The many ZAD of Bure, france: Autonomy before nuclear power

A convivial society should be designed to allow all its members the most autonomous action by means of tools least controlled by others. People feel joy, as opposed to mere pleasure, to the extent that their activities are creative; while the growth of tools beyond a certain point increases regimentation, dependence, exploitation, and impotence.

Ivan Illich, Tools for Conviviality

The distinction between city and countryside under contemporary capitalism fades under flows of commodities that know no borders except those of obstacles to be overcome.

Born from the concentration of resources in urban centres, under capitalist commodification and spectacle, the rural is but a corrupted term for primitive accumulation and colonisation; the space through which the conditions for the reproduction of capitalist social relations are secured.

For this, the spaces beyond the city must be invested, invaded, captured and used; transformed in this way into extensions of “urban” social life.

The spread of urban infrastructure into rural spaces (i.e., not yet commodified spaces) is thus fundamental to the expansion of a social system that rests upon permanent growth.

The ZADs (“Zone à défendre”) of france are a politics of resistance-creation that oppose to the world of capital spaces of collective autonomy that both refuse capitalism and prefigure different ways of life beyond it.

The struggle against a nuclear waste storage site in the commune of Bure, in the department of Meuse in north-eastern france, is only the latest example of such resistance-creation.  And if we can speak of “neighbourhood anarchism“, the ZAD’s then perhaps exemplify the extension of the “neighbourhood” beyond any human-urban population to living nature.

From  Alternative Libertaire, the translation of an article on the Bure ZAD …

Bure : why the State is so intent on smashing the contestation

( 25/08/2017)

Another 30 wounded on the 15th of August.  Cigéo [Centre industriel de stockage géologique/Industrial centre for geological storage], the insane project of an eternal rubbish bin is supposed to restore the image of technological authority to a nuclear industry in dire straits.

On Tuesday, the 15th of August, in Bure (Meuse), a demonstration of more than 800 people tried to reach a neolithic archaeological site, recently discovered and hushed up by Andra [Agence nationale pour les déchets radioactifs/National agency for radioactive waste].  Some fifteen vans of riot police and a water canon provoked the cortege at the exit of the village of Saudron.  Result: 30 wounded and 3 hospitalisations, one of which may require the amputation of several toes.(1) The State has therefore decided to militarise the area, putting the lives of all of those opposed to the project, in danger.

How did we get here? A flash-back is necessary.

It has been a few years now that opposition has grown against the delirious project of a site to bury nuclear waste, supposed to last hundreds of thousands of years at the site of Bure.(2)

After the “hot summer 2016”, the focus of the opponents turned to the Lejuc woods.  Andra had started to clear the forest and construct evacuation wells for gases that will be released from the future buried storage sites.  The sale of the woods to Andra, on the 2nd of July 2015, by the municipal government of Mandres-en-Barrois, was annulled by the courts on the 22nd of February 2017, for reasons of irregularities in the sale.  The sale was re-confirmed, with a small majority, by the municipal council on the 18th of May, 2017.  But a new appeal has been filed, supported by the network Sortir du nucléaire.

The woods were occupied by opponents in mid-June of 2016, before being expelled.  Andra then illegally constructed a 2 metres high wall to protect its work.  A second occupation was organised mid-July, despite the strong repression by riot police, sometimes supported by … Andra’s private militia!(3) Following on the resignation of the director of Andra, and in the absence of police, a crowd of 400 people brought down the wall on the 14th of August 2016.(4)  A lovely coup, that, in addition to the legal appeals and the occupations, bore their fruit, because work in the Lejuc woods was declared illegal  by the courts, with Andra was obliged to return them to their former state.(5)

On the occasion of the day of action of the 18th of February 2017, almost 600 persons reached the Andra laboratory, protected by a significant police contingent.  The protesting crowd brought down the laboratory fence, in spite of the stun and sting-ball grenades that hurt some 20 people – two were hospitalised.

This summer, finally, from the 11th to the 13 of August, the Bure’lesque festival brought together over a thousand participants in a gathering that proposed conferences, film projections, debates, lives shows and concerts.

Cigéo to hide the nuclear wreak

The struggle at Bure demonstrates that Andra is ready to do anything to carry off its project, with contempt for the views of people and the ecological consequences.  It is that behind Andra, the whole french nuclear industry has invested in the outcome of the Cigéo project.

In effect, the french nuclear industry is sunk in an irremediable crisis.(6) Affected by the Uramin scandale in 2007,(7), Areva has not been able to extricate itself from work at the nuclear power plant at Flamanville (Manche), Taishan (china) and Olkiluoto (finland), to which it added a fourth at Hinckley Point, in the united kingdom, that risks being the one too many.  As for the EDF [Électricité de France], the cost of dismantling nuclear power stations – inevitable while always being pushed back – continues to be unknown, and the waste management is without any solution.  The Cigéo project of Bure must therefore prove to the world market that the french industry, despite its difficulties, remains at the forefront of technology.

To this end, it can count on support from the french State – recall that the french prime minister, Édouard Philippe, was the director of public relations for Areva between 2007 and 2010.

For an alternative to this system

From the colonial pillage of the uranium mines of Niger, to the creation of an eternal garbage bin in Bure, passing over the sacrifice of the health of its workers and of local populations: nuclear society is necessarily policed and anti-democratic!

… We should spread the necessity of a complete exit from nuclear energy,(8), firstly, by the reduction of the consumption of electricity at the level of society and the development of renewable energies, with decentralised production and under popular control, to avoid cooptation by capitalists, as can be seen with the business of wind generated energy.(9)  The question of the management of nuclear waste will be posed after halting its production.

To arrive at that point, the institutional path is ineffective: the law for energy transition, aimed at reducing to 50% the part played by nuclear energy in the production of electricity in France, leads to no concrete action, even with the cosmetic presence of an ecologist minister in the government.  Change can only be imposed by struggle.  

Fred (AL Nancy)


[1Communiqué commun des équipes médic, automédia et légale de Bure,, 17 août 2017.

[2« Antinucléaire : Bure sous tension »Alternative libertaire, juillet-août 2016.

[6« Les antinucléaires redoublent d’énergie »Alternative libertaire, septembre 2016.

[7« Areva, les dessous d’un scandale d’État »Libération, 10 février 2016.

[8« Pour une sortie, la plus rapide possible, du nucléaire », coordination fédérale d’AL, septembre 2011.

[9« Éolien industriel : le vent c’est de l’argent »Alternative libertaire, novembre 2014.

Video testimony of the stakes and the struggle in Bure …


More information on the Bure ZAD, in french, click here.  In english, see the unicorn riot collective’s news website.


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1 Response to The many ZAD of Bure, france: Autonomy before nuclear power

  1. Pingback: France: Info on New Repression against Anarchists – Enough is Enough!

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