Coalition launches legal challenge on nuclear secrecy in France

Press release - 9 October, 2003
A unique coalition of associations today filed a legal challenge seeking the cancellation of the French Government's nuclear secrecy "arrête" (or direct government act). Papers were filed on behalf of the environmental organization Greenpeace, CRIIRAD (independent radiation research institute), Reporters sans Frontieres (Journalists without Frontiers), Wise-Paris, and Journalistes pour la Nature et Environment (Journalists for the Nature and Environment).

The legal challenge is based upon the excess of power demonstrated by the French Government and calls for the cancellation of the arrête. The legal papers charge that M. Lallemand, the head of nuclear security within the French Government and responsible for issuing the new security arrête, has violated a principal of the French Constitution. He acted beyond his competence in signing the arrête, and that the arrête is a large restriction on the freedom of expression and information (1).

"This is not just a fight between Greenpeace and the French Government. The threat posed by the nuclear industry, including the transportation of plutonium, affects all of the society. The arrête is a crude and flawed attempt to suppress nuclear information that the public need to know. Today's legal challenge is one important part of the campaign to stop the threat posed by this dangerous and unjustified industry," said Yannick Rousselet of Greenpeace France.

The secrecy arrête was debated at a Special Commission on plutonium transports in Cherbourg yesterday. The Ministry of Industry, Didier Lallemand, confirmed at the hearing that plutonium transported by Cogema and used to fabricate MOX fuel, was a proliferation and security danger unlike other nuclear materials.

Until earlier this year, Cogema transported as much as 150 kilograms of plutonium 2-3 times a week from its reprocessing complex near Cherbourg, Normandy, to its nuclear fuel complexes at Marcoule and Cadarache in Provence. The 1000km route from the north to south of France includes small towns, and the Paris and Lyon ring roads.

"If North Korea or Iran were to transport 150 kilograms of plutonium in one year, George Bush would declare it a threat to global security and be preparing to send in the cruise missiles. Cogema and the French government move this amount of weapons material every 2-3 days. We know this material is definitely a threat and so does Lallemand. The only logical conclusion is that this dangerous trade must be stopped," said Shaun Burnie from Greenpeace International.

Notes: 1 - Greenpeace Wednesday defied the recent decree by providing new information on its citizens inspection website