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Chooz Nuclear Power Plant, Meuse River, Ardennes, France


Description:

Until the beginning of 1960, Chooz was a small village with a predominantly rural population (about 700 inhabitants). The bordering cities are Foisches , Givet, Rancenne, Ham-sur-Meuse… in the Ardennes department, France, on the Meuse River in a panhandle protruding into Belgium.  

In 1962, the construction of a power plant at Chooz began, it was one of the first pressurized water reactors (PWR). At that time, the dangers of nuclear power were practically unknown, especially for so-called "civil" nuclear power.  Commissioned in 1967, the power plant did not function quite as planned: breakdowns and malfunctions multiplied. 1991 is the date of its final shutdown. 

 In the 1970s, the inhabitants are complaining more and more about cancers and leukaemia in this region, and more particularly in the Pointe de Givet (near the power station). 

1973, it is the oil shock, France realized then its lack of oil on its territory. The country did not have enough energy resources to become independent. Thus, a massive nuclear power program was developed, still without much opposition at national level.  At the end of 1977, rumours circulated about the establishment of a second power plant in Chooz. This would have two 1,450 MW reactors.

The inhabitants of the nearby villages gradually formed committees to show their disagreement, made up mainly of peasants and workers, who were the first to mobilize to defend their territory. These became aware of the potential danger of nuclear power.  During the various consultations of the population (inhabitants of Chooz), strong opposition to the project quickly emerged: for example, at the beginning of March 1979, in an official ballot, 64% of the voters said no to a new plant. 

 From 1980 onwards, a long struggle began between pro-nuclear and anti-nuclear groups. The clashes between police, CRS (Compagnies républicaines de sécurité) and demonstrators were of considerable violence. Exchanges of Molotov cocktails, cobblestones, pebbles for tear gas bombs or chlorine grenades were recurrent. A voting game also began in the various municipal councils of the surrounding municipalities. Politics then became involved in the conflict. 

Two public utility surveys are conducted during which violence increases.  The local press minimized the facts, does not reveal the reality of the protests. 

 A brochure from Cédric De Quieros , summarizing the situation as follow (from 1997). 

"After several months of increasingly determined and violent opposition, it took massive police interventions, preventing any new demonstrations, and simultaneously the illusory prospect - opportunely proposed by the ecologists - of a public utility inquiry and a democratic recourse, to overcome the opponents and get the project of the two new reactors through" [1].

 Here some statement made by the Chooz committee on the fourth day of the second public utility enquiry into the expropriation of land :  

"Mobile police, you have already received and will receive more paving stones on the face. […]. But these men and women are angry because they are threatened in their physical lives and by the fascist processes of the state; and angry because their human dignity is being trampled on. » [2]

 Several anti-nuclear marches linking Chooz to Rivet were  organized  from the Belgians and French sides and other local residents, where the demonstrators regularly find themselves blocked by roadblocks from the police. Victims of police repression, the anti-nuclear activists get angrier (e.g. a drill is sabotaged collectively, traps for the police, attacks on convoys).

These attacks with sometimes heavy results (burst lips or arches, hematomas, hospitalizations etc.), or the State pulled out the great means (thousands of CRS, helicopters, tanks), running out of steam. 

From 1983 on, we see a decline in demonstrations, mentalities change. There is a  weariness in the face of repression and violence, which discourages many people.  All the more because that same year the anti-nuclear list came behind the pro-nuclear list in elections Chooz. The local population seems to accept "fatality". 

 Main actors

In this conflict, several actors have played an important role. We can start with the first concerned: the hundreds of inhabitants of the area, mostly against this project, they have created committees, organized meetings and physically fought.  The forces of law and order, which in a way repressed the demonstrations.  Then EDF (Électricité de France) the company which built the plant and was supported by the State but also by the press. Indeed, the press did not do its job of informing and on several occasions concealed the conflict. The SENA (Société d'Énergie Nucléaire franco-belge des Ardennes) which favored the installation of the power plant. 

The inhabitants also tried to approach the presidential candidates, notably François Mitterrand, who promised that without the agreement of the citizens, a new power station could not be envisaged: 

"As you know, there is no nuclear framework law in France. If I am elected President of the Republic, I would ask the Government to submit such a law to Parliament, which would have to define, among other things, the prerogatives of the local and national assemblies, and the conditions for controlling the choices made by citizens and elected officials. 

 I engaged myself not to open new nuclear power plant sites, especially in Chooz, before this national debate is concluded and the conditions for democracy are met. » [3]

Risk to the health of residents if leakage and poorly managed waste: This exposure causes cancers, especially lung, colon, and leukemia (blood cancer). At the same time, the power plant provides paid work for local workers and thus boosts the economy of the region (769 EDF employees, 271 permanent employees of the service provider company).

Today the plant produces 5% of the French annual production, so it is succeeding well in its mission to make France energy independent. 

