Contamination at French plutonium factory

October 1, 1997

Contamination at French plutonium factory

By Barry Healy

On September 18, the French nuclear reprocessing company Cogema sought an injunction to stop Greenpeace from sampling the sea floor near its discharge pipeline at La Hague. Cogema is seeking a 500,000 franc fine for each violation.

Evidence from previous Greenpeace sampling was important in winning support for an agreement to end marine nuclear pollution in the Atlantic at a September 5 convention in Brussels.

Greenpeace took the action after Cogema's recent "pipe cleaning" operation. It found that Cogema created an area of contamination 30 to 100 times more radioactive than before it began the "clean up".

Two days before the court action the French environment minister, Dominique Voynet, acknowledged that Cogema had made mistakes and ordered that no further pipe cleaning be undertaken until the company can guarantee that there will be no more radioactive contamination. She also announced that Cogema's up-coming application for renewed discharge authorisations should include an option for zero radioactive discharges.

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