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Fire Forces French Nuclear Reactor Shutdown

A reactor at a nuclear power station in northern France has been shut down automatically after two small fires broke out at the facility on Thursday afternoon, according to the plant's operator EDF.

EDF said the reactor at its power plant in Penly, located near the port of Dieppe on the English Channel, was automatically shut down after an alarm went-off at 12:20 (11:20 GMT).

In a statement posted on the plant's website, EDF insisted that the installation was secure and the fires have since been extinguished. The company said no one was injured in the incident and noted that there were "no consequences for the environment".

According to the company, firefighters "went into the building housing the reactor of the number two production unit of the Penly nuclear power plant to extinguish two fires" that caused the automatic shut down of the reactor.

Meanwhile, local media reports citing unnamed officials said the fires were caused by hot oil leaking from a pump inside the reactor building. The plant is equipped with two pressurized water reactors cooled by water from the English Channel.

France is dependent on 58 nuclear reactors for almost 80% of its power requirements. It is currently the world's largest exporter of electricity generated from nuclear sources. The future of the country's nuclear power industry has become a key issue in campaigns for the forthcoming presidential election.

France recently decided to invest EUR one billion ($1.4 billion) in nuclear power, insisting that safety and not funding should be the primary concern of the country's nuclear industry from now on. While announcing the investment plan, President Nicholas Sarkozy had said that abandoning nuclear energy "makes no sense" as there is "no alternative to nuclear energy today."

Nevertheless, several nations, including Germany and Switzerland, have decided to phase out their dependence on nuclear power on a gradual basis after an earthquake-triggered tsunami wrecked Japan's Fukushima Daiichi power plant in March 2011.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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