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Sit-in blockade at the 2008 Castor transport
Climbing activists stopping the Castor 2010 at the Fulda valley bridge
Soft toy rally - political art exhibition at the Essowiese Camp in Dannenberg
Police removing blockaders from the tracks by Harlingen

The "Castor" is a transport container for high level radioactive waste designed by the GNS. In Germany it is at the same time the symbol for the strong resistance against atomic power as there have been protests of thousands and tenthousands of people against the Castor transports to the Gorleben interim storage site since the first shipment in 1995. The Castor transports to other atomic interim storage sites, for instance to Lubmin (D) or Ahaus (D), are as well targets of protests as the Castor shipments from German nuclear power plants to the reprocessing units in La Hague (F) and Sellafield (UK) taking place until 2005. Though also transports of uranium and uranium waste to and from the Gronau uranium enrichment facility have been blockaded in the past.

overview on planned Castor transports in Germany[1]
place of departure -> destination number of Castor casks possible year of transport comment
Obrigheim -> Neckarwestheim[2] 15 Castor casks 2017 transport by ship on Neckar river;
Obrigheim NPP was closed on May 11, 2005
1st transport started on June 26th, 2017[4]
2nd transport started on September 4th, 2017[5]
La Hague -> Phillipsburg 5 Castor casks from 2018
Jülich -> Ahaus 152 Castor casks from 2018[6]
Garching -> Ahaus 5 Castor casks from 2018
Sellafield -> Brokdorf 7 Castor casks 2018, 2019 or 2020
Sellafield -> Biblis 7 Castor casks 2018, 2019 or 2020
Sellafield -> Ohu 7 Castor casks 2018, 2019 or 2020

The anti-nuclear protests against the Castor transports are unique. You get to know a supportive atmosphere there as the residents of the county are mainly supporting the protesters, while thousands of anti-nuclear activists would travel to the region to blockade the shipment. These days, some 20,000 police would "protect" the transport, which means they want to prevent actions blockading the radioactive shipment. However, in the past most actions succeeded delaying the transport. Actions usually take place from France to Germany along the hundreds of kilometers of tracks the train has to take to the city Dannenberg in the Wendland region. There the containers would be loaded onto trucks to make the last 20 kilometers to the interim repository in Gorleben on the roads.

2011, blockades are proposed to take place on the tracks before Lüneburg on public tracks used also by other trains, on the "Castor tracks" between Lueneburg and Dannenberg only used for the nuclear industry during these days, and on the roads to Gorleben. A number of organizations, alliances and groups already announced public actions in the Wendland region. The variety of activities is broad. You can find sit-in blockades, lock-on actions, climbing activists, barricades, creative farmers blocking streets with their tractors and much more.

A short History of the Resistance against the Castor Transports


In 1985 there was the first trial of (empty) Castor containers to Gorleben, to see if the tranport could be done safely (without the Castors breaking or failing in some way).[7]

In 1989, the first transport to Gorleben was forbidden by the courts.[7]

In 1991, the next trial transport failed, because of damaged Castor casks.[7]

In 1993, the company that sends the nuclear waste from its power stations was criticized by the government of Lower Saxony - where Gorleben is located. The company chose not to try to transport its waste into the region that year.[7]

In 1994, citizens of Gorleben called on higher courts to reject the tranport through their region. But before this court culd make a decision, the Federal Office of Radiation Protection stated that the transport HAD TO be allowed to go through (its hierarchically allowed to make these decisions as it sees fit I believe), and the other court was not given time to make a decision.[7]

But the Federal State office of Lower Saxony rejected this decision, and said the transport was not allowed to go through.[7]

The nuclear power plant prepared a Castor cask for transport...[7]

There were massive protests in Gorleben, with blockades and baricades in the streets, and holes were dug beneath the railway as well as the streets to destabilize them making transport impossible.[7]

Self-made wooden resistance villages sprang up filled with acitivists fighting against the transport, which were removed by police.[7]

In October 1994, the Federal Minister of Environment gave an order to the Lower Saxony Ministry of the Environment to agree with the decision of the Federal Office of Radiation Protection.[7]

The Lower Saxony Ministry first refused to do so, and then two weeks later they had to do what they were ordered to do, so the minister agreed.[7]

Then there were several attacks to the railway in the nearby region of Hannover, one day later, the police began trying to find the people who attacked the railway, and called them 'terrorists.'[7]

