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Cool shower for a nuclear plant



The nuclear plant at Fessenheim, Eastern France, where one reactor (at left) is being sprayed with cold water to keep temperatures inside at a normal level as a heat wave is sweeping the country. — AP

PARIS AUG. 4. Amid a brutal heat wave sweeping France, technicians sprayed cold water on a nuclear power plant to see whether the technique helps keeps the reactor from overheating, utility officials said on Monday.

Teams doused a building that contains one of four reactors at the plant in Fessenheim, 70 km south of Strasbourg, according to Electricite de France.

Joseph Sanchez, assistant director at the site, said the initiative was part of tests of cooling techniques going on since Friday and was expected to continue for several more days.

``The idea is to wet the reactor walls on the side that's most exposed to sunlight,'' Mr. Sanchez said. The tests are the first of their kind in France, he said. ``We can't say if it works yet.''

Temperatures at the plant rose to 48.5 degrees Celsius, two degrees short of the point at which an emergency shutdown would be required.

However, utility officials also said the 50-degree limit was simply a safety measure, and insisted the plant could withstand much higher temperatures. ``Nothing would probably happen even at 100, or 150 degrees,'' said Anne Laszlo, an EDF spokeswoman.

Much of France has been sweltering under a hot and dry spell over the last month. The most visible fallout was a series of deadly forest fires near the Mediterranean resort of St. Tropez last week.Also on Monday, an Alpine gondola near Mont Blanc in the French Alps was shut down for two days amid fears that an ice tunnel it passes through would collapse.

In Paris, police lowered speed limits because of a spike in ozone pollution. — AP

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