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Spanish protest against proposed nuclear waste storage

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
No Al Cementario Nuclear en Zarra

The Spanish Ministry of Industry has started a process for the construction of a Centralized Temporary Storage of radioactive waste (Almacén Temporal Centralizado –ATC) to house waste from all nuclear power plants in Spain. Some municipalities in the country have submitted their applications to host the facility. Several sites have been proposed in the past, but at the moment it seems to be Zarra, in the province of Valencia, near Albacete.

When Zarra, a village with a population of 551 on Valencia's provincial boundary with Albacete, emerged as a likely candidate from a Cabinet meeting in Madrid as the site for nuclear waste storage, the anti-ATC protest group called for immediate action: "people are very angry".

Siting the nuclear cemetery in Zarra would compromise the safety of  the Valencians, said Juan Cotino, third vice-president of Valencia's regional government earlier, in a reversal of the initially mild opposition to the ATC. Zarra could not satisfy the safety requirements for such a sensitive installation, he says. Most of the subsoil in the area ia a combination of clay and loam and could be geologically erratic in steep areas prone to landslides. But a delegate to the Madrid government claims that none of Cotino's present objections were put forward by the Valencian government when it originally opposed the ATC.

Antinuclear activists, however, were always clear in their rejection. In March already 4,000 people protested against the nomination of Zarra. And also in Madrid the opposition to the waste storage mounts; on September 22, some 1500 people demonstrated at the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism.

During the last two weeks of September quite a few things happened in the proposed region.

On September 19, a caravan of more than 200 slow-moving vehicles protested against the possible siting, causing 12-kilometer tailbacks on the A31 Alicante-Madrid road. It was the first of a series of demonstrations staged that week against the nuclear power plant at  Cofrentes and the proposed waste storage center at Zarra

A few days later the police arrested 16 activists at the village of Ayora, close to Zarra.  Among those arrested was the mayor, Manuel López Gaviria. He was arrested by four uniformed Guardia Civil officers at the school while teaching his students. Apparently, officials have identified the detainees through photos of the protests, as most of those arrested are "neighbors of the town of Ayora, where everyone knows everyone." The Guardia Civil said they could arrest as much as 'over a hundred people'. The arrest were made in connection with alleged crimes such as disobedience, public disorder and breaching traffic safety regulations. The charges include roadblocks on access roads to the Cofrentes nuclear power station.

A townmeeting was held immediately after the arrests. These arrests and trials are "attempts to criminalize and silence an entirely peaceful protests" in order to "scare and frighten" the activists,  and "the purpose of detention is to scare the demonstrators to stop the protests". According to one activist the people at the meeting were committed: "rather than to discourage, the effect of the arrest is quite the opposite. The people are one". A "cyberaction" has been started demanding "the immediate withdrawal of charges against all". 

On 28 September about 300 people demonstrated in Valencia in solidarity with those accused.

Sources: / / /