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Fessenheim nuclear power station stopped, France


There is a grave problem in Europe and elsewhere with what to do with the nuclear power plants built in the 1970s and 1980s. As it could be foreseen, the Fessenheim nuclear plants in France will be defintively closed down. In March 2017, Greenpeace and other environmental groups organised protests throughout the country to commemorate the sixth anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, and to demand the closure of nuclear plants in France. In Strasbourg, Alsace,  hundreds of people gathered to demand the closure of the Fessenheim nuclear power plant, which was the first to be built in France back in 1977. They came from France as well as nearby Switzerland and Germany. Previous accidents at the plant have allegedly been downplayed (3). In April 2017, a decree was published announcing the closing down of the Fessenheim nuclear power plant (2). Now, in July 2017, for the first time, the French government has put  an actual number on planned nuclear reactor closures. It’s 17. The estimation was made by Environment Minister, Nicolas Hulot, a former environmental campaigner. While the reduction would achieve the same objective identified by the previous Hollande government — a 50% share from nuclear power, down from 75% by 2025 — it still represents a shift in approach, says Yves Marignac, director of WISE-Paris. “Hulot is the first Minister to come out with a number of reactors to shut down,” wrote Marignac. “Neither Hollande nor any of his prime ministers and environment ministers have ever dared to give such a number.” This reluctance was a tactic, Marignac said, to avoid angering EDF, trade unions and politicians.

Hollande's pronouncements about shutdowns were vague and non-committal with the closure of France's oldest commercial reactor, Fessenheim, perpetually delayed. Campaigners have agitated for years for the plant's closure, often in large demonstrations. (1) But for Hollande, voicing empty rhetoric to keep pro-nuclear foes at bay, was politically and strategically simpler than putting a number and a date on actual nuclear plant shutdowns.

Hollande's predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, was an international nuclear salesman with no interest in ending French nuclear pre-eminence internationally. But now, with the virtual bankruptcy of Areva, and falsification scandals surrounding the forge it owns at Le Creusot -- which has manufactured what are now believed to be major safety components with serious technical flaws -- the French nuclear star is perhaps rapidly waning.  Marignac says the announcement can lead to the crucial next steps of identifying the reactors to be shut down and creating a real timeline and deadline for this to happen. Nicolas Hulot represents a real novelty. The situation is, Marignac says, “a huge opportunity” to accelerate the French energy transition, and those who support it should get firmly behind the initiative to push it through to fruition.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Fessenheim nuclear power station stopped, France
State or province:Alsace
Location of conflict:Fessenheim
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 Fessenheim Nuclear Power Plant next to the Grand Canal d'Alsace and very near the German border is the oldest in service in France since 1977. Out of the 58 nuclear reactors that France has, 15 of them have crossed the 35-year mark.

The Fessenheim nuclear power reactor is the oldest of the lot approaching towards the end of its lifespan. In April 2017 the French government had issued a decree to cease power generation at the 1.800 MW Fessenheim reactor by April 2020.

The cost of dismantling plus the cost of keeping the nuclear waste will easily reach € 2000 million.

Level of Investment for the conflictive project2,000,000,000 (dismantling and keeping nuclear waste)
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:1977
Company names or state enterprises:Electricité de France International (EDF) from France
Areva (Areva) from France
Relevant government actors:Ministry for Ecological Transition (Nicole Hulot), France
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:- Sortir du nucléaire
- Stop Fessenheim
- Alsace nature
- Greenpeace
- WISE Paris

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 government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Trade unions mobilize for the continuation of the nuclear power plants (and not against it)
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment
Other socio-economic impactsThe revenues of about 5 000 people are linked directly in the region to the activity of the nuclear plant. There is a debate on how many employments will be given for dismantling.


Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Under negotiation
Application of existing regulations
Project cancelled
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:It is a success for the anti-nuclear movement to have the power station of Fessenheim (built in 1977) finally stopped. However, issues of dismantling and nuclear waste storage remain.

Sources & Materials

La fermeture de Fessenheim serait une première et on ne sait pas vraiment comment faire.

(3) Deutsche Welle. 04.03.2016. Nicole Goebel. Fessenheim nuclear accident played down by authorities. An incident at the Fessenheim nuclear facility in France in 2014 was more serious than previously known. German media reports claim the authorities withheld information detailing the gravity of the situation. Boron was added to stop reaction.

News from 23 July 2017. La centrale de Fessenheim est totalement à l’arrêt.

(2) Le Monde, 9 April 2017. Ministre Segolène Royal publishes the decree for closing down Fessenheim.

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Fermeture de 17 centrales: Nicolas Hulot crée la stupéfaction parmi les syndicats. 11 July 2017.

(1) 12 July 2017, France puts a number on amount of reactors to be closed: 17

Devant le Sénat, Nicolas Hulot évoque la fermeture de la moitié du parc nucléaire. 20/07/2017

Aktionsbündnis Fessenheim stillleg.

23 July 2017. Deutche Welle. Reaktoren in Atomkraftwerk Fessenheim sind abgeschaltet. Die Schließung des umstrittenen französischen Atomkraftwerks ist zwar erst für 2019 geplant. Ein Reaktor steht aber bereits seit letztem Jahr still. Nun wurde auch der zweite abgeschaltet.

Meta information

Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:2924



Nicolas Hulot, minister in 2017 for the "ecological transition" in Macron's government in France.



Age of nuclear power plants in France