WATCH: Meet the French nuclear A-Team

(Photo: Matthew Le Cordeur)
(Photo: Matthew Le Cordeur)

Cape Town – If you found yourself in an apocalyptic situation like many of your movie heroes have encountered, you would experience a far easier ride if you were able to jump on board Farn, France’s pumped-up nuclear emergency unit.

Since the 2011 Fukushima disaster, nuclear energy powerhouse France has spent millions improving the safety levels at its plants and even set up a high-powered emergency unit to contain a disaster.

South African media visited Farn on Thursday, a nuclear rapid response force that can react immediately if a disaster occurs at one of France’s 58 nuclear reactor sites.

The volunteers, drawn from nuclear sites around France, have had extensive training to limit the impact of disasters that could otherwise create a nuclear headache the size of Chernobyl.

Equipped with sufficient chutzpah, the team has all the tools at its disposal: Retro-fitted lorries, 4x4s, barges and helicopters.

Take an unlikely scenario: A tsunami strikes off the Normandy cost, nearby EDF’s Flamanville nuclear power station. 

The corporate team flies out from Paris to assess the situation, while Farn teams from four of the regional departments are able to send 14 crew members each within an hour.

They arrive at the rare base within 12 hours and begin setting up living logistics. Within 24 hours, an additional 14 crew members arrive with the required equipment after the assessment. While this is occurring, residents are continuously informed about the situation, while the nuclear sites themselves have been upskilled to manage the situation with added resources.

By reacting so quickly, French nuclear operator EDF hopes to avoid the radioactive disaster that occurred at Fukushima.

It said the main lesson learnt there was that if a specialised unit had responded within 24 hours, the resulting radioactive disaster would not have occurred and the impact of the tsunami would have been limited.

WATCH: See the Farn team and the tools they have

WATCH: How innovation and technology have changed the way nuclear personnel are trained

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