A MAJOR accident at a new French-designed nuclear power station of the type likely to be built in the UK could kill 400 and cause cancer in another 28,000, according to Greenpeace France.
The conclusions, published in a report today, are from research into European Pressurised Reactors (EPRs) carried out for Greenpeace by UK consulting engineer John Large.
But Electricite de France, (EDF), which is about to build a new 1.6GW third generation EPR in Normandy, claims that the reactor is failsafe and that primary and secondary containment around it is impregnable.
EDF added that a radioactive release would be near impossible, . However, it estimated that were an accident to occur, there would be no immediate deaths and only 12 resulting cancers.
The EPR design is one of two that could be built in the UK if the government pressed ahead with plans for a new generation of nuclear reactors. The competing design is the American Westinghouse AP1000.
Large modelled the consequences of a reactor breach on the scale of that at Three Mile Island, in Pennsylvania, in 1979.
The report points out that EDF's reactor will be almost twice the size of the largest EPR reactor currently in operation.
While the existing reactors have thick blast containment barriers, it is diffi cult to scale these up in proportion to the increased reactor size, according to the report.
It also claims that it will 'irradiate its fuel cores to levels hitherto untested at a commercial scale', and it is to fuel these reactors with a mixture of uranium and plutonium. This would dramatically increase the toxicity of material released if there was a containment breach.
EDF was unable to comment repeatedly on the report as NCE went to press.