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End of the line for Fessenheim as France’s oldest nuclear plant shuts down

Issued on: 30/06/2020 – 07:36Modified: 30/06/2020 – 07:36

France's oldest nuclear plant was s..

Issued on: Modified:

France's oldest nuclear plant was switched off on Monday, ending four decades of output that built the local economy but also fuelled cross-border controversy.

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The second and last reactor of the plant at Fessenheim in eastern France — opened in 1977 and three years over its projected 40-year life span — went offline as of 11:00 pm (2100 GMT), said state-owned power company EDF.

The procedure to finally shut down the plant, four months after the first reactor was taken offline, had started hours earlier than scheduled, and will be followed in the coming months and years by the site's dismantlement.

Its closure is welcomed by anti-nuclear campaigners in France, Germany and Switzerland, who for years warned of contamination risks, particularly after the catastrophic meltdown at Fukushima, Japan in 2011.

Then-president Francois Hollande pledged to close Fessenheim — on the Rhine river — but it was not until 2018 that his successor Emmanuel Macron gave the final green light.

After its disconnection from the power grid Monday, it will be months before Fessenheim's reactors have cooled enough for the spent fuel to be removed.

That process should be completed by 2023, but the plant is not expected to be fully dismantled before at least 2040.

'Inhuman'

The closure threatens the livelihoods of 2,500 people in the tiny Alsatian community.

Only 294 people will be needed on site for the fuel removal process until 2023, and about 60 after that for the final disassembly.

At the end of 2017, Fessenheim had more than 1,000 employees and service providers on site.

"What pain, it is inhuman what is happening," the CGT labour union tweeted as the first switches were flicked.

The government has said workers will be transferred to other EDF sites. But many would have to leave their families behind.

There is no legal limit on the life span of French nuclear power stations, but EDF had envisaged a 40-year ceiling for all second-generation reactors, which use pressurised water technology.

France's ASN nuclear safety authority has said reactors can be operated beyond 40 years only if ambitious safety improvements are undertaken.

In the 1990s and 2000s, several safety failures were reported at Fessenheim, including an electrical fault, cracks in a reactor cover, a chemistry error, water pollution, a fuel leak, and non-lethal radioactive contamination of workers.

In 2007, the same year a Swiss study found that seismic risks in the Alsace region had been underestimated during construction, the ASN denounRead More – Source

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Europe

UK travellers hope to salvage holidays as government eases quarantine rules

Issued on: 10/07/2020 – 17:09

The traditional British summer getaway to the sun-soaked beaches of ..

Issued on: 10/07/2020 – 17:09

The traditional British summer getaway to the sun-soaked beaches of the Mediterranean Sea is set to pick up steam Friday as U.K. quarantine restrictions are removed from dozens of countries, including France, Greece and Italy.

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But with many flights still canceled, holiday resorts still working on ensuring that they are Covid-safe and many potential holidaymakers reluctant to make a trip abroad in light of the pandemic, Britain's airports are much less busy than they would be in any other year.

However, last weeks announcement by the British government to ease its quarantine requirements for anyone arriving back in England has given some enough of a nudge to take the plunge.

“We probably would have gone later,” said Ray Gordge, 64, at Gatwick Airports North Terminal, south of London.

“Its exciting, Im pleased the quarantine has been lifted to be honest,” said Gordge, who was on his way to Paris to see his daughter for the first time in six months, and meet his new grandson, born last week.

As of Friday, anyone arriving back in England from around 75 countries and territories wont have to self-isolate for 14 days.

Boost for travel industry

The aviation and travel industries are hoping that the new rules will help them salvage part of the summer holiday booking season that has been so battered by the restrictions imposed during the coronavirus pandemic – thousands of people have lost their jobs as business ground to a halt.

The crucial period will be later this month after schools formally close for the summer and travel companies and airlines start ramping up operations. Confidence is key, though, and is susceptible to any new outbreaks that may start appearing over the coming weeks.

Gatwick Chief Executive Stewart Wingate said the relaxation of the rules can make a “massive difference,” given that around three-quarters of the destinations the airport serves are now free from quarantine requirements.

“From a consumer point of view, what were hoping is that will persuade people to take advantage of the flights,” he said.

Wingate said that there would be around 50 flights at the airport on Friday, rising to around 100 by the end of the month and possibly to around 400 later in the summer – way below the 900 or so the airport normally handles in the peak season.

Masks compulsory

The list does not include the United States, which is still considered high-risk. Portugal, another popular destination for British holidaymakers, also isn't on the list, though discussions between the respective governments are ongoing. Serbia was originally on the list but was removed on Friday because of a spike in coronavirus infections in the country.

One of the major changes that will greet holidaymakers is the necessity tRead More – Source

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Europe

Netherlands takes Russia to European court over 2014 downing of Flight MH17

Issued on: 10/07/2020 – 15:51

The Dutch government is taking Russia to the European Court of Human..

Issued on:

The Dutch government is taking Russia to the European Court of Human Rights for its alleged role in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine six years ago, the foreign minister announced Friday.

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The move is intended to support individual cases being brought to the European court by relatives of some of the 298 people who were killed when a Buk surface-to-air missile fired from territory controlled by pro-Moscow Ukrainian rebels blew the Amsterdam-to-Kuala Lumpur flight out of the sky on July 17, 2014.

“Achieving justice for 298 victims of the downing of Flight MH17 is and will remain the governments highest priority,” Foreign Minister Stef Blok said. “By taking this step today … we are moving closer to this goal.”

By launching the case against Russia, the Dutch authorities can share “all available and relevant information about the downing of Flight MH17” with the Strasbourg-based European court so it can be considered in individual relatives' cases, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Moscow has repeatedly denied involvement in the downing of the Boeing 777. An international team of prosecutors investigating the case has, however, charged three Russians and a Ukrainian with involvement in bringing down the plane and the murder of all on board. The men are on trial in a Dutch court, although none have been extradited to the Netherlands to face justice.

Today, NL submits an inter-State application against Russia at the European Court of Human Rights, for its role in the downing of MH17. By doing this, the government is seeking to offer maximum support to the cases brought by next of kin of MH17 victims. https://t.co/2KXuWRqL3A

— Stef Blok (@ministerBlok) July 10, 2020

Prosecutors say they have evidence the missile that blew MH17 out of the sky was trucked into Ukraine from a Russian military base and the mobile launcher was later returned to Russia.

The Russian foreign ministry didn't immediately react. KonstRead More – Source

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Europe

Merkel press office staffer ‘worked for years for Egyptian intelligence’

Issued on: 10/07/2020 – 09:21

A former employee of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's press of..

Issued on: 10/07/2020 – 09:21

A former employee of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's press office was discharged in December last year on suspicions that he was spying for Egypt, according to a government report seen by German media on Thursday.

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Police carried out "executive measures" against the man in December 2019 after he was found to have "worked for years for an Egyptian intelligence service", according to the report.

The Federal Public Prosecutor confirmed that the man was charged on suspicion of espionage and that the investigation is ongoing.

Local newspaper Bild said the man worked for the visitor service of the federal government press office (BPA), headed by Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert

He was a mid-level employee, meaning he would have completed an exam and at least two years of vocational training.

The premises of the visitor service were searched as part of the investigation, Bild reported.

A spokesman for the BPA told AFP it would not comment on ongoing investigations or personnel matters.

The main tasks of Egyptian secret service agents in Germany include gathering information about members of groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, according to the government report.

They are also interested in members of the Coptic Christian community and in recruiting Egyptian nationals as spies, it said.

"There are indications that Egyptian services are trying to recruit Egyptians living in Germany for intelligence purposes tRead More – Source

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