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Chooz Nuclear Power Plant, Meuse River, Ardennes, France
Country:France
State or province:Ardennes. Grand Est
Location of conflict:Chooz
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Nuclear
Specific commodities:Uranium
Water

Project Details and Actors

Project details

A Nuclear Reactor costs between 3 and 3.2 Billion Euros.

There are two in Chooz B.

In the Ardennes region there are 273,579 inhabitants, but the power plant is not close to the most populated communes of the department. But let’s have a look on bordering municipalities :

- In Chooz there are : 745 inhabitants

- In Foisches there are : 204 inhabitants

- In Givet : 6749 Inhabitants

- In Rancennes : 717 Inhabitants

- Ham-sur-Meuse: 243 Inhabitants

- Charnois : 77 Inhabitants

- Hargnies : 468 Inhabitants

- Landrichamps : 134 Inhabitants

If we compute all the inhabitants in the small perimeter of the nuclear plant, there are 9337 inhabitants who are exposed to potential danger.

Project area:200
Level of Investment for the conflictive project7,091,358,000 (both reactors)
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:9,337 inhabitants
Start of the conflict:01/05/1984
End of the conflict:01/05/1984
Company names or state enterprises:EDF (Électricité de France) from France
Relevant government actors:The government of Pierre Mauroy, set up by President François Mitterrand, confirmed the building of the reactors.
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Local committees

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Industrial workers
Landless peasants
Local government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Women
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Official complaint letters and petitions
Referendum other local consultations
Sabotage
Street protest/marches
Threats to use arms
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Arguments for the rights of mother nature

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Desertification/Drought, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Other Environmental impacts, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow)
Potential: Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Other Environmental impacts- Radioactive discharges from the purification and filtration processes used in nuclear power plants.
- Thermal discharges: a nuclear power plant produces heat, causing the surrounding - aquatic environment to warm up.
- Chemical discharges: these are found in the water used to cool the plant.
The water is filtered before being released into nature.
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Militarization and increased police presence, Loss of landscape/sense of place

Outcome

Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Repression
Violent targeting of activists
Proposal and development of alternatives:However today there are still non-violent opposition to nuclear.
The "Sortir du nucléaire" network, the "Greenpeace" association, the collective "Agir pour l'environnement" (Acting for the environment) are working for a referendum to finally abandon nuclear power and promote renewable energies (sun, wind, wood).
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:From 1983 on, we see a decline in demonstrations, mentalities change.
There is a weariness in the face of repression and violence, which discourages many people. All the more so because that same year the anti-nuclear list came behind the pro-nuclear list. The local population seems to accept "fatality".

" Willingly or by force, the Chooz plant will be built.. [4]
Lavigne, Prefect of the Ardennes of Giscard - declaration in 1980 after the agitated public utility enquiry and the referendum of 1979.

The work on the reactors continued and operation started in 1996-1997

Indeed, in this case, there was no environmental justice, the nuclear power station was built.

Sources & Materials

[1] C. De Queiros,“Discussion de la mise en service annoncée de deux nouveaux réacteurs à la centrale nucléaire de Chooz”, Brussels, Belgium (03/1997).
https://ia600509.us.archive.org/21/items/LutteChoozB/Lutte_ChoozB.pdf

[2] Chooz Committee, “Chooz, légitime violence…”, Chooz, France, (04/04/1981).
https://ia600509.us.archive.org/21/items/LutteChoozB/Lutte_ChoozB.pdf

[3] François Mitterrand, letter, Paris, (21/04/1981).
https://ia600509.us.archive.org/21/items/LutteChoozB/Lutte_ChoozB.pdf

[4] Lavigne, Prefect of the Ardennes of Giscard declaration (1980).
https://ia600509.us.archive.org/21/items/LutteChoozB/Lutte_ChoozB.pdf

Conference paper, EDF (2019)
https://www.edf.fr/sites/default/files/contrib/groupe-edf/producteur-industriel/carte-des-implantations/centrale-chooz/dossier-presse/dpchooz2020.pdf

Sortir du nucléaire
https://www.sortirdunucleaire.org

La centrale nucléaire de Chooz (05/10/ 2008)
https://www.mes-ballades.com/08/chooz-08600-decouverte-de-la-centrale-nucleaire-de-chooz-ardennes-region-grand-est-en-france.htm

« Un récit de lutte de Chooz » (05/1998)
https://bureburebure.info/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/lutte_chooz.pdf

Centrale nucléaire de Chooz
https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centrale_nucléaire_de_Chooz

Meta information

Last update13/12/2020
Conflict ID:5187

Images

 

At the start of an anti-nuclear demonstration at the end of July 1982

https://ia600509.us.archive.org/21/items/LutteChoozB/Lutte_ChoozB.pdf

Anti-nuclear march on Chooz on March 27, 1982

https://ia600509.us.archive.org/21/items/LutteChoozB/Lutte_ChoozB.pdf

A demonstration on April 4, 1981

https://ia600509.us.archive.org/21/items/LutteChoozB/Lutte_ChoozB.pdf