#387-388 - March 28, 1993 - Special: Environmental Racism and Nuclear Development

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#387-388
Special: Environmental Racism and Nuclear Development
28/03/1993
Full issue

"A National Legacy of Unutterable Shame"

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#387-388
Special: Environmental Racism and Nuclear Development
28/03/1993
Article

(March 28, 1993) Australia's treatment of its indigenous peoples is "a national legacy of unutterable shame". These words were used by two judges of the High Court of Australia recently to describe the aftermath of two centuries of dispossession, degradation and devastation of the Aboriginal peoples of Australia by the colonizers. Judge Brennan wrote: "Aborigines were dispossessed of their land parcel by parcel, to make way for expanding colonial settlement. Their dispossession underwrote the development of the nation."

Monica Muurlink and Dave Sweeney

In what has come to be known as the Mabo case, the High Court's long-awaited historic judgment was delivered on June 3, 1992, in a decision that ended Terra Nullius, the British claim to sovereignty which for 204 years was used to justify the dispossession of Aborigines. Terra Nullius asserted that the existing inhabitants were so primitive and barbarous in that they had no laws or social organization, sovereign or institution capable of being recognized under international law - that Australia was unoccupied, in effect.

The Mabo case centered on the Murray Islands, three tiny islands in the Torres Strait between Australia and Papua New Guinea. In 1982 the High Court was asked to rule on who owned the Islands: the Queensland government or the indigenous Meriam people. Ten years later, by a majority of six to one, the full bench of the High Court ruled that indigenous title to land is recognized in the Common Law of Australia. The Mabo decision recognized the legal validity of Aboriginal title; Aborigines can claim title if they can prove they have an historical affiliation with the land in question. This is often difficult because the displacement of Aboriginal people caused by colonisation patterns often destroy such evidence. The Court decision did not apply to private land, farmland or factory sites.

The Mabo decision is being anxiously interpreted by lawyers representing a wide range of interests, chiefly that of the mining industry. It has created a sense of nervous instability and apprehension with test cases being prepared to fully test the extent of the effects of the Mabo decision. The long-term repercussions are impossible to predict.

It is a sad truth that indigenous peoples tend to suffer the primary costs and dislocation caused by large scale resource development projects. The story of the exploration and mining of uranium in Australia is no exception.

There are currently two producing uranium mines in Australia. The Ranger deposit, located physically but not technically in the famous Kakadu World Heritage region, and the Roxby Downs (Olympic Dam) deposit in northern South Australia.

Both of these projects have generated much opposition, including from Aboriginal people. In the case of Roxby Downs, the relations between the mine operators (now fully owned by Western Mining Corporation, after their recent purchase of British Petroleum's 49% share) and the traditional owners of the land, the Kokatha people, have been characterized by indifference and arrogance on the part of the mine management. There has been no compensation to the Kokatha for the destruction of significant sites during the mine's development to date. The Indenture Agreement between the mine operators and the South Australian government overrides the preexisting 1979 Aboriginal Land Heritage Act, and the mine's special lease conditions prohibits the Kokatha access to significant sites except in the company of Olympic Dam personnel. The situation is summed up best in the words of one Kokatha elder who has stated that "They (WMC) are the worst mob."

Unfortunately there are many vested interests in Australia who by their actions appear intent to claim the title of the 'worst mob' in relation to Aboriginal people. Mining and pastoral interests, conservative politicians and the media are among these. Uranium miners have often been at the forefront of attacks on the property rights of indigenous people and opposition to any attempts to implement a codified set of national land rights.

From 1952 until the middle 1960's, Australia was the host to a series of British atomic weapons tests and trials. These occurred on the MonteBello Islands in the northwest of West Austalia and at Emu Field and Maralinga in the South Australian desert. The Maralinga tests caused extensive social and cultural dis-location as people were removed from their land to a reserve at Yalata. During the tests and trials, an es-timated 20 kg of plutonium was released into the environment primarily affecting the health of the Pitjantjatjara and Kokatha peoples. The tests were carried out in a context of secrecy and deceit and most details did not become public until the McCelland Royal Commission in 1985. The Maralinga people are continuing with their long struggle to gain recognition from the British government and to receive adequate compensation.

To add insult to injury, the Woomera Rocket range, a British testing site also near Maralinga and on the lands of the Kokatha people, is now seen as the most likely site for the storage of radioactive waste. Since Australia only has a small nuclear facility at Lucas Heights, Sydney (itself the center of current review process to determine if the need exists for a new reactor), it seems as though ANSTO (Australian Nuclear Science Technology Organisation) are preparing the way for imported nuclear waste and development of the Synroc process.

Australia contains an estimated 33% of the world's economically recoverable uranium reserves, and there are over fifty uranium deposits. In many remote parts of the country uranium exploration is taking place. In the north of West Australia, CRA (Conzinc Rio Tinto Zinc of Australia) is proposing to develop a large uranium deposit around the Rudall River National Park. The Karlamilyi (Rudall River) region is home to the Martu people of the Western Desert. The Martu have been organizing to fight the power of this large corporation and remain committed to the protection of their land and culture. A statement by the Western Desert people highlights the issue at stake:

"The mining companies continue to move over our land destroying our sacred sites and vegetation as well as disrupting animal life without consultation with the very people that this effects the most. We have lived in this land for thousands of years, yet legally we are not permitted to build permanent structures for housing and by law can be removed from the land we occupy. Our people, some 2000, live in very harsh conditions, our only contact is by radio or by many hours driving, yet we love this land, it is our way of life, it is part of our culture and our heritage."

