Wackersdorf nuclear reprocessing plant, Baviera, Germany

The nuclear reprocessing plant at Wackersdorf in Baviera, planned in 1982, was discontinued in 1989 because of very strong protests, and the availability of alternative facilities at The Hague (France) and Sellafield (UK).

At a cost equivalent to 5 billion euros, there were plans in the '80s to build a nuclear reprocessing plant (converting nuclear waste to nuclear fuels such as plutonium) in the Oberpfalz in Baviera, Germany. This plant was to be placed in Wackersdorf. In German, it would be a “Wiederaufbereitungsanlage”, abbreviated WAA.  The Anti-WAAhnsinns  (Wahnsinn means “madness”) were political rock concerts which took place in the 1980s, until the plans for the WAA were given up in 1989. These plans had led to major protests. German police heavily armed was confronted by demonstrators armed with slingshots, crowbars and some Molotov cocktails. The plans for the plant were abandoned due to several factors: Chernobyl,  the citizens’ protests,  the economics of the plant, and the death of the pro-nuclear Minister-President of Bavaria Franz Josef Strauß, of the CSU (CDU), a right wing politician who was keen on building the plant. After the halt of the construction of the Wackersdorf reprocessing plant, reprocessing of spent German fuel  took place in France and Britain. Once the fast breeder line was given up in Germany (because of the protests at Kalkar) there was no longer any reason for investing in large plutonium production facilities, in particular given the fact that the plants then under construction at La Hague (France) and Sellafield (UK) would have more than enough reprocessing capacity for this nasty job. In 1986 (the year of Chernobyl) 120,000 mostly young and resolute people demonstrated in Wackersdorf against the reprocessing plant. There is a relation between the anti-nuclear struggle in Wackesdorf in Baviera (Germany) and in Zwetendorf (Austria). Hildegard Breiner had been one of the leaders of the campaign against Zwentendorf Nuclear Power Plant in the 1970s. In 1978, an unprecedented 85 percent of the voters in Vorarlberg cast their votes against Zwentendorf, tipping the scales of the nationwide referendum. In the second half of the 1980s, Hildegard Breiner played a major role in opposition to the nearby nuclear reprocessing plant Wackersdorf.  But also the Austrian movement in general.  Having got rid of Austria’s domestic nuclear programme, and with awareness heightened everywhere by Chernobyl,  the Austrian antinuclear organisations had energy to fight nuclear projects across the borders. Joining hands with the German resisters, they helped prevent what would have been Germany’s first commercial reprocessing plant for highly radioactive waste, and the country’s entrance into the plutonium economy at Wackersdorf. Hundreds of thousands of written objections by Austrian citizens, local and regional governments (just as many as from all of Germany itself), and a one-hour speech against the reprocessing project by the Austrian environment minister Marilies Flemming in an official public hearing: all that would have been unthinkable without the Chernobyl shock wave, and also without the emancipating Austrian referendum against Zwentendorf. From the ranks of scientists, another well known opponent was Arnim Weiss who was born and raised not far from Wackersdorf. In the 1980s Weiss took leave from his position as Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, and began making public appearances in opposition to the plant. There were a variety of groups in opposition, including Christian churches.  There was also support from the local SPD party against the plant. At the place itself, there is a St Francis chapel where in the mid-1980s WAA opponents met every Sunday at 14:00 for an ecumenical prayer and then moved into the area. In this place there is today a meeting four times a year for a prayer: at the Chernobyl- and Hiroshima anniversaries, at St. Francis of Assisi’s day on 3 October, and on Christmas Eve. 
Basic Data
NameWackersdorf nuclear reprocessing plant, Baviera, Germany
ProvinceSchwandorf, Oberpfalz
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Nuclear
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Nuclear power plants
Specific CommoditiesUranium
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsA nuclear reprocessing plant, at a cost estimated at 5 billion euros, not built.
Level of Investment (in USD)6,000,000,000
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Start Date1982
End Date1989
Company Names or State EnterprisesVEBA- Preußen-Elektra from Germany
Relevant government actorsGovernment of Bavaria

Federal Ministry of Energy

Minister of the Interior, police
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersAnti-WAA activists


Green political party

Local SPD political party

WISE - nuclear energy information service
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingLocal ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Forms of MobilizationArtistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Potential: Accidents, Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Militarization and increased police presence
Potential: Displacement, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCriminalization of activists
Project cancelled
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.Th project was stopped in 1989. The movement is still active today, as it still meets four times a year for ecumenical prayers and for discussion nuclear plans in Europe.
Sources and Materials

A chronology between 1980 and 1989, 30 years later, from a local newspaper
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5 Febr 2016. Süddeutsche Zeitung. Hans Schuierer hat als SPD-Landrat gegen die Wiederaufarbeitungsanlage Wackersdorf gekämpft und Franz Josef Strauß besiegt.
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In the style of Der Spiegel, the large demonstration at Wackersdorf in May 1986
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Media Links

Many videos available, for instance on one political rock concert, WAAhnsinn – Der Wackersdorf-Film -> weisse-rose.net
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(Relation to Zwetendorf). The first-ever national referendum and Atomic Energy Prohibition Act worldwide. When the people said “no“ to the ready-built NPP at Zwentendorf in 1978.
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WISE, Germany - Plutonium Investigation, 4/5
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Other Documents

Die Pfingstschlacht von Wackersdorf
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Meta Information
Contributorjoan martinez alier
Last update16/08/2016