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Protesters Disrupt German Nuclear Waste Shipment

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Last Wednesday, November 23, a train carrying 11 tubular containers of highly radioactive nuclear waste departed Normandy, France. The nuclear waste, which originated in German reactors years ago and was processed for storage by a French firm, is now bound for a temporary storage facility in a former salt mine near Gorleben, Germany. The 750-mile trip has taken far longer than anticipated, due to thousands of protesters causing disruptions along the way. Staging sit-ins, chaining themselves to the rails, and even sabotaging the railway, demonstrators are denouncing the transportation of dangerous material through populated areas. This is the last of 12 contractually obligated shipments of nuclear waste from France. Germany recently pledged a complete phase-out of nuclear power within a decade and has already shut down 8 of its 17 reactors. Hundreds of demonstrators were removed from railroads and streets by an estimated 20,000 police deployed along the German portion of the route, and the shipment is now near its final destination. [31 photos]

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Two girls have their faces painted with the symbol for nuclear radiation as they attend a demonstration by pupils from a local school against the unsafe storage of nuclear waste, on November 24, 2011 in Luechow, Germany. (Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images)
Two girls have their faces painted with the symbol for nuclear radiation as they attend a demonstration by pupils from a local school against the unsafe storage of nuclear waste, on November 24, 2011 in Luechow, Germany. (Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images)
One of eleven Castor (Cask for Storage and Transport of Radioactive material) nuclear waste containers is lifted from a train onto a truck at an embarking station in Dannenberg south of Hamburg, on November 28, 2011. The controversial shipment of Castor containers with spent German nuclear fuel from the French reprocessing plant in La Hague will be loaded onto trucks in Dannenberg before its final transportation to the nearby intermediate storage facility in the northern Germany village of Gorleben. (Reuters/Wolfgang Rattay) #
Farmers with their tractors protest with a banner reading: "Nuclear Power kills the Future" during a demonstration against the Castor nuclear waste transportation, in Dannenberg, on November 26, 2011. (Reuters/Fabian Bimmer) #
Activists of the so called group "Castor Schottern" walk through the woods to climb onto the rails due to carry a nuclear waste shipment, on November 26, 2011 near Metzingen, Germany. (Carsten Koall/Getty Images) #
German riot police cross a small river as they follow anti-nuclear protesters near Lemgrabe, on November 26, 2011. (Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch) #
Anti-nuclear protesters sit on the railway tracks near Harlingen, on November 26, 2011. (Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch) #
A group of masked environmental activists dig underneath the railway track near Metzingen, Germany, on November 25, 2011. A shipment of nuclear waste reprocessed in France crossed into Germany Friday on its way to a controversial storage site that protesters say is unsafe. (AP Photo/Sascha Schuermann) #
Pieces of concrete sit across railway tracks as anti-nuclear demonstrators protest against a planned Castor container tranport of nuclear waste in the French city of Flottemanville, on November 23, 2011. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images) #
Four anti-nuclear protesters lie on the ground fixed to a concrete block under the railway tracks in demonstration against the Castor train, in Vastorf near Lueneburg, on November 27, 2011. (Reuters/Fabian Bimmer) #
A police car drives past eight Castor nuclear waste containers waiting to be loaded from rails onto trucks at an embarking station in Dannenberg south of Hamburg. (Reuters/Wolfgang Rattay) #
A picture taken with a thermal camera shows German police (foreground) guarding the train transporting Castor containers, which carry radioactive nuclear waste, during a stop in Neunkirchen near Saarbruecken, on November 25, 2011. (Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach) #
German riot police stand guard as anti-nuclear activists protest against the transport of nuclear waste on November 24, 2011 in Metzingen, Germany. (Carsten Koall/Getty Images) #
Anti-nuclear protesters warm themselves around a campfire during a sit-in of hundreds of demonstrators on the rails near Harlingen, on November 26, 2011, to block a train carrying nuclear waste. (Reuters/Wolfgang Rattay) #
