Activists call on EU not to count nuclear energy as sustainable  

Paris / Brussels, 12 October 2021 – Greenpeace activists today laid fifteen metal drums featuring a radioactive symbol in front of the headquarters of Orano, a French nuclear fuel company, in protest against the dumping of French nuclear waste at an unsafe site in Seversk, Siberia. The protest comes as a new investigation by Greenpeace France has revealed that exports of nuclear waste to Russia have restarted after an eleven-year hiatus. [1]

New satellite images from Seversk show thousands of barrels lying outdoors exposed to the elements. The practice of exporting radioactive waste from the EU to a third country is subject to strict conditions, including the safety and proper management of the destination facility. [2]

The revelations that exports of French nuclear waste to Russia have restarted come shortly after ministers from ten EU countries, including France, wrote an op-ed in several European newspapers calling for the inclusion of nuclear energy in the EU’s guidelines for green investments, the “EU taxonomy”. [3] 

Roger Spautz, nuclear campaigner at Greenpeace France and Luxembourg , said: “For the French nuclear industry to resume this kind of irresponsible overseas dumping is proof that there is no sustainable solution to the ever-growing problem of radioactive waste. Giving dangerous nuclear energy a green label in the EU taxonomy will make the waste problem worse, and actively divert investments away from real solutions like energy savings, energy storage and renewables.

A key principle of the taxonomy is that any activity must “do no significant harm” to the environment in order to be included as “sustainable”. The European Commission will open a public consultation in the coming weeks on the issue of whether nuclear energy should be included in the taxonomy. 

President Emmanuel Macron is also expected to announce funding today for so-called “small modular nuclear reactors” as part of his “France 2030” investment package. 


The investigation by Greenpeace France reveals that, in January and February 2021, the nuclear fuel company Orano shipped hundreds of tonnes of spent uranium to Rosatom, Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy firm.

Activists in the port of Le Havre, Normandy, witnessed the loading of radioactive material onto a ship bound for St. Petersburg. From there, the waste continued by train to a dumping facility in the city of Seversk, Siberia, formerly known as Tomsk-7. Greenpeace has seen no evidence that the management of the Seversk site has improved since 2010, when Orano (then named Areva) admitted that environmental concerns were a factor in its decision to cease exporting uranium there. [4]

Orano confirmed the new shipments in an email to Greenpeace France. EDF, France’s largest nuclear energy provider, also signed a similar deal with Rosatom in 2018, but does not appear to have carried out any such shipments yet. Both companies are largely owned by the French state.

Notes to the editors 

[1] Greenpeace France, 12 October 2021, “French Nuclear Waste: a One-way Ticket to Siberia

[2] In particular, Article 4 of Council Directive 70/2011/EURATOM.

[3] La Libre Belgique, 10 October 2021, “Ten EU members publish pro-nuclear op-ed” 

[4] In 2010 Areva (now Orano) stopped the export of radioactive waste to Russia following a public outcry over the environmental impact at the Seversk site. See: Rue89 / Le Nouvel Observateur, 28 May 2010, “Areva stops export of radioactive waste to Russia” (In French)


Cecile Genot, Greenpeace France media officer[email protected]   +33 (0)6 30 23 52 78

Greenpeace EU press desk: +32 (0)2 274 1911, [email protected] 

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