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EDF to start legal proceedings over French nuclear plant drone overflights

31 October 2014

French utility EDF has said it will start legal proceedings against persons unknown following a number of illegal overflights of its nuclear power stations by unidentified drones, according to Le Figaro. French law forbids aircraft from approaching within a distance of five kilometres and an altitude of 1,000 metres of a nuclear facility. 

Chooz nuclear power station in north-eastern France
Chooz nuclear power station in north-eastern France

The maximum penalty is one year‘s imprisonment and a fine of 75,000 euros.

On 29 October, the utility announced that seven of its nuclear plants had been overflown between October 5 and 20 at night or in the early morning, with three being visited simultaneously on October 13 and 19. This suggests the overflights are a coordinated operation.

The drones have also been detected over other nuclear installations, including the Commissariat à l'énergie atomique (CEA) nuclear research facility at Saclay near Paris.

On October 31, EDF said two further nuclear power stations had been overflown in the previous 48 hours.

A French Interior Ministry spokesperson said the drones had been detected on every occasion and that Gendarmerie protection units at the sites could have ‘neutralised’ them if they had presented a risk to plant or staff. The spokesman said a judicial inquiry was under way and measures were being taken to find out their origin.

Suspicion initially fell on Greenpeace after a paraglider from the environmental group flew over the Bugey nuclear plant near the Swiss border in 2012. In September, 55 Greenpeace activists were given suspended sentences for breaking into the nuclear plant at Fessenheim near the German border.

Greenpeace has denied any involvement and accused EDF of minimising the significance of the incidents.

EDF said there had been no implications for the "security or the functioning" of the plants and the company had "no fear" of the drones as they were unlikely to cause any damage.

President Francois Hollande has pledged to reduce the number of French reactors by 2025, bringing France's reliance on nuclear energy down from 75% to 50%.


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