Up to 15,000 people took to the streets of Paris in January to protest against a new nuclear programme about to kick off in France and across Europe.
The nuclear project, worth E3bn, focuses on building the European Pressurised Water Reactor (EPWR), a new generation of nuclear reactors, the first of which will be built in Finland by a consortium of the French state owned Areva group and the German engineering company Siemens. The programme aims to gradually replace the 58 nuclear plants that produce 80% of France's electricity.
Areva described the 1,600 megawatt reactor as competitive, safe and environmentally friendly. For anti-nuclear campaigners the programme is in fact a revival of this dangerous and problematic means of generating energy. Anti-nuclear protesters, led by the group End Nuclear Network, started the January demonstration walking backwards to symbolise the retrograde aspect of the EPWR plan. Demonstrators also built a pyramid of tin cans in a square, denouncing what they called the radioactive waste scandal left for future generations.
The police were criticised for allowing a separate march against the ban on Islamic headscarves in schools to go take place at the same location and practically the same time, something seen as a move to stir up confusion.