The Marcoule nuclear plant in southern France suffered an explosion earlier today, reports claim.
According to the BBC, the explosion at the plant was caused by a fire in a storage space for radioactive waste. The explosion reportedly killed one person. There are conflicting reports on the number of people injured, ranging from three to four, at this point.
The Marcoule plant is a major site for nuclear activities. According to the BBC, it doesn’t have any reactors, but does produce mixed oxide fuel (MOX) by recycling the plutonium found in nuclear weaponry. The plant also is used to create tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, the CBC says.
There is some fear that a radioactive leak could occur at the Marcoule site. According to the BBC, which spoke with the France atomic energy commission, no leak has occurred yet, but a “security perimeter” has been established in the event a leak does occur.
The Marcoule explosion is the latest nuclear crisis to impact the globe. Earlier this year, following a magnitude-9.0 earthquake, Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant became the focus of the global debate over the viability of nuclear power. Following the earthquake and tsunami, the reactors started to overheat, and workers, exposed to dangerous levels of radiation, worked tirelessly to prevent an outright catastrophe.
In April, the crisis at Fukushima hit a near-record level, when the severity of the disaster was pushed from a 5 to 7, the highest rating on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES). The 1986 Chernobyl disaster was also a 7 on the INES.
Following the Fukushima crisis, several countries around the world started analyzing their preparedness for a similar problem with their own nuclear plants. France was one of those countries. Over the last several months, France has engaged in testing of its plants to determine if they are safe from potential disasters.
However, exactly how the Marcoule explosion will affect France’s attitudes towards nuclear plants remains to be seen. According to information from the World Nuclear Association, an organization representing people who work in the nuclear profession, 75 percent of France’s electricity is powered by nuclear energy. The country is also the “world’s largest net exporter of electricity,” thanks to its affinity for nuclear energy.
The International Atomic Energy Agency did not immediately respond to CNET’s request for comment on the matter.