On 12 September 2011 at 11h45 pm (9.45 UTC), the explosion of a furnace used for melting low-level (LL) and very low-level (VLL) metallic radioactive waste triggered a fire at the CENTRACO nuclear installation located in Codolet, adjacent to but separate from Marcoule nuclear site (France, Gard Département). The fire ended at 1.00 pm (11.00 UTC) on the same day.
This explosion caused one worker's death and injuries to four others, including one seriously due to deep burns.
The building where is located the furnace is partially damaged. Injured people do not suffer from any radiological contamination and all measures conducted by the licensee outside the building have shown no trace of radioactive contamination.
This event did not involve any radiological issue nor chemical release and no protective actions were required for the population.
ASN, the French Nuclear Safety Authority, activated its national and local emergency organization for some hours.
ASN has conducted dedicated inspections in contact with the labour inspectorate in order to investigate on the root causes of this accident.
CENTRACO's low-level-waste and very low-level-waste processing and conditioning plant is operated by SOCODEI and specialised in the treatment of LL and VLL waste, either by melting metal scrap - melting unit - or incinerating combustible or liquid waste - incineration unit - (oil, solvents, evaporation concentrates, chemical solution effluents, etc.). The CENTRACO facility manages the treatment and re-conditioning of waste from the maintenance and decommissioning of nuclear installations, hospitals and research laboratories before their disposal.
The involved furnace was used to melt scrap metal structural components, pumps, valves and tools made of stainless steel or carbon steel that are lightly contaminated with very-low-level radioactivity.
At the time of the accident, the concerned furnace contained 4 tonne s of metal for a total activity of 30 MBq. If radiological issues of this event are limited, however, ASN considers that it is a severe industrial accident because of its human consequences. The application of INES criteria leaded to rate the event at level 1 on this scale according to the low-level radiological activity radiation of the melted materials located in the furnace.
Event date: Mon, 12-09-2011