Old French uranium site to host solar plant

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The construction of a 2 MW solar park is currently being planned for the old uranium mining site of Bois Noirs in Saint-Priest-la-Prugne, in the Loire Departement, in the French southerm region of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpe.

According to a document from the local municipality, the project, which is currently under public consultation, is being developed by French independent power producer, Neoen.

The plant, named Centrale Solaire Orion 25, will be deployed on a three hectare surface, which is jointly owned by the municipality and Orano Mining, a unit of French nuclear power specialist, Orano (formerly known as Areva).

According to local newspaper, Le Progres, the building permit for the project is expected to be issued by the end of the summer.

Despite the strong symbolic value of building a solar plant at the radioactive location, it will not be enough to transform it into a danger-free zone.

In fact, since mining activities at the Bois Noirs site ended after its depletion in 1981, several environmental associations have fought for the site to be decontaminated. According to the French Commission for Independent Research and Information on Radioactivity (CRIIRAD), it currently hosts approximately 1.3 million tonnes of low-level radioactive residues.

The CRIIRAD claims that the site needs urgent decontamination, as the residues were deposited in an artificial lake retained by a dam 42 meters high and 500 meters long, which borders the Besbre Valley. “The residues being in direct contact with the water, it is charged with radioactive elements such as uranium, radium-226, and radon-222,” the commission said in a statement released in April.

In particular, according to local association Collectif Bois Noirs, the local water treatment plant does not have the necessary means to reduce chemical and radioactive contamination.