Explosion rocks French nuclear power plant close to the English Channel after fire breaks out in machine room
- The blast occurred in the machine room of Flamanville plant at 10am Thursday
- There is no immediate nuclear risk at the plant, according to French officials
- The fire was brought under control and five construction workers were treated
- It is the latest in a string of setbacks for the plant where a man died in 2011
An explosion at a nuclear power plant run by French firm EDF – just 75 miles across the Channel – added to concerns over nuclear safety yesterday.
The company, which is planning Britain’s first nuclear power station in a generation, was forced to shut down its nuclear reactor at the Flamanville plant in Normandy after the blast caused a fire that left five people suffering from smoke inhalation.
While there was no nuclear risk, a French official described it as a ‘significant technical event’. EDF, whose controversial Hinkley Point plant in Somerset will be built with Chinese investment at a cost of £18billion, refused to provide information on the cause of the explosion.
Nuclear reactor number 1 of the Flamanville nuclear plant is pictured after an explosion in northwestern France
A view inside the machine room of the reactor in Flamanville where the fire started
But local prefect Jacques Witkowski said a fan had exploded after overheating in the turbine hall, where steam from the nuclear reactor produces electricity. Greenpeace has called for an urgent inquiry into the cause of the fire.
The explosion happened in an engine room of Flamanville that is separate from its nuclear reactors, which were built in the 1980s.
Mr Witkowski said: ‘A fan exploded. It was a mechanical problem. The five employees present were evacuated for a slight intoxication related to the smoke. They are unharmed.
‘It is a significant technical event but it is not a nuclear accident.’
A fire crew took almost two and a half hours to extinguish the flames, and the reactor will be shut down and disconnected from the electricity grid for a week.
In a statement, EDF said the fire was ‘immediately brought under control’ by its response team. It insisted that there were no safety consequences, but the incident follows a series of controversies.
Twenty of EDF’s 58 nuclear plants in France were shut down following safety checks last year and some reactors are still offline.