Anti-nuclear activist killed by waste train

Diet Simon 08.11.2004 01:13 Themen: Atom
A man of 21 protesting against nuclear waste transports has died in France after a train cut off at least one of his legs when it drove over him. Some reports said both legs were cut off. Police say he died on the way to hospital. The activist had chained himself to the rails to try to stop the train heading for the north German village of Gorleben with 12 Castor caskets of German waste that has been processed at the French plutonium factory in La Hague, Normandy. A few hours after the accident – some activists are calling it murder – in Lorraine the train was reported to be running at extremely high speed in Germany. Ten minutes ahead flew a helicopter and five minutes behind followed another train consisting of four to five locomotives.
The German news agency dpa reports that the tragedy happened at Avricourt in a curve of the railway line. It quotes the French Railways as saying the locomotive driver saw the small group of demonstrators too late.

Although he used the emergency brake, the heavy train – each Castor weighs 120 tonnes – did not stop in time. The agency says the demonstrators in Lorraine had apparently not informed anyone about their action.

Neither the big environment protection organisations nor the Railways had any foreknowledge of the protest at the track, dpa says.

Police in Nancy have named the dead man as Sébastian B. from the Lorraine Departement of Meuse.

As activists across Germany and France expressed rage, shock and sorrow, between Dannenberg, where the Castors will be loaded on to trucks, and Gorleben, activists and police exhorted demonstrators to stay calm.

A few hours before the young man was run over, there had still been applause when word came from Rrance that two demonstrators who had chained themselves to the track had forced the train to stop. It’s a protest method that’s stopped previous Castor trains several times in Lower Saxony after which the protagonists were feted as heroes.

This is the first known fatality of this kind in protests against Castor waste transports that are going on practically all the time in Germany. The annual ones from France to Gorleben are the most prominent.

“We are totally shocked,” commented Francis Althoff, the spokesman of the umbrella group of the Gorleben resistance, Bürgerinitiative Lüchow-Dannenberg (BI). “It’s incomprehensible how such an accident could have happened. After all, a helicopter flies along the track before the train.”

The French police said the environmental activists were surprised by the train as they were trying to chain themselves to the track to stop it. Several activists had managed to get out of the way in time. As well as Sébastian B., another demonstrator had been injured. A spokesman for the anti-nuclear organisation, Sorti du Nucleaire, said three demonstrators were injured.

The BI people say they’re consulting on how to handle further protest against the coming Castors (Cask for Storage and Transport of Radioactive Material).

Heidi Klein, member of the Aktionsbündnis X-tausendmal quer, said “all cultural events and everything colourful and fun” has been cancelled. “We still don’t quite know how to handle this,” Klein said.

All protest actions around Gorleben on Sunday were called off when the news came.

Activists protested against the Castor train in Karlsruhe county at the weekend. On Saturday about 50 residents of a resistance camp in Oberhausen-Rheinhausen, near the Philippsburg atomic power station, walked in a procession to the Wiesental railway station. Organisers say they were joined there by more than 100 other demonstrators from France and Germany.

On Sunday about 8o environmentalists joined in a protest stroll along the transport route in Wörth, on the German side of the border.

The activists from France, Gorleben and south Germany demanded an immediate end to nuclear power industry. With every day more that atomic power stations operate, the dreadful inheritance of atomic energy grows, they said.

Activists are expecting the Castors to arrive on Monday at the reloading station in Dannenberg. The 20-km truck run from there to the concrete storage hall in Gorleben is usually where most of the resistance happens, usually sit-down blockades of roads.

Last year protesters’ medics reported 85 activists injured, some fairly seriously, by police breaking up such blockades.

Several hundred activists protested Sunday morning in Lüchow-Dannenberg county, in which the picturesque village of Gorleben lies, in several small actions They included bicycle and horseback excursions, closely watched by police. Sixty farmers were also out and about with tractors.

On the way to the county, six border policemen were injured in a road accident in Baden-Württemberg. A truck ran into the back of their six-vehicle convoy, crushing three of them into each other. One was injured seriously, the others lightly. The truck driver was also lightly injured.

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Splietau, near Gorleben – More than 60 Greenpeace youngsters from Germany, France, the USA and Switzerland demonstrated for a future with only regenerative energy sources. Splietau is a village on one of the possible road routes to Gorleben from the Dannenberg railhead. The youngsters are taking part in the international Greenpeace youth campaign, "SolarGeneration". “We young people are not the final repository of the problems today’s adults can’t get a grip on,” said 16-year-old Julia Lingenfelder from Cologne. Press spokeswoman Ortrun Albert is reachable on location at 0171-8781 184.

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11:23 Nancy. The Castor train stopped because of two people chained to the railbed.

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Several hundred people demonstrated in Pirmasens, southwest Germany, against the consignment. More at High-resolution photos from 0170 / 67 38 634.

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A superior court in Lüneburg has forbidden demonstrations along the route in the wider area of Gorleben. The Oberverwaltungsgericht (OVG) Lüneburg overturned a ruling by a lower court that quashed a general ban issued by the regional government authority. The OVG upheld the assembly ban of the Bezirksregierung Lüneburg (file 11 ME 322/04), saying said that during the Castor transport there is a “police emergency”. For the legal mumbo jumbo in German see

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The train left Valognes, northern France, at 9.05 pm. Saturday. It then consisted of two diesel locomotives (green), two passenger carriages, 12 Castor waggons, another passenger carriage, another diesel locomotive (green).

