It's October 12, 2017, at 5:30 in the morning. The safety station of the Cattenom nuclear power plant (Moselle) receives a call. "It's Greenpeace. Our activists are entering the compound of the nuclear power plant. They are dressed in orange jumpsuits. " After crossing the first three screens surrounding the electricity generating site, the eight individuals are positioned at the foot of the building housing the spent fuel storage tank of the reactor.o 2.
They have time to fire a fireworks before being stopped by the gendarmes. Outside the site, the cameras of the non-governmental organization (NGO) film the intrusion and the fireworks show offered by the activists. A few hours later, the images loop continuously on the news channels. Greenpeace had just produced a report denouncing the vulnerability of these buildings housing the spent fuel pools. With this intrusion the association wanted to demonstrate it.
At first instance, in February 2018, the Thionville Criminal Court severely sentenced the defendants. Two of them, who had already been punished for similar offenses, had even been sentenced to prison terms. A first. Greenpeace and all the activists concerned had therefore appealed.
Wednesday, October 30, they appeared before the Metz Court of Appeal with a line of defense nourished by a new event. Since the intrusion, a parliamentary commission of inquiry led by Barbara Pompili has been formed to work on the safety and security of nuclear installations. It has also produced a report which recommends a strengthening of the security of the sites.
"Without this action there would not have been a parliamentary commission of inquiry", argues Jean-François Julliard, the managing director of Greenpeace. In the eyes of the NGO, it was therefore necessary to break the law to move the lines. In law, this amounts to pleading the state of necessity. It is defined by the penal code in these terms:
"A person who, in the face of a present or imminent danger that threatens himself or another person or property, performs an act necessary for the safeguarding of the person or property is not criminally liable unless there is a disproportion between the means employed and the severity of the threat. "
"Our action has generated a better consideration of the danger"
And that is precisely what M relies one Marie Dosé, the lawyer of Greenpeace, to plead the relaxation. "These people were forced to commit this offense to avoid the occurrence of a danger. " Brandishing an action plan drafted by Electricité de France (EDF) following this intrusion, it defends:
"Proof of necessity is EDF who gives it to us. This document proves that the company has implemented intrusion detection measures since the facts. Our action has therefore generated a better consideration of the danger. "
This danger, Greenpeace tried to characterize the hearing by summoning two witnesses, who described a disaster scenario: a breach in the wall of the pool, caused by a malicious act, which would lead to the de-fueling of spent fuel. "There would be hundreds of thousands of people to evacuate and, for sure, many deaths"predicted David Boilley, president of the Association for the Control of Radioactivity in the West (ACRO). "It would be worse than an accident in the reactor", he says.
On the Greenpeace line of defense, each of the defendants said they "To alert the public and the public authorities". "I did it because I felt it was my duty to expose the risk, testified one of the activists. Behind, we had this institutional recognition with the commission of inquiry. "
"And why did you act in Cattenom? "asked the president. Reply : "The Cattenom plant is located in the immediate vicinity of Germany and Luxembourg, two countries committed against nuclear power. Demonstrating vulnerability increases the pressure produced by this intrusion. "
"Greenpeace did not prove anything"
However, according to Thierry Rosso, the director of the Cattenom nuclear power station, "Greenpeace did not show anything." "From the moment Greenpeace phoned, the gendarmerie estimated that the threat was of low intensity. The police forces have positioned themselves on the vital areas. Greenpeace activists never approached it. "We must not trivialize this type of intrusion for as muchwarned Mr. Rosso. One day, a gesture of an activist will be misinterpreted by a policeman. And there will be a drama. "
EDF therefore requested confirmation of the judgment of first instance. The company even claims 500,000 euros in damages from Greenpeace. "This is the fifteenth Greenpeace intrusion on a nuclear siterecalled Me Thibault de Montbrial, the board of the public company. EDF has decided to change gear and stop suffering this kind of aggression. "
Me Montbrial therefore attacks the state of necessity pleaded by the defense: "Through 90% of its actions that are legal, Greenpeace demonstrates that other modes of action are possible to move the lines. It is therefore not necessary to break the law. "
A position identical to that of the Advocate General, Julien Le Gallo:
"In my opinion, the moral urgency and the (urgency) philosophical can not be confused with the state of necessity in the criminal sense. In the sense of the penal code the state of necessity presupposes a physical, vital, imminent danger. This is not the case here, which does not detract from the seriousness of the risk. For the state of necessity to be characterized, it is also necessary that the illegal act be necessary, that there be no other choice. Here, there was another solution: the democratic debate. Because the democratic debate is better than the disturbance to public order. "
Mr Le Gallo therefore calls for the conviction of the defendants but requires sentences much lighter than the first instance, 150 to 300 days-fines for activists and 20 000 euros against Greenpeace. The judgment of the Metz Court of Appeal will be delivered on January 15, 2020.