Nuclear waste shipment reaches German storage site

November 8, 2010

Matthew Weaver and agencies,

A train load of nuclear waste, nicknamed “Chernobyl on wheels” arrived today at a railway depot in northern Germany after a three-day trip from France marred by repeated clashes between police and protesters trying to halt the delivery.

The train carrying 123 tonnes of radioactive waste arrived in the town of Dannenberg where it will be loaded onto trucks for the final 12-mile leg to a storage site at Gorleben. The loading is expected to last most of the day.

The train completed the latest leg of its journey after around 3,000 protesters were removed from the tracks.

Police say protesters still block the road to Gorleben. The activists, supported by Greenpeace and Sortir du Nucléaire, a network of 875 anti-nuclear groups, say neither the waste containers nor the Gorleben site, a temporary storage facility, are safe.

Yesterday, riot police used water cannons and pepper spray to try to stop up to 4,000 protesters making their way through the woods onto the tracks near Dannenberg. Most managed to break through police lines and some then chained themselves to the rails and tried to damage the tracks by removing gravel.

There were further violent clashes as police tried to clear the protests. Some activists used flare guns and a chemical spray against the police. About a dozen protesters were injured.

TV footage showed a large group of demonstrators sitting on the track near the village of Harlingen. The train’s progress was repeatedly halted as protesters were cleared. By 7am today, all 3,000 protesters had been removed from the track, the police said.

Wolfgang Ehmke, a spokesman for the protesters, said the blockades aimed “to delay the arrival of the shipment and at the same time mess up the timetable for the [government’s] nuclear policy”. He called on both sides to refrain from violence.

Around 50 to 60 tractors also blocked the main road between Dannenberg and Gorleben but were cleared by police.

The protests are the biggest anti-nuclear demonstrations for years and symbolise growing anger in Germany at Chancellor Angela Merkel‘sdecision to extend the life of Germany’s 17 atomic power plants by an average of 12 years.

Merkel says the move is necessary to keep energy cheap and readily available.

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