STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) - A French train carrying 150 tonnes of reprocessed nuclear waste entered Germany on Friday en route to a storage site after a 24-hour stop at the border following clashes between riot police and anti-nuclear activists who tried to block the transport.
“The train is crossing the border at this very minute with German police forces on board. Everything has gone well,” a French interior ministry spokesman said by telephone from the area.
French officials said on Thursday the temporary halt was meant to help ensure public order on the train’s route to the storage site at Gorleben in Germany’s Lower Saxony state.
The “Sortir du Nucleaire” (Exit from Nuclear) activist group said on its website that French authorities had been forced to wait until Germany authorised the convoy to enter its territory on Friday, as originally planned.
Loaded with 11 tubular containers of highly radioactive nuclear waste, the train left Areva’s nuclear fuel reprocessing facility in Normandy on Wednesday after scuffles between police and hundreds of protesters who tried to foil the transport by occupying train tracks near the town of Valognes.
The train was the last of 12 shipments of treated German nuclear waste sent in recent years from France to Gorleben. German and French protesters have frequently tried to block the rail shipments and clashed with police sent in to remove them.
The protesters have maintained that the waste transports could endanger the environment and population if there were to be an accident en route.
An expired contract between Areva and German nuclear power producers is not expected to be renewed as Germany has voted against the transport of radioactive nuclear fuel.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel decided to shut down eight of Germany’s nuclear power plants in the wake of March’s disaster at the Fukushima plant in Japan, and later said all its remaining nuclear capacity would be taken off the grid by 2022.
Reporting By Marie Maitre; Editing by Mark Heinrich