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 Franceâ€™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.