Controversial nuclear shipment on way to France

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The Independent Online

A disputed shipment of spent nuclear fuel from west German power plants for reprocessing in France got under way early today, with protesters threatening to disrupt the transport.

A disputed shipment of spent nuclear fuel from west German power plants for reprocessing in France got under way early today, with protesters threatening to disrupt the transport.

A container of waste left the Grafenrheinfeld plant, in the state of Bavaria, and was taken to nearby Gochsheim to be loaded onto a train, officials at the power station said. A local anti–nuclear group said up to 200 people gathered at Gochsheim to protest the shipment.

Waste containers were also expected to leave two other power plants – at Philippsburg and Biblis – today.

The trains were to be coupled together at Woerth, on Germany's border with France, and will continue to the reprocessing plant at La Hague in western France.

Ahead of the shipment, protesters threatened a repeat of massive demonstrations last month at the return of reprocessed waste from France to the Gorleben dump in northern Germany – the traditional focus of anti–nuclear protests.

That transport was delayed 18 hours by protesters who defied a huge police operation to attach themselves to the track using an elaborate system of pipes and chains. Police had to clear many more from sit–down protests.

Last night, 13 activists from environmentalist group Greenpeace were arrested after they occupied a wagon due to carry the waste in a rail siding near the southern town of Wuerzburg.

Greenpeace said another 15 people early today occupied a bridge near the town of Schweinfurt, under which the train from Grafenrheinfeld is due to travel.

Three years ago, the transports between France and Germany were halted after high levels of radiation were found to be leaking from the trains.

Protesters say the shipments are still unsafe and want Germany's nuclear plants shut down quickly. The government last year struck a deal to scrap the country's 19 nuclear plants, though the shutdown could still take well over 20 years to complete.

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