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  1. A nuclear power plant near the town of Brattleboro, Vermont is being shut down thanks to local environmental activism. The Vermont Yankee plant ceased splitting atoms on Dec. 29 after more than 42 years of activity. The victory is one that will surely bring relief to activists and citizens alike, as the plant's reactor was the General Electric Mark I, the same design as that of Fukushima, which infamously melted down and exploded, spewing radiation into the atmosphere. Due to a hefty push-back in 2010 from Citizen's Awareness Network, the Vermont Senate voted 26 to 4 on Feb. 24 that year to phase Vermont Yankee out of operation after 2012. That has now come to pass, but it was largely the result of activists raising awareness of the possible negative health effects of the reactor. At the time of the vote, the plant was leaking radioactive tritium into the air following the collapse of a cooling tower back in 2007. The structural dismantling of the plant, meanwhile, will not be completed until 2040. The plant is owned by Entergy, a corporation that has a history almost as toxic as the fossil fuel it deals with. The company has a number of alleged misdeeds including stealing overtime wages from workers, overcharging customers, and having a general lack of regulatory oversight that likely contributed to the 2007 mishap. A similar fiasco recently occurred at the Browns Ferry nuclear plant near Athens, Alabama, from which a leak of radioactive water released tritium into the environment sometime during the week of Jan. 5. The Tennessee Valley Authority, which operates the plant, maintained that the leak was quickly stoppered and no significant public risk was presented. One could be forgiven, however, if he or she still had qualms about the integrity of the reactors, particularly as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission determined that the plant's three units are at some risk from potential earthquakes. In the midst of climate change, that serves only to exacerbate already existing concerns. The plant has long been in the crosshairs of Mothers Against Tennessee River Radiation, a group representing concerned citizens, environmentalists, and workers. Garry Morgan, a retired U.S. Army medical officer who has monitored radiation around Browns Ferry for the group, remarked, "Any leak of radionuclide contaminant into the environment indicates a failure of oversight and/or attention to detail, maybe both, on the part of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Tennessee Valley Authority." He added that cancer mortality rates have increased by 20 percent above the U.S. average since Browns Ferry began generating power in 1974. The problem of leaking tritium, which is a radioactive form of hydrogen, does not end there. According to the Associated Press, the contaminant has leaked from at least 48 reactors - and perhaps as many as 65 - across the U.S., and often ends up in groundwater. This information was taken by AP from Nuclear Regulatory Commission records as part of their coverage on the matter. Furthermore, tritium from at least three of those sites - two in Illinois and one in Minnesota - has actually seeped into the drinking wells of residential homes, said the report. In conclusion, while one plant with Fukushima-type reactors has been defeated, others remain, and are contributing to environmental toxicity. Greenpeace noted, "The world is still running more than 400 inherently dangerous nuclear reactors. Millions of people are at risk. Nuclear energy is not a necessary evil, because affordable, safer, and cleaner energy solutions exist. They are only a matter of political choice."
  2. A dozen of Greenpeace activists sneaked into France's oldest nuclear power plant earlier this morning in an effort to highlight security weaknesses at nuclear facilities in Europe. All in all, about 60 Greenpeace activists from 14 different countries participated in today's protest at the Fessenheim nuclear plant - the oldest in France. The protest started early at dawn this Tuesday when several activists sneaked inside the premises of the nuclear power plant to hang anti-nuclear banners from a building next to one of the plant's reactors. A couple of activists even managed to climb on top of the reactor number 1's roof where they unfurled banners with the message "Stop Risking Europe". The rest of the activists stayed outside the plant, blocking its entrance with barrels and demanding the shutdown of the plant. "The Fessenheim plant is a symbol," Greenpeace activist Cyrille Cormier said. "Its planned closure must be the beginning of a series of plant closures in Europe to limit the accidental and financial risks linked to ageing (plants) and to start the energy transition." The Fessenheim nuclear plant, which is France's oldest and considered vulnerable to seismic activity and flooding, is located in north-eastern Europe, only 1,5 km from Germany in the third most densely populated region in Metropolitan France and in the centre of the so-called European Backbone. The nuclear plant is situated on the banks of the Rhine, one of Europe's largest rivers that runs through three different countries. So if an accident were to happen at the nuclear plant, it wouldn't just be France who would be affected. France's President François Hollande has said that he wants to reduce France’s reliance on nuclear power from 75% to 50% by 2025. Hollande has earlier promised to shut Fessenheim down by 2016. But despite this, there are currently discussions in France about extending the lifetime of several nuclear plants beyond their 40 years. "We’re demanding Mr Hollande keep his promise by limiting maximum reactor lifetimes to 40 years by law and ensuring more nuclear plants are shut down," Greenpeace said in a statement. "With climate change upon us it should really go without saying that Europe needs a real energy transition based on renewable energy. This needs to happen fast." A spokesman from EDF, the plant's operator, said in a statement that further precautionary measures has been taken. "There has been no impact on the security of the plant, which continues to function normally," the EDF spokesman said. Following today's protest, Ecology Minister Philippe Martin said he would "ask operators to reinforce the physical protection of the most sensitive zones in their nuclear facilities."
