Nuclear waste shipment faces German protests

A shipment of nuclear waste crossed France for a storage site in Germany.

Dannemberg: Tens of thousands of people on Saturday demonstrated against a shipment of nuclear waste travelling to a storage site in northern Germany, and some tried to block railway tracks in a protest fuelled by a government move to extend the country`s use of atomic energy.

Demonstrators turned fields outside the town of Dannenberg into a sea of yellow-and-red flags with the slogan "Nuclear Power -- No, Thanks".

Police estimated the crowd at more than 20,000, while activists put the number at more than 40,000.

The waste crossed into Germany yesterday on its journey from a reprocessing plant in northwestern France. Dannenberg is where it is unloaded from train to trucks for the last leg of its trip to the storage facility at nearby Gorleben.

Activists maintain that neither the waste containers nor the Gorleben site, a temporary storage facility, are safe. The waste is stored in a warehouse near a disused salt mine that has been earmarked as a possible permanent storage site.

"What we need to say to (Chancellor) Angela Merkel is that this is a Chernobyl on wheels," Greenpeace executive director Kumi Naidoo told the protesters.

"People`s resistance in Gorleben sends a valuable message to the government of this and other countries," he said. "We will not bow down to a government acting in the interests of the nuclear industry and against the interests of their own citizens".

Naidoo said two Greenpeace activists had chained themselves to tracks near a French-German border crossing, a favourite tactic of protesters trying to block the shipments -- drawing cheers from the crowd.

The train crossed the border by another route, arriving in the German town of Kehl on Saturday afternoon. It still had a journey of several hundred miles (kilometres) ahead of it to get to Dannenberg, and police said a few hundred people were cleared off tracks further north.