Greenpeace has occupied a French nuclear plant. Arresting the activists turned out to be slow-going for the police, as many of the infiltrators had chained themselves to structures inside the plant.
Twenty-nine activists from the environmental group have been arrested after invading the Tricastin power plant complex, about 200 kilometers (120 miles) north of Marseille, run by the state-owned utility Electricite de France. In a statement, the country’s nuclear authority announced that so far the intrusion has had no impact on the plant’s safety.
Among the arrested activists were French, Italian, Romanian and Spanish nationals, according to the Interior Ministry.
The activists projected the words “Tricastin Nuclear Accident” on one of the plant’s buildings and the image of a giant crack forming across the facade. They also also hung a giant banner with President Francois Hollande’s face and the words “President of the Catastrophe?”
“Greenpeace wants to point out all the security weaknesses in the production of nuclear energy,” group spokeswoman Isabelle Philippe said. “Tricastin is one of the most dangerous plants and one of five that should be closed quickly.”
‘Five most dangerous’
Greenpeace has staged several break-ins in France to highlight risks of atomic power and security problems at stations. In May 2012, an activist with the group flew into the grounds of the Bugey plant in the southeast of the country using a hang glider in a stunt aimed at revealing alleged security flaws. He threw a smoke bomb as he flew over before landing inside and getting arrested.
In December 2011, nine activists snuck into the Nogent-sur-Seine plant 95 kilometers southeast of Paris. Police quickly arrested most of them, but a couple managed to evade capture for nearly two hours.
France relies heavily on nuclear power, with its 58 reactors producing some 75 percent of the nation’s electricity. The Tricastin plant went online in 1980 and last year produced 24 billion kilowatt hours of electricity – the equivalent of the consumption of about 3.5 million people, according to Electricite de France.