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Warning to France on drones- an easy way to destabilise nuclear reactors

drone-1Most French Nuclear Plants ‘Should Be Shut Down’ Over Drone Threat,NewsWeek BY  AND  / FEBRUARY 24, 2015 “You don’t need massive amounts of force to allow a nuclear plant to go into instability. The plant has enough energy to destroy itself. Drones can be used to tickle the plant into instability.”

With devastating simplicity, John Large explains how drones could be used to coordinate a terror attack on a nuclear power station. First, one drone hits the distribution grid serving the plant, depriving the facility of off-site power, making it dependent on its diesel generators to cool the reactor, which generates up to 1,000 megawatts of power – enough to light up half of Paris. Then the generators are easily taken out by an unmanned drone with a relatively small payload. Without power to cool the radioactive fuel, Large estimates it would take approximately 30 seconds before the fuel begins to melt, leading to potential leakages of nuclear waste.

It’s the same cause behind the meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan after it was hit by a tsunami in March 2011. But potential terrorists wouldn’t need to trigger an earthquake, just be able to accurately pilot a pair of readily-available commercial drones carrying small payloads of explosive. Last year, unmanned drones were spotted flying over at least 13 nuclear power stations in France. The last widely-reported sighting was on 3 January, when two aircraft were seen flying over a nuclear facility in Nogent-sur-Seine, in northern-central France.

Activists maintain that a government blackout has blocked information on any further sightings. Curiously, no pictures of drone sightings near power stations have surfaced, a fact that causes concern amongst experts.

“There’s not one single picture. That’s very troubling,” says Jean-Luc Fornier, whose company designs and operates drones for use in the media industry. “If we had some pictures, we could decide on who may be operating the machines.” Fornier suggests that the flyovers that have been noted have three possible explanations: innocent pranksters, anti-nuclear protestors, or trial runs by terrorists. French National Research Agency said the General Secretary for Defence is “providing €1m of funding for research projects into the detection, identification and neutralisation of small aerial drones”.

According to Large, of consulting engineers Large & Associates, based in London, who was commissioned by Greenpeace France to evaluate and report on the spate of flyovers, the “unacceptable” risk posed by a terrorist drone attack means that many of Europe’s nuclear power stations – including the majority of those in France – should be shut down……..

Rousselet says the government is downplaying the threat. He says Greenpeace became aware of a further flyover sighting on 28 January before a government blackout blocked further reports. For Large, the threat remains: “The problem is that these nuclear plants are very attractive targets as the public’s perception of all things nuclear is a fate worse than death. There’s a psychological attraction for these plants as targets as they can cause mass concern among the public.” http://www.newsweek.com/2015/03/06/most-french-nuclear-plants-should-be-shut-down-over-drone-threat-309019.html

February 25, 2015 - Posted by | France, safety

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