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French activists broke into nuclear plant, demonstrating the risk of terrorism

Greenpeace 28th Oct 2019, In the early hours of 12 October 2017, eight people sneaked inside the grounds of the Cattenom nuclear plant in northern France. Without much difficulty, they reached the foot of a spent fuel pool – where the still highly radioactive fuel rods are stored after use.

It was a scenario Greenpeace France had been warning about since 2001 through numerous reports, letters and speeches. France’s aging fleet of reactors is poorly protected, and not designed to withstand big impacts, such as an explosion set off by terrorists.

A loss of water from the spent fuel pools – protected by walls only 30cm thick – could lead to a massive release of radioactivity. Fortunately, the eight intruders turned out to be peaceful activists from Greenpeace France; they set off some fireworks to demonstrate their presence and then allowed themselves to be led away.

The ease with which they had penetrated alarmed the government of Luxembourg, which lies just north of Cattenom. It also finally spurred the French authorities into action; a parliamentary investigation into nuclear safety
was announced the following month. It’s a textbook example of the role of
non-violent direct action (NVDA) in a democracy, much like the recent
climate strikes.

When the authorities are sleeping at the wheel, and not
responding to polite arguments, citizen action is needed to wake them up.
In this case, it did. A happy end? Unfortunately not.

In a classic case of shooting the messenger, prosecutors have pressed for stiff penalties. In February 2018, a court in Thionville sentenced the ‘Cattenom nine’ – the eight activists and a Greenpeace France employee. It imposed a 2-month jail sentence on two of the individuals, and suspended sentences on the
rest. It also ordered Greenpeace France to pay €50,000 to the power
company, EDF as ‘moral damages’.

October 31, 2019 - Posted by | France, incidents, opposition to nuclear

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