Radar system stationed in France to protect nuclear reprocessing plant

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Radar system stationed in France to protect nuclear reprocessing plant Copyright APonline

The Associated Press

PARIS (October 19, 2001 11:30 a.m. EDT) - French defense officials have stationed a radar system in northwest France to sweep the skies over Europe's largest nuclear reprocessing plant as a precaution against airborne suicide attacks, a defense official said Friday.

The radar system, called Crotale and capable of scouting out airplanes flying at low altitude, is mounted on a large military vehicle parked near the nuclear center at La Hague, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The official said there had been no threats and that the measure was purely a precaution. The radar system can be used in conjunction with missiles, but none has yet been set up, he said, declining to discuss future plans. The military also can use fighter planes to shoot down aircraft picked up on radar screens, he said.

The radar system is part of a broader initiative to bolster defense in northwestern France since the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. Most of France's air bases are located in the southeast.

France has transferred military aircraft to the country's western regions, including Mirage fighter planes that have been moved to a base in Lann-Bihoue in the Brittany region.

The official declined to provide more details about protection at the nation's other nuclear facilities. France is one of the world's most nuclear-dependent countries, getting more than three-fourths of its energy from nuclear power.

The ministry is keeping most of its plans secret and revealed details about the La Hague site only because of intense public interest in the nuclear reprocessing plant, which treats waste from reactors in Europe and Asia.

French Defense Minister Alain Richard said Thursday that France may deploy surface-to-air missiles to protect sensitive civil and military sites across France. Among the sites the government promised to protect was the La Hague nuclear facility, French nuclear officials said.

La Hague stocks 8,250 tons of nuclear fuel, officials say.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), October 19, 2001

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