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Police brace for fresh protests after arrival of nuclear cargo

A train carrying nuclear waste massively delayed by angry protests completed its journey to Germany on Monday, setting up a final showdown before the radioactive cargo is stored underground.


AFP -  A train carrying over 100 tonnes of nuclear waste completed its journey to Germany, setting up a final showdown between police and protestors Monday before the radioactive cargo is dumped underground.

The consignment of 123 tonnes of waste from a French processing plant arrived in Dannenberg, northern Germany, on Monday morning after police spent the night removing some 3,000 protestors blocking the tracks, authorities said.

The 11 white containers must now be loaded onto lorries -- which could take all day, reports said -- for the final 20-kilometre (12-mile) stretch by road to the storage facility in nearby Gorleben.

A police spokesman said authorities did not expect any disruption during the loading operation.

"The unloading station is surrounded by a high fence and so we do not think there will be major disturbances," he said.

But after a weekend of large-scale and sometimes violent protests, which saw riot police with truncheons and tear gas charging demonstrators, protestors aimed to block access to the underground facility, a former salt mine.

The activists, fired up by government plans to extend the lifetime of Germany's nuclear reactors, had done everything in their power to delay the arrival of the train, including sitting on the rails and removing stones supporting the tracks to make them impassable.

At one point, a protestor even abseiled from a bridge onto the line.

Shipments of radioactive waste to Gorleben regularly attract protests, but this year they have particularly angry, fired up by fury at German Chancellor Angela Merkel's aim to postpone when the country abandons nuclear power.

Protesters and police were injured in Sunday's clashes, a police spokesman said in the northwestern German town of Lueneburg.

Around 20,000 police were mobilised for this shipment, the 12th, the head of the police union DPolG, Rainer Wendt, said. The police operation has cost around 50 million euros (70 million dollars), authorities said.

Gorleben is a temporary storage site for the highly radioactive waste. Germany, in common with other European countries, has no permanent storage site.

Last week the EU Commission tabled legislative proposals that would see member states pushed to build facilities secure enough to hold radioactive waste for the thousands of years needed for the waste to become safe.

The German government is however conducting a study to see if Gorleben could be used as a permanent site.

Merkel's centre-right government wants to extend the lifetime of Germany's 17 reactors by up to 14 years beyond a scheduled shutdown of around 2020.

The lower house of parliament passed a bill to this effect last month. But the legislation could still face a tough fight in the upper house, where Merkel's alliance lost its majority in May, as well as court challenges.

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in Berlin in September against the extension, and protesters have warned of more to come.

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