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French nuclear plants to beef up security

France will beef up security at its nuclear plants after Greenpeace activists broke into two facilities, the head of energy firm EDF said on Friday, denouncing the stunt as "stupid".

“This was a stupid act of intrusion, it’s intolerable,” EDF chief Henri Proglio said in the French city of Lyon.

EDF will “learn lessons and reinforce its anti-intrusion systems” to “ensure it’s more difficult in the future” to break into nuclear facilities, he said.

On Monday, nine activists from the environmental group broke into the Nogent-sur-Seine plant near Paris and two into the Cruas plant in southern France in an action Greenpeace said was aimed at exposing the vulnerability of the facilities.

The 11 were arrested and are to face charges in court in January. 

Proglio repeated EDF’s assertion that it had immediately identified the intruders but did not move against them because it was clear they were not armed.

“No sensitive site was breached,” he said.

France, the world’s most nuclear-dependent country, relies on atomic power for 75 percent of its energy and operates 58 reactors.

But the country’s reliance on nuclear power has been increasingly called into question since the Fukushima disaster in Japan, which prompted Germany to announce plans to shut all of its reactors by the end of 2022.

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Scorching summer was France’s second hottest on record

Three heatwaves since June produced France's second-hottest summer since records began in 1900, the Météo France weather service said on Tuesday, warning that scorching temperatures will be increasingly common as the climate crisis intensifies.

Scorching summer was France's second hottest on record

With 33 days of extreme heat overall, average temperatures for June, July and August were 2.3C above normal for the period of 1991-2020.

It was surpassed only by the 2003 heatwave that caught much of France unprepared for prolonged scorching conditions, leading to nearly 15,000 heat-related deaths, mainly among the elderly.

Data is not yet available for heat-related deaths this summer, but it is likely to be significantly lower than 15,000 thanks to preventative measures taken by local and national authorities. 

Most experts attribute the rising temperatures to the climate crisis, with Météo France noting that over the past eight summers in France, six have been among the 10-hottest ever.

By 2050, “we expect that around half of summer seasons will be at comparable temperatures, if not higher,” even if greenhouse gas emissions are contained, the agency’s research director Samuel Morin said at a press conference.

The heat helped drive a series of wildfires across France this summer, in particular a huge blaze in the southwest that burned for more than a month and blackened 20,000 hectares. 

Unusually, wildfires also broke out even in the normally cooler north of the country, and in total an area five times the size of Paris burned over the summer. 

Adding to the misery was a record drought that required widespread limits on water use, with July the driest month since 1961 – many areas still have water restrictions in place.

MAP: Where in France are there water restrictions and what do they mean?

Forecasters have also warned that autumn storms around the Mediterranean – a regular event as air temperatures cool – will be unusually intense this year because of the very high summer temperatures. A storm that hit the island of Corsica in mid August claimed six lives. 

“The summer we’ve just been through is a powerful call to order,” Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said on Monday, laying out her priorities for an “ecological planning” programme to guide France’s efforts against climate change.