Anti-nuclear protesters use tractors to block route of waste shipment

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The Independent Online

Anti-nuclear protesters have blocked the route to be taken by a shipment of atomic waste travelling to a long-disputed dump in northern Germany.

Anti-nuclear protesters have blocked the route to be taken by a shipment of atomic waste travelling to a long-disputed dump in northern Germany.

Decked with banners such as "Chernobyl on tour", about 60 tractors blocked the main street in the town of Dannenberg, the site of a rail terminal from which the waste containers will be moved by road to the dump at Gorleben, long a focus of Germany's anti-nuclear movement. About 150 more tractors were used in a series of blockades in other parts of the region.

Authorities imposed restrictions on low-flying aircraft over the last stretch of the route, but police said that the measure was routine and not linked to any fears of terrorism. Thousands of officers were on duty last night to help to protect the trainload of waste on its journey from a reprocessing plant at La Hague, Normandy, which was expected to start by mid-evening.

About 400 protesters carrying placards with the names of nearby villages broke through police lines near Dannenberg and stormed across open fields, hoping to reach a road where the shipment is expected to pass. Police using horses and dogs pushed them back and a small group was dragged away from the road.

Jana Teltemann, a 21-year-old student, said: "It's cat-and-mouse with the police." A court has banned gatherings within 50 metres of the route.

German power firms and the government agreed this year to phase out nuclear power. But the shutdown will take 20 years – too slow for anti-nuclear activists. Germany sends spent nuclear fuel to France for reprocessing under contracts that oblige it to take back the waste – shipments that the protesters say are unsafe.

Ursula Nass, a 60-year-old Dannenberg resident at a peaceful protest yesterday in the village of Splietau, said: "We can't stop the shipments, but if nobody goes on to the streets things would just get worse. It's a global problem."

Authorities are keen to prevent a repeat of protests that disrupted the last waste transport to Gorleben in March, which environmentalists delayed for 16 hours by chaining themselves to the tracks.

Although there has been relatively little trouble so far, police have warned that some activists are becoming more radical and could make the shipment a focus of their protest against the war in Afghanistan.

To rally support, protest groups have seized on the 11 September terror attacks as more evidence of the danger posed by nuclear power and the resulting waste shipments.

German authorities acknowledge that nuclear installations would not withstand the kind of attack that felled the World Trade Centre but insist that there is no reason to call off the shipment. (AP)

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