  3. As US Nuclear Reactors decay

    I came across an article in the NY times a few days ago that makes for an interesting read. It relates to the slow gradual decline of the US nuclear power sector. I've never been in a US nuclear plant, but people whom I know who have (pro-nuclear mind) paint a bleak picture. We're talking scenes that would resemble the Soviet Union under Brezhnev. Old antiquated machinery in dusty old buildings. Control rooms with clunky, ridiculously ancient control systems. Here and there they will see company name plates on machinery from a manufacturing company that they know had ceased to exist decades ago, kind of like the head stones in an industrial graveyard. And many of the staff in these plants, who work in offices and lunch rooms decorated in styles last popular back in the 60's, are ageing as rapidly as the plant they work in. Many are not far from the day they collect their bus pass and retire. Now my (again pro-nuclear) colleagues are keen to stress that they see no safety issue here as despite the age of machinery in such plants, though old (like those in the UK) these plants are maintained in implacable condition, floors often swept spotless sort of thing. Kind of like how the UK army still maintains a fleet of 1950's era "Green Goddess" fire engines in perfect working order, to be brought in if the firemen go on strike or in case there's a war. That said, other sources, such as the Associated Press point to situations where, for example a pump is leaking more than it should, so the safety standards are rewritten to put the pump (and thus the plant) back within spec. Suffice to say, many of America's nuclear plants are as it were "getting on a bit". Half are 30 years or more into a 40 original design life. As anyone who works in engineering will know there tends to be a critical point with any system as it ages, beyond which the maintenance costs and failure probabilities rapidly spikes, as many individual parts start hitting their natural service limit. Which given the fact they may have been made by a manufacturer who no longer has them in stock (or no longer exists!), makes replacing parts and keeping the plant going increasingly expensive. Sooner or later it becomes no longer economic to operate it. Many US nuclear plants may not be far off from this date. And the problem with that is that because the US essentially stopped building reactors for 30 years post TMI and Chernobyl, there is something of a "baby boom" time bomb ticking away, in which we could see many US nuclear plants closing down in the next decade or two, far quicker than replacement plants could ever be built. I've discussed for some time the problems faced by the UK nuclear sector and the near certainty that there will be a substantial "nuclear gap" during the next decade, given that all but a handful of UK nuclear reactors will be shutdown (potentially as low as a single LWR in Sizewell before any replacements are built (if indeed any new reactors are ever built in the UK). This is inevitable given the long lead times involved in the construction of nuclear reactors. Consider that the world's most modern in Olkiluoto in Finland has been under construction for 8 years and counting. Even if the US began building multiple plants now, it would be many decades before they could replace the present 100 odd US nuclear reactors, during the time before this existing nuclear fleet closes down. Currently there are just 5 nuclear construction projects active in the US, and one of those is a project mothballed a number of decades ago. Even if we could increase the build rate of nuclear reactors significantly, which would be difficult given the various bottlenecks in the nuclear supply chain and regulatory hurdles, who is going to operate these reactors? Like I said many of the US/UK's nuclear energy workers are as aging as rapidly as the plants they operate. We're talking about a need to train up a couple of tens of thousand people in the space of a decade or two both sides of the Atlantic. Consider that as far as I'm aware only a handful of UK universities actually offer a degree in nuclear engineering, and in many cases this is a sort of "top up" course to an existing physics or engineering course, which only a handful of students take. Who too is going to finance these reactors? The massive capital costs now associated with nuclear power, along with the fact that the nuclear industry has been "found out" by investment firms, means financial institutions have very little (if any) interest in funding such projects, unless the government is willing to advance a substantial subsidy (exceeding anything paid out to renewables, as current discussions surrounding Hinkley Point C in the UK make clear) to cover any potential losses. And in this "government sponsored" scenario, there's only so much cash a government can advance in these austere times. Nevermind the fact that many members of the public are opposed to nuclear power and certainly won't be happy with their taxes going to pay for it. Of course I'd counter by pointing to the £100 billion bill to clean up the UK's existing nuclear legacy, so you're sort of paying for it already! Mind the Gap Of course one has to query, given that "something else" will have to be build to fill the likely "nuclear gap" how economically sensible it would be to do that, operate said replacement (e.g. a IGCC unit) for a few years or decades and then decommission it (after only a fraction of its service life), while simultaneously paying the enormous costs that new nuclear build comes with on top of all of that. Inevitably one's suspicion is that while some new nuclear reactor construction is perhaps inevitable in the US (or UK) given the ideologically commitments to nuclear from those on the right (I'm convinced many on the right are merely in favour because many on the left are against it... maybe we should try reverse psychology!). But the chances are that only a small fraction of these reactors will actually be replaced (my guess? 