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A French activist,, reported that the train appears to be using false freight papers (picture at He was trying to find someone in the safety authorities to have the train stopped legally. The caskets are labelled "combustibles usés" (spent fuel elements), whereas the correct labelling for the glass-encased waste of this consignment has to be "DHA" (Déchets hautement actifs – highly active waste). Because the labelling is false, Landrac writes, railway staff can call an "avis d'alerte" (warning) which would stop the train until matters were cleared up. Landrac needs to find someone available at the CSHCT (Commission de Sécurité, d'Hygiène et des Conditions de Travail) but thought it was doubtful Saturday or Sunday. The French activists report that the transport rolled through France practically unguarded. "We could even have climbed aboard," said one, "under these circumstances a terrorist attack would have been easy - with unimaginable consequences." A photo of the freight papers can be downloaded at Jean-Yvon Landrac, Réseau "Sortir du nucléaire", Tel./Fax: 00 33 2 99 77 31 70, mobile 00 33 6 99 56 29 67.

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Before the fatal incident, anti-nuclear activists reported more people, more tractors and apparently more courage and rage opposing this year’s consignment. A post at says a start-up rally in nearby Dannenberg, exceeded all expectations. It claims between 5,000 and 6,000 protesters – more than last year. Most mainstream media agree with the figure. The number is even being used by the police – who’re also in the county in their thousands. Organisers had said earlier they’d be satisfied with 3,000. “It appears that against all expectations the resistance is growing again,” says the post. Pictures at More pictures and information also at
In recent weeks and months police actions in previous nuclear waste transports were often criticised by courts. Headlines indicate the trend: “Police act illegally”, “Police action illegal again,” “Police action again criticised”, “Inhuman encirclement” or “Castor opponents released too late” (sourced from the local ELbe-Jeetzel Zeitung newspaper).

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About 150 people demonstrated at Wiesental train station near the Philippsburg atomic power station Saturday afternoon. Despite a ban, they crossed the transport route, tolerated by police, although they took down some names. Karlsruhe county has banned demonstrations in a 100-metre wide corridor along the transport route. “The fact that police tolerated our infringement shows how senseless the ban is – it was just meant to intimidate anti-nuclear activists,” said local organisers.
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Warm accommodation, vegan meals and up to date information are offered to visiting activists by the Hitzacker-Camp am See, open since Thursday 4 November. It’s on the "Seewiese" by the Archäologisches Zentrum in Hitzacker. Accommodation is in heated tents or with host families in Hitzacker. Children welcome – there are some special events for them and there’s a playground right next door. e-mail:, homepage:, address: "Seewiese" Hitzacker, phone: 05862 – 941409.

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Hundreds of people took part in demonstrations by school pupils on Friday. In nearby Lüneburg it was even c. 1,000 (pictures and more information about the Lüneburg action at In Lüchow, the administrative centre of Lüchow-Dannenberg county, where Gorleben is located, police were attacked with eggs. Police have to expect more massive resistance the closer the transport gets to Gorleben.

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A policeman’s hand was injured in a demonstration involving farm tractors on Friday. Police blame demonstrators, while the anti-nuclear civic action group in Luechow, BI, says the policeman was careless. It also rejected police allegations that activists injured two police horses, saying the riders forced them to trot on a railway bridge, causing them to slip and fall on its metal plates.

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Near the Dutch border, at Gronau, the site of Germany's only uranium enrichment plant (, German and Dutch anti-nuclear activists will be watching out for trains that may be taking depleted uranium to Rotterdam for onshipment to Russia. The activists think the operators may try to use the Gorleben activities as cover. Legal action by Dutch activists has stopped expansion of a Urenco sister plant at Almelo and this success is to be discussed at meetings in Gronau.

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The Greens’ youth wing is calling for large numbers of people to take part in non-violent resistance against the transport.

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The entire village of Metzingen near Gorleben has declared itself a resistance camp. An info point opened up Friday afternoon. Camp-Tel: 0162 - 886 35 94. Directions on how to get there and more information at Homepage::

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The Lower Saxony environment ministry says “extensive radiation measurements will again take place” of the transport “to protect the population and the accompanying personnel”.

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BUND, the German section of Friends of the Earth International, has called on the government to table a final repository law before the end of the year. Two legislative periods had passed without progress in searching for a final nuclear waste dump and things hadn’t advanced since the Social Democrat Greens coalition took power, BUND said.

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Civic action groups in the state of Lower Saxony, where Gorleben is located, have challenged the legality of the transports. Their joint media release is at

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Salt deposits like the one in Gorleben are unsuitable for storing nuclear waste, say experts. Geophysicist Nikolai Gestermann explained to the «Berliner Zeitung» newspaper that because salt is lighter than the sand and clay layers above it, it presses upwards – comparable to an air bubble in honey. “In my view a salt deposit is therefore unsuitable for an atomic waste repository that has to be safe for hundreds of thousands of years.” Anti-nuclear activists allege that German federal and regional governments and the nuclear industry are planning to use the Gorleben salt deposit as a final dump regardless, although exploratory mining of it has been stopped after scientific advice. Earlier studies showed the Gorleben salt plug to have contact with ground water, posing the danger of contaminating drinking water supplies if nuclear waste is put into it. The activists say every waste consignment into the “interim storage” hall in Gorleben, where the waste is to stay for 40 years, makes permanent storage in the salt more likely. See on this and,1 The tageszeitung newspaper writes at,1 that the Gorleben protests are not so much against the Castor transports as against the possibility that the salt deposit will become the final German nuclear dump although it’s unsuitable.
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