Kumi Naidoo makes the anti-CASTOR 'X' sign as he addresses a rally of 50,000 anti-nuclear protestors in Dannenberg, Germany on November 6, 2010. Image: Gordon Welters / Greenpeace
The world is watching the ongoing protest of the CASTOR nuclear transport in Germany. This morning the nuclear train reached its final stop in Dannenberg, a small town approximately 10 kilometres from the final destination – an interim nuclear storage facility in Gorleben. It was stopped last night for several hours by acts of non-violent direct action on a scale never before seen in the region, which has been the site of similar protests against transports of nuclear waste since 1997. Approximately 10,000 demonstrators – including local residents, politicians, environmental groups, football clubs, unions and supporters coming from all over Germany and beyond – occupied the railway tracks.
Anti-CASTOR protestors sleep on the railway tracks blocking the nuclear transport near Dannenberg. Image: Shaun Burnie / Greenpeace
In one spot alone 5,000 people spent a cold night, sitting and sleeping on the tracks in order to stop the passage of the dangerous radioactive convoy. Even seasoned nuclear campaigners participating in this blockade were awe-struck by the size and power of the resistance around Dannenberg. The individual demonstrators sitting on the railway tracks in front of the CASTOR nuclear transport represented centuries of campaigning experience.
Farmers have always played an important role in the anti-CASTOR protests and last night was no different – they aided the sit-ins on the tracks by blocking police supply lines. Now the farmers, and 600 tractors brought to the region for the protests, will be part of blocking the roads the nuclear waste must travel along to reach Gorleben. Skillshares between farmers are already being held on the best ways to block the transport during this final part of the journey.
A local couple asked Greenpeace to carry out radiation readings for fear of the CASTOR transport coming to a standstill just 10 meters from the their house. The CASTOR train can be seen in the background of this image. Image: Gordon Welters / Greenpeace
The anti-CASTOR protestors are sending a clear and strong message to the German government, the nuclear industry, and the world – that nuclear energy is not an option. The dangers associated with this costly and unnecessary energy source are nowhere better illustrated than with the CASTOR nuclear transport itself.
As the train came to a halt near Dannenberg its radioactive cargo was sitting no more than 15 metres from peoples homes. A Greenpeace team was phoned by one resident and took measurements at her house – which she had left out of concern for her safety. The levels of radioactivity found in the home were significant and once police had been notified of the levels they moved their own security lines back a further 50 metres from the nuclear convoy.
A Greenpeace nuclear campaigner with radiation monitoring equipment stands near the police lines. Image: Gordon Welters / Greenpeace
This situation created by the CASTOR nuclear transport is completely unnecessary. Germany has been a leader in renewable energy technology and this has been undermined by the decision taken by Chancellor Merkel and her government to extend the lifetime of 17 nuclear reactors in the country.
The decision also goes against the wishes of the majority of Germans. Along every mile of the railway tracks the radioactive CASTOR transport has been slowed and stopped by an unprecedented weekend of protest, non-violent direct action and resistance from local people and their supporters.
The anti-CASTOR protestors have set an example for the whole world of the raw power of peaceful protest to challenge both government and the nuclear industry. Their historic resistance this weekend will no doubt continue to be an inspiration for all of us working towards a future where dangerous nuclear energy is a thing of the past.