Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Avignon Nuclear Festival

Rue du chapeau rougeA few weeks ago a series of posters appeared in the streets of Avignon:
"Avignon Nuclear Festival. Welcome to Avignon, its bridge, its festival, its nuclear pollution.
16 nuclear reactors upstream from Avignon. Avignon "takes advantage of it".
The number of cancers is increasing for the people who live near nuclear centrals.
Take care!"
Not my translation. The posters were actually written in (not so good) English by the region's anti-nuclear committee. Nuclear centrals means nuclear power plants, Take care should really read Beware.
Many of these posters are still visible in town today. Ironically, yesterday, just as the Festival d'Avignon was opening, an 'incident' happened at the nuclear power plant of Tricastin near Bollène, about 50 kilometres upstream of Avignon : approximately 30 cubic metres of water charged with 12 grams per liter of uranium were spilled onto the ground and then into the small streams of the Gaffière and the Auzon, which feed into the Rhone. All swimming, fishing and drinking has immediately been prohibited by the authorities. We'll see how this story develops but we can trust EDF (Electricité de France, our national electricity provider and operator of the plant): the pollution of the Rhone river will stop just upstream of Avignon just like the radioactive cloud from Chernobyl had stopped at the French border in 1986. Long live the Festival.
Il y a quelques semaines des affiches sont apparues un peu partout en ville :
Festival Nucléaire d'Avignon : Dans la Cour d'Horreur, Chronique d'une Mort Annoncée
Tragédie en deux actes :

I;;; Cancer et Leucémie*
II; Le Rhône assassiné**
*Recrudescence des cancers autour des centrales nucléaires
**La pollution du Rhône est définitive

L'auteur : le collectif antinucléaire 84. Beaucoup de ces affiches sont encore visibles en ville aujourd'hui. Prémonitoires ? A mettre en tout cas en regard de l'actualité d'hier : juste pour l'ouverture du festival d'Avignon, une fuite d'uranium sur le site de la centrale nucléaire du Tricastin à Bollène, au nord d'Avignon. Environ 30 mètres cube d’effluents contenant 12 grammes d’uranium par litre se sont déversés sur le sol, puis dans des rivières, la Gaffière et l’Auzon. Les activités nautiques, la pêche, et bien sûr la consommation de l’eau sont interdites jusqu’à nouvel ordre par décision de la préfecture du Vaucluse. Les premiers détails sur
France Info. Mais faisons confiance à EDF, le déversement s'arrêtera juste en amont d'Avignon comme le nuage de Tchernobyl s'était arrêté à la frontière française en 1986. Vive le festival !

Festival d'Avignon - Incident du Tricastin 8 juillet 2008 - pollution du Rhone


Nathalie said...

For those of you not familiar with French contemporary history, the Chernobyl disaster was a nuclear reactor accident in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Soviet Union. It was the worst nuclear power plant accident in history and the only instance so far of level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale, resulting in a severe release of radioactivity into the environment following a massive power excursion which destroyed the reactor. Thirty people died in the explosion, but most deaths from the accident were attributed to fallout.

On 26 April 1986 at 01:23:44 a.m. (UTC+3) reactor number four at the Chernobyl plant, near Pripyat in the Ukrainian SSR, exploded. Further explosions and the resulting fire sent a plume of highly radioactive fallout into the atmosphere and over an extensive geographical area. Nearly thirty to forty times more fallout was released than had been by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.[

The plume drifted over extensive parts of the western Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Northern Europe, and eastern North America.

It's accepted that it spread unevenly because of complex weather factors but while all other Western Europe countries took measures to warn and protect the population from the risks the radioactive cloud posed, the French authorities claimed that it never came our way and therefore took no protective measures. It is claimed that the French government was more concerned about protecting the good image of nuclear energy than about the welfare of its citizens.

Nathalie said...

Our good president Nicolas Sarkozy being all in favour of nuclear energy and very keen to sell the technology to foreign countries, there is reason to believe that the same disinformation could happen again.

Strangetastes said...

If I understand correctly, France gets a greater percentage of its electricity from nuclear power than any other nation. But what of the alternatives? France has limited hydroelectric power from the Alps and Pyrenees. What is the relative cost to society of power plants run by coal or other fossil fuels? I do not pretend to know the answer to the question but rejecting nuclear power out of hand because of its unique risks may be simplistic.

USelaine said...

The risks are no longer speculative, so I wouldn't say a desire seek alternatives is hasty. Re-thinking consumption is first, then of course solar and wind power are well under way. The more localized the clean collection of community and household energy is, the better. It sounds like you have the advantage of knowing exactly where your water comes from. Too many people don't.

Alex said...

Quand j'ai entendu la nouvelle, cela m'a fait peur. Je ne sais pas quoi penser de cette fuite. J'ai une amie qui bosse à l'IRSN (Institut de radioprotection et de sûreté nucléaire), elle est détachée soit sur Pierrre ate soit sur Tricastin, je ne sais plus, je vais lui demander plus d'infos. J'ai également un de mes meilleurs amis qui bosse à EDF au CIPN (Centre d'ingénierie du parc nucléaire : ils gèrent toutes les centrales nucléaires de France hors EPR). Je vais me renseigner...

