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Germany: Castor-transport to Gorleben

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(November 18, 1994) The interim radioactive waste storage facility Gorleben is situated in the region Lüchow-Dannenberg in the German state of Lower Saxony. The people who are living there are very active in the resistance against this storage site and all other atomic facilities since 17 years.

(422.4181) WISE Amsterdam - In the late 70's it was planned to build in Gorleben a reprocessing plant, a waste treatment facility, an interim and permanent storage facility. Due to the large resistance in the population of Lüchow-Dannenberg the reprocessing plant is cancelled in the early 80's (relocated at Wackersdorf in Bavaria and definitely cancelled in June 1989).

The construction of the waste treatment facility is up to 80% completed, the approval to construct the interior was given in July, but there is still no approval to handle radioactive material in the facility. For the interim storage there exists an approval to store radioactive waste, but it was not possible to use it yet, again because of the huge resistance in Lüchow-Dannenberg.

The nuclear industry is now trying for the fifth time to transport radwaste to Gorleben. Spent fuel rods were packed in a castor-container in the NPP Phillipsburg in July. The castor allows to store radwaste for 40 years in it. It is worldwide the first try of dry storage of radioactive waste for such a long period. The castor container is 5 to 6 meters long and must be sealed airtight. On 19 July it was placed on a train. It is still there, as a result of the resistance of the local anti-nuclear movement Organisation, the Bürgeriniative (BI) Lüchow-Dannenberg. Also, the German state Lower Saxony denies the necessity of the transport and fears it will not be safe enough.
But the Federal minister of environment Klaus Topfer will enforce the transport.

The minister of environment of the German state Baden-Württemberg Schäfer, responsible for the NPP Phillipsburg, wants the castor to be unpacked again, because he says the storage on the train is illegal as it is not allowed to use a train as an interim storage. Töpfer denies that, and it is not sure if it is even possible to unpack the castor safely.

In Lüchow-Dannenberg the BI started again big actions and demonstrations since the castortransport from Phillipsburg was announced this summer. About 3000 people underlined in newspaper-announcements that they will fight against the transport. Demonstrations happened in front of the interim storage and a small village of wooden huts named CASTORNIX was build up near the entrance of the storage site. Streets were painted, traffic signs were stuck over and holes were digged under streets leading to the storage site.

Nevertheless Töpfer instructed on October 26 Monika Griefahn, the Lower Saxony minister of environment, to approve the transport and the storage at Gorleben. She had two weeks to do that, and so she approved the transport on November 9. The transport will probably start in the week of November 21, when the police is ready to protect the transport. There is also still a court trial against the transport, which is not decided yet.

Anti-nuclear activists prepare now to prevent the transport again. They started many actions. On November 5, all large streets in Lüchow-Dannenberg were occupied by demonstrators. There exists a telephone-chain with more than 1.000 people on it. So it's possible to mobilize people and to start actions very quickly. It will be used on the day X, when the transport starts. On this day a lot of small groups along the railway-line will protest against the transport and try to stop it.

The anti-nuclear movement will do everything in their power to prevent this castor-transport and thereby they to destroy the hope of the nuclear industry to use the interim storage facility. It is expected that if the first castor is stored in Gorleben, many others from all of Germany will follow.

Töpfer announced already, that he will extend the license to store radwaste in Gorleben. After that it will be possible to store two more sorts of radio-active waste in castor-containers in Gorleben: waste from reprocessing plants - sealed in glass - and "Hochabbrandelemente", which are a sort of high burn-up fuel rods, which stayed longer in a reactor core than other fuel rods. They should be stored for a longer time and they will produce more heat than the "normal" fuel rods. The current license is 10 years old and never used yet.

Critics from the BI and the Lower Saxony environmental ministry desire to revoke this approval. That is possible in Germany when a license is not used for two years or more. The foundation of the license, the former German waste management concept, does not exist any more. Nevertheless Töpfer wants to extend the license. In future be will allow to store 3.800 tonnes of radwaste (now 1.500 tonnes). The temperature on the outside of the castor-containers will then be allowed to be 110°C instead of 95°C currently. That means, that in future 15 MW heat will be produced inside the storage building. It is cooled only by air and if the outside temperature rises to more than 27°C the cooling will not be sufficient. This summer the average temperature was higher than 270°C!

This first castor-transport means more than just one castor-transport: it is a symbol of local resistance but also probably the pioneer for much more radioactive waste to come. Therefore the people in Lüchow-Dannenberg will fight against the transport and also demand the immediate closure of all nuclear facilities. Good luck


  • Castor-Infodienst 4/94, 5/94 (BI Lüchow-Dannenberg)
  • Die Tageszeitung (FRG), 4 November 1994, 5 November 1994
  • Der Spiegel (FRG) 29/94

Contact: Bürgerinitiative Lüchow-Dannenberg, Drawehner Str. 3, 29439 Lüchow, Germany,
Tel + 49-5841- 4684, Fax +49-5841-3197 (Mon, Wed, Fri 9.00 - 12.00, Tue, Thu 15.00 - 18.30)