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Nuclear watchdog charges Greenpeace activists

Greenpeace activists using the Beznau nuclear power plant to promote their anti-nuclear message Keystone

The Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI) has filed criminal charges against Greenpeace activists that were involved in a protest at the Beznau nuclear power plant in March this year. The activists are charged with causing damage to property.

The charges were filed on Monday with the Federal Prosecutor’s  Office. According to the ENSI, the protestors jumped over the fence surrounding the reactor and cut some wires. They then climbed the reactor building and drilled holes into the secondary containment wall.

Axpo, the plant operator, had already filed charges with the Aargau prosecutor’s office against 66 activists for trespassing and damage to property, resulting in a summary of punishment orders being issued against them.  The orders are yet to come into force.

The charges also cover another incident in 2008 at the Leibstadt nuclear plant, also in Aargau, where holes were allegedly drilled by activists to install two fire extinguishers.  The damage was only discovered in June this year.

ENSI admitted that in both cases the damage caused by the activists was only minor from a safety point of view. However, since any damage to infrastructure critical to nuclear safety is considered an offense under the law, the nuclear watchdog was legally obliged to take action.

Anti-nuclear sentiments

The Beznau protest in March was part of a series of similar European demonstrations 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.

However, 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.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR