Europe

French riot police battle protesters over nuclear train

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Media captionNuclear protesters and police clash in north-western France

Riot police in north-western France have made 12 arrests while battling protesters trying to stop a trainload of nuclear waste bound for Germany.

They sprayed tear gas and wielded truncheons at protesters in gas masks, who had tried to block railway tracks near Valognes with debris.

A mobile police canteen was set on fire and at least three people were hurt.

The shipment from the French nuclear giant Areva's reprocessing plant at La Hague is the last planned to Germany.

Germany has stopped sending nuclear waste for reprocessing in France, as it winds down its nuclear power plants. Chancellor Angela Merkel said this year that all plants would be shut down by 2022.

Wednesday's train left more than an hour late as a result of the disturbances, which were frequently violent, correspondents report.

Two machetes were seized from protesters, a local prosecutor said.

The demonstrators managed to remove a rail and destroy electric junction boxes before the train left, according to France's AFP news agency.

'Radical opposition'

Further protests are expected when the train enters Germany on its way to the nuclear waste facility at Gorleben.

Protesters say the shipment presents an environmental hazard but Areva insists the rail shipment is perfectly safe.

"Beyond the danger that this waste poses, we're demonstrating our radical opposition to a means of production that means we'll always need more power," said one Parisian protester, Anna, 24.

"We're against endless growth."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has rejected calls to close down France's own nuclear industry, which is a major source of revenue.

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