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Largest ever Castor transport to Gorleben

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 22, 2002) The largest ever nuclear waste transport from La Hague, France to Gorleben, Germany took place from 11-14 November. Thousands of protesters took part in actions against the transport. As with previous transports, protests delayed the transport by several hours, although the massive police presence ensured that the transport eventually reached Gorleben.

(577.5459) WISE Amsterdam - The idea behind transporting 12 Castor nuclear waste casks at the same time was essentially to save money. Instead of transporting 6 nuclear waste casks twice a year, the authorities decided to transport 12 casks once a year, so that the authorities "only" need to organize one massive police operation, involving around 15,000 police and border guards, per year.

For the authorities, there are other advantages: "only" one international outcry per year about the repression that occurs during every transport, "only" once per year - this time conveniently after the elections - that the Gorleben transport highlights yet again the inconsistency of the consensus agreement on nuclear phaseout.


Professor emeritus Rolf Bertram of the Technical University of Braunschweig (Germany) has questioned the safety of long-term storage of the Castor containers. Th problem is irradiation by neutrons from the high-level waste inside. Rods of polyethylene, which are used in the container walls as a shielding material for neutron radiation, will degrade by so-called radiolysis into hydrogen and carbon. This will affect the effectiveness of the neutron shielding material in the container walls and can also corrode the cast iron container walls. Inside the iron, radioactive isotopes will arise by neutron activation and radioactive tritium could escape from the polyethylene rods and eventually leak out of the Castor. Risk assessments have never taken this effect into consideration, according to Bertram.
Strahlentelex, 7 November 2002

And, of course, only "once" per year that protesters, despite being massively outnumbered by the police, succeed in blocking the transport, at least temporarily, in several places along its route.

This time, the transport was blocked 11 times by non-violent direct actions at several locations on its route through Germany (1). The largest of these was when over 1,200 people sat down in the road for over 5 hours near Laase, on the final part of the nuclear waste convoy's journey.

And this time, police actions left 13 people seriously injured (2). Hundreds of people were arrested, of which at least 180 were detained in bad conditions for longer than German law permits (3). At one point, police took their time with processing documents - a trick to keep people detained for longer by delaying the work of the judges who needed to approve their detentions (4).

The police even banned a head teacher from his own school when he pointed out that they did not have the correct papers to occupy his school (5). Gorleben International Peace Team have asked people to write letters of protest to the German Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer.

"Sustainable repression"
The authorities clearly accept that the protests will continue for many years. They have built new "semi-permanent" accommodation, designed to last for 10 years, for some of the police who are brought into the region (6).

This "semi-permanent" accommodation will remain empty for most of the year. It is as if the Green concept of "sustainability" has been applied to the organization of police operations to repress demonstrations during the transports.

This all serves to underline the unsustainability of the nuclear industry itself, which in Germany is on a downward trend. Nuclear's share of primary energy consumption has fallen by 5.9% in the year ending 30 September 2002, while renewables have increased by 14.3%, creating tens of thousands of new jobs (7).


  1. Web site
  2. Indymedia Germany, 14 November 2002 (
  3. Indymedia Germany, 13 November 2002 (
  4. Anwaltlichen Notdienst (Gorleben legal team) press release, 14 November 2002
  5. Gorleben International Peace Team, 14 November 2002 (
  6. Elbe-Jeetzel-Zeitung, April 11, 2002

Contact:WISE Amsterdam