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Creys-Malville, fast breeder reactor stopped, France

A fast-breeder reactor, stopped in 1997. A total failure. Demonstrations against it in 1977 were met with repression. Vital Michalon was killed by police.


There was a demonstration with tens of thousands of people (from France, Switzerland, Germany...) on 31st July 1977 against the so-called Superphénix project (a fast-breeder reactor that would work with plutonium and sodium), at Creys-Malville, near Morestel in the department of Isère. The police killed a demonstrator, Vital Michalon, a young professor of physics, by throwing a grenade to him. The project was finally suspended twenty years later. The arrogant name Superphénix comes from the mythical bird Phénix that is reborn from its own ashes, as electricity would be produced from the plutonium which is a waste product of uranium-fuelled nuclear reactors.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Creys-Malville, fast breeder reactor stopped, France
State or province:Rhône-Alpes
Location of conflict:Creys-Mépieu, Isère
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Nuclear
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Nuclear power plants
Specific commodities:Electricity
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The installed power of the Superphénix would have been 1200 MW. The total investment needed to build and then dismantle the project is of the order of ten billion euros. Dismantling is expected to last until 2017. However, the 14 tons of plutonium and the sodium blocs would still remain at the site.

Level of Investment for the conflictive project12 000 000 000
Type of populationSemi-urban
Start of the conflict:1976
End of the conflict:1997
Company names or state enterprises:Electricité de France International (EDF) from France
Relevant government actors:Goverment of France
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Greenpeace
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local ejos
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Involvement of national and international NGOs
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Other Environmental impacts
Other Environmental impactsNuclear radiation
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Potential: Accidents, Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Militarization and increased police presence
Potential: Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Violent targeting of activists
Project cancelled
Withdrawal of company/investment
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Although the project was stopped, dismantling is still proceeding. There was a heavy price paid for by the opposition to the project.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Article in WISE Nuclear Monitor, n. 320, 1989, with petition to the European parliament
[click to view]

WISE Nuclear Monitor 499-500, 1998
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Video on the demonstration and death of Vital Michalon, somewhat biased
[click to view]

Meta information
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:2139
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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