German nuclear opponents block waste storage compound

from 11. September 2005

Pictures of the blockade

Between 150 and 200 opponents of nuclear energy have blocked the entrance gate of a compound in rural northern Germany where the nation's highly radioactive waste is stored. Police in nearby Lüchow say the protesters erected a wall of oil drums at the compound in Gorleben, 150 kilometres northeast of Hanover, in the morning.

The demonstrators demand an end to the production of nuclear waste. The local resistance group, Bürgerinitiative Lüchow-Dannenberg (BI), says they' re settling in for a longer blockade.

The Robin Wood environment activist group says four of its members climbed over a fence into the grounds. Police say three people got into the grounds but were caught and sent back out. Police say they have 100 officers deployed to the protest. They say initially things were peaceful, but then two officers were hurt when demonstrators ran them down. They'd been ordered to move away from the compound. A police spokesman called the situation "tense".

A spokesman for the protesters said the aim is to point to the still unsolved problem of disposing of nuclear waste. Jochen Stay of the "x-tausendmal quer" group pointed out that the highly radioactive waste was stored above the ground in Gorleben and no one knew how long the caskets holding it would stay sealed.

The light-construction hall in the Gorleben compound has room for 420 so-called Castor caskets. It contains 56 now. Twelve more are to be delivered in November.

The BI says the proposed final storage in an underground salt dome nearby, which has been experimentally mined for the purpose, is unsuitable for safely holding the radiating waste for thousands of years. The opponents also want Gorleben ruled out as final storage repository because the salt is leaky and in contact with ground water.

The nuclear opponents have hung banners outside the compound saying, "The half-life of plutonium is 24,000 years, a Castor lasts for 40 years. Parents are liable for their children."

The demonstrators say with only days to go to a national election on 18 September, they want to send a strong signal to whatever government results from it that "resistance against irresponsible nuclear waste production will continue stronger than ever".

The compound contains a storage hall for weakly radioactive waste, next to the air-cooled big Castor hall and also a pilot conditioning plant that has not been used. The opponents say it's to serve as a Castor repair shop and waste packaging plant. It has a high chimney able to discharge radioactive emissions into the environment.

The opponents point out that the hot Castors are cooled by unfiltered air ventilation. If a Castor were to leak, the environment would be contaminated immediately. They say it's unclear what's to happen with the waste after 40 years of storage because there is no safe final repository anywhere in the world.

The BI says the next steps in the protest will be a nationwide demonstration against nuclear power and for renewable energy sources on 5 November in Lüneburg, the actions against the next Castor delivery by train and truck from France to Gorleben in mid-November and resistance against further work on the Gorleben salt mine.

Other recent reporting on German nuclear affairs:

- The German nuclear safety ministry says there's not enough cover over the Gorleben salt dome to keep it safe as a waste dump for a million years, but the opposition conservatives are determined to use it, anyway, if they win power on 18 September.

- Should Germans pitch out their Social Democrat-Greens government because they think the Conservatives will put more money back into their purses, they'll be getting a nuclear industry boost into the bargain.

- Bild Geologists have explained the condition of the Gorleben salt deposit at a media conference and podium discussion.

(Contact at Bürgerinitiative Lüchow-Dannenberg: Francis Althoff 0170 939 4684.)

(Translated by Diet Simon)

Bearbeitet am: 11.09.2005/ad

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