Berlin: Germany is bracing itself for the biggest anti-nuclear demonstrations for decades, just as the Parliament has endorsed a controversial legislation to extend the life of the country`s nuclear reactors on an average by another 12 years.
The demonstrations planned for the weekend are against the transportation of 123 tonnes of highly radioactive nuclear waste from the French nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in La Hague to Germany`s temporary storage site for radioactive wastes in Gorleben, in the state of Lower Saxony.
But the anti-nuclear activists are also determined to use the occasion to vent their anger over the centre-right coalition government`s decision to reverse a time plan set by a former government to phase out Germany`s all 17 nuclear reactors latest by 2020.
Even though the transportation of radioactive wastes from La Hague to Gorleben is not new, and every time a few hundred hard core activists staged protest actions to block the transport of special containers carrying the wastes, thousands of anti-atom opponents from all over the country are expected to take part in this weekend`s protests.
A special train carrying 11 containers of radio active wastes of spent fuel from Germany`s reactors, left Valgnes, in northern France on Friday afternoon.
The exact route of the special train has been kept a secret to prevent demonstrators from staging blockades and other protest actions along the 1,000-KM route.
Police expects several thousand demonstrators to take part in protect actions at Dannenburg, in Lower Saxony, where the containers will be loaded on trucks for the final lap of their journey to Gorleben.
Anti-nuclear campaigners have been blaming the government for dividing the nation by reviving an issue, which has been long settled.
Recent opinion polls showed that more than 60 percent of the German public are against extending the life of the reactors. The government`s legislation crossed its last parliamentary hurdle yesterday when the Bundesrat cleared it without a debate.
The upper house decided that the bill did not require a debate in the house, rejecting a request from the opposition for a vote on the bill. The opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the ecological "Green Party" charged that the government was rushing the bill through parliament bypassing the Bundesrat, because it has no majority in the house.
They said they would take this issue to the country`s highest court if German President Christian Wulff signs the bill into law.
Extending the life of the nuclear reactors is at the centre of the government`s new energy concept. Under the plan, seven of the country`s older reactors, which have been generating electricity since 1975, will continue to operate for eight more years, while the remaining reactors will be phased out after 14 years.
It is estimated that some of the reactors will remain in operation until mid-1930s.
Four major power companies operating the reactors have committed to pay up to EUR 16.9 billion into a special fund for developing renewable energy in return for extending the life of the reactors.
They will also have to pay a nuclear fuel tax, which is expected bring an annual revenue EUR 2.3 billion over a period of six years.