2-4 reactors in the UK, probably a one to two dozen reactors in the US). Consequently there will be a substantial downsizing of the US and UK nuclear sector over the next few decades, to the point where it will become a minor contributor to both nation's grids. In short, to advocate even a like for like replacement of the world's existing nuclear capacity, nevermind the sort of megalomaniac scale expansion in global nuclear energy use its cheerleaders call for, is to advocate the logistically impossible. The fact is the vast bulk of the nuclear reactors in many countries will be shut down long before any replacement could conceivably be built. Assuming public opposition doesn't kill the industry like it has in Germany and Japan. Of course the fear for environmentalists is that this "something else" will be more coal or gas fired power stations. A very serious risk given the dangerous uncertainty and renewables bashing policies advanced by pro-nuclear advocates within the Republican or the Tory party. This is despite the fact that these days wind power is increasingly seen as an economically viable alternative. Worldwide there's now about 282 GW's of wind power installed and 100 GW's of solar power, which combined exceeds the scale of the global nuclear fleet (at 366 GW's and falling) nevermind the much larger contribution from hydroelectric and biomass (REN Status reports are always a good source of stat's in this regard). And before anyone starts giving out about "subsidies to renewables", the IEA recently reported that all subsidies to renewables are but a sixth of what we pay subsidizing the fossil fuel industry! The only sensible course of action for pro-nuclear types (such as Monbiot) but supposed environmentalists to do is accept this reality and advocate policies that ensure as much as possible of this looming "nuclear gap" is met by low carbon energy sources and not fossil fuels and quit flogging the already dead nuclear horse.
  4. Mad Science: The Nuclear Power Experiment

    Some environmentalists champion nuclear power as an answer to global warming. But a new book by anti-nuclear campaigner Joseph Mangano argues that the dangers far outweigh any benefits. Elaine Graham-Leigh has reviewed Mad Science: The Nuclear Power Experiment by Joseph Mangano. The review was first published on Counterfire. The thesis of Mangano's book is that the era of nuclear power, in the US at least, is nearly over. The US nuclear power programme, he argues, "˜has been a failure, and will fade into obscurity with time "¦ Building a single new reactor will either take years to complete or never occur' (pp.280-1). For Mangano, this is a victory for the anti-nuclear campaigners like him who have fought for decades against official denials that nuclear power plants were dangerous or could cause health problems. It is, he says, "˜a triumph for truth over non-truth'. This might be the expected position from any environmentalist - on the side of campaigners against government and big business - but recently this has changed. For some prominent environmentalists now, an end to nuclear power would be a catastrophe. Both Mark Lynas and George Monbiot, for example, argue that the only attainable way to phase out fossil fuels is to replace them with a combination of renewable and nuclear power. Mangano does not address what sort of power generation would take nuclear power's place, and this is an omission, considering how the question is implicit in any consideration of this most controversial way of generating power. Nonetheless, Mad Science adds important research and argument to the case against nuclear power. Mangano's conclusion about nuclear power's continued viability seems applicable not just to the US but around the world. While the UK government has recently granted EDF permission to build two new reactors at Hinkley Point, in Somerset, according to the World Nuclear Report 2012, major nuclear projects were abandoned in six countries last year, while four (Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Taiwan) announced that they would phase out nuclear power altogether. This does not include Japan, where after more than a year in which no nuclear power stations were running following the meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant, the Ohi reactor was restarted, but the future of Japanese nuclear power is surely doubtful. The most obvious cause of this grim picture for nuclear power enthusiasts is of course the reminder provided by Fukushima of the potential for nuclear accidents. Mangano does not address the legacy of Fukushima specifically but, in the US context, argues that economic factors are more important in the decline of nuclear power than is often allowed. The US nuclear industry is supposed to have been damaged because the public panicked about safety issues following the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in 1979. Mangano points out however that the last nuclear reactor which actually managed to open was approved six years before Three Mile Island, in 1973. A major nuclear disaster is unlikely ever to endear the industry to the public, but the problems in US