German anti-nuclear movement vows to continue protests

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After a major protest that drew tens of thousands of people to the streets of Berlin, Germany's anti-nuclear movement vowed Sunday to keep up the pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel's government.

The environmental group BUND, one of the organisers of Saturday's demonstration against plans to extend the life of the country's nuclear reactors by a decade or more, said the march was only the beginning.

"Yesterday's demonstration was just the start of a hot autumn," BUND chairman Hubert Weiger said in a statement.

He said rallies were planned on October 6 in the southern city of Stuttgart, on October 9 in Munich and on November 6 against the arrival of a shipment of highly radioactive nuclear waste in the northern region of Wendland.

Demonstrators rallied in the German capital Saturday against plans announced last month to lift the deadline of around 2020 for the phasing out of nuclear power set by an earlier Social Democrat-led government.

Organisers put the number of protesters at 100,000 while police estimated attendance at tens of thousands.

The new plan would extend the lifetime of Germany's 17 nuclear reactors by an average of 12 years beyond the previously scheduled shutdown.

The move has revitalised the German anti-nuclear movement, which gained momentum in the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in 1986.

Opponents argue that Germany has no permanent storage site for radioactive waste in place and that the damage caused by a terrorist attack or a meltdown at a nuclear power plant would be catastrophic.

They call for the reactors to be shut down as soon as possible.

Merkel has said that Europe's top economy would be unable to meet its energy needs without nuclear power, calling it a "bridge technology" until renewable sources of energy could suffice.

© 2010 AFP

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