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ENVIRONMENT

Greenpeace protesters jailed for fireworks stunt at French nuclear plant

A French court on Tuesday sentenced two Greenpeace activists to a minimum of two months in jail for breaking into a nuclear power plant and setting off fireworks last year.

Greenpeace protesters jailed for fireworks stunt at French nuclear plant
Greenpeace activists on the opening day of a trial of eight activists and two heads of Greenpeace France. Photo: AFP
Six other protesters were handed five-month suspended sentences for the October stunt at the plant in Cattenom, near the border with Luxembourg, which was intended to show the facility's vulnerability to attack.
   
Greenpeace France, represented by local head Jean-Francois Julliard, was also fined 20,000 euros ($24,500) by the court in the northeastern town of Thionville.
   
“Greenpeace crossed a red line,” said prosecutor Christelle Dumont, adding that any debate about nuclear safety “must be in accordance with the law”.
   
Greenpeace lawyer Alexandre Faro said the protesters were fighting for ideals and “they do not deserve hard time in prison”.
   
The prosecution had requested six-month suspended sentences for six of the activists, including Greenpeace France's chief anti-nuclear campaigner Yannick Rousselet.
   
Non-suspended six-month sentences were requested for the two other activists, who had previously been convicted of breaking into two other French nuclear sites.
   
The eight activists broke into Cattenom before dawn on October 12, and the state-owned EDF energy company that operates the plant said the protesters were detained before they reached the nuclear zone, and that the plant's safety was not threatened.
   
Greenpeace said the fireworks were set off at the foot of a spent fuel pool — where nuclear plants store highly radioactive fuel rods that are removed from reactors after their use.
   
After Greenpeace activists broke into another nuclear plant in November, the French government opened a parliamentary inquiry into nuclear safety and security.

CLIMATE CRISIS

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.

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