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Nuclear storage facilities in Gorleben, and Castor transport. Germany


Gorleben is known as the site of a controversial radioactive waste disposal facility, currently used as an intermediate storage facility but planned to serve with the salt dome Gorleben as a future deep final repository for waste from nuclear reactors.

The waste comes from Germany s nuclear power plants, was reprocessed in France and in La Hague, and the unusable remains then sent back to Germany in spent nuclear fuel shipping casks for final storage.

In woods around two kilometres to the southwest of Gorleben there are four different large plants: an interim storage unit for dry cask storage, a storage unit for radioactive waste which emits faint heat, a conditioning plant and a pilot plant in a salt dome.

In April 1995, the first shipments of nuclear waste were sent to the interim storage facility at Gorleben. They included spent fuel from several German reactor sites and high-level nuclear waste from reprocessing facilities in France. The anti-nuclear movement was able to concentrate its efforts on these so-called Castor transports, creating media mega-events that would dominate national media coverage for several days.

In November 2008, a shipment of radioactive waste from German nuclear plants arrived at a storage site near Gorleben after being delayed by large protests from nuclear activists. More than 15,000 people took part in the protests which involved blocking the route with tractors and blocking trucks with sit-down demonstrations.

The choice of Gorleben as a site was made in 1977 by the Minister-President of Lower Saxony, Ernst Albrecht of the CDU, based mainly upon political and economic criteria and particularly the proximity of the area at that time to the border with the GDR, and the sparse local populace. Since 1986 the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety is in charge for Nuclear Disposal. The responsible authority is the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection.  This is a narration for the Castor transport in 2010. "In November 2010 the 12th so-called "Castor transport" of high level radioactive waste was shipped from the plutonium factory La Hague in France to a temporary repository in Gorleben, federal state of Lower Saxony. 11 Containers with a radioactivity of 40 Hiroshima bombs each were part of this shipment. It was the next to last transport of the supposed high level radioactive Castor transports from France to Germany. In 2005 the shipments of nuclear waste from Germany to the so-called "reprocessing units" (factories to extract plutonium from the high level radioactive waste for further usage in atomic bombs or in MOX fuel elements) was forbidden. A bilateral agreement had been fixed about the amount of radioactive waste to bring back to Germany. Before the Castor train started to Germany the containers were brought to Valogne. There the shipment started on November 5th. There were several blockades in France and finally the French police sent the transport on a new route that wasn't part of the original plans or alternative routes. Obviously they wanted to avoid the blockades of Castor opponents and risked to use a new route that had not been prepared for the transport. The border to Germany was supposed to be crossed at Lauterbourg.

There was a huge blockade of about 2,000 activists on the tracks near to the village of Berg. The police tried to remove people from the tracks but gave up soon, because it would have taken to much time. The transport was sent back a certain distance and tried another passage using another route now. Also in Germany many blockades and actions took part and caused a long delay of the transport schedule. In Dalle near Celle a group of activists delayed the Castor shipment for some three hours when three activists had been locked-on at the tracks with tubes.

After reaching the train station in Lüneburg the transport had to pass an area of some 40 kilometers to Dannenberg. This connection was only in usage for the Castor transport during these days, and since many years it is one of the main action fields for the anti-nuclear resistance at Castor transports. This year two main actions with several thousands of activists took part on the tracks: "Castor? Schottern!”

and "Widersetzen". Widersetzen is a non-violent sit-in blockade organized by local activists of the Wendland region. Castor Schottern intended to remove gravel from the tracks to make them unusable for the Castor transport. It was organized by a wide alliance of organizations and individuals and with support by popular persons. Anyway, it was the target of heavy attempts of criminalization by police and of violence by the state forces.

In Dannenberg the transport had to be reloaded from the train to trucks. This took about ten hours - originally the police had planned to send the shipment directly afterwards on the road to the repository in Gorleben, some 20 kilometers away. But there was a successful blockade by Greenpeace with a truck in front of the train station on a road the transport had to pass. Several activists had locked-on themselves to a concrete pyramide inside the truck that had been let down through the floor of the truck onto the road and was fixed to the asphalt. The police needed more then half a day to figure out the construction of the blockade and to remove the activists. At the same time several other blockades of the two transport roads and support roads for the police had taken place - mostly realized by tractors of local farmers. In Gorleben in front of the temporary repository another big sit-in blockade of several thousands of activists took place". (Source: Nuclear Heritage Net.)

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Nuclear storage facilities in Gorleben, and Castor transport. Germany
State or province:Lower Saxony
(municipality or city/town)Gorleben
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict: 1st level:Nuclear
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Nuclear power plants
Nuclear waste storage
Specific commodities:Nuclear waste

Project Details and Actors

Project details:

Permission has been granted to store 420 dry casks on the site.

Gorleben is in the Wendland, an area in the north of Germany near Lüneburg. Most of the actions happen there, the nuclear waste is transported on a train between Lüneburg and Dannenberg (approx. 50 km) and then changes to lorries. From there, it is transported on the roads (approx. 30 km) to its destination in Gorleben.

Project area:0,57 (above-ground)
Level of Investment:2,151,690,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:100,000-200,000
Start of the conflict:1977
Company names or state enterprises:Gesellschaft für Nuklear-Service
The Gesellschaft für Nuklear-Service mbH
Relevant government actors:Minister-President of Lower Saxony (at that time, Ernst Albrecht of the CDU), Since 1986 the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety is in charge for Nuclear Disposal., German Federal Office for Radiation Protection.
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Greenpeace, BUND Friends of the Earth Germany, BI Umweltschutz Lüchow Dannenberg

Conflict and Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches

Impacts of the project

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution
Potential: Genetic contamination, Soil contamination
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Deaths, Other environmental related diseases
Potential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Other Health impactsIn 35km zone: reported, increased stillbirths and miscarriages, changed sex ratio (lost girls)
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Militarization and increased police presence, Specific impacts on women


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Criminalization of activists
Negotiated alternative solution
New legislation
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
(Immediate) stop of use of nuclear energy
Development of alternatives:Renewable Energy, New search for a final nuclear storage site following scientific (not political) criteria
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:In July 2013 the German Bundesrat has approved a new law, which determines to investigate alternatives to Gorleben for final nuclear disposal.

Sources and Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Standortauswahlgesetz (site selection law),

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries


Antinuclear Energy Movements in Germany and Japan : A

Comparative Analysis of Protest against Disposal of Nuclear

Glaser, A. (2012). From Brokdorf to Fukushima: The long journey to nuclear phase-out. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 68(6), 10-21.

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Castor vor härtestem Streckenabschnitt (in German)

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

GERMANY - NUCLEAR POWER: Gorleben refuses to go nuclear, France24

Castor transport to Gorleben 2010

Other documents

The X symbolizes resistance to Castor transport

Meta information

Contributor:Gabriel Weber
Last update03/08/2016




The X symbolizes resistance to Castor transport