Riot police seize protesters blocking shipment of French nuclear waste

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The Independent Online

Riot police equipped with water cannons and tear gas removed hundreds of protesters attempting to block the delivery of atomic waste from France to a storage depot near the north German town of Gorleben yesterday.

Police said they had arrested 26 protesters and confiscated 79 farmers' tractors that formed a barricade along the route, delaying delivery of the waste by several hours. Protest groups said a number of activists had been injured.

Further blockades were expected last night as the waste was transferred from a 12-wagon train on to a truck that was due to take it the remaining 12 miles to a storage depot in a disused salt mine.

More than 3,000 people protested against the waste delivery at a rally in the region on Saturday. Anti-nuclear activists also staged a series of sit-down blockades on the rail track as the waste transport approached its destination on Sunday. A 15,000-strong force of riot police was deployed to guard the delivery.

The Gorleben waste depot has been the focus of anti-nuclear protests for over a decade. Last year, a French activist was run over and killed after he chained himself to a railway line at Nancy in eastern France in an attempt to stop a nuclear transport.

Environmentalists fear the storage facility will become permanent and contaminate the local water supply. But the German government has refused to shut down the site, despite its long-term commitment to end nuclear power.

The waste is produced in Germany but sent to the French nuclear facility at La Hague in Normandy for reprocessing. France insists that the waste return to its country of origin.

Anti-nuclear activists said yesterday they feared Germany's new grand-coalition government, headed by Angela Merkel, would renege on the previous Social Democrat-Green administration's plans to end nuclear power.

Ms Merkel is due to be sworn in as Germany's first female chancellor during a special session of parliament today.