30 Oct 2014

France may shoot down mystery drones flying at nuclear sites

With France on alert over drones spotted flying over several nuclear power plants, a French minister says the authorities may seek to shoot them down in future.

France’s state run power company EDF said that the “overflight” of aircraft resembling drones across multiple bases had caused concern and that it had been reported to the French police. The drones were spotted first on 5 October, in the week of 13 October, and then four times on 19 October at sites hundreds of miles apart.

EDF said that “the safety or operation” of the nuclear plants was not affected by the flights, seemingly made by unmanned drones.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said that options were being considered to deter future flights: “There’s a judicial investigation under way, measures are being taken to know what these drones are and neutralise them,” he told France Info radio on Thursday.

EDF operates 15 plants at eight sites in the UK.

‘Breaches enforced’

A spokesperson for industry body Nuclear Industry Association told Channel 4 News: “Air space above all nuclear facilities is restricted, and breaches to this are enforced by the Civil Aviation Authority.

“All of Britain’s nuclear power stations are designed with safety in mind and are stress-tested to withstand a vast range of potential incidents. The independent regulator continuously monitors and evaluates the safety of each plant alongside the operator to protect it from any outside threats.”

The Office for Nuclear Regulation told Channel 4 News it had not received reports of any overflights and a spokesperson said: “Licensees of UK nuclear licensed sites are required by ONR to demonstrate that they have resilience against a range of external threat scenarios.”


Greenpeace has previously protested at a number of nuclear sites in France, including flying a paraglider over a plant, but it told the AFP news agency that it was not linked to the flights.

Greenpeace itself said that it too was concerned by the “large-scale operation” detected at four sites on 19 October, at Bugey in the east, Gravelines and Chooz in the north and Nogent-sur-Seine in north-central France.

“We are very worried about the occurrence and the repetition of these suspicious overflights,” said Yannick Rousselet, head of Greenpeace’s anti-nuclear campaign.

Greenpeace called on authorities to investigate due to the lack of explanation over who is behind the flights.