Radioactive liquid leaks from ruptured pipe at nuclear site in France

Uranium-bearing liquid has leaked from a broken underground pipe at a nuclear site in southeastern France, the national nuclear safety authority said Friday. It was the second leak discovered at a French site this month.

Experts are working to determine how much leaked uranium is present at nuclear company Areva's plant in the town of Romans-sur-Isere, the Nuclear Safety Authority said in a statement. Specialists are to work to clean up the site.

The communique said the pipe is believed to have ruptured several years ago. It added that the pipe "was not in line with the applicable regulations, which require shock resistance ability sufficient to avoid rupture."

Areva spokesman Charles Hufnagel said the leak of lightly enriched uranium did not spread outside the site and had "absolutely no impact on the environment." He said the factory hoped the leak would be classified as a level 1 problem - the most minor of seven possible rankings.

Still, the announcement was a new blow for Areva after a similar incident last week, when a liquid containing traces of unenriched uranium leaked from a factory in Tricastin in southern France. Areva said that problem "did not affect either the health of employees and local populations, or their environment."

France is the most nuclear-dependent country in the world, with 59 reactors churning out nearly 80 percent of its electricity. The French state owns Areva, which is the key to France's international nuclear influence.

The incidents have prompted questions about the still-secretive state-run nuclear industry, and the French government ordered a check of the groundwater around all the nuclear sites in France.