Nuclear safety

Locals near France's nuclear sites 'not prepared for accidents': report

Technician at La Hague nuclear site, western France, April 2015
Technician at La Hague nuclear site, western France, April 2015 UX designer

People living near nuclear plants in France are not sufficiently aware of what to do to in the event of a nuclear accident, according to an organisation that collects information on the nuclear industry. 

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The ANCCLI, which aims to inform ordinary citizens about the nuclear industry, wants better simulation exercises and a more efficient distribution of iodine tablets so that those living and working near nuclear sites are better equipped to deal with any such accident.

“In the country that is the most nuclearised in the world in relation to the number of inhabitants, methods of public protection are unsuitable and insufficient,” says the ANCCLI in a report released on Tuesday.

France is home to 19 nuclear power stations run by EDF, as well as nuclear reprocessing sites and nuclear plants used for research.

The ANCCLI also expressed concern that local people are not availing of supplies of iodine tablets, which can mitigate the effects of radiation by saturating the thyroid with stable iodine so that it rejects radioactive iodine.

In an iodine distribution drive in 2019, only 550,000 of the targeted 2.2 million people actually collected their reserved doses from pharmacies, according to the ANCCLI.

The organisation says local authorities should take control of the distribution of iodine, instead of pharmacies - chosen, it maintains, after lobbying by pharmaceutical companies.

Crisis simulation exercises

The ANCCLI also wants local people to take part in crisis simulation programmes which, it says, currently involve only local authorities and first response professionals. Such simulations would “considerably reduce the consequences of a major nuclear accident”.  

However, an unnamed representative of the nuclear industry told AFP news agency that there were already “practice lockdown exercises and evacuation procedures for target populations, such as schools.”

In its report, the ANCCLI insists that lessons must be learned about risk management in the wake of the Covid 19 pandemic, declaring “it’s time awareness of the risk from nuclear sites matched the level of actual danger.”

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