High emissions reported at French nuclear plant

PARIS Wed Aug 6, 2008 4:15pm EDT

PARIS Aug 6 (Reuters) - Radioactive gas emissions from a nuclear plant in southeast France were higher than normal in June and July but there was no threat to public safety, nuclear authorities said on Wednesday.

The gas emissions occurred at a waste reprocessing installation at the Tricastin nuclear site in southeastern France, where a separate uranium leak was reported last month.

"According to the first estimates, the impact of this discharge on the environment and the population has been judged very weak," the nuclear authority ASN said in a statement.

The authorities said an inspection last month showed that, since Jan. 1, the plant had emitted more radioactive carbon-14 gas than was permitted for the whole year.

The reprocessing unit where the emissions occurred, which is run by Areva subsidiary Socatri, has been shut down for more than a week and would remain closed for the rest of the year, an ASN official said.

"For us there should be no tolerance... We have asked questions and are now waiting for answers," ASN's regional deputy director, Marc Champion, told Reuters from Lyon.

After the uranium leak at the site last month, Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo said tests would be held at all French nuclear power plants to check for leaks.

ASN has criticised Areva for its handling of the July leak. (Reporting by Brian Rohan and Astrid Wendlandt; editing by Andrew Dobbie)

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