Greenpeace activists block restart of French nuclear reactor construction (Updated)

Feature story - 26 June, 2008
Twenty of our activists have successfully stopped construction of a new nuclear reactor being built in Flamanville, France, from restarting, for over 50 hours. Although building was halted because of safety problems, these are still unresolved.

24 June 2008, France - Greenpeace activists block the entrance of the quarries where gravel and sand are taken to the site of the EPR nuclear reactor in Flamanville.

The activists have been blocking three quarries that supply the gravel and sand for the concrete needed to build the foundations of the reactor. The peaceful direct action is in response to the French Nuclear Safety Authority's (ASN) decision to allow construction to resume. 

The ASN has done this despite the fact that none of the safety problems that stopped building in the first place has been addressed. 

The reactor is a European Pressurised Reactor (EPR), the flagship of the so-called "nuclear renaissance". So far, construction of the EPR has only started in Finland and France and both experiences have been disastrous. 

UPDATE : 27 June 2008 After 60 hours our activists were removed from the last of the three quarries, by which time they had prevented almost 400 deliveries of gravel. 

Determined to continue we have moved our activities to the town of Caen in Normandy where we are now blocking the concrete supplier which provides all the concrete used in the construction of the reactor.

Update : 30 June 2008 We are continuing the blockade and are still preventing concrete pouring at the nuclear construction site from resuming.

Chronic safety problems

In May, the ASN ruled that construction at Flamanville must stop. It did this because of chronic problems that have affected the quality of the construction work since building began in December 2007. These include issues relating to the quality control; problems with reinforcement and concrete for the foundations and with metal and welding.

Basically, the French nuclear industry was unable to pour concrete for the base correctly. It's a discovery that gives little confidence that they will be able to handle masses of radioactive material.

ASN reversed its decision, so we had to take action

On Wednesday the activists stopped some 3000 tonnes of gravel (30 lorry loads going 4 times a day) from being taken from the quarries. Some activists have been evicted, but the blockade continues - with more people arriving from across Europe.  

Greenpeace "eye in the sky" airship delivers "Non! to nuclear" message to Finland

The problems at Flamanville echo those of the first EPR construction site, Olkiluoto 3, in Finland. At the same time as the French blockade, a Greenpeace airship is delivering a clear anti-nuclear message in Finland.

The 43-metre long black and yellow "eye in the sky" airship bears a banner showing a shattered radiation symbol and the words "Non Merci!" On Tuesday it flew by the Finnish reactor site.

Since construction began in 2005, the estimated costs of the reactor have nearly doubled to just short of €5 billion- and yes, it is taxpayers who are left to foot the bill. Two and a half years behind schedule it has been plagued with safety problems. A list produced by Finnish regulators included 1500 "quality deviations" - read faulty. Finnish energy industry figures show, that when, and if, it finally comes online it will only deliver a third of the greenhouse gas emission reductions originally promised.

Nuclear power undermines solutions to climate change

The "Non Merci!" message is in French because it's a direct communication to the French government and the state-owned companies EDF and Areva, who are not only attempting to build in Flamanville, but are aggressively promoting the fault-ridden reactor design across the world, claiming it to be a low-cost "mature" technology.

Here's the thing: despite the multi-billion Euro spin of the nuclear industry, nuclear power undermines climate protection, by diverting urgently needed resources away from real solutions. Our Energy [R]evolution blueprint shows that renewable energy, and greater energy efficiency can deliver half of the world's energy needs by 2050, without nuclear power.

Governments must heed the stark warnings from Olkiluoto and Flamanville and just say "Non!" to France's dodgy nuclear salesmen.

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