November 22, 2017 / 4:23 PM / in 24 days

French parliament plans investigation into nuclear security

* Planned inquiry follows report about nuclear vulnerabilities

* EDF has strong security record, but string of safety issues

PARIS, Nov 22 (Reuters) - The French parliament plans an investigation into nuclear security following a recent report about the vulnerability of the country’s nuclear reactors to outside attacks.

Last month a report commissioned by Greenpeace said the spent-fuel pools of French utility EDF’s nuclear reactors were highly vulnerable to attacks.

Days later, Greenpeace activists broke through two security barriers and launched fireworks from inside the grounds of EDF’s Cattenom nuclear plant in northeast France to prove how easy it is to break into a nuclear plant.

Barbara Pompili, the head of the parliament’s sustainable development committee and a member of centrist President Emmanuel Macron’s LREM party, told reporters on Wednesday that an investigation into nuclear security would be launched before the end of this year. “It is on track,” she said.

Parliament committees can summon industry and government officials to public or closed hearings. Committee reports and recommendations are not binding but can inspire legislation.

In recent decades there have been no malicious attacks against French nuclear plants, but in 2014 police launched a probe after unidentified drones repeatedly flew over several nuclear plants. Their operators have never been identified.

Last year, concerns about nuclear terrorism in Europe rose after Belgian media reported that suicide bombers who killed 32 people in attacks on the Brussels airport and a Brussels metro station had originally looked into attacking a nuclear installation before police raids forced them to switch targets.

While EDF has had no major security-related problems at its nuclear plants, several of its ageing reactors have had to close for months due to safety-related issues in the past two years.

Since June EDF has reported three Level 2 safety incidents (on a scale where Level 7 is a Fukushima-style major accident), including rusty pipes in its Belleville plant, weak dikes protecting its Tricastin plant from flooding and faulty backup diesel generators at 20 reactors.

Reporting by Emile Picy; Writing by Geert De Clercq, editing by David Evans

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