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Germany

Nuclear waste transport rumbles on with minor delays

The train carrying nuclear waste from southern France is making its way to a storage facility in Lubmin in northern Germany. Despite threats from anti-nuclear protesters, there have only been minor delays.

A peaceful demonstration in Erfurt

A few hundred protesters braved the cold

The nuclear-waste transport from a research center in southern France is heading towards a storage facility in Lubmin in northern Germany with only minor hold-ups.

Unlike previous trains carrying nuclear waste, the transport has had a relatively easy journey through France and western Germany, although it was interrupted briefly by anti-nuclear demonstrators. The shipment is scheduled to arrive at its destination on Thursday.

The train is carrying four containers with around 2,500 spent fuel rods, that are originally from a research facility in the southwestern German city of Karlsruhe that went offline in 1991, and the research vessel Otto Hahn, which hasn't been used since 1979.

Potential for disruption

The last few kilometers could be the most challenging for the transport, as protesters gathered outside Lubmin on Thursday morning, prepared to stage sit-in protests on the tracks.

Greenpeace activists managed to unfurl a banner reading "stop transports to Lubmin" from a bridge over the rail track near the train's final destination.

Around 200 demonstrators camped for a few hours overnight at three sites outside Lubmin, with activists planning to move towards the railway tracks in the course of the morning.

The train began its journey on Tuesday evening in the southern French region of Aix-en-Provence.

Police searching the tracks

Police searched the tracks before the train passed

The transport has made a number of scheduled stops, to allow for staff changes. Shortly before midnight on Wednesday the train was held up by anti-nuclear demonstrators near the town of Erfurt, but only for a couple of minutes. Around 20 protesters had managed to get close to the tracks.

In the early hours of the morning the train was held up again, apparently because of a technical problem.

Easier than Gorleben

So far this latest transport of nuclear waste has met with noticeably less resistance than a similar shipment five weeks ago, which was travelling from France to another storage facility near the northern German town of Gorleben.

That transport was met with massive protests, with tens of thousands of nuclear-energy opponents physically preventing the passage of the train. Around 20,000 police officers were deployed in the operation, and that train was delayed by around 24 hours.

Police believe that the freezing December temperatures and heavy snowfall across much of Germany have kept protesters away this time round. A few dozen detemined protesters have tried to disrupt the passage, but the scale of the demonstrations have been much smaller than five weeks ago.

Author: Joanna Impey (AP, dpa)
Editor: Chuck Penfold

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