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article imageHow vulnerable are French nuclear sites? ‘Facile’ says Greenpeace

By Lynn Herrmann     Dec 5, 2011 in Politics
Paris - A peaceful infiltration of a French nuclear plant by environmental group Greenpeace has exposed the vulnerability of the country's nuclear industry, with the group placing a banner on the containment building reading "Coucou" ("Hey) and "Facile" ("Easy").
The environmental activists entered the nuclear site in Nogent-sur-Seine before dawn on Monday, and notified police immediately of their action. “With this nonviolent action, Greenpeace has shown how vulnerable French nuclear plants are,” said Sophia Majnoni d’Intignana, with Greenpeace, according to Al-Jazeera English (AJE).
The secret entry was aimed to show France’s review of safety measures is too focused on possible nature disasters, without enough emphasis on human factors. The country has an ongoing review after the Fukushima nuclear meltdown in Japan.
AJE reports activists trying to enter three other French nuclear sites were prevented from such action. The coordinated effort, according to Greenpeace, has resulted in other activists still holed up at other unspecified nuclear locations.
Pierre-Henry Brandet, France’s interior ministry spokesman, said officials had conducted a “thorough sweep” of all 20 nuclear power plants in the country. “We have to understand what's behind this malfunction, notably in Nogent,” he said, adding “in the other sites security worked ... the intrusions were thwarted,” AJE reports.
Electicite de France (EDF), operator of the facility at Nogent, said activists’ banners were also displayed at two other nuclear sites - Blayais in the southwest and Chinon in the northwest. The company has denounced the break-in as “illegal” but the Wall Street Journal says the state-run behemoth “got a free security audit” from the demonstration.
EDF is currently building a nuclear reactor in the north of France, the 59th it will operate in the country. It is also planning to build four reactors in the U.K. WSJ calls the Greenpeace demonstration a “wake-up call” for French authorities.
Although France is expected to announce in several months its nuclear plants are safe, believing they could withstand an earthquake or flood, Greenpeace’s Majnoni d’Intignana added, “But those aren’t the real risks for our nuclear industry. It’s the risk of [an] external, non-natural attack, like the risk of terrorism.”
More about facile, Safety measures, nuclear site, Vulnerable, Secret
 
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