The French government wants all the water tables around its 58 nuclear power plants examined after officials discovered a second nuclear leak in just two weeks. For VOA, Lisa Bryant has more for VOA from Paris.
Officials downplayed the significance of the leak at a nuclear plant in southeastern France Friday, saying it posed no threat to the public or the environment. They said there was no sign it had contaminated local water supplies. They blamed it on defective piping which they said had probably been leaking for several years.
The leak is the second detected at a French nuclear power plant this month. A uranium spill in the Vaucluse region in southern France on July 7 polluted the local water supply.
Environment Minister Jean Louis Borloo has called for a independent probe into this latest leak, and suggested toughening controls at nuclear power plants.
Borloo told reporters Friday that it was critical to have in place systems that could detect, inform the public and summon experts immediately should anything go wrong.
France leads Europe in nuclear power, which generates 80 percent of the country's electricity. Recently, the French government has also signed contracts to build nuclear power plants in the Middle East and North Africa.
After years of phasing out nuclear energy, several other European countries are also expressing renewed interest in it as they face mounting oil prices and European Union stipulations to derive 20 percent of their energy from renewables by 2020. Earlier this year, the British government gave the go-ahead to build new power stations. German and Italian governments are also mulling the idea of reviving nuclear power.