The debate on the future nuclear power is back on in earnest in France, and many other countries. That’s thanks to our activists paying surprise visits to two French nuclear power plants this week. The news that they could so easily get through the security around the nuclear plants has taken off, rekindling the debate about the safety of nuclear power right across the world. News of the embarrassment of the French nuclear industry over its weak security system has reached Russia, Japan, Brazil, China and many points in between. Is the nuclear industry and media finally waking up to how vulnerable nuclear reactors are? We hope so.
In an attempt to deflect criticism from his beloved nuclear industry, France’s President Sarkozy called our action “rather irresponsible”. Mr Sarkozy – we would say that security at nuclear reactors that is so weak that people walk in and out as they please is a great deal more irresponsible.
Dominique Miniere, the head of French nuclear reactors for the plant’s owner EDF, tried very hard to put a positive spin on things by saying the Greenpeace teams at the Cruas and Nogent-sur-Seine nuclear plants were caught by security “much faster this time than in the past”. That might be true but our people still managed to evade security at Nogent-sur-Seine for four hours and for a much longer 14 hours at Cruas. If that’s “much faster” we’d hate to think how slow those security guys were before.
No amount of spin from the French government or EDF can hide the fact that our action this week is big news in France and across the world. Nor is this a unique problem, a one-off event or a concern just in France. In 2002, our activists scaled the dome of the now closed Jose Cabrera reactor in Spain, gained access to South Africa’s Koeberg nuclear power plant, and infiltrated the Doel plant in Belgium. In 2003, we entered the UK’s Sizewell B nuclear power plant. In 2005, we visited the Borselle plant in the Netherlands. The following year saw an activist fly his paraplane within 300 metres of the reactors at the Flamanville plant in France. The country’s Belleville plant was Greenpeace’s destination in 2007. We painted a skull on the dome of Germany’s Unterweser reactor in 2009. Then there was Forsmark in Sweden in 2010.
Need we go on? Maybe the nuclear industry should hire Greenpeace as security consultants because whoever’s been responsible for protecting nuclear reactors up until now clearly isn’t earning their money. Nuclear reactors, wherever they are in the world, are vulnerable. They always have been and remain so right now.
French Industry Minister Eric Besson said in response to our latest action this week: “We will have to take measures to ensure it doesn't happen again”. Emergency meetings are apparently being held. “There will be lessons learned,” says Dominique Miniere. They’ve certainly failed to learn the lessons of previous infiltrations so we can only hope that they will this time. The motives of the next people to walk into a nuclear power might not be as pure as Greenpeace’s. The world is now watching.