Then, the local government forbade all demonstrations (this is the government for the Luchow-Dannenberg region, not Lower Saxony) related to the Castor transport.[7]

21 Nov 1994, the night before the planned start of the transport, a court stopped this transport due to security concerns.[7]

The 1st Transport

1995 was the first actual transport of radioative waste from Phillipsburg NPP by Castor casks into Gorleben.[7]

21 April, transport starts to Gorleben. There wer technical problems when the company wanted to transport the spent fuel to the Castor cask - they could not close the cask.[7]

4,000 people protested the transport, and 15,000 police were present to protect the transport, 9,000 of which were in Lower Saxony, 6,500 officers in the Wendland.[7]

The transport cost 55 million deutschmark, paid for by public taxes.[7]

The 2nd Transport

For the second Castor transport on 8 May 1996, which was from La Hague France, to Gorleben, there were 19,000 officers aross Germany to protect the transport, 7,800 in Lower Saxony. 10,000 people came together to organize against it.[8]

Again police outnumbered protesters, again there was police brutality - at one blockade, of a road leading into Gorleben, (which the trucks would have to drive to get into the town), police beat people with batons and used water canons to disperse the crowd.[8]

The 3rd Transport

5 March 1997 - 30,000 police officers. The largest assignment of police officers after the Second World War. 15,000 police in Lower Saxony. 10,000 protesters in the Wendland.[9]

The Cost: 100 million deutschmarks.[9]

A story I've heard: in 1997, demonstrators would bring large plastic sheets to protests, to protect people from the water canons and allow for the action to continue. Local firemen would hold the large plastic sheets up over their heads and the crowd would gather beneath it.[9]

In response, police forces used knives to hack through the sheeting, risking hitting the people on the other side.[9]

  • 20,000 people joined the start-up rally
  • 6 Castor casks from La Hague, Neckarwestheim NPP and Gundremmingen NPP

(This timeline will be continued later)

The 4th Transport

  • 6 Castor casks from La Hague
  • 30,000 police accompanied the Castor shipment, while some 20,000 people protested in the Wendland area (March 2001)

The 5th Transport

  • 6 Castor casks from La Hague
  • 17,600 police accompanied the Castor shipment, while some 5,000 people joined the start-up rally and the blockades (November 2001)

The 6th Transport

  • 12 Castor casks from La Hague
  • 16,600 police accompanied the Castor shipment, while some 5,000 people joined the start-up rally (2002)
  • 4,000 activists joined the blockades

The 7th Transport

  • 12 Castor casks from La Hague
  • 18,500 police accompanied the Castor shipment, while some 6,000 people joined the start-up rally (2003)
  • 2,500 activists joined the blockades

The 8th Transport

  • 12 Castor casks from La Hague
  • 15,700 police accompanied the Castor shipment, while some 5,500 people joined the start-up rally (2004)
  • 6,000 activists joined the blockades
  • anti-nuclear activist Sébastien Briat killed by the Castor train on November 7th

The 9th Transport

  • 12 Castor casks from La Hague
  • 15,900 police accompanied the Castor shipment, while some 7,000 people joined the start-up rally (2005)
  • 4,000 activists joined the blockades
  • 130 empty police housing containers were burned down

The 10th Transport

  • 12 Castor casks from La Hague
  • 16,000 police accompanied the Castor shipment, while some 3,000 people joined the start-up rally (2006)
  • 6,000 activists joined the blockades

The 11th Transport

The 12th Transport

The twelfth transport of high level radioactive waste from the plutonium factory (reprocessing unit) La Hague in France to the interim repository Gorleben in the Wendland region in Germany took place between November 5-9, 2010. While only on the German side some 20,000 police operated to prevent any interruption of the shipment, a big number of successful blockades, lock-on actions, climbing performances and other kinds of direct action stopped the dangerous transport again and again. Some 33,5 Million EUR the police operation had cost[10]. In the end the eleven containers of radioactive waste had been delayed for one day.

A big non-violent sit-in blockade of some 5,000 activists on the Castor tracks remained for nearly a day before police was able to remove the protesters. At several places on the last 40 kilometers of the railway transport to Dannenberg another big action with several thousands of activists took place. This non-violent campaign had been announced a long time before to take away the gravel from the tracks in public ("Castor? Schottern!"). Police attacked these activists brutally with batons, pepper spray, irritant gas shells and other forces.