industry were evident long before. Nuclear power stations were supposed to produce electricity which was "˜too cheap to meter', as Lewis Strauss, chair of the Atomic Energy Commission pronounced in 1954, as part of a vision of a futuristic "˜age of peace', in which people would also "˜travel effortlessly over the seas and under them and through the air with a minimum of danger and with great speeds' (p.15). The reality however did not live up to the science fiction: building and operating nuclear reactors turned out to take much longer, cost much more, and be more risky than had originally been anticipated. This was a problem because in the US, power generation was a matter for the private sector. In 1954, this also applied to nuclear, as the Atomic Energy Act allowed private companies access to technical information about nuclear power generation and enabled them to get licences from the government to start nuclear reactors. The first hurdle these companies faced was insuring themselves against the financial consequences of a nuclear accident, which a 1957 estimate put at potentially $7 billion. No insurance company would take this on, so the government was compelled to pass the Price-Anderson Act, limiting the liability of nuclear plant owners to $60m. Other countries followed suit, so for example energy companies in the UK now have maximum liability of £140 million if they allow their reactor to meltdown. This may seem like a significant sum and it would make a dent in any company's balance sheet, but for comparison, the cost of Fukushima on the latest estimate could be as high as $70 billion. Even with this limitation of liability, nuclear power generation turned out to be a difficult activity to make profitable. Reactor construction tended to take a long time; sometimes as long as fifteen years between permission to start building and actually generating electricity. Problems once up and running meant that the plants ran at lower capacities than would have been estimated. By the late 1980s, US nuclear power plants were still running at an average of only 57% of capacity and some experimental reactor types never got off the ground. It is often claimed than modern nuclear reactors are much less problematic than the early designs: defenders of nuclear power argue that the reactors at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima were old technology and more risky than newer types. This may be so, but nuclear power generation is still seen as a dangerously unprofitable enterprise. In 2012, ratings agencies downgraded seven energy companies and approved RWE and E.ON pulling out of UK nuclear reactor plans because this meant that they could "˜focus on investment in less risky projects' (World Nuclear Report 2012). As with any privatised industry, the fortunes of nuclear power in the US have depended on its short-term profitability for the private companies concerned. The government assumed the lion's share of the risk, but as Mangano shows, was prevented from making nuclear power happen in the way it wanted by that fact that the industry was run according to the needs of the market. It is a useful demonstration of how privatisation promotes profits at the expense of everything else, regardless of whether we celebrate or deplore the end of nuclear power. Whether a world free from nuclear power would be a good or a bad thing is of course the fundamental question, setting the safety of nuclear power generation against the idea that it is a green option. Mangano describes how the attempt to resurrect nuclear power from the late 1990s used the argument that nuclear power was green power, since the nuclear reaction does not emit any greenhouse gases. He points out that for the nuclear industry this was more a useful ploy than an argument emerging from a deeply-held belief in the necessity of combating climate change, and that the green credentials of nuclear power can be overstated. The reaction itself may be carbon-free, but every other step in generating nuclear power, from making the concrete to build the plants, to mining the uranium, to disposing of the waste, is not. For defenders of nuclear power however, the point is that whatever the greenhouse gas emissions associated with nuclear power, they are less than those made from using fossil fuels. Lynas, for example, cites the calculation that Chinese nuclear power generation would displace six million tonnes of CO2 per year per plant. In this view, nuclear is the only realistic replacement for fossil fuel power generation: our choices are not between renewables (solar, wind, wave power etc.) and nuclear or fossil fuels, but between nuclear and renewables or fossil fuels and renewables. To argue this however, green nuclear power enthusiasts have not only to convince us that nuclear power is green, but also that it can be safe. The most fervent environmental argument about nuclear power is not about its carbon footprint, but how many people it has killed. The sixty-year history of nuclear power generation is littered with major accidents: Windscale in 1957, Three Mile Island in 1979, Chernobyl in 1986 and Fukushima in 2011. The nuclear industry in the West and its supporters cannot pretend that these did not happen, although the USSR was able to keep what appears to have been a serious accident at their nuclear plant at Chelyabinsk in 1957 secret until the late 1980s. Nuclear accidents differ from other industrial accidents in that potential casualties may not fall ill until much later, so the final death toll is not immediately apparent. This opens the door for the argument