Protesters Rally Against Shipment of Nuclear Waste into Germany
House Questions Importance of Nuclear Energy in U.S. Energy Plan
Sixty tons of nuclear waste were transported
from France to the German waste dump at Gorleben amid protests
by anti-nuclear activists this week. Some 4,000 protestors awaited
the train carrying spent nuclear fuel from France. The waste was
generated in German nuclear power plants and sent to France for
reprocessing. German law requires that after reprocessing, the
waste be returned to Germany.
More than 400 protestors were removed
or detained by German police. Militant demonstrators destroyed
police vehicles and damaged train tracks to prevent the shipment
from passing. As one 17-year old protestor said, "The government
has got to see how many people are against this."
transport to Germany was recently resumed after shipments were
suspended in 1998 because of radioactive leaks in some containers.
The German government claims that it has revised the transport
safety rules and welcomes the public pressure exerted by the peaceful
protests. The protestors object to the generation of highly dangerous
nuclear waste in Germany and aim to make the transport so costly
that the government will be forced to halt its generation.
train arrived at the German town of Dannenberg on March 29, one
day late because of delays and setbacks caused by protestors along
the route. The waste was tested for radioactivity at the highly
protected depot, before being loaded onto trucks and shipped the
remaining 12 miles to the waste dump at Gorleben. At Dannenberg,
more than 1,000 police subdued the protestors with water cannons,
while an appeal for calm was issued over a loudspeaker. The police
accused the protestors of ripping up pavement and attacking officers,
although one protestor claimed, "Everything was peaceful here
until the police charged in. It seems like a war zone."
U.S. House of Representatives panel debated the role of nuclear
energy in America's future energy plan at a hearing last week
and discussed the lack of construction of new nuclear power plants
due to 1979 accident at Three Mile Island. The panel also discussed
new research and waste management issues.
Mary J. Hutzler, of the Energy Information Administration, said
that nuclear energy comprises only 20 percent of the nation's total energy
output. That number is expected to drop during the next 20 years as some
reactors are retired and replaced by other technologies. No new orders for
nuclear reactors combined with concerns about the lack of waste disposal
solutions makes the future of nuclear energy questionable.
Senator Pete Domenici, who proposed a bill earlier this year that
would boost the nation's nuclear energy program with more than $400
million, said, "As a nation, we cannot afford to lose the nuclear energy
option until we are ready to specify with confidence how we are going to
replace 22 percent of our electricity with some other sources offering
comparable safety, reliability, low cost and environmental attributes."
In response to Senator Domenici's concerns, Anna Aurilio, of the U.
S. Public Interest Research Group, responded that "Nuclear power is unsafe,
unreliable, uneconomic and generates long-lived radioactive wastes for
which there is no safe solution."
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