Areva says it will be investing a total of €20 million ($29.6 million) to improve environmental and health monitoring on its Tricastin site and to "settle the balance of its industrial legacy."
|The area around Tricastin (Image: IRSN)
Tricastin, a very large nuclear site some 65 km north of Avignon, is home to four Electricité de France power reactors, the Comhurex uranium conversion facility, the Eurodif enrichment plant and the Pierrelatte weapons facility, operated by the Atomic Energy Commission (Commissariat à l'énergie atomique
, CEA). A spillage of some 30 m3
of uranium-bearing solution by Areva subsidiary Socatri occurred at the site in early July, causing uranium to enter local watercourses. The incident was classified as level 1, the second level on the IAEA's International Nuclear Events Scale (INES), although radiation levels in the affected waterways soon returned to normal. Areva now says that an estimated 74 kg of uranium leaked into the environment.
The company launched a full enquiry "faithful to its policy of transparency" and started making compensation payments to individuals and businesses affected by the spill in mid-August. It has so far dealt with nearly 130 claims for compensation.
Socatri has a uranium recovery and cleanup facility (called IARU) at the Tricastin site, and provides nuclear cleanup services including decontamination and dismantling; waste processing and effluent treatment; processing, packaging and storage of special and ordinary waste; and nuclear equipment maintenance. The spillage happened when a tank overflowed as a wastewater treatment unit was being drained. The unit was already scheduled for decommissioning and replacement in a €13 million ($19.2 million) scheme.
Now, Areva says, it will be spending a total of €20 million ($29.6 million) to improve environmental and health monitoring while "modernizing" the entire Tricastin site. This will include redeploying and strengthening "dedicated environmental monitoring teams" and increasing the number of analysis points round the site "to provide a clearer image of the water table." The company adds that it will also be looking into transferring waste from former CEA activities stored at the site to a "certified centre". It is not clear whether the €20 million is in addition to, or including, the €13 million already earmarked.