Skip to main content

Who's flying drones over France's nuclear power plants?

Mysterious drone sightings over nuclear power plants have been confounding French authorities in recent weeks, and have led to a country-wide investigation. Unmanned aerial vehicles were spotted over seven different nuclear power plants around the country in a two-week period between October 5th and October 20th, varying in size from "a few dozen centimetres" to as much as two metres.

"There's a judicial investigation under way," French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in an interview on France Info radio. "Measures are being taken to know what these drones are and neutralize them."

Nuclear power plants are not the only installations to have been targeted, according to reports by the Commission for Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies (CEA). While the authorities have not confirmed which particular other institutions has also been buzzed by low-flying drones, they have confirmed that one of the largest French research centres, which employ some 5,000 people, has been targeted.

"Several sites were surveyed in recent weeks by drones," the CEA said in a statement, but declined to give the location "due to ongoing investigations".

The French office of the environmental activist group Greenpeace has denied (Google Translate) any connection to the drone flights and denounced the lack of security. The group is a longstanding opponent of French nuclear power.

The BBC reported on Thursday that "last month, 55 Greenpeace activists were given suspended sentences for breaking into the nuclear power station at Fessenheim near the German border."

France has the highest rate of nuclear power, generating over 73 per cent of its electricity across its 58 reactors. That's compared to roughly 18 and 20 per cent in the UK and US respectively. The UK also imports roughly 12 billion kWh of nuclear energy from France every year.

The French investigation is ongoing.

So who do you think is behind this? Rampant environmentalists? Terrorists? Just drone enthusiasts picking the wrong venue for their hobby? Let us know what you think in the comments section below, or stop by for a chat with the ITProPortal team and other readers on ITProPortal's tech talk live chat.