Monday, November 8, 2010

Vicious protests over nuclear waste train

PROTESTS against a train shipping nuclear waste from France to Germany erupted in violence today as police exerting batons charged activists trying to halt the cargo's progress. Around 1000 activists attacked police on the tracks near Dannenberg, the final end for the train before the waste is loaded onto trucks.

The police had added the activists appeared to be "members of the rebel scene, who threw flares and fired tear gas at police". The new clashes followed earlier arguments between police and protesters during which authorities deployed pepper spray, tear gas and water cannon to disperse about 250 anti-nuclear activists trying to damage the tracks.

During this clash, the activists handled temporarily to set fire to an armored police vehicle. The fire was rapidly extinguished and no officers were hurt, a police spokesman said. Christoph Kleine of the activist group Aktion Castor said the woods around the train tracks were "totally clouded with tear gas". Police helicopters were turning overhead.

The train carrying the nuclear waste, dubbed by activists "the most radioactive ever", is heading for Dannenberg, where the 123 tonnes of dissipate will be loaded onto trucks for the nearby storage facility of Gorleben in central Germany. Activists were doing everything in their power to slow the progress of the train, which environmental group Greenpeace has called to be halted immediately "in the interests of civic safety".

Police said activists were also rushing the railway in small groups and knocking out stones from under the track, making it impassable. "The police have repelled several attempts by small groups of protesters who were trying to block the route," a police spokeswoman told AFP. The head of one group of protesters called for calm while placing the culpability for the escalating violence squarely on authorities.

"We do not want a debate about aggression. We want a debate about nuclear power, yes or no," said Wolfgang Ehmke from the group Citizens' proposal Luechow-Dannenberg. After several delays, the train was running 10 hours late and a Greenpeace spokesman said its pace would likely slow further as it neared its end. Organisers said 50,000 people had turned out but police said the figure was closer to 20,000.

Around 16,000 police have been mobilized to deal with the objections in Germany.
The train is returning German nuclear waste for cargo space after it was treated in France by the Areva group but activists say the facility at Gorleben is not fit for storage. The last time the convoy took place, in 2008, the waste shipment was stopped for around 14 hours in the middle of a violent struggle between police and protesters.