that they are not as serious as a scaremongering media and panicking public might think. Thus there are extreme differences between the maximum and minimum numbers said to have been killed as a result of Chernobyl. The International Atomic Energy Agency estimates that about fifty people who worked at the plant or in the emergency services responding to the accident died shortly afterwards and about 4,000 other "˜excess deaths' are expected. On the other hand, in 2009, three Russian scientists published "˜The Difficult Truth about Chernobyl', in which they presented evidence for 985,000 excess deaths between 1986 and 2004 and a collapse in childhood health in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia (p.228). Nuclear supporters dismiss this as paranoid: a familiar argument about nuclear accidents, deployed about both Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, is that depression caused by the fear of nuclear exposure is worse for those who were living near the plants than the risk of cancer as a result of the accident. No doubt people are also now saying this about Fukushima. Mark Lynas argued in 2011 that no one had died as a result of Fukushima, although it was surely then, and still is now, too early to tell. The pro-nuclear position that Fukushima can be regarded as nothing more than a moderate industrial accident requires exposure to even large doses of radiation to be safe. It may be difficult to trace beyond doubt the effects of Chernobyl on the large populations exposed to it, and too soon to be definitive about the effect of Fukushima, but as Mangano makes clear, this does not mean that we have no evidence about the advisability or otherwise of exposing people to radiation leaks. The normal operation of nuclear power plants in the US has given us ample evidence of how likely the major accidents are to have caused harm. This is Mangano's particular area of interest, as he is director of the Radiation and Public Health Project, and one of the strengths of the book is its detailed examination of the evidence for the health risks of the normal operation of nuclear plants. It is first of all noteworthy that normal operation can include a number of accidents: Three Mile Island is the well-known US nuclear accident, but there are others, including a meltdown at an experimental reactor at Santa Susana, California in 1959, which may have released more radioactivity than Three Mile Island, and a less serious incident at Browns Ferry, Alabama in 1975. The operation of any nuclear plant also involved some routine releases of radiation outside of major incidents. As a result of popular pressure the federal government was forced to fund a report into the effect of nuclear plants on the populations living around them. Issued in 1990, the report was greeted as a clean bill of health for the nuclear industry, as it proclaimed that there was "˜no evidence that an excess occurrence of cancer has resulted from living near nuclear facilities' (p.161). However, this was more a whitewash than the final word on nuclear safety. Mangano points out a number of serious flaws in the study which undermine its optimistic conclusions. The study was based on a comparison of cancer rates in counties near to nuclear facilities with counties having similar demographics elsewhere. The selection of areas for study was rather arbitrary from the start, as it excluded all nuclear plants which were not operating by 1981 and some others, like the Santa Susana reactor. This meant that some of the control counties were themselves close to nuclear plants not included in the study, so they were hardly providing a baseline of cancer rates which could not possibly be affected by nuclear power generation. The analysis of death rates by county also ignored wind direction: it would not be particularly surprising if areas upwind (according to prevailing wind direction) of a nuclear plant did not show a marked increase in cancer deaths, but this could not be taken, as the study did, as evidence that there is no risk to health in living downwind from one. Finally, the study only looked at cancer deaths, rather than at cancer cases, so ignored cases of cancers like thyroid cancer which is often curable. Of course, the study was also limiting itself by only looking at cancer rather than other potential health effects like infant mortality. As Mangano shows, even with this selective use of data, the federal study did provide some indications of health problems caused by nuclear power plants, at odds with its executive summary. The analysis of counties near Three Mile Island, for example, showed that incidence of ten types of cancer had increased since the plant was started up, and childhood cancer deaths rose by 10%. In addition, studies carried out by his Radiation and Public Health Project have suggested that there is a clear effect on the health of nearby populations from nuclear power plants, including a striking decline in infant deaths, birth defects and childhood cancers within two years of the closure of a plant. Also suggestive is work by Ernest Sternglass, who pointed out that US infant mortality rates had been falling steadily from 1935-1950, in line with improvements in health care and living standards, but then levelled off for 1951-1964, before then starting to decline again. No one has come up with an explanation for what amounts to 375,000 excess infant deaths, except that the US began to test large scale nuclear weapons in the Nevada desert in 1951 and stopped doing so in 1963. Since there are therefore distinct suggestions that nuclear