July 13, 2008 / 2:00 PM / 11 years ago

Greenpeace climb Eiffel Tower in nuclear protest

PARIS (Reuters) - About 15 environmental activists climbed the Eiffel Tower on Sunday to unfurl a banner protesting against France’s nuclear energy policies, on the day when it hosts a major summit of heads of state.

Campaign group Greenpeace said the banner showing the nuclear logo was placed in the middle of a circle of stars representing the European Union displayed on the tower to mark France’s six-month term as EU president.

“Since he was elected, President Nicolas Sarkozy has done everything he could to sell nuclear energy,” said Frederic Marillier of the French section of Greenpeace in a statement.

“At the U.N., as head of the European council, or just recently at the G8, he has behaved like a traveling salesman for Areva and has used political platforms to promote French nuclear power,” Marillier said, referring to the French nuclear energy producer Areva.

Sarkozy was hosting over 40 heads of state and government in Paris on Sunday for a summit on the partnership between the European Union and countries from the Mediterranean region.

The issue of nuclear safety has come to the fore in France over the past week because of a uranium leak from a nuclear power plant in the southeast of the country.

Areva said on Tuesday 30 cubic meters of liquid containing uranium was accidentally poured on the ground and into a river at the Tricastin nuclear site. The incident was classified at level one on the International Nuclear Event Scale, in which the lowest level is zero and the highest is seven.

The incident exacerbated anger among environmentalists over Sarkozy’s July 3 announcement that France would build a second new-generation European Pressurized Reactor (EPR), bringing to 60 the number of nuclear reactors in the country.

France, which took over the rotating EU presidency on July 1, is Europe’s biggest atomic energy-producing nation.

The Greenpeace protest at the Eiffel Tower was the second anti-nuclear demonstration in Paris in as many days. On Saturday, thousands of protesters marched in the city centre carrying banners with slogans like “Stay inactive today and you’ll be radioactive tomorrow”.

Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Catherine Evans

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