15,000 demonstrated against nuclear power in Germany with 52 kilometres of light

Despite icy weather and light rain some 15,000 Germans demonstrated against nuclear power generation on Thursday evening with a chain of light 52 kilometres long.

The route linked Braunschweig, Wolfenbüttel and Salzgitter in the north, an area that contains two frighteningly failing underground nuclear waste dumps, Asse II and Morsleben, and another to start operating in 2013, Schacht Konrad in Salzgitter.


Although most protesters were from the region, people travelled from all over Germany to the demo, called by trade unions, churches, advocacy groups, local governments, neighbourhood associations, firms, farmers with their tractors, to protest against irresponsible handling of nuclear waste.


The chain of light was to show the connections between the various waste dumps in Germany. People held burning firebrands and lanterns, there were searchlights and fires in drums. Balloonists lit up their burners and a group lit up a six-metre-high A wrapped with rags soaked in fuel (pictured at http://de.indymedia.org/2009/02/242803.shtml). Along the route were samba groups, fire jugglers and many actions.  


The mood was described as “fantastic, grandiose and incomparable”. Gaps between demonstrators were reported as less than three metres and in some places shoulder to shoulder.


"A clear sign that people no longer accept the way nuclear waste is handled,” said Ursula Schönberger of
Arbeitsgemeinschaft Schacht KONRAD, fighting plans to start dumping nuclear waste in a former iron ore mine, Schacht Konrad, in  Salzgitter, an industrial city of
112,000 people, from 2013.


The anti-nuclear movement is particularly incensed about a recently passed law that will have taxpayers footing the bill for nuclear dumps although the waste in them was produced by power companies, which will not be paying.


If waste disposal costs were completely factored into the power price, opponents say, the legend of cheap nuclear electricity would be blown away.


One of the participating groups, ROBIN WOOD, said the next German election will also be a vote on whether the decided exit from nuclear power is thrown out and trouble-prone nukes can stay on the grid, producing waste for which there is no final disposal method.


An old potash mine used as a dump called Asse II is flooding at a rate of 12 cubic metres a day and throwing up all sorts of questions about safe keeping of nuclear leftovers for a million years. See my report at http://sydney.indymedia.org.au/story/nuclear-worries-increase-german-waste-dump-mine-floods

And for my reports on two other dumps see http://sydney.indymedia.org.au/search/node/Morsleben+Schacht+Konrad.

The group fighting nuclear dumping at Gorleben, which is also in the general area of north Germany, reports that its complaint against blanket police bans on demonstrations in 2006 has been accepted in court. But a verbal hearing on Wednesday was stopped because the litigants only submitted their documentation on Monday. Citing a supreme court ruling, the Lüneburg judge ruled that every assembly ban is retroactively litigable. The Gorleben activists have won nearly every case they have taken to the supreme court, which has severely reprimanded police for illegal actions.

The protesters’ lawyer, Ulrike Donat, told the court that police arguments to justify blanket demonstration bans were based solely on opinions, not on facts.  These far-reaching demo bans so gravely impinged on demonstrators’ ability to plan that they practically cancelled out the basic right to freedom of assembly, she argued.

Other details of the demo bans are to be dealt with later. For example, police simply requisitioned a private block of land on which a demonstration was registered long before their total ban. They offered no alternative sites. The fact that the owner of the land expressly wanted a demo to take place there was simply ignored.

The court also heard that for years police have been requisitioning parts of blocks of land to store and park their barricades and vehicles. The police chief giving evidence said, after all this had been done for years and so far no land owner had litigated against it. (For details on this contact Dieter Metk 05841-6451 or attorney Ulrike Donat 040-411893830.)

In Münster, also surrounded by various nuclear installations including in Holland just across the border, about three dozen protesters demonstrated against the nuclear policy of the huge RWE power company and nukes it’s planning in Bulgaria, Romania, Lithuania and Britain. The regional government authority targeted by the protest owns 1% of RWE and groups all local governments in the region. The action was part of a week of protests against RWE’s massive nuclear plans.

On Sunday (1 March) the RWE protest week will continue with an assembly outside Germany’s only uranium enrichment plant at Gronau, one third of which is owned jointly by RWE and another electricity giant, EON. The other two thirds of the URENCO company belong to Dutch and British interests.  Gronau and a similar plant in Almelo, just across the border in Holland, are being massively expanded. (Contact: sofa-ms@web.de,    http://www.sofa-ms.de, pictures of the demo at http://de.indymedia.org/2009/02/242771.shtml.)  

Coinciding with the chain of light in the north, the lobby organisation of the nuclear industry, Atomforum, has published the findings of an opinion survey it commissioned according to which a majority of Germans are in favour of nuclear energy.

The TNS Emnid research organisation claims to have found 48% of Germans in favour of extending the running times of nuclear power stations, while 42% rejected the idea.

The finding shows, says TNS Emnid, that a political solution for final storage of highly radioactive waste is of central importance to the acceptance of nuclear power in Germany.  The organisation claims to have found that if the issue of secure final storage were solved, 61% of Germans would favour the further use of nuclear power.

Atomforum argues that the findings underline how important it is to “immediately rescind” the moratorium on further exploration of the Gorleben salt dome as final repository.

The most recent demonstration against Gorleben as the final repository was in November when 16,000 people came from all over Germany to delay another load of spent fuel rods on their way into temporary storage.

Paramedics and doctors who looked after the demonstrators said 250 of them went home injured by police, some seriously.

The first aid team consisting of 12 doctors, 15 paramedics and a female alternative practitioner reported four people seriously injured: a broken arm, a collapse after a kick in the testicles, a head contusion and a stomach injury from a kick by a police horse.

There was also a serious cheekbone contusion, rib contusions from baton beatings, sight disturbances from gas-laced water cannons.

The helpers especially criticised the use of police horses and the use of pepper spray which can cause life-threatening allergic reactions.



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If you understand German, you might like to watch a TV report about the Morsleben dump in a former potash mine, near Helmstedt, aired originally by the mainstream ZDF channel. It shows how unsafe the dump, now closed, is and how taxpayers will foot the bill for billions of euros to be spent on an attempt to make it “safe”: http://www.zdf.de/ZDFmediathek/content/550436?inPopup=true. If anyone is interested in airing/posting it in English, I offer to do a translation. Contact me at diet_simon at bigpond dot com.