Will future vintages contain radioactive waste?
Raise a toast to the French nuclear industry, whose low-level
radioactive waste is leaking into groundwater less than 10
kilometres (6 miles) from the famous Champagne vineyards.
Problems at a radioactive waste dumpsite in Soulaine were
reported by its operator, ANDRA, to the French nuclear safety
authority on May 24th, 2006. According to their report "the wall
of a storage cell fissured" while concrete was being added to a
recent layer of waste.
Back in the 1980's, ANDRA stated categorically that their
dumpsite would not release any radioactivity into the environment.
But that was when they were seeking planning permission. Today, the
French nuclear authority is saying "This event revealed a flaw in
the conception of the storage cells of the site."
The waste dump, Centre
Stockage l'Aube (CSA) in Soulaine, contains nuclear waste both from
France and abroad. More waste is trucked into the site every week.
Once full, the dumpsite will be one of the world's largest with
over 1 million cubic meters of waste, including plutonium.
Greenpeace research released last week showed levels of
radioactivity leaking from another dumpsite run by ANDRA in
Normandy -- at up to 90 times above European safety limits. That
waste has seeped into underground water used by farmers, with
contamination spreading into the countryside and threatening dairy
The Champagne site will receive a total of 4 thousand
terabequerels of tritium -- more than three times the amount of
tritium waste as the dumpsite in Normandy.
A nuclear waste crisis out of control
"We have been told for decades that nuclear dumpsites will not
leak and that the best standards are being applied. In reality the
dumpsite in Normandy is a disaster, and radioactivity is already
leaking from the dumpsite in Champagne," says Shaun Burnie, nuclear
campaigner at Greenpeace International. "The authorities know they
have a problem in Champagne already, with mistakes in the design.
This is only the beginning of the problem, the bigger picture is
that France has a nuclear waste crisis out of control that is
threatening not only the environment and public health but also the
economy of the Champagne region."
In addition to the low and intermediate waste site in Soulaine,
a new high-level waste dumpsite is being planned in Bure -- also in
the Champagne region -- in which the most radioactive material in
France would be deposited. Plans to build a high level waste
facility in the Rhone Valley were scrapped a few years ago after
strong opposition by wine producers due to the threat to their
vines and wine production.
"The Champagne producers are facing two nuclear time bombs - one
already leaking at Soulaine, and one planned at Bure. The wine
producers in the Rhone region stood up to the nuclear state in
France and won. The Champagne region needs to act fast before it's
too late," said Fred Marillier of Greenpeace France.
"The French Government must stop this madness. The new facility
must not accept any more waste, and an immediate investigation
launched into how to stop further contamination of ground
1,200 tons each year and no place to go
Despite having a nuclear waste crisis the French electricity
providers Electricite de France (EdF) are seeking approval to build
a new reactor at Flamanville, which will increase the amount of
Today EdF's nuclear reactors produce 1,200 tonnes of highly
radioactive waste every year. The waste expected from the new
reactor would be the most hazardous waste ever produced in a French
nuclear power reactor.
France needs to end its love affair with nuclear power, and
raise a glass to safe, clean, renewable energy.
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