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Golfech Nuclear Power Plant, in the Garonne river. France

The undemocratic building and running of Golfech NPP has high economic and environmental costs. This nuclear power station cost billions of Euros. It contaminated the Garonne river and caused some accidents and incidents


After an initial proposal (1965) of a Nuclear Power Plant in the region was abandoned due to falling oil prices and a conflict between the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) and Électricité de France (EdF) in 1969. In 1973 EdF announced a new nuclear project and the French Ministry for Quality of Life confirmed Golfech as the location for the plant in 1974. In 1975, a referendum organized by the cantons of Valence-d'Agen and Auvillar resulted in 83% of vote against the establishment of the Golfech power station. In April 1978, the Midi-Pyrénées regional council unanimously voted against the establishment of the Golfech power plant. Despite widespread protest, in December 1978, EDF specified that Golfech was the site definitively chosen for the Midi-Pyrénées region and that it would include 4 pressurized water reactors of 1,300 MW. 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Golfech Nuclear Power Plant, in the Garonne river. France
State or province:Occitanie
Location of conflict:Golfech
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Nuclear
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Nuclear power plants
Specific commodities:Uranium
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The Golfech Nuclear Power Plant is located in the commune of Golfech (Tarn-et-Garonne), on the border of Garonne between Agen (30 km downstream) and Toulouse (90 km upstream) on the Garonne River, from where it gets cooling water, it is approximately 40 km west of Montauban. From the planned four Pressurized water reactors (PWRs) two were constructed (1300 MWe each).

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Project area:136
Level of Investment:10,000,000,000
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:128 370
Start of the conflict:01/06/1975
Company names or state enterprises:Électricité de France (EDF) from France - Proposer and operator of nuclear power plant
Relevant government actors:French State
French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA)
French Ministry for Quality of Life
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:-Sortir du nucleaire,110
- Friends of the Earth, Amisdelaterre
- France nature environment (FNE)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Referendum other local consultations
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Other Environmental impacts
Potential: Air pollution, Genetic contamination, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Other Environmental impactsriver contamination with nuclear materials
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Application of existing regulations
Development of alternatives:The non-renewal of the nuclear fleet, shutdown of reactors in operation. stop radioactive waste burial projects, and stop nuclear fuel reprocessing (in La Hague site). This shall be possible by energy savings, the implementation of another energy policy based on renewable energies (wind, solar, wood, etc.) that strongly create jobs. And by the use of energy production techniques that are the least harmful to the environment (gas power plants, cogeneration, etc.) , in the transitional phase (Sortir de Nucleaire, 2020).
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The project was put in place despite a referendum against it and widespread opposition of local authorities. So far a withdraw from nuclear energy is not visible in France and EdF is going to invest several hundred million euros for the renewal/upgrading of the Golfech Nuclear power plant between 2020 and 2025. However, EdF has been fined by French Courts for breeching of environmental legislation and radioactive contamination of the Garonne river.
Sources & Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Attorney letter regarding breach of environmental law
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References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Tompkins, A. S. (2016). Better Active Than Radioactive!: Anti-nuclear Protest in 1970s France and West Germany. Oxford University Press.
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Sortir du Nucléaire
[click to view]

[click to view]

La Dépêche (2019) Les manifestants ont déployé leurs banderoles devant la centrale (21/10/2019)
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Activists color Garonne river as protest
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"Effect Fukushima" in Golfech
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Campagne d’adhésion au centre de documentation CRAS
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Sortir de nucléaire
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Gabriel Weber, [email protected]
Last update20/06/2020
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