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Several thousand French activists marched in silence Saturday to honor victims of the Chernobyl disaster 20 years ago, part of a larger protest denouncing France's plans to build more nuclear reactors.
Environmentalists gathered in the rain in the northern port city of Cherbourg, near the site where nuclear-dependent France plans to build the first in a new generation of nuclear power plants. Several protesters held up a sign that read simply "non."
The new type of plant is billed as more efficient, safer and environmentally friendly than current models. However, French environmental activists argue that nuclear power is inherently dangerous, and say the development of a new generation of plants will slow the search for alternative energy sources.
France is the only European country that continued making new nuclear plants after the April 26, 1986, Chernobyl disaster.
It is also the most nuclear-dependent country in the world, with 59 reactors churning out nearly 80 percent of its electricity. About 30 of the aging reactors will be in need of replacement starting around 2020 _ when the new generation of reactors is slated to begin entering service.
Activists in Cherbourg observed 15 minutes of silence at the start of the march, organized by the group Sortir du Nucleaire. At other points, they lay down on the ground or burst into angry shouts.
Those present included anti-globalization activist Jose Bove, Green Party lawmaker Noel Mamere and two former environment ministers, Dominique Voynet and Corinne Lepage.