Workers injured at French nuclear plant

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IOL pic sep6 france nuclear plant Reuters Fire brigade vehicles are seen in front of France's oldest Electricite de France (EDF) nuclear power station, outside the eastern French village of Fessenheim, near Colmar.

Strasbourg - A steam leak at France's oldest nuclear plant triggered a brief fire alert on Wednesday, but the government and the company that operates the plant said the incident in which two workers were slightly hurt posed no risk.

French Energy Minister Delphine Batho said in a statement the country's ASN nuclear safety agency had confirmed that the incident, at the Fessenheim plant near France's border with Germany, posed no public safety threat.

Operator EDF issued a statement saying the steam leak occurred during a routine maintenance involving use of hydrogen peroxide.

“No fire broke out,” an EDF spokesperson said. “Steam escaped during a maintenance operation which set off the fire alarm,” she said, adding that two staff suffered hand burns.

Shortly before EDF's statement, a local government official and fire service officials said a fire had broken out at the plant, which went into service in 1977.

Last April, a fire broke out in an engine room at the same plant but there were no injuries. President Francois Hollande promised before the election to close Fessenheim by the end of his term in 2017.

In her statement, minister Batho said: “This is a workplace accident in which two employees sustained light hand burns.”

France, the world's most nuclear-dependent country - 75 percent of its electricity consumption is nuclear-produced - carried out “stress tests” on its 19 nuclear plants and 58 reactors last year in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that triggered a nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan.

The ASN nuclear watchdog said the tests showed “sufficient” safety levels but recommended action to beef up the operational management of accidents and ensure facilities could resist extreme cases such as flooding or quakes. - Reuters

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