Nuclear Waste Plant Explosion in France Kills 1, Injures 4

One person has died and four others were reported injured, one critically, in an explosion at a nuclear waste processing site in southern France.

Early indications are that the accident was contained, with no radiation leak.

The Wall Street Journal reports that local officials said the blast took place shortly before noon at a nuclear waste incinerator next to the Marcoule atomic research center. An oven used to melt low-level radioactive waste exploded, causing a fire to break out, according to the French nuclear safety agency.

Olivier Isnard, a French nuclear emergency manager, was quoted by The New York Times as saying that the explosion took place as the plant was melting down about four tons of used, mildly radioactive metal objects. The cause of the explosion was not yet known, he said, but he emphasized that the level of radiation in the molten metal — about 67,000 becquerels — was minor.

The incident comes amid widespread concern over nuclear hazards, stemming largely from the March meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant following an earthquake and tsunami. Last month, a Virginia power plant was shut down by an earthquake, the first such event in the 53-year history of commercial nuclear power in the U.S.

France is far more dependent on nuclear power than most countries, using it for more than three-quarters of its electricity.

TIMOTHY BELLA

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