Protesters halt 'train from hell carrying 11 Chernobyls'
Published 06/11/2010 | 05:00
GREENPEACE staged protests against a nuclear waste convoy that it claimed was "the most radioactive shipment in history" amounting to the equivalent of 11 Chernobyl disasters.
The "Train from Hell", carrying 123 tonnes of nuclear waste in 11 coaches, set off yesterday afternoon from northwestern France, heading to Germany under tight security, including 80 armed guards and fighter jets on standby.
It was expected to pass close to at least five major cities, bypassing Paris by only about 100 miles during its 700-mile journey.
But protesters blocked the train's progress at Caen, in northern France, chaining themselves to the tracks just outside the station.
In a move aimed at embarrassing France's nuclear industry, Greenpeace published a timetable of the route, and encouraged protests to disrupt the journey.
Areva, the state-controlled French nuclear engineering company, said the shipment by rail from Valognes to a storage site in Gorleben, northeastern Germany, was "completely normal" and the 11th of its kind.
Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace's executive director, said the transport was far more toxic than any ever attempted.
Anne Lauvergeon, Areva's chief executive, dismissed the reference to the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster as "scandalous", saying the waste was about the same quantity as in the other 10 shipments.
"Greenpeace should be for recycling -- it is, in fact, a way of preserving the planet's resources," she said.
Areva said the solid waste was sealed in special glass containers encased in 16in-thick steel containers. These were "rolling fortresses", each able to withstand a head-on collision with a full-speed train, it claimed.
Sortir du Nucleaire, an anti-nuclear French group, warned: "If an accident from human error or a terrorist attack occurred during this transportation a vast area of northern Europe would be uninhabitable for generations to come."
The 308 glass containers came from the world's largest nuclear recycling plant at La Hague.
The Areva site reprocesses nuclear waste from power stations by extracting uranium and plutonium to create Mox fuel. Recyclable and non-renewable waste is sent back to user nations.
The head of Greenpeace France, Pascal Husting, said "nuclear energy is not a solution for the future" and the police deployments showed that "this technology has a problem with democracy."
A large demonstration is planned later today in Dannenberg, where the waste containers are scheduled to be loaded on to trucks for the final stretch of their journey.
The shipment of the waste, which is to be stored in Germany as part of a long-standing agreement, comes amid an intensified debate over the use of nuclear power to meet rising demand for energy and concerns about its risks to human health and the environment. (© Daily Telegraph, London)