The environmental group Greenpeace hit the news recently when they flew a drone shaped and designed to look like Superman, straight into the wall of a French nuclear power plant. In a deliberate attempt to draw attention to the vulnerability of the power plant, an activist from Greenpeace piloted the drone into the no-fly zone around the French utility company EDF’s nuclear power plant near Lyon, and then proceeded to fly the UAV into the wall of the spent-fuel pool building at the site.
Greenpeace themselves released footage of the little Superman drone and stated that it showed just how easy it was to fly a UAV into a power plant in a country that relies heavily on nuclear power. This stunt has been one of a series of recent break-ins staged by Greenpeace activists involving French nuclear power plants, and these security breaches are now the subject of an investigation launched by French parliament into nuclear security.
France and nuclear power:
France is dependant upon nuclear power, generating up to 75% of its electricity and nuclear power from 19 plants owned by state-controlled utility company, EDF. A spokesman from the company said that two drones had been flown into the site at Bugey, near Lyon, but one had been intercepted by the French police.
EDF have since said that the incident presented no real threat to the security of the installations at the nuclear power plant, and that they will be filing a police complaint against Greenpeace.
The vulnerability of nuclear power plants:
A spokesperson from Greenpeace has stated that buildings such as those you find within nuclear power plants are highly susceptible to attacks from drones and other airborne vehicles, particularly the spent-fuel pools, which contain some of the highest levels of radioactivity found in power plants. The pools in question can hold the equivalent of many reactor cores and are not designed to be able to withstand an attack from something such as a drone or missile, and should in fact, be turned into bunkers, claims the chief nuclear campaigner for Greenpeace in France, Yannick Rousselet.
In response, EDF state that their spent-fuel buildings are extremely strong and robust and have been designed to cope with such things as natural disasters, which have the potential to be just as – if not more – devastating than a missile attack.
While Greenpeace continue to reiterate that their only intention is to highlight the potential danger that these nuclear power plants present to the public, EDF are growing increasingly more frustrated with their actions, and have on at least one occasion, been awarded damages from the French courts after several Greenpeace activists were given suspended prison sentences.