Tricastin Nuclear Power Plant
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|Tricastin Nuclear Power Plant|
The containment structures of the Tricastin NPC
|Official name||Centrale Nucléaire de Tricastin|
|Commission date||December 1, 1980|
|Nuclear power station|
|Units operational||4 x 955 MW|
|Make and model||Alstom|
|Units decommissioned||1 x 390 MW
1 x 450 MW
|Nameplate capacity||3,820 MW|
The Tricastin Nuclear Power Plant is a collection of sites run by Areva and EDF located in 4 different communes Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux and Pierrelatte in Drôme, Bollène and Lapalud in Vaucluse, and four departments (Drome (26), Vaucluse (84), Gard (30) and Ardeche (07)) on right bank of the Channel of Donzère-Mondragon (diversion canal of the Rhône River) between Valence (70 km upstream) and Avignon (65 km downstream).
Tricastin is one of the most important nuclear technology sites in the world, along with the COGEMA La Hague site. It is spread out over 600 hectares with over 5000 employees. Some of the involved companies are:
- Commissariat à l'énergie atomique (CEA) de Pierrelatte (A nuclear weapons research facility)
- The EDF Nuclear Power Plant Tricastin (3,660 MWe total 915 MWe each)
- Comurhex: A Uranium hexafluoride conversion facility
- Eurodif: Georges Besse (II) plant for uranium enrichment
The site houses 4 Pressurized water reactors of 915 MW each, which were built mostly in the 1970s and brought online in the early 80s. These reactors produce about 25 TWh/year, or 6% of France's electricity, but about two thirds of that goes back into the Eurodif Uranium enrichment factory. The close proximity of the power source and usage of the power allows for smaller transmission losses to occur, which is done at 225 kV.
Spent fuel is transported by train to the reprocessing plant, just as the new fuel is transported to the plant by train.
In its initial report following the 1999 Blayais Nuclear Power Plant flood, the Institute for Nuclear Protection and Safety (now part of the Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety Institute) called for the risk of flooding at Tricastin to be re-examined due to the presence of the canal.
During the 2003 European heat wave from 12 to 22 July, the maximum temperature of 27°C from the piping of waste heat water into the canal was exceeded on several occasions, totalling about 44 hours.
In July 2008, 18,000 litres (4,755 Gallons) of Uranium solution containing natural uranium were accidentally released. Due to cleaning and repair work the containment system for a uranium solution holding tank was not functional when the tank filled. The inflow exceeded the tank's capacity and 30 cubic meters of Uranium solution leaked with 18 cubic metres spilled to the ground. Testing found elevated uranium levels in the nearby rivers Gaffière and Lauzon. The liquid that escaped to the ground contained about 75 kg of unenriched uranium which is toxic as a heavy metal while possessing only slight radioactivity. Estimates for the releases were initially higher, up to 360 kg of natural uranium, but lowered later. Ground and surface water tests indicated that levels of radioactivity were 5% higher than the maximum rate allowed. In the near vicinity and above ground, the local watchdog group CRIIRAD has detected unusually high levels of radiation. 
French authorities banned the use of water from the Gaffière and Lauzon for drinking and watering of crops. Swimming, water sports and fishing were also banned. This incident has been classified as Level 1 on the International Nuclear Event Scale.
In July 2008, approximately 100 employees were exposed to radioactive particles that escaped from a pipe in a reactor that had been shut down. Additionally, a nuclear waste leak that apparently had remained undiscovered since 2005 spilled into a concrete protective shell in Romans-sur-Isere. Areva, who owns the site, ensured that the leak had not caused harm to the environment, but the issue sparked discussion about an old French army terrain, where nuclear waste was deposited in shielded dumps. The layer of dirt covering the waste is reported to have been thinned due to wind and rain erosion, directly exposing nuclear waste material to open air. Also, the speed with which the Tricastin incident was reported to the Autorité de sûreté nucléaire (8 hours) and subsequently to local authorities (another 6 hours) is subject of ongoing discussions. The European Commissioner Andris Piebalgs may send inspectors to the sites to investigate recent events further.
Other implications following the incidents resulted in a drop in the sale of wines from the Tricastin area. Acting on the wishes of the wine growers to change the name of the appellation to something without "Tricastin", to avoid being associated with the nuclear power plant, in June 2010, INAO signalled its intention to allow a name change from Coteaux du Tricastin AOC to Grignan-Les Adhemar effective from the 2010 vintage.
The Tricastin region where the plant is located, is named after the ancient Ligurian tribe the Tricastini. Their capital Augusta Tricastinorum was mentioned by Pliny the Elder in his Natural History book III in 74 C.E.
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- Patrick Hemar (2004-09-02). "Contrôle des installations nucléaires de base EDF – CNPE du Tricastin (INB n° 87/88) Inspection n° INS-2004-EDFTRI-0023 Lutte contre l'incendie" (PDF) (in French). Autorité de sûreté nucléaire. Retrieved 2008-07-10.[dead link]
- Rapport sur l'inondation du site du Blayais survenue le 27 décembre 1999 Institute for Nuclear Protection and Safety, published 2000-01-17, accessed 2011-03-21
- "Dépassement de la température autorisée de rejet dans le canal de Donzère-Mondragon." (in French). Autorité de sûreté nucléaire. 2003-08-01. Archived from the original on 2008-08-01. Retrieved 2008-07-10.
- Angelique Chrisafis (10-7-2008). "River use banned after French uranium leak". The Guardian. Retrieved 10-7-2008.
- "Warning over French uranium leak". BBC News. 9-7-2008.
- "Commission de Recherche et d'Information Indépendantes sur la Radioactivité". CRIIRAD.
- News France bans water consumption over nuclear leak - News from France - Expatica
- "French workers contaminated by nuclear leak". New Zealand Herald. 2008-07-24. Retrieved 2008-07-24.
- "Une nouvelle fuite d'uranium relance la controverse". L'Express (from Reuters). 2008-08-18. Retrieved 2008-08-18.
- Nuclear neighbour prompts name change for Tricastin, Decanter 2010-06-11
- "Suez dément vouloir construire un réacteur EPR en France" (in French). Le Moniteur. 2007-02-15. Retrieved 2008-07-16.