Protests as Dutch nuclear rail shipment heads to France
A train carrying nuclear waste from The Netherlands to France was able to depart on Tuesday despite efforts by anti-nuclear activists to block it by chaining themselves to the tracks, police said.
The train was able to leave Borssele in Zeeland province at around 11:00 am (0900 GMT) and head for the Belgian border despite the protest, said local police spokeswoman Esther Boot.
"The train is on its way to the border. There were some five blockades, but they have been broken up one-by-one," Boot told AFP, adding "the protesters were cut loose with saws -- for others we had to use a blowtorch."
She said the train was delayed by about three hours.
Police arrested 20 people, who were taken to the southern central town of Middelburg, where they were held in custody and released after the train passed.
"They have been served with summonses to appear in court. We don't know what the charges are yet, but I believe it would be either for disturbing the public order or preventing a train from operating," she said.
Environmental group Greenpeace said in a statement that 10 of its activists had chained themselves to the rails near Borssele. The radioactive waste originated at a nearby nuclear power plant.
The activist organisation said the load consisted of three wagons "with an amount of radiation comparable to that released at the nuclear disasters at Chernobyl and Fukushima".
Greenpeace's nuclear energy campaign spokesman, Ike Teuling, said the wagonload presented a clear danger to the population living along the railway route to a nuclear recycling plant in La Hague in Normandy.
"If there's an accident it will be a catastrophe," Teuling told AFP.
Greenpeace said the trainload of nuclear waste was the first to leave in six years and another 10 trainloads would be leaving in the next two years.
"And this is just the tip of the iceberg," Teuling said.
Eloi Glorieux of Greenpeace in Belgium said protesters were planning to halt the train at the country's border, adding that the mayor of the city of Ghent tried to block the shipment without success.
"It is unacceptable that nuclear waste is being sent through our country," Glorieux said in a statement.
© 2011 AFP