A shipment of nuclear waste from France made it to a storage facility in northwestern Germany on Tuesday, after police worked through the night to clear a road blockade by more—than 3,000 protesters.
The German nuclear waste reprocessed in France set off by train on Friday from Valognes and reached its destination 92 hours later as the trucks drove it the final 12—miles (20 kilometers) of its 930—mile (1,500 kilometer) journey to Gorleben.
It was the longest the regular transport has ever taken, following a 79-hour trip in 2008.
The protests by anti—nuclear movement was galvanized after German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government extend the life of the country’s 17 atomic power plants by an average of 12 years.
“Whomever extends the time for atomic power plants, must also count on an extended time for atomic waste transports,” said Wolfgang Ehmke, a spokesman for protest organizers.
Human shields across the route
All along the way protesters tried to hinder the transport, rappelling off bridges over the train tracks, undermining roads to make them impassable, and forming human shields across the route.
A shepherdess even herded her flock of 500 sheep and some 60 goats across the road between Dannenberg, where the train was offloaded onto the trucks , and Gorleben on Monday in a bid to slow the transport down.
In one of the largest scuffles, riot police on Sunday tried to stop up to 4,000 protesters making their way through the woods onto the tracks near Dannenberg ahead of the nuclear waste train. Police used water cannons and pepper spray and wrestled with activists to break up the protest, but some still reached the rail line.
Nuclear energy has been unpopular
Nuclear energy has been unpopular since fallout from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine drifted over Germany.
On Saturday, at least 25,000 people, organizers gave the figure as more than 50,000, demonstrated peacefully outside Dannenberg, the biggest protest ever against the shipments.
Activists say neither the waste containers nor the Gorleben site, a temporary storage facility, are safe.
Protests against the regular waste shipments faded somewhat after a previous government embarked a decade ago on plans to phase nuclear power out entirely by 2021, but this year Merkel’s government decided to extend the life of the nuclear plants. Parliament approved the plan last month.
Germany has no plans to build any new nuclear plants, but Ms. Merkel has argued atomic power is needed as a “bridging technology” to keep energy cheap and available as the country transitions to more reliance on renewable sources.
Germany receives waste shipments roughly every year under an agreement that sees spent fuel sent to France for reprocessing and returned for storage. Safety measures for the shipment involved sealing the solid nuclear waste in glass that is in turn encased in 16—inch (40—centimeter) —thick steel containers.
Decisions such as keeping nuclear plants running “may be unpopular at the moment, but they will pay off,” Ms. Merkel was quoted as telling Focus weekly. “They are necessary for us also in future to be a successful economic centre.”