Wishing Upon an Atom in a Tiny French Village via The New York Times

FESSENHEIM, France — The protesters who periodically descend upon this rural village say the aging nuclear power station here, in the woods beyond the cornfields, is a calamity in waiting.

Candidates for France’s presidency differ on the future of nuclear power.
They note that its twin reactors, the country’s oldest, were built 30 feet below the dike of the canal that runs alongside the Rhine River — the water serves as the station’s coolant — but that France’s national utility, which runs the plant, has declined to study the consequences of a break in the embankment.

The plant also sits in a seismic zone — in 1356, an earthquake decimated the Swiss city of Basel, just 30 miles south — and atop one of Europe’s largest aquifers. The concrete containment vessels that surround the reactors at Fessenheim are just a fraction of the thickness of those at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan, at least one of which was shown to have cracked in the disaster there.

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