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French nuclear watchdog on high alert after nuclear plant fire – Metro US

French nuclear watchdog on high alert after nuclear plant fire

FILE PHOTO: The weekly cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace
FILE PHOTO: The weekly cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris

By Benjamin Mallet

PARIS (Reuters) -France on Friday temporarily activated the crisis centre of its ASN nuclear watchdog after a fire at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine broke out, using the country’s expertise in nuclear radiation to monitor developments amid intense fighting around the plant.

Russian forces seized the largest nuclear power plant in Europe after a building at the complex was set ablaze during fighting with Ukrainian defenders, local authorities said.

Fears of a potential nuclear disaster at the Zaporizhzhia plant spread alarm across world capitals before the authorities said the fire in a building identified as a training centre had been extinguished.

France’s ASN watchdog later on Friday said, the crisis centre has been deactivated again at around 1700 GMT, but added that a special team of its experts would continue to actively monitor the situation in Ukraine.

French energy minister Barbara Pompili said in the morning no changes regarding radiation levels had been signalled. “That’s rather reassuring,” she told Franceinfo radio. “But these very sensitive facilities need to be shielded.”

The ASN said no information received so far from the Ukrainian safety agency or the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was cause for alarm.

“We have no information suggesting a system that contribute to the plant’s safety has been hit in the attack,” Anne-Cecile Rigail, ASN’s deputy managing director, told Reuters.

France’s IRSN nuclear institute, the technical arm of the ASN watchdog, said it had been in contact with the Ukrainian safety agency on Friday morning and that they had assured the French there had been no cut in power supply to the reactors.

“We had confirmation by the safety agency their had been no loss in electric supplies at the site, so all reactors are supplied properly,” Karine Herviou, deputy managing director of IRSN, told Reuters.

“Even if we lost all sources of external electricity supply, each reactor has four emergency electric generators and they have on site enough fuel to last for at least a week, even without refuelling,” she said.

IRSN has about 440 nuclear sensors across France that can detect radiation levels in real-time and also has access to a network of sensors with countries bordering Ukraine, it said.

(Additional reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Writing by Michel Rose; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Edmund Blair)

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