Workers evacuated at troubled French nuclear site

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

PARIS, July 29 (Reuters) - More than 120 workers evacuated a nuclear power plant in southern France on Tuesday after an alarm was set off, the nuclear safety authority said.

Plant owner EDF said the alarm was triggered accidentally but the safety authority ASN said it would await an independent examination before making any conclusions.

It was the latest scare to hit the Tricastin site after around 100 staff were contaminated with a low dose of radiation last week and a uranium spillage occured.

ASN Deputy director in Lyon Marc Champion played down the incident.

"There wasn't any radio-active leak," he told Reuters. "What we saw was an inopportune alarm."

Precautionary tests were carried out on 45 employees and "very weak" traces of contamination were found on two of them.

But the traces dated back to an incident at the Tricastin site last Wednesday when sensors detected a rise in radiation levels as maintenance work was in progress, the ASN said.

The incidents at Tricastin have prompted calls by environmentalists for a national debate on the safety of nuclear energy. (Reporting by Thierry Leveque and Gerard Bon, Writing by Tamora Vidaillet; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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