French security chiefs are investigating a spate of mysterious, illegal flights by tiny unmanned drones over the nation's nuclear power stations. A government official says that authorities have counted about 15 drone flights over a half-dozen nuclear sites since Oct. 1. "Drone overflights are currently being carried out in a repeated and simultaneous manner over certain nuclear sites in our country," a top defense official said today. "The objective apparently sought by this type of organized provocation is to disrupt the chain of surveillance and protection at these sites." Authorities say they open legal cases for every suspected violation; those convicted could face fines up to $94,000 and a year in prison.
Environment Minister Segolene Royal told French media yesterday that investigators have no leads about who's behind the flights. In recent years, Greenpeace France has sent sporadic, peaceful incursions into French nuclear facilities to expose security vulnerabilities, but the environmental group has denied any connection to the drone flights. Authorities insist that France's nuclear facilities are designed to handle seismic and security risks, including those possibly posed by drones. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told French radio last week that authorities had ways to "neutralize" drones but didn't elaborate. Today he told RTL Radio that "the best way to be effective in this area is not to say what we're doing." France gets more than two-thirds of its electricity from nuclear power, the highest proportion in the world. (Read more drones stories.)