Over 100 Greenpeace anti-nuclear activists have broken into the Beznau I nuclear plant in canton Aargau in Switzerland – the oldest in the world – calling for it to be closed down immediately due to safety concerns.
The activists, from Switzerland and other European countries, entered the site early on Wednesday morning using ladders to scale exterior fences. Several people climbed one of the buildings on the site, which went into operation 45 years ago, and attached banners declaring “The End”. The local police are currently negotiating with the demonstrators.
In a statement Greenpeace said the Beznau plant was “too old to be considered safe” and that several “inadmissible security faults put the Swiss and neighbouring European nations at risk. They are also calling for another Swiss plant at Mühleberg to be closed.
The Beznau protest was part of a series of similar European demonstrations on Wednesday involving over 200 Greenpeace activists at nuclear plants at Bugey (France), Oskarhamns (Sweden), Tihange (Belgium), Garoña (Spain) and Borssele (Netherlands).
Switzerland currently has five nuclear reactors which account for about 40% of the energy produced in the country: Beznau I (commissioned 1969), Beznau II (1972), Mühleberg (1972), Gösgen (1978) and Leibstadt (1984).
After the disaster at Fukushima in March 2011, the Swiss government decided to decommission all the nuclear power plants starting in 2019 and ending by 2034. However, no exact dates were given for the individual reactors to be shut down.
In October 2013, the Swiss energy company BKW finally announced it would take its Mühleberg nuclear power station off the grid in 2019. The plant is frequently cited by opponents of nuclear energy as ready for closure.
Greenpeace says a report by a German former nuclear inspector highlights several safety concerns at Beznau and urges the Swiss parliament and cabinet to act.
“Three of the oldest plants in the world are on Swiss territory,” said Florian Kasser, from Greenpeace Switzerland. “We need to end this nuclear experimentation in order to properly protect the population. With plants that are this old the risk of an accident increases every day that passes.”
However, the Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (Ensi) is confident that Switzerland’s nuclear power stations are safe. In October 2012 it declared that a comparison of the results of stress tests ordered by the European Union in most power plants on the continent in 2011 showed that the stations in Mühleberg, Beznau and Gösgen met all the critical points mentioned in the EU report.