Nuclear train reaches destination, leaving Greens in need of scapegoat

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After three days of riots and disruption, the latest batch of Germany's nuclear waste reached its destination yesterday morning at a delivery cost estimated at £41m.

After three days of riots and disruption, the latest batch of Germany's nuclear waste reached its destination yesterday morning at a delivery cost estimated at £41m.

Resistance was thin on the ground as the flat-bottomed trucks carrying the six radioactive casks left the railway terminus of Dannenberg and sped towards the storage site of Gorleben. At most, 1,000 environmentalists watched the lorries pass. Scuffles broke out near Gorleben, but by that time the reprocessed nuclear waste was safely inside the depot. Demonstrators, and especially the hard core bent on mayhem, had evidently spent their energies battling with police during the two previous nights.

Hundreds of protesters have been arrested since Monday, when the train carrying 60 tons of reprocessed waste set off from northern France. More than 40 people, half of them police, were injured. Four protesters, in the most spectacular action to date, held up the train for most of Wednesday by embedding themselves in concrete among the sleepers.

The cost of the security operation, involving 20,000 police in the region and thousands more along the train's route, will be borne by the German taxpayer. This, with the pictures of violent confrontation on the nation's television screens, will deal a further blow to the nuclear industry.

But the biggest losers of the past four days were not the nuclear lobby but their erstwhile adversaries, the Greens. Their journey to the corridors of power had been fuelled by anti-nuclear passions. Prominent in previous protests against the nuclear train, this time most of their leaders were conspicuous by their absence.

They were busy yesterday supporting the Environment Minister, Jürgen Trittin, in a no- confidence debate at parliament. The opposition Christian Democrats had lodged that motion because Mr Trittin had likened one of their leaders to a skinhead.

The attempt was defeated, but the beleaguered minister's days are still numbered. After a series of electoral disasters, the Greens need a scapegoat, and the loose-tongued Mr Trittin fits the bill.

But his departure will not alter the glaring failure of the Greens, when they were in power, to prevent another Gorleben fiasco.

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