Nuclear Waste Enters Germany, Sparking Protests

Posted November 25th, 2011 at 3:05 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

German police fired water cannons on anti-nuclear protesters Friday in Germany as a train carrying nuclear waste made its way closer to a controversial storage site.

Protesters blocked the road with large tree branches and lit flares on the road near the railroad track. Police in riot gear followed in an armored personnel carrier clearing the branches from the road to stop the protests from holding up a French train carrying 11 containers of reprocessed nuclear waste.

Germany has deployed 19,000 police officers to secure the shipment in the country.

French authorities had stopped the train Thursday before it reached the German border, in hopes of avoiding protests over the radioactive material headed for storage in the northeastern German city of Gorleben.

Protesters have maintained that the waste transports could endanger the environment and population if there were to be an accident en route.

The protests come as French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Friday that cutting France's dependence on nuclear energy would destroy jobs and run up energy prices. France relies on nuclear power for more than 75 percent of its energy.

Anti-nuclear protests first broke out Wednesday in Valognes, France as the train was late leaving the Areva nuclear reprocessing facility near Normandy. Police fired tear gas and used batons to keep protestors from occupying the tracks.

The train was halted Thursday about 50 kilometers from the German border at Remilly, in what French Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet called a “planned” stop.

This is expected to be the final transfer of reprocessed nuclear waste from France into Germany, which has voted against transporting more of the radioactive fuel into the country. In the wake of the nuclear disaster at Japan's Fukushima power plant, German Chancellor Angela Merkel promised to shut down all of the country's nuclear reactors by 2022.