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France announces multi-bln-dollar program to beef up nuclear safety

(Xinhua)

09:47, January 04, 2012

PARIS, Jan. 3 (Xinhua) -- The French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) on Tuesday announced a multi-billion-dollar investment program to strengthen nuclear safety in a bid to boost confidence in the country's prized nuclear energy industry.

In a report released on Tuesday, the ASN said the accident in Japan's Fukushima power plant in March 2011 following a strong earthquake and tsunami had prompted the French nuclear watchdog to examined 79 of the country's nuclear facilities.

These facilities included 58 reactors operated by French state-owned electricity provider EDF, one new EPR nuclear power plant in construction, and 20 nuclear fuel and nuclear waste processing plants.

The ASN assessment report said "those installations ... have a sufficient level of safety to warrant it not to request any immediate shutdown."

"At the same time, the ASN believes that the continuing operations require existing safety margins to be strengthened as swiftly as possible," the report said.

According to the ASN, the French agency planned to increase investment - some tens of billions of dollars - on nuclear safety control measures.

In the nearly 400-page report, the ASN called for stepped-up measures to beef up nuclear safety in the country, such as adopting more stringent standards for nuclear facilities, and provide emergency response training for the staff.

The French nuclear safety administration also proposed to establish, from 2012, a "rapid reaction force" which comprises technical experts with special equipment.

Such a special force is expected to be operational by the end of 2014, and is expected to be able to intervene in major nuclear accidents in less than 24 hours.

The ASN asked industry operators to come forward with measures that are going to be taken in response to floods and earthquakes before June 30, 2012.

France is the most nuclear-dependent country in the world with 75 percent of its electricity coming from nuclear energy.

The ASN is a supervision agency, responsible for regulating nuclear safety in connection with radioactive waste shipments and for keeping the public informed in such matters.

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