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French atomic plant protest attracts thousands

Written by: Staff

CHERBOURG, France, Apr 16: Several thousand people protested in France's northern port of Cherbourg against plans for a new atomic power station and to mark the 1986 explosion at Ukraine's Chernobyl nuclear plant.

Electricite De France wants to build the 1,600 megawatt European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) at Flamanville, near Cherbourg, which already houses two older reactors.

France's dominant power producer say the construction will begin in 2007. It will take five years and cost 3 billion euros (3.63 billion dollar).

EDF says the plant is needed to test a technology that could be used to replace, from 2020, France's existing 58 reactors, which produce 80 percent of the country's power.

No new reactor has been built in France since 1993, but policymakers are taking a fresh look at atomic energy because of high oil and gas prices.

EDF is due to take a final decision on whether to go ahead with the project in the next three months. Italian utility Enel has said it is interested in taking part in the EPR programme.

Organisers said 30,000 protestors from across Europe took part yesterday. Police put the number at about 12,500.

The protestors said the money needed for the EPR could be better spent on developing renewable technologies and energy saving initiatives.

''This is the beginning of the end for the EPR,'' French anti-globalisation protestor Jose Bove told reporters at a pre-march news conference yesterday.

Protestors presented alternative plans for the same money, which could create 10,000 permanent jobs instead of an estimated 350 at the reactor.


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