The French authorities have been left red-faced after Greenpeace activists yesterday morning managed to infiltrate three nuclear power stations across the country.
The security breaches forced the government to conduct an "in depth" search of all nuclear facilities and there have been claims from the French Green Party, Greenpeace and campaigners that the intrusions prove security in French nuclear power stations is not as complete as the government maintains.
At the Nogent-sur-Seine nuclear complex, nine activists managed to climb a dome at the heart of the plant and unfurl an anti-nuclear banner. Energy company EDF confirmed that banners were similarly unfurled, though immediately withdrawn, at Chinon and du Blayais nuclear power plants in the West of France. By the end of the morning all intruders had been evicted, though Greenpeace did not confirm the total number of successful raids.
Although the site director at Nogent-sur-Seine stated that there was "no malfunction" at the nuclear complex, Noël Mamère of the French Green Party claims that the successful security breaches prove that the centres’ famous 'stress-tests' disregard all external intrusions and so fail to properly protect France's nuclear power centres. "In this hypersensitive sector," he stated, "transparency has to be key and in a large democracy like France, there is no room for uncontrollability."
Commenting at a press conference yesterday afternoon President Nicholas Sarkozy said the activists were "irresponsible to risk their lives and the lives of others." In the run up to the presidential election next year Mr Sarkozy has declared his continued support for France's nuclear power sector, while the issue has become a bone of contention in the allegiance of the country's two left wing parties, the Socialists and the Greens.
Leader of the Green Party Cécile Duflot has applauded Greenpeace's intrusion as a "free audit of nuclear security", proving, she said, that nuclear power in France is just as unsafe as at the penetrated Nogent plant as it was at Chernobyl and Fukushima.
Nuclear energy is the premier source for electrical power in France, with EDF operating all of the country's 59 nuclear plants. At 75 per cent dependency, the French have the highest commitment to nuclear energy in the world.