Activist killed in anti-nuke protest

IssueDecember 2004 - February 2005
News by Kat Barton

A young French activist was killed on Sunday 7 November as he attempted to blockade a train carrying 12 Castor caskets - 175 tonnes - of nuclear waste.

The blockade was part of a series of actions taking place along the train's route through France and Germany over the weekend, in opposition to the transport of nuclear waste and its eventual dumping in the village of Gorbelen in Germany.

Sébastien Briat had chained himself to the track along with three others, but was run over after the train failed to stop in time. The incident left one of his legs severed and despite being given emergency treatment by paramedics his injuries were so severe that he died before reaching hospital.

The three other protesters involved in the action managed to escape unharmed after unchaining themselves when they realised the train was unlikely to stop.


The train was travelling from La Hague in Valognes, north-western France, where the nuclear waste had been sent for reprocessing - as Germany has no treatment facilities of its own - to Dannenberg in Germany from where the train's containers were due to be shipped to a nearby dump at Gorleben.

Having departed at nine o'clock the previous night night, the train was passing near to Avricourt in eastern France when the incident happened.

Actions along route

Earlier in the day, two protesters from Sortir du Nucleaire had chained themselves to the track at Laneuveville-devant-Nancy, forcing it to stop and successfully delaying its journey by two hours. In other actions: on Friday, hundreds of people took part in demonstrations by school pupils; on Saturday, in Dannenbourg, where the train's journey was due to terminate, thousands of people (reports suggest up to 10,000), including members of the citizens' initiative in the region, staged a mass protest; in Lüchow-Dannenberg county, in which the picturesque village of Gorleben lies, hundreds of activists protested on Sunday morning in several small actions. They included bicycle and horseback excursions and sixty farmers and their tractors, and were watched closely by police.

Legal challenges

Since 1995, there have been numerous anti-nuclear actions along the route, forcing authorities to deploy around 13,000 police in what has become one of Germany's largest security operations. With so many police on duty, the regional security ministry calculates the cost of the security operation at €30 million.

As Peace News went to press protesters were awaiting a decision on the legality of their protests after challenging Karlsruhe county's attempts to ban demonstrations close to the track. The challengers were hopeful, after a German administrative court overturned a previous ban on demonstrating at and on the transport route in the Gorleben area.

Topics: Nuclear power