Radioactive waste ‘threatens’ Champagne

News Wine News http://decanter.media.ipcdigital.co.uk/11150/000000b17/663d_orh100000w160/soulaines1.jpg http://decanter.media.ipcdigital.co.uk/11150/000000b17/ed91/soulaines1.jpg
  • Thursday 1 June 2006

Leaking radioactive waste from a dump in the Champagne region is a ‘threat’ to its vineyards, says Greenpeace.

The Soulaines site

According to the environmental organisation, the Soulaine waste dump, 10km from Champagne vineyards in the Côte des Bar, is contaminating underground water on and near the facility.

Although Greenpeace has admitted that there is no actual proof of vineyard contamination, it said the dump had been ‘releasing radioactivity into the atmosphere and underground water for ten years’.

ANDRA, the Government agency responsible for the disposal of nuclear waste admits there are ‘tiny’ levels of contamination in the groundwater but denied there was any threat to vineyards.

‘The threat cannot exist because the water table flows to the north-west and the vineyards are to the south,’ said ANDRA’s Jacqueline Eymard.

She added that the contamination recorded was ‘tiny’, at 17 Bequerels per litre (Bq/l). The European safety limit is 100Bq/l.

According to a government report published in May 2005, a waste storage container wall at Soulaine cracked as a layer of concrete was poured in to seal the waste. ANDRA has just been given the go-ahead by the government to repair the damaged casement.

Although Eymard said contamination levels were ‘miniscule’ and was ‘absolutely no worry’ to the region, Greenpeace is citing the example of another dump in Normandy.

The La Hague facility, near Cherbourg, was closed in 1994 when it reached its capacity of over 0.5m cubic metres of radioactive waste. Since then, several other sites, including Soulaine which has a capacity double that of the La Hague site, have dealt with the radioactive by-products of nuclear energy. Greenpeace says levels of radioactivity near La Hague measure around 750Bq/l.

‘We are sounding the alarm for future dangers,’ said Frédéric Marillier of the organisation.

The move by Greenpeace comes as the French Senate begins debating new laws on nuclear waster management. Around 80% of France’s electricity, supplied by EdF (Electricité de France) comes from nuclear energy.

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