Je ne suis pas pro-nucléaire mais il y a peu d'alternative propre. Pour les éoliennes, il faudrait une surface dont nous ne disposons pas en France.
Vaste débat...

Bon festival !!

Nathalie said...

Strangetastes, the French "almost all nuclear" option stemmed from the choice of /need for energetic independence. Power plants running on coal closed a while back when our coal mines closed. Hydroelectricity works well but we've made use of every possible site in the Alps and Pyrenees. Windmills we have a few of in the Rhone valley (making use of the strong mistral wind) and a few other spots but there isn't enough land to make that a major supply of electricity.
Solar is something that has been completely overlooked so far. Too bad.
Then there's nuclear. High technology, reliable, clean ... until you look at the waste that we're unable to treat and the risk of an accident, potentially devastating. Avignon being downstream and downwind from all the major nuclear plants would certainly be first hit in case of an accident.

Anonymous said...

Hello Nathalie,

Governments are famous for not telling the truth at critical times and nuclear energy is an example of governments doing what big business wants done -- sell nuclear energy.

We have many nuclear waste sites here that are out of business, so to speak, and the environments are contaminated and will be for thousands of years.

So I am certainly against more nuclear energy until solutions can be found for the host of problems this energy creates.

Patty and I will be celebrating 53 years of marriage on July 12th. Think of it as a long-term relationship.

I have invited bloggers to offer suggestions on a gift for me to give Patty and the list would not be complete without your ideas.

Abraham Lincoln
Brookville Daily Photo

Peter said...

"Chronique d'une mort annoncée"! C'est un peu ce que tu fais aussi ici! Oui, on peut parler des heures sur ces questions ! Qui peut nous donner la vérité ? Apparemment pas le gouvernement ou EDF, probablement pas Greenpeace… ? On attendant, tu bois de l’eau alpine en bouteilles ?

Olivier said...

je te trouve méchante, en France on a des rivières qui lavent plus blanc les déchets nucléaires, donc pas de problème avec la fuite d'hier, cela ne vas pas dépasser la centrale. On est quand même trop fort. Yesss...
Moi cela fait longtemps que j'ai arrêté de boire l'eau du robinet et depuis plus la moindre gastro..Vive la happy bastille day...

Bergson said...

Tu vois le mal partout alors que la radio activité est ballayé vers les autres pays grace aux turbulences créées par les éoliennes.

Et oui !!

Problème : le bon roi Nico the first (and the last ?) vend des centrales dans le monde entier (il doit avoir une rolex à chaque vente) et les autres pays vont ils garder leur radio activité ?

claude said...

C'est un vaste débat sur lequel je ne m'étenderai pas. Il y a tant à dire. Je ne suis pas spécialement pro-nucléraire, ni complètement anti d'ailleurs, mais qui faire ?
Nous subissons l'avancé de la technologie en matière de fourniture d'électricité. Devons nous revenir en arrière ? Nous subissons le progrès et ne pourrons y mettre fin. Ce qui s'est passé à Tricastion fait bien évidemment peur.

edwin s said...

I applaud the organizers of the festival. It's about time someone did something to ruffle stuffy-nosed feathers. In a time when alternative sources of energy is called for... STOP THE PLANT!

Jilly said...

My God, that is totally scary. I've a feeling I read in Nice-Matin - recently - since I got back from America - that there are new nuclear installations going in around my way - with no small opposition I may say.

Makes you wonder if even drinking water out of bottles is safe. Where does it come from, after all?

Bibi said...

Gee, what a can of worms you opened today with your photo, but that's what blogs are about. I am certain governments hide a lot from us; reactors on Three Mile Island near my home town of Harrisburg had an accident years ago, and the local government claimed nothing happened...what do statistics say? Such a powerful tool left in the hands of the sometimes-not-so-competent.

MmeBenaut said...

A vexed question for sure and quite frightening with the recent spill. That type of "accident" should simply never occur. But it does.
As you know, we export uranium (competing with Canada) and there was a huge debate not so many years ago about whether South Australia should build a national repository for nuclear waste. I am all for it - better in the geologically stable outback land than in the various locations in all of our cities. But the SA Govt was politically outgunned by the "NIMBY" brigade (not in my back yard). Very selfish, I thought.
It is an international problem and unfair to ship waste to 3rd world countries. We will see more and more of these debates in future until such time as alternatives are more fully developed. We try to be as "green" as we can. I always switch off lights and try to keep our power consumption to a minimum.

Great post Nathalie - thought-provoking, as usual. Well done dear.

Sally said...

Yeah, right.....

One of the most interesting phenomena of recent times is how nuclear is suddenly being touted as "green", piggybacking on the global warming concerns.

Yeah, if 1000,000 year half-lives are "green".

