The fourth and longest stage of the 2016 Tour takes us into the valley of the Vienne river, a tributary of the Loire. We spent the latter part of the day in the region of Limousin, home of many lakes and, historically, the French uranium mining industry.
This is the Lac de Saint-Pardoux, which we caught a glimpse of on the way down and which, depending on who you ask, is either a fun place for watersports or a radioactive cesspool. The basin in which the lake sits was mined for uranium from 1953 until 1992 (Royer et al. 2002) by a company called COGEMA, now part of AREVA.
It became clear after the mine was shut down that there was significantly more radioactive waste around the mining sites, particularly in the lake sediments than the company had previously expected (Royer et al. 2002). In 2005, the government to establish in 2005 the Groupe d’Expertise Pluraliste, an advisory body with members from government, academia and industry. The GEP was to study the impact of AREVA’s operations in the Ritord river valley and to examine the options for moving forward with remediation and monitoring. This they did up through 2013, when they published a final report making several recommendations (executive summary in English, PDF).
In any case, the peloton sped past the Lac de Saint-Pardoux today without a second glance on the way to yet another exciting sprint finish with Marcel Kittel just edging out Bryan Coquard on the line.
- Royer, A., Reyss, J. L. and Decossas, J. L. “Uranium distribution of a lake sediments in a former mining area.” Radioprotection 37 (2002): 69-74.