Anti-nuclear protesters damaged a German rail track early Thursday as police detained 24 who occupied stations overnight in attempts to hinder the passage of a train carrying nuclear waste.

The train, which left a waste treatment site in France on Tuesday night, reached the eastern German state of Mecklenburg West Pomerania, where the fiercest protests were expected during the daytime on Thursday as it approached its destination on the Baltic coast.

Between the coastal cities of Rostock and Stralsund, a 10-centimetre-thick layer of ballast stone was pulled away from underneath the rails on a 30-metre stretch of track overnight, police spokesman Axel Falkenberg said.

Railway police officers fixed the damage before dawn and passenger services on the line resumed. The track was likely to be used by the heavily secured freight train carrying the waste later in the day.

A big police force has been deployed to protect tracks against sabotage and attempts to block them with sit-ins.

The used fuel from German research reactors has been treated in France and is being sent to a storage site in remote woods at Lubmin on the coast.

Police detained 24 protesters in the city of Magdeburg during the night, including 19 who sat down on a track an hour before the train arrived and had to be carried off. Police said there had been no unplanned hold-ups in the train’s progress.

Last month there were large-scale demonstrations near a waste depot at Gorleben, near Hamburg, when a trainload of spent fuel rods arrived.

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