"Nuclear energy is the easy way to get bombs. It is an alibi for nuclear weapons." This was the clear conclusion drawn by French physicist and peace advocate, Dominique Lalanne, during a conference in Colmar, France in early October. In making the inextricable link between nuclear power and nuclear weapons, Lalanne pointed out that since the state - i.e. president Nicolas Sarkozy - controls the atomic energy agency (CEA), Areva and the military, France's marketing of nuclear power inevitably provides the buying countries with an easy path to the acquisition of nuclear weapons. He also pointed out that the ability to market nuclear technology maintained the desired effect of certain countries exerting power over others. And, finally, he observed that, given the consequences of a reactor accident, a nuclear state had also to be a police state. This last comment had particular resonance with an audience who, the day before, had participated in an anti-nuclear rally in Colmar, a city that had been shut down and put under virtual siege by the local authorities in an effort to diminish the impact of the protest.
France gets nearly 80% of its electricity from its 58 reactors. However, such a heavy reliance on nuclear power brings with it many major, unsolved problems, most especially that of radioactive waste. Despite assertions to the contrary, the French nuclear story is far from a gleaming example of nuclear success.
As authorities effectively locked down the French city of Colmar, near the German border, thousands of protesters - from France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain and elsewhere - gathered on a bright and sunny October 3rd to demand the closure of the nearby Fessenheim reactor and an end to the nuclear age. (Fessenheim is the country’s oldest operation commercial reactor.) Dressed in “solar yellow,” activists had to cross police barricades to enter the city, part of which was completely cordoned off, turning Colmar into a ghost town. German demonstrators were stopped at the border while others were sent on long detours to reach the rallying site.
Just days before the rally, Colmar authorities withdrew permission to hold the demonstration in the larger and more centrally-located Place Rapp and move it to the smaller and more peripheral Place de la Gare. For more pictures of these events, see the Home Page of our Web site. Also, view this collection of news clips about the event. Beyond Nuclear's Linda Gunter was present and spoke at a press conference and at the rally, and attended a two-day conference in Colmar on the many problems surrounding French nuclear power.
The enormous presence of police and gendarmes was an absurd over-reaction on the part of the authorities; an effort to represent anti-nuclear protesters as a threat to public safety; and an attempt to minimize the turnout. As activists pointed out, the police-imposed state of siege in Colmar demonstrated once again that “a nuclear state means a police state.” The state-owned nuclear power and nuclear weapons industries fall under the sole auspices of French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, who is eagerly marketing nuclear energy globally. Consequently, all signs of nuclear opposition in France must be obscured or eliminated.
Yves Marignac, executive director of the energy information agency WISE-Paris, recently toured the U.S. setting the record straight about the myths surrounding the alleged "success" of the French nuclear power complex. Read his statement in which he points out, among other things, that the French nuclear system is fundamentally anti-democratic.
On the heels of the 50,000-strong protest September 5 against nuclear power in Berlin, Germany, anti-nuclear activists will be gathering for a similar protest in Colmar, France, October 3 and 4. The two days of activities will include an October 3 rally. Linda Gunter will represent Beyond Nuclear at the rally and conference. The focus of the event will be an effort to close the oldest reactor in France - Fessenheim - rather than allow the French government to extend its license. This action partners well with Beyond Nuclear activities in the U.S. where we are part of a coalition to stop the license extension of this country's oldest reactor - at Oyster Creek in New Jersey. More information about the Colmar events can be found on the Shut Down Fessenheim Web site.
The groundbreaking ceremony for Areva's Taishan EPR in China which was supposed to happen on Aug 27 has reportedly been postponed indefinitely. There is speculation by the French activist network - Sortir du Nucléaire - that the EPR project in China may not now go forward. Areva claimed that the postponement was due to "bad weather" but Sortir du Nucléaire countered that the Chinese had informed Areva in June that the ceremony would not go forward on the August date. Aside from the financial EPR disaster in Finland, the only country French president, Nicolas Sarkozy has succeeded in selling the EPR to is...France.