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2001 Anti Nuclear Conference

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2001 Anti Nuclear Conference

written by Gunter Wippel

Feb 4, 2002

Preface
Normally, a German nationwide anti-nuclear conference was held every spring
and every fall for many years. However, within the past couple of years, no
local group has been willing or able to host such a nationwide meeting.
Thus, the conference in November 2001 in Leipzig (former East-Germany) came
to be the first nationwide anti-nuclear conference after 1 1/2 years.

The conference took place about 2 1/2 months after the events of September
11, right in the middle of the Afghanistan war as well as the serious
backlash of certain states in regard to citizen’s rights.

For all those of you not too familiar with German politics, I want to add
that the participants of these conferences during the past few years, have
mainly been people referred to as “left wing”, as well as peace movement,
anti-fascist movement and people critical of “globalization”.
Since a couple of years, the more middle-class oriented environmental
groups and organisations (such as Greeenpeace or BUND / Frieds of the Earth
Germany) tend to not particitpate in the conference.

As a surprise, many young people attended last fall’s anti-nuclear
conference, a number in their late teens or very early twenties, a picture
not seen for quie some time at these conferences.

Conference proceedings

Saturday

The organizers had choosen to give ample time to discussing the general
political situation after September 11.
This turned out to be an important step since many politcally active people
(especialy the younger ones) had not had much chance to discuss these
matters openly and to voice their critique and concern about Germany’s
pending participation in the Afghanistan war.

Another important issue was the past CASTOR transport (transport of spent
nuclear fuel rods to the proposed German nuclear waste repository at
Gorleben, Wendland area). The transport was, as usual, heavily guarded and
escorted by police forces, and had been delayed through road blocks,
demonstrations, vigils and all kinds of actions, most of them non-violent,
for many hours..

During these discussions, different issues were highlighted and suggested
for further discusssion for the next day.

One of the most important insights in the following discussions was that
the anti-nuclear movement needs a shift away from exclusively focusing on the
CASTOR (= nuclear waste transport) and that we need to look at
transportation issues at the beginnning of the nuclear fuel chain, i.e. at
the transportation of uranium (yellow cake) as well as uranium hexaflouride
etc., from German and Netherlands ports to the German nuclear fuel
enrichment plant at Gronau (northern Germany, close to the Netherlands
border).

These transports have gone unnoted for a long time, and the number of
transports is manyfold the number of nuclear waste transports, coounting at
least tow transpaorts per week from one of the port cities to the
enrichment plant at Gronau.

BACKGROUND INFO: The German Uranium Enrichment Plant (“UAA”) at Gronau
In this context it is paramount to look at the planned enlargement of the
(only) German uranium enrichment plant at Gronau:

To this point in time (Dec. 2001), the enrichment plant has a capacity of
enriching approximately 1.500 tons of U per year.
Although Germany has formally decided to phase out nuclear energy over the
next 25 years, the capacity of this enrichment plant will be upgraded in
several step to approximately the threefold capacity (ca. 4.500 T U per
year) within the next few years.

The first step of this enlargement will take place in 2002; the licensing
process has already been set in motion.
Public hearings will be held in the first half of this year in Gronau /
nearby.

The company has already taken first prepatory steps in terms of “rounding
up” their territory, improving the fences and building a railway connection
to the public railsway in order to be able to facilitate transportation on
rail instead trucks (as of now).

Ideas, Plans, Actions

The idea to spread the focus of the anti-nuclear movement towards the
front end of the nuclear fuel chain in our country, i.e. the transportation of
uranium and uranium products inside Germany and neighbouring countries, was
adopted by the plenary of the conference.

On Sunday, different working groups were held, one of them focusing on the
uranium transportation issue. The working group was attended by about 20
individuals, some of them working since a long time on the uranium issue,
some of them new and young.

Ideas for action were put forward, and a rough plan was decided upon as
follows:

(1) A small-scale conference on uranium transportation will be held in
Gronau (northern Germany) or surroundings in spring 2002, most probably in
early March.
The conference will not only focus on factual information, but also be a
preparation for some kind of non-violent direct action following up the
conference, either the next day or later on.

(2) The transportation routes of uranium and uranium products will be
tracked down as much as possible inside Germany, and – as far as possible –
also in the relevant neighbouring countries, i.e. the Netherlands and
France (uranium conversion plant in southern France).

(3) The public hearings for the enlargement of the uranium enrichment plant
will come up this spring. Exact dates are not available yet.
However, anti-nuclear people from different parts of Germany will voice
there concerns at these hearings.
Further preparations will be made within the next months.

(4) The uranium issue, until now not very well rooted in German
anti-nuclear
movement-people’s mind needs to be brought to further attention of the
anti-nuclear people as well as the general public.

Suggestion to international anti-nuclear people / groups

I would suggest to our Canadian friends and to anybody else concerned with
u-mining …
(a) to attend those public hearings for the enlargement of the German
uranium enrichment plant this spring.
Most probably, uranoium form Canada, Australia and other parts of the world
is being processed here, adn I think it would be a good possibilty to
present problems, concerns and effects fo the uranium mining at these
hearings and point out their detrimental effects.

