Mysterious drones? New security breach at French nuclear plants
French authorities reported drones flying over two nuclear power plants, the latest episode in a series of similar incidents across the country, AFP reported on Friday.
Large drones have reportedly been detected flying over around seven nuclear power plants in several areas of France over the past three weeks, UK daily The Telegraph reported on Thursday.
“Drone-type machines overflew two nuclear plants during the night. They were detected by police in charge of protecting the plants and staff,” a spokesman for French security forces said.
Electricité de France (EDF), the state-owned operator of French nuclear reactors, filed a legal complaint against unknown persons following the flights, according to the British newspaper.
France operates 58 nuclear reactors across 19 sites.
“These machines were not neutralized because they did not represent a direct threat” to the nuclear facilities, the spokesman added.
After confirming the most recent incident, a spokeswoman of the EDF said the drones were detected at around 9:00 pm local time flying over plants at Penly in northern France and Golfech in the southwest of the country.
The incidents sparked doubts over the security of nuclear plants in France especially that it is forbidden to enter airspace within a five kilometer perimeter around nuclear sites or fly over them at an altitude of below 1,000 meters, according to French law.
Those breaking the law are liable to a 1-year prison sentence and a fine of 75,000 euros ($93,000).
An inquiry had been launched, and a source familiar with the investigation said that authorities are looking to find the person controlling the drones remotely.
But the interior ministry stated that the drones do not pose a concern for the plants.
“[The plants] are designed to withstand a strong earthquake or an airliner crashing into it,” the ministry stated.
The EDF also downplayed the safety implications of the security breach on the plants, which the French airforce is tasked with protecting.
“We have no fear concerning a drone flying over out installations. These objects are not capable of damaging anything if they fall, nor is any object they might drop,” it said.
Environmental lobby group Greenpeace, which previously staged protests at nuclear plants in France, denied any involvement in the mysterious activity.
President Francois Hollande’s Socialist party promised to cut its reliance on nuclear energy by shutting 24 reactors by 2025.