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France Stops Nuclear Waste Train Headed for Germany


The train carrying 11 containers of nuclear waste, called CASTORs, leaves Valognes, northwestern France, Wednesday Nov. 23, 2011.

The train carrying 11 containers of nuclear waste, called CASTORs, leaves Valognes, northwestern France, Wednesday Nov. 23, 2011.

French authorities have stopped a train carrying reprocessed nuclear waste to Germany before it reached the border, in hopes of avoiding protests over the radioactive material headed for storage in the northeastern city of Gorleben.

The train was late leaving the Areva nuclear reprocessing facility near Normandy on Wednesday because police clashed with hundreds of protestors trying to stop it in Valognes. Police fired tear gas and used batons to keep protestors from occupying the tracks.

The train was halted about 50 kilometers from the German border at Remilly, France Thursday, in what French Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet called a "planned" stop. Brandet says it is not certain when the train will resume its journey.

"When will it leave? It is impossible to say. Maybe in one hour, in 24 hours, maybe in 10 hours, in the middle of the night. It's difficult to say. At the moment we are not under any pressure, it is about solutions," he said.

Brandet says the continuation of the trip to Gorleben may partially depend on which of the multiple routes into Germany is chosen for the train to take. "The train has been stopped here because of logistical reasons and the location of this station, which is at a crossroads, allows us to look into various solutions as to whether it will eventually carry on northwards or southwards or through the middle and to bring the train forwards under good security conditions," he said.

This is expected to be the final transfer of reprocessed nuclear waste from France into Germany, which has voted against transporting more of the radioactive fuel into the country. In the wake of the nuclear disaster at Japan's Fukushima power plant, German Chancellor Angela Merkel promised to shut down all of the country's nuclear reactors by 2022.

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