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Champagne's radioactive threat

Published:  23 July, 2008

A report by action group Greenpeace claims that Champagne vineyards could be at risk following the reopening of a radioactive waste dump in the region.

Greenpeace claims that the wall of a storage cell cracked at the dump - Centre Stockage l'Aube in Soulaine - while a layer of concrete was being added on top of low-level radioactive waste. The dump is just six miles from the nearest vineyard, and once full, will be one of the world's largest, with more than 1 million cubic metres of waste.

Greenpeace also claims that a new high-level waste dump is being planned in Bure, also in the Champagne region. Proposals to build a high-level dump in the Rhne valley were abandoned a few years ago after fierce opposition from winemakers there.

ANDRA, the government agency responsible for dealing with nuclear waste, has repeatedly stated that the site is safe, despite claims that radioactive waste is leaking into groundwater in the region.

Fred Marillier of Greenpeace France said: The Champagne producers are facing two nuclear time bombs - one already leaking at Soulaine, and one planned at Bure.

The wine producers in the Rhne region stood up to the nuclear state in France and won. The Champagne region needs to act fast, before it's too late.'

Next month, the French Senate is to vote on new laws on managing radioactive waste in the country, although the government has already indicated that it is not about to abandon its commitment to nuclear energy.