Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Being Sincere and Being Right on Nuclear Energy

There are things you  really oughtn’t to do, even if you have the best of intentions:

Une vingtaine de militants de Greenpeace ont été interpellés lundi 16 juillet pour avoir pénétré dans la centrale nucléaire du Tricastin, dans la Drôme. L'association entend pointer des failles de sécurité et provoque directement François Hollande, notamment sur le "risque terroriste". 

Which means (my translation – buyer beware):

Twenty Greenpeace activists were arrested Monday, July 16 after trespassing at the Tricastin nuclear power plant, in the Drôme [southeastern France]. The association intended to point out security vulnerabilities and directly provoke [Prime Minister Francois] Hollande, notably about the "terrorist threat" [presumably of a vulnerable nuclear plant.]

Tricastin proved not to be as vulnerable as the activists thought. There are some interesting details in the L’Express story. The security detail knew quickly that the plant grounds had been breached, but did not immediately engage the interlopers.Security decided that a group of 20 was unlikely to sabotage the facility, thinking that people intending harm would be both fewer in number and much more stealthy. And there was no evidence of weapons.

In fact, what the group got up to was the usual Greenpeace mischief:

Local media report that the environmentalists unfurled banners reading “Tricastin is a nuclear accident” and “François Hollande – disaster president?”.

I asked around about the potential American response to such a situation. There are similarities but definite differences. The goal would be to engage the group peacefully, try to resolve the situation and bring in local law enforcement if the trespassers will not leave. That’s what happened at Tricastin, too.

Chalk it up to the experience of 2001, but letting a group wander around facility grounds would not happen here at all. I was told that security would engage them at the plant perimeter (probably by guards patrolling the perimeter) and shoo them off. Still, in France, the level of aggression met the level of threat, which is to say, not much. An embarrassment maybe, but Tricastin’s security did read the situation correctly.

Did all this work to Greenpeace’s advantage? Well, since EDF, the French electric authority, plans to sue the group for trespass, I guess martyrdom and indignant noises are possible – so French, after all. But in terms of the goal behind this exercise, not so much.

The French government has launched an investigation into an intrusion Monday by Greenpeace demonstrators at the Tricastin nuclear power complex and wants new laws to make punishments of intruders harsher, the energy and interior ministries said in a joint statement.

This kind of activism can be useful: it can bring attention to an issue (Greenpeace’s goal here) or shine a light on malfeasance (Greenpeace does not seem to think EDF a snake pit). But all you can say about this specific event is that it shows the group is sincere and committed to not liking nuclear energy. That doesn’t make them right or helpful or preclude other views – the Greenpeace argument about nuclear energy has always been short sighted and founded on myth. This doesn’t change that. All of Greenpeace’s antics over the years have not make a dent – the arguments just don’t favor them.

3 comments:

Don Kosloff said...

One of the Greenpeace evildoers claimed to have touched the reactor. Gross ignorance does abet evildoing.

jimwg said...

In the movie, "Colossus, The Forbin Project", there was this big big red sign in front of the DOD computer complex that read "NO TRESPASSING. DANGER. LETHAL SECURITY BELT." I say don't pussyfoot around. Either have REAL security or not. Way more Americans than not would excuse a plant of automatically mowing down or electrocuting a couple of yahoos who had no business being in the wrong place. You'd excuse such action for banks, armored cars and jewelry stores, so why not nukes?

James Greenidge
Queens NY

Anonymous said...

Either that or throw the book at them in court, lock them up and throw away the key. That is what happens to a lot of "protestors" (terrorists?) at military facilities like missile bases and the like. When it comes to security, you have to show you are serious, or risk further, more dangerous incidents.