Environmentalists Angry over French Nuclear Project
Backers of the project say it could one day provide the world with endless cheap energy. But critics said it would be years before any such results are found, if at all.
"At a time when it is universally recognised that we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, Greenpeace considers it ridiculous to use resources and billions of euros on this project," the group said in a statement.
France beat off a rival bid from Japan to host the 10 billion euro ($12.18 billion) experimental reactor at Cadarache in the south of France.
French President Jacques Chirac welcomed the news, saying it was a big success for France. He will visit the site on Thursday.
France has been a big producer of nuclear energy since the oil shocks of the 1970s and has 58 nuclear reactors, more than any country in the world except the United States.
Greenpeace was upset by French enthusiasm for the project.
"Why did France insist on following a harmful energy option, which is not likely to work in the short term, when other ecologically acceptable options already exist?" asked Frederic Marillier, who heads Greenpeace's nuclear campaign in France.
Greenpeace estimates that if the project yields any results at all, it will not be until the second half of this century.
Sortir du Nucleaire, a collection of 718 anti-nuclear groups, said the project was a "financial black hole" and described the technology as "useless".
The ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) project is backed by China, the European Union, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States.
It seeks to mimic the way the sun produces energy, potentially providing an inexhaustible source of low-cost energy using seawater as fuel.
Japan and France have wrangled for months over where the reactor should be built while other partners have clashed over funding, causing repeated delays in the project.