In France, early Monday morning, a band of Greenpeace activists broke into a French nuclear power plant and hung protest banners.
Fortunately for France and the rest of the world, these activists had no desire to do any damage or to hurt anyone. Over the last few years’ environmentalist groups have staged several break-ins at French nuclear facilities to highlight the dangers of atomic power, but also to show that there are security issues at these power facilities.
What if the next time this happens the vandals aren’t from Greenpeace?
The fact that a small rabble of foul smelling, long-haired environmental activists could gain entry into a building that is for all intents and purposes a large nuclear weapon, is, at the very least, disheartening. At most, it’s a recipe for disaster on a monumental scale.
Jean-Vincent Place, a Green politician, told Europe 1 radio the protest “shows that getting inside one of these extremely dangerous plants is a bit like passing through a sieve.” Greenpeace spokesman Yannick Rousselet said, “With this action, Greenpeace is asking Francois Hollande to close the Tricastin plant, which is among the five most dangerous in France… If being physically able to touch the reactors is not being in a sensitive place, I don’t know what is… People with bad intentions could have posed a threat to the reactor’s safety.”
There are currently 65 nuclear power plants in the United States, and security at each of these locations is of course tight. However, the French would also argue that the security at their plants meets their standards. Short of being protected by a small army and some anti-aircraft weaponry, I’m not sure we could be certain our facilities are safe enough.
The Greenpeace incursion into another French power plant should have the people of France up in arms, but for us here in the U.S., it should also inspire some introspection.
Are our facilities safe enough? Is there enough security to fend off a small well-trained group of insurgents? Are security standards rigorous enough to screen out the smallest of dangers? Are power plant employees trained about what to do in the event of an attack? These are questions that we should be asking, and questions that demand the right answers.