French Uranium Leak

Yes, our Gallic cousins have allowed some uranium to leak into a couple of rivers. On the scale of disasters, this really isn\’t high. Depending upon who you believe there\’s 350 kg to 75 kg of uranium been released into the environment. Yes, no doubt this will be used as an argument against nuclear power.

Worth getting it in proportion though. Given that it was in liquid form (ie, a suspension I think) and that it went into rivers, it\’ll soon be diluted down to something very close to background levels. In fact, I really wouldn\’t be surprised to find that within a week or so levels in those rivers will be lower than background in say, Cornwall or Aberdeen (both of which are high comparatively because of the uranium content of the local rock).

Also worth noting that this is not enriched: it\’s natural uranium, with the normal isotope distribution.

Yes, it\’s a blitheringly stupid thing for the plant to allow to happen, but not a danger to life or limb.

Greenpeace International nuclear campaigner, Aslihan Tumer, said: "Given the restrictions on the consumption and use of water in the area, it is clear that the leak poses a risk to the local population and to the environment."

Erm, no. That people take precautions does not show that there is danger: with matters nuclear in fact, we usually take too many precautions because we\’ve got people wibbling about how dangerous this all is.

To put this into some sort of context:

A 1,000 MW coal-burning power plant could release as much as 5.2 tons/year of uranium (containing 74 pounds of uranium-235) and 12.8 tons/year of thorium.

That is, when this plant screwed up they released into the environment some 7% of what a coal fired power station will release in a year of normal operation.

Scary, hunh?

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