Radioactive Champagne could be fruit of nuclear energy

Radioactive waste from a nuclear dump site in the Champagne region of France could be leaking into water used to produce the famous bubbly, Greenpeace has warned.

Radioactive waste from a storage site at Soulaine in eastern France, where containment problems were reported in recent weeks, could end up in grapes used to make champagne as it penetrates into groundwater, the environmental group said. Water leakage had caused fissures in the site’s storage cells, French nuclear safety agency DGSNR said last month.

Low-level radioactivity has already been found in groundwater 10km from Champagne vineyards, Greenpeace said.

Once full, the Soulaine nuclear dump will be among the world’s biggest. The site accommodates waste from French energy producers Electricite de France (EdF) and AREVA, taking in the output of France’s nuclear power stations that provide 90% of the country’s electricity.

But waste from abroad, including Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and Japan, is also accepted – which Greenpeace says is illegal under French law.

Another radioactive waste site is planned in the Champagne region at Bure, this time for highest level radioactive waste.

Problems with radioactivity leaking into groundwater were also recently reported at the La Hague nuclear waste site in Normandy, where dairy farmers felt the effects of the contamination.

Wine producers in another famous French wine-growing region – the Rhone valley -prevented the construction of a high level radioactive waste storage site with protests over the contamination threat to their vineyards.

“The Champagne producers are facing two nuclear timebombs – one already leaking at Soulaine, and one planned at Bure,” said Fred Marillier of Greenpeace France.

“The wine producers of the Rhone region stood up to the nuclear state in France and won. The Champagne region has to act now before it is too late,” he said.

Goska Romanowicz

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