power plants may not be good for the health of the people living downwind of them, it seems likely that a meltdown, which releases far more radiation in one go than during normal operation, would have marked deleterious effects. The studies of the health effects of the US nuclear programme make the larger rather than the smaller estimate of the death toll from Chernobyl seem more likely. Chillingly, Mangano points out that there is reason to think that as far as nuclear accidents are concerned, we have so far got off lightly. Many US reactors are located close to major cities, and in 1966, for example, the Fermi 1 reactor came perilously close to a major explosion which would have irradiated most of Detroit. Older reactors are also more dangerous than newer ones because they have amassed more spent fuel. One of the features of the Fukushima disaster was that some of the cooling pools, used to cool spent fuel rods safely, ran dry and caught fire. The reactors at Fukushima were relatively young and had not built up a large amount of spent fuel. If the same type of accident were to happen at one of the many older US plants, with cooling pools already filled to more than capacity with spent fuel rods, the release of radioactivity would be very much greater. The response to all this from pro-nuclear greens would be that industrial accidents happen in any industry. This is clearly true: recently fifteen people were killed and buildings flattened in West, Texas after a fertilizer plant exploded. The evidence Mangano presents does suggest that there is a difference in scale. Nuclear power is the only type of power generation to be able to kill nearly a million people from a single accident. However, this is not really the point. Pro-nuclear environmentalists are effectively arguing that we have to choose between a number of murderous power generation options, and since they all kill people, we may as well go for the one which is least bad for the climate. This is indeed the unpalatable choice if we only look at what would be attainable within the current framework of power generation run by private companies for their profit. If we were able to plan our power generation with the needs of people at the forefront, there is nothing to say that we could not have electricity which managed both not to cook the planet and to kill hundreds of thousands of people. There are after all renewable options out there. Footage of a wind turbine on fire has been seized on with delight by climate change deniers and anti-wind farm campaigners, but as far as I am aware, the death toll remains at zero. Industrial production under capitalism has always been about making profit while killing and maiming workers and anyone else who could not afford to live far enough away from industry. Just because that has been the norm however is no reason why it must continue in a new century of power generation. What it takes is an understanding that we have to fight to change the system and not simply rely on EDF to decide to build a nuclear reactor rather than a coal-fired power station. The nuclear argument is one of the most contentious and difficult in the environmental movement, and it is far from settled. Mangano's book provides important ammunition for anyone who sees that nuclear is the answer only if we give up believing in our collective power to change the question.
  5. The other day nine activists from Greenpeace managed to breach the security, infiltrate and hang a banner on one of the reactor buildings at a French nuclear site. According to media reports the police took "several hours" to respond to the security breach at the Nogent Sur Seine nuclear plant, located just 120 km from Paris. "Greenpeace activists secretly entered a French nuclear site before dawn and draped a banner reading "Coucou" and "Facile", (meaning "Hey" and "Easy") on its reactor containment building, to expose the vulnerability of atomic sites in the country," AJE reports. Greenpeace's point with this action was to highlight the vulnerability of nuclear plants and to criticize France’s failure to have proper safety procedures against terrorists. "This action shows just how vulnerable the French nuclear plants are,' said Sophia Majnoni d'Intignano from Greenpeace in a statement. D'Intignano said that French nuclear plants are considered safe just because it is believed that they can withstand a flood or an earthquake. "But those aren't the real risks for our nuclear industry," D'Intignano said. "It's the risk of [an] external, non-natural attack, like the risk of terrorism." Safety experts have warned about the threat of terrorism to nuclear reactors before. The Italian nuclear engineer and safety expert Cesare Silvi says that the threat of terrorism is one of the reasons why he left his former pro-nuclear stance for solar and other renewable energy sources. I am sure many of us agree that it would be a good idea to have a strong protection against outside threats, such as terrorism, at our nuclear power plants. And I am also sure that many people would claim that their country's nuclear safety is in good standard. But apparently this is not the case for nuclear plants in France, and potentially other countries as well. For example, the UK government excluded terrorism as one of the things to consider when they participated in the European wide nuclear stress tests after the Fukushima accident. In fact, most nuclear operators around Europe never stress tested their plants vulnerability against technological or human threats such as a nuclear reactor being struck by a large aircraft.