Industrial accident at the Centraco facility: The French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) decides that the restart of the facility's furnaces will be subject to prior authorization and rates the accident as Level 1 on the INES scale
The accident that occurred on Monday, September 12, 2011 in the melting furnace of the Centraco facility in Codolet (Gard) caused the death of an employee and injured four others, one of them severely. The three workers who were slightly injured were allowed to return home the day after the accident. The one who was severely injured is still hospitalized in the Paris region. None of them show signs of radioactive contamination.
After verification by the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN), it appears that at the time of the accident the melting furnace contained approximately 4 tonnes of metal with a radioactivity level of approximately 30 MBq, not 63 kBq as initially indicated by the operator. Although this value is still low, the ASN has nevertheless asked the operator to provide an explanation for this underestimation.
The room where the furnace is located was partially damaged. However, the building containing the furnace room was not damaged. The furnace room has been sealed off by the Attorney General for legal investigation and is currently not accessible.
All environmental radioactivity measurements performed by the operator and subsequently by specialized local fire department specialists and by the French Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), the technical support of ASN have confirmed the absence of radiological consequences for local populations and the environment. No population protection measures were necessary.
Specialists from the ASN's Marseille regional office visited the site immediately after the accident and initiated a technical investigation on Tuesday, September 13 to determine the circumstances surrounding the accident and to identify the technical, organizational and human causes.
A legal investigation and a labour inspectorate investigation are being conducted simultaneously with the technical investigation undertaken by the ASN. Within the framework of this legal investigation, ASN has been requisitioned to provide technical assistance to legal authorities. On Tuesday, September 20, the examining magistrate met with the ASN inspectors and gave them access to all relevant documents and sealed rooms in order that they may conduct their investigation. A copy of the ASN investigation report will be submitted to the legal authorities in the weeks to come. This information being protected by legal secrecy provisions, and shall therefore not be subject to the public disclosure provisions usually implemented by the ASN.
Without prejudice to the measures that may be taken as part of the legal proceedings, ASN has decided that the restart of the facility's melting and incineration furnaces (shut down shortly after the accident) will be subject to prior authorization. The resolution was issued by the ASN's Commission on September 27, 2011.
Although the strictly radiological considerations associated with this event are minimal, ASN nevertheless considers it a severe industrial accident given the human consequences involved. According to INES criteria (International Nuclear Event Scale, ranging from 0 to 7 in increasing order of severity), the event is rated as Level 1 due to the low-level radiological activity of the melting furnace.