Chernobyl anniversary: French nuclear plant construction site shut down

Feature story - 26 April, 2007
On this day 21 years ago a nuclear reactor near the Ukraine city of Chernobyl suffered a steam explosion and a nuclear meltdown. Winds spread the radioactive fallout over thousands of square kilometres. Now, risky new nuclear reactors are under construction in Europe, but not on this day. Not if we can help it. Activists are occupying cranes and using trucks to block the entrance at the construction site of a dangerous new type of reactor in France.

On the anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, 30 Greenpeace activists from six European nations halt construction at the site of the Électricité de France’s (EDF) proposed new European Pressurized Water Reactor (EPR).

"The proposed construction of such new reactors, which are likely to be the most dangerous in the world, is an insult to the memory of those who died in the immediate aftermath of Chernobyl, and the hundreds of thousands of people whose lives continue to be blighted by the disaster," said Frederic Marillier of Greenpeace France.

"We're occupying the construction site to highlight the risk to all of Europe," said Marillier, "and we call upon the two candidates for France's presidential election to cancel the EPR project at Flamanville."

Not safe, not sensible

Both the Flamanville reactor under construction in France and the Olkiluto reactor being built in Finland are European Pressurized Water Reactor (EPR) types. A recent independent study, produced by John Large Associates for Greenpeace, shows that the new generation of EPR reactors have an inherently higher risk of serious radioactive contamination in the event of any accident.

On the anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, 30 Greenpeace activists from six European nations halt construction at the site of the Électricité de France's (EDF) proposed new European Pressurized Water Reactor (EPR). The study, found that for the Flamanville reactor the number of people affected and requiring evacuation following the 'most likely' of nuclear incidents would be about 660,000.  In a worst-case scenario, the number of people requiring evacuation would increase to more than 3 million. 135,000 people were evacuated following the Chernobyl disaster.

A nuclear industry document leaked last year also raised concerns that EPR plants are vulnerable to terrorist attack.  

Chernobyl's legacy

Not only a part of history, Chernobyl continues to be a nightmare for many.  There is controversy surrounding how many have died, and how many will die, from its nuclear fallout.  Attempts have even been made to whitewash over the true cost in lives.

A report we released last year used new data, based on Belarus national cancer statistics, to predict approximately 270,000 cancers and 93,000 fatal cancer cases due to the disaster. The report also concluded that on the basis of demographic data, during the last 15 years, 60,000 people have additionally died in Russia because of the Chernobyl accident, and estimates of the total death toll for the Ukraine and Belarus could reach another 140,000.

But statistics never tell the full human story. For that, we need to remember the victims as individuals.


Nuclear not the answer

There are solutions to climate change, but nuclear power is not one of them.  We have published an energy revolution blueprint showing how the world can have economic growth while reducing our dependence on fossil fuels - all without nuclear power.

"Every euro spent on futile and dangerous nuclear technology in a misguided attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is taking us a step away from the real solution to climate change," concluded Marillier.

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