Activists Crash Drone into Nuclear Plant to Show Lax Security

Greenpeace crashed a drone dressed like Superman into a French nuclear plant in Bugey, France, on Tuesday. Five hours after the drone crashed, a tiny, radio-controlled aircraft also entered the alleged "no-fly" zone. Greenpeace said in an article on its French portal that this experiment proves spent-fuel storage pools are easily accessible and vulnerable to the risk of attack. In a video posted with an article by Greenpeace, the drone can be seen slamming into a tower at 20 miles an hour. The crash was Greenpeace's attempt to expose the nuclear plant's lax security.

This nonviolent effort is the latest in a series designed by Greenpeace France in the last 10 months and occurs two days prior to the release of a report about the state of affairs from the Parliamentary Inquiry Commission, according to Greenpeace France nuclear campaigner Cyrille Cormier.

When the report is released, Cormier told Newsweek, he hopes to see notes on nuclear security and said Greenpeace "wanted the French State and the EDF [Électricité de France] to take that into account."

[ACTIONbis] Après Superman, 2d survol et crash sur la centrale nucléaire du Bugey : cette fois 1 aéronef radiocommandé s'est écrasé contre le même bâtiment lourdement chargé en radioactivité, après 1 survol et sans être intercepté par la sécurité d'@EDFofficiel #SuperRadioactif

— Greenpeace France (@greenpeacefr) July 3, 2018

The drone flyover was deemed a nonthreat, the EDF reportedly told French news source Le Parisien, though Greenpeace claims the building is over 30 years old and not equipped for robust containment.

The structure Greenpeace crashed the drone into allegedly contained highly radioactive uranium, and the drone hit the exact space where the security was weakest. This weak point is at approximately four-fifths the height of the building, originally identified by the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) in 2011.

In October 2017, Greenpeace launched a firework at a different nuclear plant that broke through another security barrier. Greenpeace is focusing on nuclear energy security because it covers so much of the country's need for electricity to the general public. Cormier hired experts from educational institutions around the world to educate Greenpeace on the issue.

"We want to avoid a new nuclear project because it would be much more costly than renewable projects, and we need money when trying to combat climate change," said Cormier.

In the abstract of its latest report, the ASNsaid it has "been pointing out that the monitoring of the security of radioactive sources—in other words, their protection against malicious acts—was covered by no State structure and proposed taking charge of this point. This has now been done and the first inspections on the subject will take place in 2018."

Cormier told Newsweek that Greenpeace specifically wants thicker walls to contain the robust material in the case of an attack on a nuclear plant, and said, "The ASN is doing more or less a good job in France." The issue, according to Cormier, is that the ASN only addresses nuclear safety and no concrete and singular authority on nuclear security exists. "You cannot pretend these nuclear plants are well protected," said Cormier. "If a more malicious group of people had done something, it would have been terrible."

superman drone
Greenpeace crashed a Superman-shaped drone into the Bugey nuclear plant near Lyon, France, on Tuesday. In a video posted by Greenpeace, the drone can be seen slamming into a tower at 20 miles an hour. REUTERS

An hour after the crash, no response was issued from the EDF members on site or in-air protective services to clean the debris or inspect the situation. Nobody from the EDF qualified to go on record about this particular case could respond.

The World Nuclear Association reports France's primary source of electricity comes from nuclear energy and that France is the largest net exporter of electricity on the planet. The WNA also reports France's profit from atomic energy currently falls around approximately $3 billion. At the moment, France used atomic power for about 75 percent of its energy needs in 2018, and will likely decrease to that share to fit 50 percent of its needs by 2050.