Secret document reveals new breed of nuclear reactors vulnerable to terrorist attack

Press release - 19 May, 2006
A leaked document on the vulnerability to terrorist attack of the new European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) - being considered or already under construction in several countries including UK, France and Finland - reveals a dangerously flawed approach to security, according to a study commissioned by Greenpeace International. (1)

TheElectricite de France (EDF) document relates to the projected performance ofthe AREVA designed Generation III European Pressurized Reactor, the first ofwhich is being built at Olkiluoto in Finland with a second planned for a siteat Flammanville, Normandy, France.  EDFhas also submitted proposals to the UK government to build ten such reactors,and is seeking to export the design to China and India.

Nuclearengineering consultancy, Large and Associates, in the commissioned studyassessed the secret EDF document and concluded that it includes seriouslyflawed assumptions about whether the reactor could withstand a potentialterrorist attack using hijacked commercial aircraft; fallacies include:

* theimpact of a 250 tonne commercial jet aircraft is considered to be in the samerange as a military aircraft (2-5 tonnes) in terms of the energy of impact,despite the greater induced shock from the much greater physical weight;

* thatup to 100 tonnes of aviation fuel from a commercial aircraft would burn withintwo minutes - which is both unjustified and unproven. It also ignores thepossibility of fuel vapour forming within the reactor structures, the explosionof which could severely damage the shield and the reactor within;

* thatterrorists would have insufficient skills to pilot an aircraft onto theintended target, despite the deadly accuracy of the 9/11 attacks having provenhow well trained and highly skilled they can become.

The EDFdocument also discounts a serious risk of radioactive release from the reactor,whilst also failing to consider potential radioactivity released from damage tospent fuel rods and waste processing and storage sources on site

"Iam not surprised at the controversy generated by this leaked document. This isnot because it reveals some highly sensitive details about the EPR design,which it certainly does not, but more because it reflects what seems to be analmost total lack of preparation to defend against the inevitability ofterrorist attack," said Dr Large. "A similar attack on a reactorwould cause a total calamity with the release of large amounts orradioactivity."

Theleaked document was published in full this week by politicians and  environmental organisations in France, inprotest at the arrest of an activist from the French Nuclear Phase-out network(Sortir du Nucleaire), who was accused of violation of France's nuclear SecretDefence by having a copy of the EDF document.(2) The activist, Stephane Lhomme,was interrogated over 14 hours on Tuesday after ten anti-terrorist police andothers raided his home in Paris, removing documents, computers and phones.

"France'snuclear state, including EDF, does not like public exposure. Their approach isto intimidate and to seek to suppress information. But these issues are tooimportant to be left to a complacent bureaucracy and a self-interested nuclearcompany with reactors to sell. The EPR is promoted as the future for nuclearpower but in reality it is the same dangerous unacceptable technology that hasplagued us for decades. Whatever the terrorist threat and targets a wind turbineor solar panel is not on the list," said Shaun Burnie of GreenpeaceInternational.

DrLarge and Stephane Lhomme with a delegation from Greenpeace will be visitingthe proposed site for the new EDF EPR reactor at Flammanville on Friday, 19May.

Other contacts: Shaun Burnie - Greenpeace International ++31 6290 01133Helene Gassuin - Greenpeace France - ++33 6738 92314Dr John Large - ++ 44 7971 088086

Notes: 1 - The leaked EDF document is a 2003 report from a senior EDF official, Bruno Lescoeur, to the French nuclear safety regulator, IRSN. The Greenpeace commissioned study "Asssessment of the operational risks and hazards of the EPR when subject to aircraft crash (Demarche de dimensionnement des ouvrages EPR vis-à-vis du risque lie aux chutes d'avions civils), Large & Associates, May 18th 2006, for Greenpeace International. Both documents are available at or A video scenario of the vulnerability of a nuclear reactor to terrorist attack is available at: - Under a French government Arête from 2003, 'Secret Defence', the French state has sought to prevent details on nuclear safety and security from being disclosed. Greenpeace documentation of the vulnerability of plutonium transport's in France have been challenged by the French state in recent years ( )

Exp. contact date: 2006-05-30 00:00:00