Published on November 10th, 2008 | by Timothy B. Hurst
Protests Turn Violent in Germany as Train Loaded with Nuclear Waste Rolls Through Countryside [Updated w/ Video]
Thousands of anti-nuclear campaigners have assembled along a train route in Germany to protest the annual convoy carrying tons of nuclear waste from France to a storage facility in northeastern Germany.
[social_buttons]In what is becoming an annual ritual of civil resistance and direct action in Germany, more than 15,000 anti-nuclear protesters turned out along the route to Gorleben on Sunday—twice the number at a similar protest at the site two years ago—in the largest and most violent anti-nuclear protest in Germany since 2001.
The train is carrying spent nuclear fuel that was originally used in German power stations, turned into pellets at a factory in France and then returned to Germany for long-term storage. The cargo consists of 17 tons of waste pellets encapsulated in 100 tons of insulating glass. It is the 11th trainload of waste to be taken from the retreatment facility in Normandy to the salt mines in Gorleben.
At the border between the two countries three German demonstrators blocked the train for more than 11 hours by chaining and cementing themselves to the track. Protesters also set barricades on railroad tracks on fire forcing police to use water cannons to extinguish them. As many as 16,000 police mobilized to protect the train throughout its three-day journey, which began in France on Friday. According to reports, several protesters and police were injured in the confrontation, but police gave no reports about the number of victims.
To the north, close to the waste facility, protesters defied a ban on demonstrations near the railway and invaded the line. Riot police used batons to disperse the crowd back into nearby woods.
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The robust anti-nuclear movement in Germany seeks the immediate closure of all nuclear power stations. Demonstration organizers were pleased with the turnout at Gorleben. Jochen Stay, spokesman for the anti-nuclear group x-tausendmal quer, called it the “rebirth of the anti-nuclear movement in Germany.”
Although the German government has officially begun phasing out its 17 nuclear power plants by 2020, Chancellor Angela Merkel has said the ambitious plan must be slowed if the country hopes to cut greenhouse gas emissions significantly.
The opposition Social Democrats have vowed to block any attempt to roll back the plans to phase-out nuclear power and will likely make the issue a centerpiece of their campaign in next year’s election.