Geneva lodges fresh complaint against French nuclear plant

The Bugey nuclear power plant, situated 70 kms from Geneva, entered into service in 1972. Keystone

The Geneva authorities have issued a second legal complaint against the 46-year-old Bugey nuclear power plant in neighbouring France, which is thought to represent a “major risk” to the inhabitants of the Swiss city.

This content was published on December 20, 2018 - 11:12

The complaint, lodged with a French court, argues that the ageing Bugey plant has design faults, leakage problems and is located in an earthquake and flood risk area. 

Geneva, which is situated about 70 kilometres away, would have to be evacuated should there be a major problem at the facility, it argues.

The city and canton of Geneva had jointly issued a complaint two years ago, but it was thrown out by a French court because the “facts were insufficiently characterised”. The fresh complaint, filed with the Paris regional court, said the Bugey plant “represents a major risk to the safety and health of the population and the environment”.

Bugey is one of France’s oldest nuclear power plants, which entered into service in 1972.

French nuclear cut backs

Former French environment minister Corinne Lepage, now an environmental law specialist, has been retained to represent Geneva in the case. 

Geneva’s constitution calls for action to “oppose nuclear power facilities, radioactive waste dumps and treatment centres on cantonal territory or in the neighbouring region”.

In 2012, Geneva officially objected to authorisation given to the French operator of Bugey, EDF, to create a nuclear waste depot at the site, but the complaint was rejected by the French government.

The Geneva complaint comes as last month French President Emmanuel Macron outlined France's energy strategy for the next 30 years. Macron explained that the government would by 2035 shut down 14 nuclear reactors out of the 58 now running at 19 plants. It plans to cap the amount of electricity it derives from nuclear plants at 50% by 2035.

France depends more on nuclear energy than any other country, getting about three-quarters of its electricity from the plants. Macron confirmed the first nuclear reactors to close will be those of Fessenheim, 50km north of Basel on the border with Germany, in a process that will start by 2020. If confirmed, Bugey could be one of eight of the oldest French reactors still in operation that closes from 2027.

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