Just wanted to say that the "Long Lasting Sex" post didn't increase comment traffic at all - unless you count a spam! Must be our dedicated photobloggers are more concerned with manipulating pixels than anything else!

Nathalie said...

Suite le 10 juillet :
Non-fonctionnement d’une cuve de rétention, délai dans le signalement de l’incident, absence de chiffre précis sur la radioactivité... Plusieurs questions demeurent en suspens après le rejet d’uranium du site nucléaire de Tricastin. Pour tenter de faire la lumière sur l’affaire, l’Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire vient inspecter le site aujourd’hui.

Que s’est-il vraiment passé dans la nuit de lundi à mardi à la société Socatri, filiale du groupe Areva, chargée de traiter et de récupérer l’uranium sur le site de la centrale nucléaire de Tricastin ? L’Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire est bien décidée à le savoir. Et dépêche aujourd’hui une équipe d’inspecteurs sur place.

Il s’agit notamment de savoir pourquoi une cuve de rétention a fui, entraînant le rejet d’effluents contenant environ 75 kg d’uranium dans les cours d’eau proches du site. Mais aussi de savoir pourquoi Socatri a attendu 7h30 le mardi matin pour prévenir l’ASN de l’incident, qui datait de 23 heures la veille...

suite de l'article sur France Info

Nathalie said...

Follow up on July 10th:
The Nuclear Safety Agency (ASN in French) is to conduct an inquiry today as to a number of worrying elements
- why did the retention basin leak?
- the spillage happened at 23:00 on Monday night. Why did the operator, Socrati, a subsidiary of nuclear giant Areva, wait till 7:15 the next morning to raise the alarm?
- how come no proper figures about the actual radioactivity of the material are available?

These are the questions the inquiry will need to find answers to.

Omme Génétiquement Modifié (sans H) said...

Oui, c'était évidemment prémonitoire...

Anonymous said...

In Germany, the Tricastin incident is almost censored. There were a few brief news reports, essentially "a bit of spillage has occurred but authorities confirm there is no danger". I have seen just 2 longer reports (and I have searched for them), and many newspapers did not carry the story at all.

Today, the story has been buried entirely; most news sites in Germany don't list it anymore at all (they have it archived, but you have to be aware of it to find it of course). A friend who in his own words "read newspapers intensely" for some other reason over the last 2 days was unawares that something hat happened until I told him today.

Compare the Forsmark incident 2 years ago. It was headline news for a week over here. Tricastin made headline news for perhaps 2 hours. And even considering Forsmark was a Chernobyl-type accident where there was luckily no meltdown, Tricastin is probably more serious because the radioactivity released in Forsmark was not very much. Whereas we now have 360 kilos of uranium on the loose in southwestern France, which is not highly radioactive but that only means it'll be around much longer. Also, it is an alpha emitter, meaning that it will, if incorporated in the trophic web (i.e. in the crops they grow there), be extremely unhealthy. And of course it is also highly toxic. So basically we have a big chemical spillage with some radiation on top.

Well, what do I see in the news today? The rotten nuclear reactor at Biblis is to undergo overhaul next year, because the nuclear industry in Germany is betting on the Conservatives to win the 2009 election, and those guys are 100% committed to nuke power.

I am not a conspiracy-monger, but this news blackout stinks. I'd estimate that in Germany, 95% of the population is completely unawares that anything happened at Tricastin at all.

Anonymous said...

Nathalie, if you know any of these anti-nuclear people, can you please ask them to take care that the Tricastin story does not get buried, but is spread far and wide across Europe?

It must not be allowed that this incident is censored away.

Case in point: the radical Left newswire Indymedia is usually quick to jump on such topics. They did not have a single line on Tricastin until this morning.

Marie-Noyale said...

Je n'ai pas entendu parler de cet accident..
mais rien d'etonnant!!!
Je vais essayer de trouver cela ici..
C'est dommage que cela vienne perturber ce Festival qui semblait avoir superbement commencé.

Michel Benoit said...


Nathalie said...

Michel tu as raison, ça ne perturbe pas le festival du tout ! Je suis à peu près certaine que moins d'un festivalier sur dix en a entendu parler. On n'écoute que France Culture pour connaître les critiques des spectacles !!!

Michel is right, the news hasn't hit the Festival at all. I'd say that less than 10% of festival-goers know about the spillage. The others are in holiday mood and don't even listen to the news.

Nathalie said...

Anonymous, the spillage isn't making headlines here either. I've actually had to look around a bit today before finding a follow up on the initial story. It's amazing!

Chuckeroon said...

Fascinating...I'm well informed but amazed to discover this news. As far as I know the BBC has not said a single word. Very strange. Iran's new mid range missile capable of reaching Israel got a mention but as far as I know zero words on Tricastin.

Nevertheless, can we pse stop the scare mongering over nuclear power. It's irrational and illogical.

Chuckeroon said...

Here is the link to the BBC European news item on the web. However, as I said, I heard nothing on the radio or TV.

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