A truck with a concrete pyramide blockaded the access road of the reloading crane where the Castor containers get lifted from the tracks onto the street. Several tractor blockades closed the support transport roads of the police and several farmers were locked-on to another concrete pyramide on the Castor route. In front of the final destination of the transport, the interim repository, a sit-in blockade of about 3,000 people took place for nearly two days.

A couple of weeks before a nationwide „Route Action Day“ was called out to do actions everywhere on the possible Castor routes on streets and tracks. More than 120 actions with up to 3,000 protesters demonstrated the big resistance against the announce nuclear transport. On Saturday, November 6, a start-up demonstration with about 50,000 activists took place in Dannenberg. Some months before, on September 18 some 100,000 people demonstrated against the government's atomic policy in the capital Berlin.

The pro-nuclear German government is struggling heavily with the resistance against their policy from the very beginning when the last federal elections took place. They didn't dare to demand new nuclear developments in public. Instead they talked about nuclear power as a „bridge technology“ insisting it would be necessary on the way to a renewable age. Accompanied by many actions of thousands of people, the government decided not to negotiate with the atomic companies publicly, but secretly while media and parliament were excluded. In the end they announced an extension of the German NPPs by an average of 12 years. The public perception of this announcement was a declaration of war by the government as the public opinion in Germany is strictly against nuclear power.

However, the protests against atomic power have been strengthened by the pro-nuclear policy of the government. The demonstrations of the last months showed that a big part of the population is opposing atomic power. The government's ignorance of the public opinion leads to a growing anti-nuclear movement, while the former federal government of „officially“ anti-nuclear parties lead to a decline, although even this government supported certain nuclear developments.

The 13th Transport

The transport started in La Hague (D) on November 14th to the loading station in Valognes (F). From there, it started to Germany on November 23rd - one day earlier than it was supposed to. With 125 hours and 49 minutes of transport it was the most delayed Castor shipment from La Hague to Gorleben ever. It arrived in Lüneburg on November 27th at 1.30 PM. The shipment reached the loading station in Dannenberg at 4.17 AM on November 28th, and started the transport on trucks at 6.40 PM the same day. The arrival in the Gorleben repository took place at 9.50 PM (arrival of the last truck at 10.09 PM[11]).

Some 23,000 people and 452 tractors demonstrated in the mass rally on November 26th in Dannenberg while at the same time some 3,000 people already blockaded the tracks of the shipment to Dannenberg in the Wendland region. The protest camp in Valognes was joined by some 1,000 activists. 20,415 police[11] were in operation to prevent actions, blockades and even legal assemblies. On November 14th 3,000 people joined the big start-up manifestation in Metzingen. Before, some 2,000 persons had joined the students' rally in Lüchow in the morning of the same day. In the "Hart Backbord" rally in Lüneburg on November 25th up to 2,000 people took part[11].

Besides many smaller blockades and actions, there was a big sit-in blockade for 16 1/2 hours on the tracks by Harlingen in the WiderSetzen action (26/11/11) with some 5,000 people, and for 26 1/2 hours a sit-in blockade on the road to the repository by Gorleben of X-tausendmal quer (28/11/11) with up to 1,800 activists. The blockade in Valognes on the tracks (23/11/11) was joined by some 600 people. At the Ende im Gelände action (26/11/11) approximately 1,000 activists participated after some 500 people had already joined the Ralley Monte Göhrde (25/11/11) the day before. In Haßloch (25/11/11) close to the French-German border, several hundred people attempted to blockade the tracks of the Castor as part of the Südblockade, while some 150 of them succeeded. Some 80 persons joined the Wir kommen zum Zug action in Ramelsloh close to the high speed train tracks by Lüneburg - they actually wanted to blockade the tracks, but eventually they didn't need to enter them as the police was blocking the railway to prevent the activists from getting there. About 1,000 people joined Castor? Schottern! actions on November 26th.

Besides that, there was a big variety of tractor blockades, "Schottern" actions, concerts, manifestations, lantern processions and other creative actions, as well as barricades made of sand, soil, beet, wood and other materials on roads in the whole area blocking the police supplies.

The 14th Transport

  • in 2017 a shipment of Castor casks with intermediate level radioactive waste from La Hague (F) is supposed to take place
  • the same year the shipments of high level radioactive waste in Castor casks is expected to start from Sellafield (UK) to Gorleben

More Castor photos