Greenpeace revealed, on 5 April 2008, that an accident at the
Spanish nuclear power plant Asco-I had caused significant
radioactive contamination of public areas outside of the plant. The
plant's operator Endesa/Iberdrola had kept this secret for four
months. Even after Greenpeace published details of the accident,
the State regulatory agency CSN continued to underestimate its
severity for several days. Under pressure of evidence it was forced
to admit that the leak was at least one hundred times larger than
originally announced. Hot radioactive particles were spread many
kilometres away from the site and several hundreds of people needed
to be screened for possible contamination.
Both the leak and subsequent contamination, caused by a series
of unexplained errors made by the plant's operators, together with
cover-up attempts by plant management and State authorities, remind
us that the lessons of Chernobyl have still not been learnt.
Greenpeace is calling on the European Commission to launch an
urgent investigation into the accident. 
Meanwhile in France, after only three months of construction of
the Flamanville 3 nuclear plant, inspectors from France's official
nuclear safety agency, ASN, have uncovered a string of problems
with the 'European Pressurised Reactor' (EPR), which the French
nuclear company Areva is promoting as its cheaper, safer and more
reliable 'flagship' design. 
Letters from ASN, addressed to the Director of Development at
Flamanville 3, reveal that the concrete forming the base of the
reactor has been poured incorrectly, the concrete base slab for the
reactor has developed cracks, steel reinforcing bars have been
wrongly arranged, the containment liner has been welded by a
company without the required certification, and one-quarter of the
welds are deficient. In addition, according to the letters, the
implementation plan differs from the approved project
specification, there is ineffective or non-existing quality
control, and the constructor failed to promptly repair mistakes and
"Just as at Chernobyl, we see a situation in Spain and France
where regulations are being flouted and political and economic
interests are being placed before safety and quality concerns.
Sadly, little has changed since 1986. Nuclear power remains a
failed 20th century experiment which has no place in meeting future
energy demand or in helping to avert catastrophic climate change,"
said Jan Beránek, Greenpeace International Nuclear Campaigner.
Flamanville 3 is Areva's second attempt to build an EPR project.
The first, Olkiluoto-3, in Finland, is, after some two and a half
years, already running two years behind schedule. It is over budget
and plagued by serious safety issues. 
"The nuclear industry remains mired in accidents, lies,
cover-ups and incompetence. Today's 'renaissance' reactors are
threatening to become tomorrow's Chernobyls," warned Beránek.
Greenpeace sees no role for nuclear power in cutting the world's
greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050, to avoid the worst
impacts of climate change. Instead, Greenpeace is calling for an
'Energy Revolution' based on renewable energy sources and energy
efficiency. Governments which opt for nuclear power will also find
their energy independence and security limited to the very few
countries and companies which can provide nuclear technology and
Other contacts: Jan Beránek, Nuclear Campaigner at Greenpeace InternationalTel. +31 6 5110 9558
Notes:  Letter from Greenpeace Spain to European Energy Commission Andris Piebalgs  English translations of the letters from ASN. (Translations arranged by Greenpeace):- the December 2007 inspection - the February 2008 inspection - the March 2008 inspection Original French versions of the letters are available on the ASN website Greenpeace's briefing on Olkiluoto 3 (March 2008)