The train, transporting 123 tons of waste, left France on Friday. Spent nuclear fuel from Germany is sent to France each year to be reprocessed, and is then returned reprocessed to be stored at the Gorblen site, about 155 kilometers northeast of Hanover. The site is a lighting rod for nuclear protests.
Protesters ranged from local residents, environmentalist form nongovernmental organisations, as well as members of the European Parliament, and representatives of green and left leaning political parties.
It is the 11th such trainload of waste to be taken from the retreatment plant at La Hague in Normandy to Germany.
The choice of Gorblen as a storage site for the French waste is due to its proximity to salt mines that the German government says will be turned into deep geologic repositories for the waste.
Though no final decision has been taken on this by German authorities, a majority of environmentalists and experts say that the government will insist, no matter what happens, that the mines be used as final storage for nuclear waste.
The local community and authorities are attempting to derail the notion that Gorblen become a waste repository. Each new transport of waste it met with massive protests, and Gorblen has since Sunday been without doubt the most vocal point of anti-nuclear protest in the world. More photos of the protests can be viewed here.
For its part, Germany sends tons depleted uranium hexafluoride, or uranium tails, to Russia on a regular basis from the uranium enrichment giant Urenco’s Gronau facility for storage in Russia. Urenco’s contract provides for 100,000 tons of the waste to be shipped to Russia for storage and reprocessing in Siberia. The contract is due to expire next year. Some 700,000 tons of uranium tails are already being stored in Russia.
Some 500 to 1,000 protesters had gathered in Grippel. Another thousand were arrayed on Monday around the entrance to the entrance to the Gorblen facility. Other groups of protesters were arrayed along the route. It was impossible to discern an exact number as many of the groups had gathered in the wood along the road the waste was to be transported on.
Environmentalists managed to measures the radiation levels being put out by the 123 tonnes of waste, and found that it exceeded norms by 5000 times. Later on Monday, a group of deputies from the European Parliament and the Lower Saxony region of Germany were Gorblen is located, as well as lawyers, launched an official attempt to halt the load on the basis of the high radiation readings, though it is doubtfully their effort swill succeed before the transport is completed.
Charles Digges wrote and reported from Oslo and Vladimir Slivyak reported from Gorblen, Germany.