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World News

Factbox: A brief history of French nuclear accidents

(Reuters) - - A blast on Monday at an EDF nuclear waste treatment site in southern France, which killed one person but did not cause any leak of radioactive matter, took place amid rising concern over nuclear safety in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima disaster.

France and other European nations are carrying out stress tests to assess the safety of their reactors and Germany has decided to close all its nuclear plants over the next decade, in a dramatic energy policy reversal.

The following is a brief history of recent incidents at French nuclear sites:

June 2011: A minor and fairly common incident that involved internal leakage at EDF’s Paluel 3 nuclear reactor was reported by French investigative website Mediapart, knocking 2 percent off EDF shares briefly.

November 2009: A fuel assembly rod got stuck in the pressure vessel at EDF’s Tricastin plant in southeast France, raising the risk of an accident. A similar incident took place in September 2008 in the same reactor during refueling operations. It took two months for engineers from EDF and French energy group Areva to stabilize the position of the rod and proceed with its unhooking and removal.

July 2008: Thirty cubic meters of a liquid containing natural uranium was accidentally poured on the ground and into a river at Areva’s Socatri site in southeastern France. The spillage happened while the tank was being cleaned at the complex, part of the Tricastin nuclear site, which houses four nuclear reactors. The pure uranium was much less dangerous than enriched uranium, but France’s ASN nuclear watchdog rebuked Areva for mishandling the accident.

December 1999: A massive storm provoked the partial flooding of some reactors at EDF’s Blayais plant in southwestern France. Many nuclear opponents said the flooding nearly caused a major catastrophe because it briefly cut off power at the plant.

March 1980: An accident at EDF’s Saint-Laurent nuclear reactor in central France caused two fuel rods to melt, seriously damaging the reactor and causing the most serious accident in France’s nuclear history, classified as level 4 on the International Nuclear Event Scale which runs from zero to 7.

Reporting by Muriel Boselli, Mathilde Cru and Sybille de La Hamaide

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