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Wednesday, 26 January, 2000, 14:54 GMT
Germany to resume nuclear waste transports

demo Past shipments provoked mass protests

Environmental campaigners have condemned the German Government's decision to lift a two-year ban on the transport of nuclear waste.

Permission has been granted for five rail shipments to move spent fuel from three nuclear power plants to a storage site at Ahaus, near the Dutch border, from August.

But authorisation was not been given to move waste outside the country to reprocessing centres in England and France.

There is also a possibility that individual German states may be able to veto the permitted shipments by refusing to allow the shipments into their territory.

It is irresponsible to put the interests of nuclear power plant operators before the safety of train workers, police or residents along the transport route.
Greenpeace's Susanne Ochse
But four of Germany's 19 nuclear power plants have little room left to store spent fuel rods and have said they would have to shut down unless they can move the waste out.

The ban was introduced on safety grounds in May 1998 after small amounts of radiation were found to have leaked out of transportation containers.

There were also violent clashes when police confronted anti-nuclear campaigners who attempted to halt trains carrying the waste.

Greenpeace said the decision to now lift the ban was irresponsible.

Susanne Ochse, an energy expert with the pressure group, accused the government of putting "the interests of nuclear power plant operators before the safety of train workers, police or residents along the transport route."

Shipments 'could be blocked'

But the head of Germany's Nuclear Safety Agency, Wolfgang Koenig, said the government taken all the necessary safety precautions.

"Additional conditions have been established to meet international radiation limits," he said.

Wolf-Dieter Perschmamm, the head of fuel division at the Neckarwestheim nuclear power plant, welcomed the decision, but said waste transport could still be blocked by German states.

plant The German government wants to phase out nuclear power

"I do not know how the states will react," he said. "We still have to do a lot of paperwork."

The decision comes at a time when Chancellor Schroeder's government is seeking to set a timetable to phase out all nuclear power plants.

Government negotiations with utility companies about a nuclear shutdown are set to resume next week, and correspondents say the resumption may be timed as a sign of goodwill on the government's part.

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See also:
21 May 98 |  Europe
Germany bans nuclear waste transports
08 Jul 99 |  Europe
Schroeder confronts Chernobyl dilemma

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