The Tricastin Nuclear Power Center is a collection of sites run by Areva and EDF located in 4 different communes Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux and Pierrelatte in Drôme, Bollène and Lapalud in Vaucluse, and four departments (Drome (26), Vaucluse (84), Gard (30) and Ardeche (07)) on right bank of the Channel of Donzère-Mondragon (diversion canal of the Rhone River) between Valence (70 km upstream) and Avignon (65 km downstream).

The site houses 4 Pressurized water reactors of 915 MW each, which were built mostly in the 70s and brought online in the early 80s. These reactors produce about 25 TWh/year, or 6% of France's electricity, but about 2/3rds of that goes right back into the Eurodif Uranium enrichment factory. The close proximity of the power source and usage of the power allows for smaller transmission losses to occur, which is done at 225 kV.

Spent fuel is transported by train to the reprocessing plant, just as the new fuel is transported to the plant by train.

Fire response

Tests on July 2, 2004 by the Autorité de sûreté nucléaire (Nuclear Safety Authority) confirmed that response to a fire would take a time of 37 minutes.

Cooling water

During the 2003 European heat wave from July 12 to July 22, the maximum dumping temperature of 27°C into the canal was exceeded on several occasions, totalling about 44 hours.


In July 2008, 18,000 liters (4,755 Gallons) of Uranium solution containing natural uranium were accidentally released. Due to cleaning and repair work the containment system for a uranium solution holding tank was not functional when the tank filled. The inflow exceeded the tank's capacity and 30 cubic meters of Uranium solution leaked with 18 cubic meters spilled to the ground. Testing found elevated uranium levels in the nearby Gaffière and Lauzon rivers. The liquid that escaped to the ground contained about 75 kg of unenriched uranium which is toxic as a heavy metal while possessing only slight radioactivity. Estimates for the releases were initially higher, up to 360 kg of natural uranium, but revised downward later. Ground and surface water tests indicated that levels of radioactivity were 5% higher than the maximum rate allowed. In the near vicinity and above ground, the local watchdog group CRIIRAD has detected unusually high levels of radiation.

French authorities have banned the use of water from the Gaffière and Lauzon for drinking and watering of crops. Swimming, water sports and fishing were also banned. This incident has been classified as Level 1 on the International Nuclear Event Scale.

In July 2008, approximately 100 employees were exposed to radioactive particles that escaped from a pipe in a reactor that had been shut down. Additionally, a nuclear waste leak that apparently had remained undiscovered since 2005 spilled into a concrete protective shell in Romans-sur-Isere. Areva, who owns the site, ensured that the leak had not caused harm to the environment, but the issue sparked discussion about an old French army terrain, where nuclear waste was deposited in shielded dumps. The layer of dirt covering the waste is reported to have been thinned due to wind and rain erosion, directly exposing nuclear waste material to open air. Also, the speed with which the Tricastin incident was reported to the Autorité de sûreté nucléaire (8 hours) and subsequently to local authorities (another 6 hours) is subject of ongoing discussions. The European Commissioner Andris Piebalgs may send inspectors to the sites to investigate recent events further.

Other implications following the incidents resulted in a drop in the sale of wines from the Tricastin area. Acting on the wishes of the wine growers to change the name of the appellation to something without "Tricastin", to avoid being associated with the nuclear power plant, in June 2010, INAO signalled its intention to allow a name change from Coteaux du Tricastin AOC to Grignan-Les Adhemar effective from the 2010 vintage.