Police clear protesters, allowing nuclear waste train to reach France
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) – A train carrying spent nuclear fuel from German power plants crossed the border to France Tuesday after police cut free protesters who had chained themselves to the rails close to the frontier.
Police said the train was held up for an hour after a man and a woman evaded police posted along the route to attach themselves to the track near the town of Hagenbach.
The train, carrying five containers of radioactive waste, had set off from the nearby station at Woerth, where it was assembled from wagons arriving from three German nuclear power plants further west. It was bound for a reprocessing plant in the French port of La Hague.
The hold up was a brief, last-ditch success for German anti-nuclear activists, who last month staged massive demonstrations and caused more serious delays to a shipment of reprocessed waste returning from France to a storage site in northern Germany.
Earlier Tuesday, some 2,000 officers ringed a nuclear plant at Philippsburg in Baden-Wuerttemberg state to protect against activists trying to reach the tracks to block the shipment, police said. Hundreds were arrested, police said.
Police also removed Greenpeace activists who had chained themselves to a rail wagon due to carry waste from the Grafenrheinfeld plant in Bavaria and on Tuesday occupied a bridge along its route. At least 15 activists were arrested.
The German government ”knows perfectly well that reprocessing in France is systematically contaminating the environment,” complained Veit Buerger, a spokesman for Greenpeace.
Further north, police said they also intercepted a handful of protesters near the Biblis plant in an attempt to prevent a repeat of the delays last month to a shipment to the Gorleben dump in Lower Saxony state, the traditional focus of anti-nuclear protests.
That transport was slowed by at least 18 hours after four activists attached themselves to the track using an elaborate system of pipes and chains. Police cleared hundreds more from sit-down protests.
Germany sends spent nuclear fuel from its power plants to France for reprocessing under contracts that oblige it to take back the resultant waste. The transports were halted three years ago after radiation was found to be leaking from the containers.
The government last year struck a deal to scrap the country’s 19 nuclear plants, though the shutdown could still take over 20 years to complete.
Protesters say the shipments are still unsafe and want Germany’s nuclear plants shut down quickly. They aimed to make the transports so expensive that the government and power companies will be forced to halt them.
Police presence to protect Tuesday’s transport was costing the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg $917,000, the state interior ministry said. Sit-down protests were banned, with police warning that offenders forcibly removed would be fined a ”carry-away fee.”
In Paris, French Greens party spokeswoman Maryse Arditi called for the shipment to be halted, saying that the intended route through the outskirts of Paris in the middle of the night – could pose ”extremely grave” risks.
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