Anti-nuclear activists take part in a mass rally on the track that will be used to transport nuclear waste on November 27, 2011 in Harlingen, near Gorleben, Germany. (Carsten Koall/Getty Images) #
A rescuer holds the unchained hand of an anti-nuclear protester being removed from the railway tracks before the arrival of the Castor transport train in Hitzacker, late on November 27, 2011, on its journey to the storage site of Gorleben. (Christian Charisius/AFP/Getty Images) #
German riot police cut a railway track that an anti-nuclear protester has chained himself to during a sit-in in Hitzacker, on November 28, 2011. (Reuters/Alex Domanski) #
Police try to unchain environmental activists who have chained themselves to the tracks near Vastorf, Germany to block a transport of nuclear waste bound for Gorleben, on November 27, 2011. (AP Photo/Jens Schlueter) #
German police remove anti-nuclear protesters from a sit-in on the railway tracks in Hitzacker, on November 28, 2011. (Reuters/Alex Domanski) #
A police officer uses pepper spray during clashes with demonstrators near railway tracks used by a train transporting nuclear waste in Pommoissel, Germany, on November 26, 2011. (AP Photo/Axel Heimken) #
A masked environment activist throws fireworks during clashes with police near Metzingen. (AP Photo/Sascha Schuermann) #
A water cannon is trained on anti-nuclear protesters during confrontations near the protesters' base camp in Metzingen, on November 26, 2011, where the Castor transport train was to pass on its way to Dannenberg. (John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images) #
Police carry a demonstrator away after they cleared a sit-in on the railroad tracks near Harlingen, Germany, on November 27, 2011. German police say they have cleared a sit-in of thousands of protesters attempting to block a shipment of nuclear waste and have detained 1,300 people. Police said hundreds of officers started evicting protesters from the rail lines near Dannenberg in the north of the country early Sunday. Those who refused to leave were detained and are being brought before judges later. (AP Photo/Philipp Guelland) #
German riot police cut a railway track while an anti-nuclear protester is chained under it during a sit-in, in Hitzacker, on November 28, 2011. (Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch) #
Police and railway workers attempt to remove four anti-nuclear protesters who are fixed to a concrete block under the railway tracks in demonstration against the Castor train, in Vastorf, near Lueneburg, on November 27, 2011. (Reuters/Fabian Bimmer) #
German policemen prepare to carry an anti-nuclear activist away who was taking part in a mass rally on the track that will be used to transport nuclear waste on November 27, 2011 in Harlingen, near Gorleben, Germany. (Carsten Koall/Getty Images) #
German riot police guard the railway tracks following a sit-in by anti-nuclear protesters, near Harlingen, on November 27, 2011. (Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch) #
German riot police guard the railway tracks near Harlingen, on November 27, 2011. (Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch) #
Anti-nuclear protesters sit on a street near Gorleben, northern Germany, on November 28, 2011, along the route of the Castor transport. The train arrived at Dannenberg for unloading after leaving nuclear giant Areva's rail yard at Valognes, northwestern France on November 23, 2011 and negotiating a string of obstacles set by anti-nuclear activists. From Dannenberg rail station, its cargo of 11 containers of waste is due to be unloaded onto trucks, a process likely to take several hours. Then it will begin the final 20-kilometer (12-mile) leg of the journey by road to the Gorleben storage facility, a former salt mine, on the River Elbe. (Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images) #
Anti-nuclear activists take part on a sit-in with around thousand other activists on the road the nuclear waste transport is going to use on November 28, 2011 in Gorleben, Germany. (Carsten Koall/Getty Images) #
Anti-nuclear protesters sit in the street to Germany's interim nuclear waste storage facility in the northern German village of Gorleben, on November 28, 2011. (Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch) #
Anti-nuclear protesters shelter themselves from the rain on the road to Gorleben, Germany on November 27, 2011, along the route of the Castor transport. (Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images) #

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