Greenpeace France activists broke into the EDF-owned Tricastin nuclear plant this morning, demanding its closure due to safety concerns.

The plant, situated in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, will exceed 40 years of activity in 2020 and activists say that there might be dangerous consequences for the territory and its inhabitants if the plant functions beyond its expiry date.

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Greenpeace France energy campaign manager Alix Mazounie said: “40 years is the maximum operating time for which the French reactors have been designed and tested. Beyond 40 years, the consequences of ageing power plants are unpredictable. This year, Tricastin will exceed its expiration date: to guarantee the safety of residents, it must close as soon as possible.”

Equipped with two construction machines, giant foam hammers and wheelbarrows, Greenpeace activists started to symbolically dismantle the plant.

According to the NGO, the Tricastin plant has several structural and technical flaws, which render it a safety hazard. The tank in the plant’s first reactor has several cracks and is the worst shaped in the whole French nuclear fleet, said Greenpeace France.

Tricastin was also built in a seismic zone and the levee that protects it from flooding is in a fragile state. Radioactive infiltrations have also leaked and contaminated the groundwater, campaigners said.

Greenpeace said that EDF has not assessed the environmental impact the plant would have if it kept on operating.

“It is materially impossible to bring an old power plant like Tricastin back to current safety and security standards. By wanting to extend almost all of the French nuclear fleet at any cost, EDF and the government are making a risky, dangerous and expensive choice,” added Mazounie.

EDF France has condemned Greenpeace’s actions in a press statement: “This intrusion had no impact on the safety of the facilities. This is an offence which will give rise to a complaint. EDF strongly condemns the actions of a movement that multiplies illegalities.”

The protests has taken place a day before another dismantling operations start in the Fessenheim nuclear plant, after 43 years of activity. The Fessenheim plant will shut down completely on 30 June.

Power Technology has approached Greenpeace France for further comment.