A Greenpeace paraglider flies over the Le Bugey nuclear power plant and drops a smoke device upon one reactor dome. The activist later landed inside the site. The activity highlights the vulnerability of French nuclear power.

(© Lagazeta / Greenpeace)

Early this morning, a Greenpeace activist flew a paraglider through forbidden airspace over the Le Bugey nuclear power plant, between Lyon and Geneva, and dropped a smoke device on the reactor containment structure. His action succeeded in again demonstrating the vulnerability of a nuclear facility.

Today’s flight follows Greenpeace’s action last December when activists peacefully walked into two French nuclear power plants – Nogent-sur-Seine and Cruas - without being challenged by any security measures. The activists who entered Cruas remained undetected for an incredible 14 hours.

There’s more: Back in November 2011 we were able to fly over and take aerial footage of France’s La Hague nuclear reprocessing plant (see the video below).

After today’s action, it’s clear that the French authorities have not improved security at nuclear plants, even though they promised to do so in December. And this comes at a time when the French public are turning against nuclear power like never before. The security lapses will do nothing to restore public confidence already shaken by Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Tonight sees the big television debate between Nicholas Sarkozy and François Hollande before the second round of voting in the presidential election on Sunday. Greenpeace has put nuclear power back on the political map in France. Will MM. Sarkozy and Hollande have the courage to debate nuclear energy in front of the French people?

Also today we learned that another nuclear threat is emerging in the UK where “hundreds of sites across England and Wales could be contaminated with radioactive waste from old military bases and factories”. This is part of a cover-up and avoiding of responsibility by the UK government that stretches all the way back to 1958 when the radioactive danger was first recognised.

We have to ask what the security is like at these sites. Can anyone just walk in? We hope things have improved since 1994 when Greenpeace visited the Drigg nuclear waste facility in the north of England and found all kinds of horrors simply dumped in a ditch.

The motives of Greenpeace are always non-violent - those of the next visitors to these nuclear sites may not be. Even after repeated warnings it seems the French and UK governments are willing to take that risk.

(More details on today’s action at Le Bugey can be found in French on Greenpeace France’s website.)