London (CNSNews.com) - About 150 campaigners from environmental group Greenpeace scaled fences, evaded security and occupied Britain's newest nuclear power station on Monday.
The protesters entered the grounds of the Sizewell B power plant on the eastern English coast and unfurled a banner reading "No More Nuclear." But the activists said they wouldn't enter any of the complex's buildings or interfere with the operations of the plant.
Four people were arrested during the protest, police said.
A Greenpeace spokesman said the protesters would stay at the site until the British government pledged not to build any more nuclear plants in the future. The organization said in a statement that nuclear power is "unsafe, uneconomic and unpopular."
The group wants Britain's nuclear plants to be replaced with wind farms, which they say could be built on blustery coastlines like the one where the Sizewell complex, which was completed in 1995, is located.
"We're a resource-rich country when it comes to wind energy," the Greenpeace spokesman said. "It's time to start exploiting those resources."
The protesters said nuclear waste is dangerous and expensive to dispose of and said that polls indicate that most Britons support their cause.
But some power industry observers say nuclear generation is crucial to Britain's energy supply and from an environmental standpoint keeps down emissions produced by fossil fuels.
A spokeswoman for British Energy, the company that owns the plant, said the protesters hadn't disrupted power plant operations.
"The power station is operating normally," she said. "This is a non-violent protest and at no time has there been any threat to people or to any plant or equipment.
"Nuclear safety continues to be our number-one priority," she added.
The spokeswoman said the company couldn't divulge details about security arrangements at the plant, but said officials were working with police in an attempt to end the occupation.
A spokesman for the British Department of Trade and Industry, which oversees U.K. energy policy, said that no definite decisions had been made about the future of nuclear power in Britain. The government's future position on nuclear energy would be made clear in a policy document to be released in early 2003, he said.
Greenpeace and British Energy are also locked in a legal battle over a government bailout of the energy giant. After being hit hard by falling power prices and a bearish stock market, the company asked the government for help last month. Officials worked out a $1 billion loan package, which Greenpeace objected to in a suit filed in the British High Court.
Greenpeace's U.K. arm has frequently organized direct action protests against government and military installations. In April, about 40 protesters entered a British cabinet building to protest against the use of African rainforest wood to refurbish office buildings.
During a protest against Washington's planned missile defense system last summer, around 100 activists evaded military security and overran a U.S. base in northern England.
Monday's protest was the first time the group occupied a nuclear plant, Greenpeace said.
See Earlier Stories:
Green Protesters Invade British Government Building (April 10, 2002)
US Base Invaded By Anti-Missile Defense Activists (July 3, 2001)
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