15 july 2013

Greenpeace activists occupy French nuclear plant, hang banner warning of catastrophe

By Associated Press, Updated: Monday, July 15, 12:15 PM

PARIS — Greenpeace activists occupied a French nuclear power plant site before dawn Monday — a media stunt deeply embarrassing to the government which is intent on demonstrating that France’s reliance on nuclear power is safe.

Around 30 activists from the environmental group invaded state-owned nuclear power utility Electricite de France’s Tricastin power plant complex in southern France. They projected a video on the side of one of the plant’s buildings that said “Tricastin Nuclear Accident” and showed the image of a giant crack forming across the building’s facade
Activists also hung a giant banner with President Francois Hollande’s face and the words “President of the Catastrophe?”

France’s nuclear safety authority said in a statement that so far the intrusion had no impact on the plant’s safety.

By midday, all but two of the activists had been arrested and were being held in a nearby police station, Greenpeace France said on its web site.

France is among the most nuclear-dependent countries in the world, with reactors producing about 80 percent of its electricity.

In 2008, the Tricastin plant reported several incidents that angered anti-nuclear groups, including a leak of unenriched uranium into two nearby rivers and the release of radioactive particles from a pipe.

Activists Invade French Nuclear Plant, July 15, 2013

Around 30 Greenpeace activists climbed fences to break into an EDF nuclear power plant in southern France at dawn on Monday, saying they wanted to expose security flaws and demand its closure.

The activists, dressed in red, said they reached the walls of two reactors at the Tricastin plant, one of France's oldest. EDF denied they had got into any "sensitive areas" and said production was not affected.

Interior Minister Manuel Valls called for an investigation into the intrusion which raised questions about the security of France's 19 nuclear plants and 58 reactors.

The protesters unfurled a yellow and black banner on a wall above a picture of President Francois Hollande, marked with the words: "Tricastin, nuclear accident - President of the catastrophe?"

"With this action, Greenpeace is asking Francois Hollande to close the Tricastin plant, which is among the five most dangerous in France," Yannick Rousselet, in charge of nuclear issues for Greenpeace France, said in a statement.

"If being physically able to touch the reactors is not being in a sensitive place, I don't know what is," Rousselet told Reuters. "People with bad intentions could have posed a threat to the reactor's safety."

Most of Monday's protesters were arrested by 0630 GMT but around eight of them were still clinging to metal structures and ladders, EDF said.


"So far, the incident did not have any impact on the facility's safety," France's nuclear safety agency ASN said.

The agency did not include Tricastin in a list released in April of six nuclear plants with the lowest safety performance in 2012.

The action echoed tensions between the Socialist government and ecologists, who accuse Hollande of not doing enough to reduce France's reliance on nuclear power and increase the use of renewable sources of energy.

Hollande sacked his energy and environment minister for publicly criticising cuts to her budget earlier this month.

The president has pledged to cut the share of nuclear energy in the country's electricity mix to 50 percent from 75 percent by 2025. He has also said he wants to close the country's oldest plant at Fessenheim, near the German border, by 2017.

Greenpeace said to honour his promise, Hollande would have to close at least 10 reactors by 2017 and 20 by 2020. The campaign group said this ought to include Tricastin, which was built more than 30 years ago.

The dawn raid came less than a week after six female Greenpeace activists climbed London's Shard, the tallest building in Western Europe, in protest over plans by oil producer Royal Dutch Shell to carry out drilling in the Arctic circle.

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