Rich in nukes, poor in radiation detectors

24 Mar 2011

France is prosperous in terms of nuclear activity yet poor when it comes to radioactivity detection systems.

The network of radiation detection devices distributed across France is extremely poor, even when the handful of devices controlled by IRSN independent laboratories is added to it. There isn’t even enough for one per departmental region. To ensure you are informed about abnormal rises in radioactivity levels it is better to live in Belgium as there are warning devices every 20km. Reinforcing telemetry network coverage is obviously essential for picking up as quickly as possible local peaks of radioactivity which may have been caused by road traffic, air, rail or maritime accidents, malicious activities, or malfunctioning nuclear or industrial installations dealing with radioactive sources on French territory, neighbouring countries, or further afield. The perimeter of this network is exclusively land based and the maritime domain is not included. The IRSN (French Nuclear Safety agency) hopes in the years to come to achieve a similar density of warning devices as seen in Belgium and Germany; more financial resources are still required to achieve this.

We also need a programme of technological renovation and a renewal of the current fleet of warning devices with equipment that is more sensitive and more reliable in transmitting data.

The official and vague declarations that state that the initial level of radioactive atmospheric contamination provoked by the Japanese disaster is so weak to be undetectable are not lacking in truth strictly speaking. However, they are not correct and do not mention the obsolescence of a network installed at the end of the 80s. What’s more, this network cannot measure in real time the amount of plutonium probably being released in significant quantities by the reactors and the pool of spent Mox fuel now at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear complex.

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