PARIS, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Greenpeace France anti-nuclear activists have been given prison sentences for breaking into a nuclear plant last year, during a protest to highlight the plant's vulnerability to attack.
Late on Tuesday, a court in northern France fined Greenpeace 20,000 euros ($24,440) for breaking into the Cattenom nuclear plant in October and ordered it to pay 50,000 euros in damages to the plant's operator, state-owned utility EDF. EDF had asked for compensation of 700,000 euros.
Nine Greenpeace activists were sentenced in connection with the case.
Seven received five-month suspended jail terms. Two who had taken part in similar protests before were sentenced to two months in jail, although in France such short terms are usually converted into work in the community.
Greenpeace said it would appeal against the fine, damages and sentences, saying it was the first time that its members had been convicted to firm jail terms in France.
No date has been set for the appeal hearing, but appeals often take a year or more.
In October, Greenpeace activists broke through two security barriers and launched fireworks over EDF's Cattenom nuclear plant to highlight the vulnerability of French nuclear plants' spent-fuel pools to outside attacks.
EDF said it had asked for damages under the 2015 Ganay law set up to protect nuclear plants against intruders.
"EDF wanted to hit our budget in order to block future actions. This will not stop us from denouncing the security risks of its nuclear plants," Greenpeace's Cyrille Cormier said.
On May 17, Greenpeace will appear in a second court case in Privas, southern France, for a similar intrusion in the Cruas nuclear plant in November. ($1 = 0.8183 euros) (Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Alison Williams)