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Wyhl anti-nuke movement in Kaiserstuhl, Germany

Wyhl is where the German anti-nuclear movement cut its teeth in the early 1970s, based on Bürgerinitiativen and university researchers. The expression "Energiewende" (energy transition) so important in German energy policy was born in this struggle.


Whyl is a small wine growing locality in Emmendingen in Baden-Württemberg very near the Alsace border in France where the German anti-nuclear movement cut its teeth in the early 1970s.  There was the idea of turning South Baden, Alsace and the neighbouring region of Switzerland into an industrial area, with several nuclear plants. A second Ruhr, as was said at the time. After being chosen in 1971 as a  site for a nuclear power plant, the local opposition in Wyhl steadily mounted. Permission for the plant was granted and work began on 17 February 1975.  On the following day, local people spontaneously occupied the site and police removed them forcibly two days later. Television coverage of police dragging away common people through the mud helped to turn nuclear power into a major national issue. Wine-growers and clergy supported the movement together with members of the university  of Freiburg (where the Öko-Institut was to be founded later). On 23 February about 30,000 people re-occupied the Wyhl site and plans to remove them were abandoned by the state government in view of the large number involved and potential for more adverse publicity. On 21 March 1975, an administrative court withdrew the construction license for the plant.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Wyhl anti-nuke movement in Kaiserstuhl, Germany
State or province:Baden
Location of conflict:Wyhl
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Nuclear
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Nuclear power plants
Specific commodities:Electricity
Project Details and Actors
Project details

A nuclear power station was to be built by Badenwerk AG, 1260 MW. It was never built.

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Type of populationRural
Affected Population:180,000
Start of the conflict:1971
End of the conflict:1983
Company names or state enterprises:Badenwerk AG from Germany
Southern Atomic Plant from Germany
Relevant government actors:Hans Filbinger (CDU), Minister-Präsident Baden-Württemberg (and a former Nazi judge in the Navy)
Rudolf Eberle, Economics Minister
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Baden-Alsace Bürgerinitiativen (up to 56 groups)
Weisweil, social-democratic major
Freiburg, University teachers and students
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
International ejos
Local ejos
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Boycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
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
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Refusal of compensation
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation
Potential: Other Environmental impacts
Other Environmental impactsRisk of nuclear radiation
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Potential: Accidents, Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Court decision (undecided)
Strengthening of participation
Application of existing regulations
Project cancelled
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:The project was stopped by the occupation of the site and by demonstrations. There was a refusal of compensation.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Meyer, Jan-Henrik: "Where do we go from Wyhl?" Transnational anti-nuclear protest targeting European and international organizations in the 1970s. In: Historical Social Research 39 (2014), 1, pp. 212-235
[click to view]

Stephen Milder, “The New Watch on the Rhine: Anti-Nuclear Protest in Baden and Alsace.” Environment & Society Portal, Arcadia 2013, no. 6. Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society.
[click to view]

Roger Karapin, Protest Politics in Germany, Pennsylvania UP, 2007 (contains a comparison of Wyhl and Brokdorf)

Heinrich Böll Stiftung, The History of the Energie-Wende (energy transition)
[click to view]

A useful chronology on nuclear power in Germany until 2009 (before Fukushima and the final phase out) (see also Other Comments)
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Florentin Krause, Hartmut Bossel, Karl-Friedrich Müller-Reißmann , 1980, Energie-Wende. Wachstum und Wohlstand ohne Erdöl und Uran.
[click to view]

Other comments:Spiegel's timeline of events associated with the anti-nuclear power movement in Germany until Fukushima 2011.
1975: Fight about a proposed new nuclear power plant for Whyl.
1976: Clashes between police and protesters at the Brokdorf construction site.
1977: Clashes between anti-nuclear activists and security forces at Brokdorf.
1977: 50,000 people protested against the construction of a fast-breeder reactor at Kalkar in the lower Rhine region.
1979: Following the Three Mile Island accident, 100,000 people demonstrated against plans for a reprocessing plant at Gorleben
1979: The anti-nuclear movement grows and 150,000 people demonstrated in Bonn, demanding the closure of all nuclear facilities.
1980: 5,000 people occupy the site of the proposed nuclear repository at Gorleben.
1981: Riots in Brokdorf between 10,000 police and 100,000 anti-nuclear protesters.
1984: 4,000 anti-nuclear protesters blocked all access roads to Gorleben for 12 hours.
1986: 100,000 people demonstrated in the Bavarian village of Wackersdorf against a planned reprocessing plant.
1986: After the Chernobyl disaster, hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated against nuclear power in various locations.
1995: From the mid-1990s onwards, anti-nuclear protests were primarily directed against transports of radioactive waste called "castor" containers.
1996: Sit-ins against the second castor consignment bringing nuclear waste from La Hague in France to Gorleben.
1997: The third castor transport reached Gorleben despite the efforts of several thousand protesters.
2004: A 21-year-old man was killed during protests against the castor transport after a train severed his leg.
2008: 15,000 people protested against the eleventh castor transport.
2009: Tens of thousands demonstrated in Berlin under the motto "Turn Them Off", and called for the decommissioning of all nuclear facilities worldwide.
2010: 120,000 people formed a 120-kilometre long human chain between the nuclear power plants at Krummel and Brunsbuttel, to protest against the federal government's nuclear policy.[24]
2011: Following the Fukushima I nuclear accidents in March, regular quiet demonstrations (Mahnwachen) are held on each Monday in hundreds of places in Germany attracting each time more than 100,000 people. On 26 March, 250,000 people protest against nuclear energy in four cities (Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg and Munich). On 31 May, Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government announces a phase-out of Germany's nuclear industry by 2022.
Meta information
Contributor:joan martinez alier
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:2377
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