plant that burns and melts nuclear waste has killed one person, injured four others, and ignited worries that low-level radioactivity might leak into the environment. The blast occurred around 11:45 local time at an oven near the nuclear reactor of Marcoule, in the Gard, a department in the southern region of Languedoc-Rousillon.

On its home page, France's Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) says that no radioactivity appears to have leaked from the site.

The plant, called Centraco, is owned by Socodei, a daughter company of French energy giant EDF. According to Socodei's Web site, Centraco "processes scrap metal in its melting plant and combustible waste in its incinerating plant. … The objective is to reduce waste volume, recycle whenever possible, and condition the remainder as ultimate waste packages accepted by the French national agency for radioactive waste management (ANDRA)."

The blast caused a fire that was extinguished about an hour later, according to news reports. One of those injured is in serious condition and has been transferred to a hospital in Montpellier. French Environment Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet is expected to visit the site later this afternoon.