I am aware this is short notice, and travel expenses might be a problem;
the German anti-nuclaer movement also does not have money easily at hand to pay
for international planetickets; but I am sure solutions can be found.

However, I feel, this would be an important chance and step to up-grade
international cooperation and networking, and make the problems of and
concerns towards uranium mining also known in Germany.

(b) Any such visit for those public hearings could be preceded or followed
up by a (short or long) tour of the international guests (Canadian or
other) informing the German public, politicians and anti-nculear people about the
issue of uranium mining, and all problems connected to it, including both
environmental as well as Native land rights issues.
People within the German anti-nuclear movement have basicly welcomed the
idea of an information tour.

I am looking forward to your response in this matter!

Nuclear Waste – International

On Saturday night, an environmental and anti-nuclear group from Russia
(with a small branch group in Leipzig) made a presentation of nuclear issues in
Russia. Here I am only mentioning the international aspects of nuclear
waste storage.

Target: Russia
During the presentation, it turned out that German nuclear companies
(utility companies) are looking at exporting nuclear waste to Russia,
possibly and preferable to be stored away in “uninhabited areas”.
Until now, German legislation forbids the export of German nuclear waste
(spent nuclear fuel rods) to other countries.
However, ideas to export nuclear waste have been launched in Germany since
the early 1990ies; the planned German nuclear waste repository at Gorleben
(Wendland area) is not really getting any further; at this point in time,
the containers with spent nuclear fuel rods (“Castor”) are simply stored
above ground in a big hall.

Target: Canada
I have also received reports that in Canada the plans for building a
nuclear waste repository are tabled again, and a target area might as well be
Saskatchewan (or other provinces with territories in the Canadian shield).
I would like to bring to remembrance the fact that US utility companies
were highly interested in bringing their nuclear waste to Canada for “final
storage” since the planned US nuclear waste dump site at Yuccca Mountain is
not proceeding very well, either.

Target: Australia
A couple of years ago, several internationally active nuclear companies
created a company named “Pangea” which plans to build a nuclear waste
repository in the arid zone / desert of Australia; a promotional video
menat onyl for company use was leaked and published by Australian environmental
groups, embarrassing the company as well as the (then conservative)
government.
Newer developments in that issue are not known to me at this point in time.

Suggestion

I am mentioning all this since there seems to be a concept of building one
nuclear waste repository in at least one country … and our concers have
been for a long time – once there is one repository, it might become the
nuclear waste dump site for the rest of the world.

Thus, I feel it is very important to keep track of all developments around
nuclear waste, not only on a national level, but to share information on
the development of nuclear waste repositories on an international level.

Probably, a web-site can be created to facilitate a quick and simple
information exchange.

Citizen’ rights, Repression, “War against Terrorism” etc.

On the conference, the planned – and partially decided upon – laws in
“internal security” in Germany were discussed.
In the aftermath of September 11, German politicians not only voiced and
enacted “unconditional solidarity wit the US”, but German ministers also
pushed for laws similar as the (planned) US legislation against – possible
“terrorists”.
This includes a newer version of the passport including fingerprints,
measurement data of head / face and others.
Another important issue is the legalizing of tapping nearly everybody’s
phone as well as apartment under the slightest suspicions of “terrorism”
without any control through courts or legislation; although we are well aware
things like this may have been going on, it is another step to legalize it.
– Moreover, the arbitrary incarceration of – suspected – “troublemakers”
ahead of major events, demonstrations etc. is eing planned for.
(We see this mainly as a backlash in regard to the acitivities against
globalization / World Economic Summit in Geneva and similar activities; the
events of Sept. 11 are welcomed to justify these measures.)

During the conference, Minister fo Justice, Mr. Schily (formerly Green
Party, now Social Democrats, formerly attorney for German “terrorists” of
RAF, now hardliner in the war against terrorism) coined a new expression
which baffled us: “non-violent extremists”.
Also still wondering what a non-violent extremist might be in detail, it is
easy to see this is aimed towards people engaged in the struggle against
nuclear energy, against globalization and similar issues. The anti-terror
laws shall be used against non-violent extremists as well.

Thus, we are facing a new wave of criminalization, i.e. non-violent direct
action (like sitting in a blockade in front of a Castor nuclear waste
container) might be considered and dealt with like an act of terrorism, and
being prosecuted and punished accordingly.
Also, the new possibilities of tapping apartments, phones etc. will make out
work more difficult.

Closure
So far the issues I felt were of international relevance on the German
anti-nuclear conference in November.
In case you have any more questions on details and or in regarrd to
developments since then, don’t hesitate to contact me.

My mailing address:
Gunter Wippel
P.O. Box 5102
79018 Freiburg, Germany
phone (0049) – 7636 – 79 12 15

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