Indymedia Lille, February 12, 2023
In December 2022, in solidarity with the hunger-striking prisoner Alfredo Cospito, we sabotaged an EHV pylon and partially removed its bolts (https://actforfree.noblogs.org/post/2022/12/27/france-grand-est-attack-against-nuclear-infrastructure-in-solidarity-with-alfredo-cospito/). The sabotage of a high voltage line is not without risk and, even if it is done without error, there is always some risk. However, we found this risk acceptable and the action entertaining. Since direct action is always an attempt to motivate and inspire other contexts, we had already announced our intention to give some technical advice:
Choice of target: When choosing the mast, make sure that the insulators (the ceramic coils to which the cables are attached) are vertical! A diagonal or horizontal position indicates a tensile load in the corresponding direction. Choose the most isolated location possible. Make sure that there are no people between the object and the nearest pylons (e.g. busy roads crossing the line). Choose your escape route so that it cannot be blocked by the falling line.
Risk assessment/mitigation: It happens occasionally (although rarely) that electricity pylons bend or fall, even without sabotage. This can happen, for example, due to storms, the weight of snow, or simply material fatigue or inadequate maintenance. The result is a risk of premature collapse of the mast. This risk increases with each screw loosened and exponentially with each foot completely unscrewed. It is up to you, as a group, to decide how far you want to go. In all cases, plan the action taking into account the possibility of the mast falling while you are still there. Both at the base of the mast and where the cables touch the ground, there is a potentially lethal amounts of electricity on the ground within a certain radius! Move away from the object as quickly as possible in the opposite direction of the fall. Ensure that your body remains in contact with the ground at all times (grounding), walking with small “shuffling” steps. Make sure that the weather conditions are favorable. Do not perform this action in strong wind, heavy rain or snowfall!
How to proceed: During the reconnaissance of the target, we noticed with some annoyance that the threads of each screw were destroyed by drillings (photo). An anti-sabotage measure of RTE, which we do not know if it applies to all EHV lines or only to this one. In retrospect, we can see that it is certainly more tiring, but that it is still possible. For the screws, we concentrated on the ones that connect the mast to its foundations (50 mm key). On the inside, a short handle of about 20-30 cm is enough, as it otherwise gets stuck in the structure of the foot. On the outside, you will need a strong tube extension to increase leverage. For ease of transport, it is recommended to use several tubes that fit into each other. For some screws, we needed up to 2 meters of leverage. Before the actual action, we sprayed the screws with penetrating oil (WD 40) and let it work for several hours. We repeated this process at the beginning of the unscrewing. The last few screws were significantly more difficult to remove, which we interpreted as a sign that the mast was already starting to sag. For this action, you will need at least 2 to 3 people. You can count on about 3 hours per foot (16 screws each). If you find a pole with undamaged bolts, it will probably go faster.
Traces: It is almost impossible to work for several hours in the same place without leaving many traces! Check regularly during the work if your body is still completely covered (e.g. between sleeve and glove). In any case, get rid of your clothes and shoes after the action. Keep your workplace clean and store your tools in such a way that you do not leave anything behind inadvertently, even if you have to stop the work before it is finished.
Alternatives: since our intervention, other actions of sabotage of high voltage lines have taken place in France. In Salindres (Gard), a pylon whose line feeds an ARKEMA chemical plant was sawn down on 21.12.2022 (https://actforfree.noblogs.org/post/2023/01/02/salindres-gardfrance-sabotage-of-an-electric-pylon-which-supplies-the-chemical-center-of-arkema/) and in Vitrolles (Bouches du Rhône), a few days later, two fires under an EHV line caused power cuts at the Marseille-Provence airport and at AIRBUS Helicopters (https://actforfree.noblogs.org/post/2023/01/01/vitrolles-bouches-du-rhonefrance-the-sabotage-of-high-voltage-lines-cuts-power-to-the-airport-of-marseille-and-airbus/).
“These arsonists have also put an end to the rumor that a burning electric pole is beautiful, but it does not cut off the electricity!” reads a summary published on nantes.indymedia (https://nantes.indymedia.org/posts/81876/et-tombent-tombent-les-pylones/) of the action, for which there is no communique to our knowledge. We would like to dwell on it a bit: in our view, there are basically two different methods to effectively sabotage an EHV line by fire. The first is to attack the mast itself by fire. For this, the metal structure must be heated to more than 1200° C for a certain time. A normal fire is not enough! In order to damage the steel in its substance, it must be brought to incandescence, as is the case when forging with charcoal and a huge supply of oxygen. Once heated in this way, the stability of the steel remains compromised even after it cools. This is what happened, for example, during a very-high-voltage sabotage in the southern Meuse region in 2017. To liquefy the metal and thus make the pylon collapse, a temperature of about 5000° C is required, as would be the case for example with the use of thermite. The other method, which was probably used in the present case, is to generate an extremely high flame, which goes from the ground to the cables. The fire has the property of conducting electricity and can thus cause a short circuit. This results in an immediate power failure, but the damage to the structure is relatively small.
We were particularly pleased with the detailed description of the action in Salindres (Gard), attached to the communique. Although this method has been used successfully hundreds of times since the 1970s, we opted for another method for safety reasons. In other words, we simply did not dare to pull down the mast! We are fully aware that the communique we issued early on increases the risk that the damage will be discovered and repaired in time by RTE. However, the priority of our intervention was – in this case – to support the struggle of our comrade Alfredo, which required public communication.
Pylon Disconnection Service of all kinds.
Translation : actoforfreedom
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