A massive force of about 20,000 police cleared the road of protestors around 7:30 am Tuesday, leaving the way free for the final 20-kilometre journey to the nuclear waste depot in Lower Saxony.
The path of the 11 Castor containers had been choked by demonstrators while the waste sat at Dannenberg, where it had arrived Monday by rail from France. The convoy had been unable to set off as demonstrators, including farmers with tractors, blocked approach roads to the storage facility.
The news came as a media report said that a large pile of Germany’s radioactive waste could be shifted to Russia for storage under a plan being negotiated by Angela Merkel’s government.
The latest shipment left France on Friday and endured a tortuous 67-hour journey by train as activists did everything they could to delay its progress including removing stones supporting train tracks and abseiling from bridges.
Police spent most of Monday night clearing some 3,000 activists trying further to delay the arrival of the shipment. In a final act of defiance, activists had deployed a container lorry of their own to block the route, witnesses said.
Protesters hailed the huge delay as a triumph.
“The decisive mass protests of the last few days is a strong political signal,” said a spokeswoman for the X-tausendmalquer activist group. The police can clear the street, but the government cannot clear up the conflict,” she added.
Daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, meanwhile, reported Tuesday that Chancellor Merkel was hoping to strike a deal this month with the Russian government for the shipment of three loads of nuclear waste.
Under the deal, atomic waste from the formerly communist East German nuclear research facility at Rossendorf would be shipped to the Mayak nuclear facility in the southern part of the Ural district.
Government sources told the paper that the deal was “ready to be signed.”
It involves the shipment of 18 “Castor” containers (Cask for Storage and Transport of Radioactive material) which add up to a total of 951 nuclear fuel elements. The nuclear waste has been temporarily stored a site in the Ahaus district of North Rhine-Westphalia since 2005.
It was not yet clear when the waste would actually be transported, the paper said.
The goal was “to reduce as far as possible the load of enriched uranium,” the government has said in answer to a question from the Greens.
The final storage of this waste on German soil was “not a viable option because there will be no available storage sites for radioactive nuclear elements in the near future,” it said.