Greenpeace activists occupy French nuclear plant

PARIS — About 60 Greenpeace activists mounted the roof of a nuclear reactor in eastern France on Tuesday, staging an hours-long protest against this country’s reliance on atomic power — before police dropped down by helicopter onto the hulking gray structure and detained them.

Activists hung a banner reading “Stop Risking Europe” next to one of the reactors at the Fessenheim plant near the German and Swiss borders. France’s oldest nuclear plant, Fessenheim has become a flashpoint for anti-nuclear campaigners who say it is unsafe and should have been closed long ago.

Greenpeace France said in a statement that the activists had come from 14 countries across Europe “to denounce the risk to Europe from France’s nuclear power,” and to promote other energy sources.

France relies on nuclear power more than any other country for its electricity needs. President Francois Hollande has promised to reduce the proportion but plans to close Fessenheim have dragged on.

Two police helicopters and some 200 officers were dispatched to the site, Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said on BFM television. By afternoon, all the activists had been taken down and brought to police stations for questioning, said Cyrille Cormier of Greenpeace France.

Nuclear safety agency ASN said the intrusion “has not had any impact on the safety of the facility.” Utility Electricite de France, which operates the plant, says the activists were unable to get inside any of the buildings at the plant.

After police took down the banner from the nuclear reactor, another group of activists unfurled a banner on speedboats on the nearby Rhine. “We want to show that even if you take one banner down, the problem isn’t going away,” Cormier said.

The protests come a month after Greenpeace dumped a truckload of coal at the doorstep of France’s presidential palace. The group wants European countries to commit to raising their percentage of renewable energy use to 45 percent by 2030.

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