France has launched an investigation into unidentified drones that have been spotted flying over nuclear plants operated by state-owned utility EDF, its interior minister said on Thursday.
EDF said that drones flew over seven nuclear plants across the country between Oct. 5 and Oct. 20, but that they had no impact on the plants’ safety or functioning.
“There is a judicial investigation underway, there are measures that have been taken to know, and there are measures that exist, to neutralise these drones, but I won’t dwell on them now. So naturally I am being kept informed and the investigation is ongoing,” the French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told France Info radio on Thursday.
The drone sightings may renew concerns about the safety of nuclear plants in France, the world’s most nuclear-reliant country with 58 reactors on 19 sites operated by EDF.
Cazeneuve emphasised that there were defensive measures in place to neutralise drone threats if necessary.
“There are inquiries, there are measures that exist to neutralise these drones, I won’t dwell on exactly how they work because I don’t have to,” he said.
EDF named the plants over which drones had been spotted as Creys-Malville and Bugey in the southeast, Blayais in the southwest, Cattenom and Chooz in the northeast, Gravelines in the north and Nogent-sur-Seine, the closest plant to Paris.
The unmanned aircraft were spotted late in the evening, at night or very early in the morning, EDF said.
It is prohibited to fly less than 1,000 metres above nuclear plants and within a five kilometre radius.
Each plant has filed a formal complaint with the police against the anonymous people behind the drone flights, and the investigation is ongoing.
Activists from environmental campaigning group Greenpeace forced their way into the Fessenheim plant on the German border earlier this year or into the Bugey plant in 2012, and have a history of breaking into nuclear plants in France.
However, Greenpeace denied any involvement in the pilotless drone flight activity.
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