German anti-nuclear protesters gear up for waste shipment

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The Independent Online

Major protests are expected in Germany as six containers of radioactive waste are due to leave from near a French nuclear fuel reprocessing plant by rail today and travel northeast across Germany to the Gorleben storage site.

Major protests are expected in Germany as six containers of radioactive waste are due to leave from near a French nuclear fuel reprocessing plant by rail today and travel northeast across Germany to the Gorleben storage site.

On Sunday Farmers staged a tractor convoy as German opponents of nuclear power geared up to protest at the transportation.

Two leaders of the Greens - a party rooted in Germany's anti-nuclear movement but now in the government that approved the transport - accompanied about 300 chugging tractors, which pulled trailers with some 1,000 protesters .

At least 15,000 police are on duty to prevent militant protesters gathered in the area from blockading the transport. The last transport in 1997 led to major clashes.

German federal security officials expect the militant potential among the protesters to be about as high as during the last transport four years ago, the Welt am Sonntag newspaper reported Sunday, quoting an internal report.

About 10,000 anti-nuclear activists rallied Saturday at Lueneburg, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of Gorleben. They chanted slogans against Environment Minister Juergen Trittin, a Green, for approving the transport and called for blockades to stop it.

Taking aim at one of the Greens' proudest achievements, protest leaders accused the government of bowing to German utilities in an accord that calls for a phaseout of nuclear power - but over decades, not years.

After the rally, many protesters headed to a camp near Gorleben set up as a base for further demonstrations.

Spent nuclear fuel from German power plants is sent abroad for reprocessing, but the contracts oblige Germany to take back resulting radioactive waste.

Transports were suspended by the previous government in 1998 after radioactive leaks were discovered on some containers, causing a pileup of spent nuclear fuel at German power plants and of waste at the French reprocessing plant in La Hague.

German and French leaders agreed on a resumption last January, with the German government saying it has tightened safety rules for the transports.

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