Anti-nuclear protestors repeatedly halted a controversial shipment of highly radioactive nuclear waste from France Monday bound for a temporary storage facility in northern Germany.
Around 150 activists blocked the tracks in Harlingen
The activists said the train with 12 containers carrying more than 170 tons of treated nuclear power plant waste was stopped in the city of Göttingen for about 30 minutes and then later in the village of Bienenbüttel en route to the Gorleben site.
Eighteen demonstrators were briefly detained in Göttingen. Police also cleared a blockade of 160 tractors near the town of Klein Gusborn on the last leg of the 600-kilometer (370-mile) odyssey, where more than 600 people joined the protest following demonstrations throughout the weekend.
In the town of Harlingen, police removed 150 activists performing a sit-in on the tracks and detained 23. Authorities had to forcibly clear the blockade, with more than 70 of the tractors seized and taken to a nearby field. Some 15,000 officers had been mobilized on the German side to secure the passage of the train.
The coalition of activists argues that the shipments are dangerous and that their lengthy storage could allow radioactive material to seep into the water supply in the region.
"The radioactivity of these 12 containers is two and a half times higher than that of Chernobyl," said Thomas Breuer, a nuclear expert with environmental watchdog Greenpeace.
Nuclear phase-out i n da n ger?
Merkel wants to extend the deadline for nuclear phase-out
The demonstrators are also trying to put pressure on Angela Merkel's incoming left-right government to maintain the previous administration's two-decade timetable for phasing out all the country's nuclear power plants and find another permanent dump for the nuclear waste.
The train left the La Hague treatment center in western France Saturday and arrived around midday in the town of Dannenberg, traditionally a hotbed of anti-nuclear protests. The waste containers will be loaded onto trucks there and finish the final 20-kilometer (12-mile) stretch of the journey. The shipment, the ninth since 1996, is due Tuesday morning in Gorleben, where there are already 56 containers of radioactive waste stored.
The transports were interrupted in 1998 following a scandal over radioactive contamination on the surface of the containers. They resumed in 2001.
Workers check the train carrying 12 containers of nuclear waste to Germany
During the last such shipment to Germany in November 2004, a French anti-nuclear activist was killed when he was run over by a train in the eastern French city of Nancy.
The nuclear waste is produced in power plants in Germany, but sent to France because the country has no waste re-processing plants. France insists that the waste be returned to the countries that produced it.