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Despite Hefty Protest, Nuclear Waste Train on Home Stretch

A train carrying spent radioactive fuel to a long-term storage site in Gorleben near Hamburg is set to embark on the last leg of its journey, after riot police clashed with hundreds of protesters on the weekend.

Police forces remove nuclear protestors from the tracks near Tollendorf, northern Germany

Police forces had to remove nuclear protestors from the tracks

A shipment of spent radioactive fuel was prepared for the last stage of its trip to a long-term storage site in Gorleben as thousands of police protected the train against protestors.

The train carrying the waste from France arrived at Dannenberg terminal in Lower Saxony early Monday, Nov. 10, at 1:15 am CET with a 14-hour delay after protests tried several times to halt the transport, police said.

As during 10 previous shipments of waste to long-term storage in the small town south of Hamburg, protesters aimed to obstruct the freight train.

At Dannenberg, the 11 containers carrying the waste will be transferred to trucks which are to take them the final 20 kilometers (12 miles) to Gorleben.

Clashes with police

Riot police had clashed with 700 protesters Sunday in the North of Germany as the anti-nuclear movement tried to disrupt the train's journey.

Elsewhere, wiring and signal gear along German railway lines were set on fire. Though most of the attacks were anonymous, police said it was likely the sabotage was the work of anti-nuclear militants.

By early Sunday afternoon, the train, loaded with 17 tons of waste pellets encapsulated in 100 tons of insulating glass, had reached Goettingen in central Germany.

To the north, at Hitzacker, close to the waste warehouse, protesters defied a ban on demonstrations near the railway and invaded the line. Some tried to damage it, a police spokesman said.

Riot police using batons dispersed the crowd back into nearby woods. Protesters set fire to bales of straw on the rails, which were extinguished by police water-cannon.

A Lower Saxony state police spokesman said police had used force, as the protesters had used force.

Arson attacks blamed on extremists

Three deliberate fires on Saturday knocked out high-speed rail links between the capital Berlin and Hamburg.

Federal police said Sunday an anti-nuclear leaflet had been left at the scene of another fire the previous day, near Wiesbaden. At Kassel, central Germany, track wiring was destroyed in a fire Sunday, halting many passenger trains.

Nuclear protestors lie on a street to block the entrance of the nuclear depot at Gorleben

Protestors braved terrible weather to make their point

Protesters said that with 15,000 demonstrators waiting in cold and rain near Gorleben for the train, their anti-nuclear movement had surged up to a level of support not seen since 2001.

At Gorleben many tons of radioactive waste have been accumulated from German power stations after being sealed into glass pellets at a factory in France. Berlin plans to dump the waste long-term in an old salt-mine.

The anti-nuclear movement seeks the immediate closure of all nuclear power stations and has been upset at debate in Germany about extending the stations' operation in order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming.

The issue has intensified in Germany after revelations that another salt-mine dump, near Wolfenbuettel, has developed leaks and cracks.

On Saturday, the freight train was delayed for about 12 hours by three militants who chained themselves to a lump of concrete under a track near the French border.

Police had to carefully dismantle the concrete to detach the trio, delaying the entire transport operation.

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