Demonstrations against the annual Castor nuclear transport train broke records this year. Green leaders call it a rebuke of Angela Merkel’s government, which recently extended the lifespans of German nuclear plants. Have German politics rolled back to the 1980s?
The so-called Castor transport train carries sealed containers of spent fuel rods almost every year from a nuclear reprocessing plant in La Hague, France, to a deep-earth storage facility in Gorleben, Germany. Camping out to block the train among the farms near Gorleben is a ritual for German environmentalists. This year, starting on Oct. 6 — in response to the government’s recent extension of legal lifespans for German nuclear power plants — a record-breaking total of some 50,000 demonstrators turned out to wait for the train, which runs on a secret schedule and along an unpublicized route. On Monday and Tuesday the train waited 19 hours, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the facility, before track-sitting demonstrators could be cleared by police.
A leader of the Green Party’s parliamentary group in Berlin, Renate Künast, told German TV that the protests were the “biggest that Gorleben has ever seen.” She said protesters had responded to a “political provocation” by Angela Merkel’s government, which in October officially changed a cherished Green Party phase-out of the nation’s nuclear power plants. The last nuclear facility had been scheduled to go dark around 2020; as of October 28 plants can run for an average of another 12 years. Merkel called the extension a necessary bridge between old and new forms of domestic energy. Her critics call the measure a gift to the nuclear lobby, noting that it would create billions in additional profits for power utility companies.
Germany has a deep-storage bunker for waste and we can’t build one in the middle of the desert?