Anti-nuclear protesters on Wednesday delayed the progress of a shipment of radioactive waste toward a dump in northern Germany, forcing the trainload of containers to a halt several times with small blockades along its route.
The train stopped for the fourth time since crossing into Germany as it neared the northern town of Lueneburg while police cleared away people who had blocked the tracks a few kilometers (miles) ahead. Police said 27 people were detained after they occupied tracks used by high-speed trains, forcing one train into an emergency stop.
Demonstrators block a road in Hitzacker near Dannenberg, northern Germany, Tuesday
Nov.12, 2002, to demonstrate against a shipment of 12 containers of atomic waste
that left the reprocessing plant at La Hague, France, Monday night. The train,
with about 300 police aboard, was expected to reach the French-German border Tuesday
afternoon. The shipment is the largest yet for dumping at Gorleben.(AP Photo/Frank
The waste shipment was stopped earlier for about two hours south of the city of Bremen by two protesters who chained themselves to the track and had to be cut free by police the same tactic two men used to hold up the train for an hour Tuesday night in the western city of Mannheim.
Before that, another group of about 12 protesters forced a 1 1/2-hour delay by occupying the tracks as others set fire to tires nearby.
The train of waste, weighing a total of 1,320 tons, left a reprocessing plant at La Hague in western France Monday. With 12 containers, it is the biggest shipment yet to the facility at Gorleben.
The French leg of 1,400-kilometer (870-mile) journey was largely incident-free, but hundreds of activists and local farmers have been protesting since the weekend in the region around the dump site at Gorleben, a focus of Germany's vocal anti-nuclear movement since the dump got the go-ahead from the local government in 1977.
The waste was due to arrive later Wednesday at a rail terminal in the town of Dannenberg, where the containers will be loaded on trucks for the 18-kilometer (12-mile) trip to an above-ground shed near Gorleben, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) southeast of Hamburg.
Authorities have sealed the terminal and banned demonstrations within 50 meters (yards) of either side of the final stretch of the route.
In the town of Hitzacker, just short of Dannenberg, about 200 people gathered at the railroad station, which was closed off by metal barricades topped with a coil of barbed wire, ahead of the train's arrival. A police helicopter hovered overhead.
Jochen Stay, a spokesman for protest organizers, said they would try to sit down on the rails when the train arrived, but "we don't want an escalation with the police we want to show clearly that we're peaceful."
The shipment is the first to the site since last November, when demonstrators defied some 17,500 police and staged sit-down protests along the route through Germany. An estimated 10,000-15,000 officers are in place for the latest transport.
Waste shipments to Gorleben resumed in March last year following a three-year break. The previous German government had suspended shipments after radioactive leakage was discovered in some containers.
Spent fuel from Germany's 19 nuclear power plants is sent to France and Britain for reprocessing under contracts that oblige Germany to take back the waste.
Last year, the government and power companies signed an agreement to phase out nuclear power within about 20 years. Activists hope that protesting waste shipments will push up the security bill and force a quicker shutdown.
©2002 The Associated Press