The oppressive persuasion employed by many mining companies in securing their interests is typified by the following example of the 'negotiation' process. In May 1989, in an historic meeting of mining and tourist interest in consultation with the Martu (under a government-sponsored Social Impact Study), the Martu people declared a resounding "NO" to further exploration of uranium and any development of a mine. The response of the miners: "Well, that's why we are here, we will talk until the problems are sorted out" (meaning that they would persist in pressure until a satisfactory solution was reached from the miners' point of view). When does NO mean NO??

The Western Desert people originally objected on the grounds of heritage and culture, but have recently included another objection based on the Mabo decision.

Other uranium deposits on Aboriginal land remain on a stand-by status awaiting an economic and political improvement in the industry's fortunes before being further developed. Energy Resources Australia (ERA), operators of the Ranger mine, have announced their intention to open the adjacent rich Jabiluka deposit in the mid-1990's.

On March 13, 1993, there was federal election in Australia. Defying the odds (over 11% unemployment nationally), the incumbent Labor government was returned for a fifth term with an increased majority, in a decision that can be seen as a devil and the deep blue sea choice. The opposition Coalition Liberal/National party offered a right-wing cocktail of anti-union legislation, privatization and an unpopular Goods and Services Tax. The Coalition were committed to expanding the number of uranium mines, reducing constraints on the nuclear industry and to exploring the feasibility of domestic nuclear power, uranium enrichment and nuclear storage. They are also hostile to the principles and reality of Aboriginal control of land and see this not as a basic pre-condition for addressing the violence of white occupation of this country, but rather as an impediment to capital-intensive, resource-based economic growth. Instead we are now left with the current compromise "Three Mines Policy" of the Labor government. The Aboriginal cultural and political movement in Australia is vibrant and growing. However, the entrenched racism which has under-pinned much of white Australia's history and the priorities and policies which embody this remain potent forces.

Sources:

  • Land Rights News
  • The Australian
  • The Age
  • industry material
  • personal observations
  • FoE
  • WISE files

Contacts for Aboriginal communities and anti-nuclear groups:

Maralinga-Tjaruta Association, PO Box 435, Ceduna, SA 5670. Phone: +61-86-252946. Fax: 86-253076. Contact person: Archie Barton (Association Administrator).

Kokatha Peoples' Committee, Box 2085, Port Augusta, SA 5700. Contact: Ningel Reid (Chairperson KPC).

Puntukurnuparna n Western Desert Aboriginal Corp., Box 2358, South Hedland, WA 6722. Phone: +61-91-723299. Contact person: Teddy Biliabu (Chairperson).

Movement Against Uranium Mining (MAUM), PO Box K133, Haymarket, NSW. Phone: +62-2-2124538. Contact person: Murray Matson.

Friends of the Earth (FOE) Fitzroy, PO Box 222, Fitzroy, Victoria 3065. Phone: +61-3-4198700. Fax: 3-4162081. Contact: Dave Sweeney.

Greenpeace (Australia), PO Box 51, Balmain, NSW 2041. Phone: +61-2-5557044. Fax: 5557154. Contact person: Jean McSorley.

 

US PACIFIC TESTING

Inevitably the explosions were carried out in the lands of those who did not have the power to obstruct them. The US tested in the Nevada Desert and in the Marshall Islands, starting with the first Hydrogen Bomb explosion at Bikini Atoll in 1946 n a 15 megatonne bomb designed to produce maximum fallout over a large area. Its cloud was "accidentally" allowed to contaminate Rongelap and Utirik causing many cancers, and some 23 identified radiogenic diseases in the victims. In later tests 14 islands were contaminated. The tests continued with careful study of the live victims. The US Atomic Energy Commission's Director of Health and Safety said approvingly in 1957: "...While it is true that these people do not live, I would say, the way Westerners do n civilized people n it is nevertheless also true that these people are more like us than the mice."

Prof. Jim Falk, "In the Name of World Peace: Atomic tests in both hemispheres", WUH, Salzburg, 16 Sept. 1992.

 

About This Issue

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#387-388
Special: Environmental Racism and Nuclear Development
28/03/1993
Article

(March 28, 1993) A nuclear society cannot exist without racism. It is impossible to even imagine a harmonious and sustainable society with nuclear power and weapons yet free of racism. On the other hand, it is impossible to imagine a harmonious and sustainable society without nuclear power and weapons but still racist.

Last year, the year that "celebrated" the 500th anniversary of Columbus's voyage, was a year that brought many reminders of this along with its stark reminders of the legacy of 500 years of colonialism, racial injustice and human rights problems. Forums such as the World Uranium Hearing and the Second Global Radiation Victims Conference held in September focused attention on a new kind of colonialism -- nuclear colonialism -- and we began hearing the term "environmental racism" coming up more and more in discussion. This special issue of the News Communique was conceived as our way of helping to keep international attention focused on these issues, as well as a way of contributing to the discussion, and to the search for solutions.

Environmental racism is defined by Arjun Makhijani in the following article as a "particular form that is reflected in the fact that many of the effects of environmental problems hit specific groups in the society the hardest." Those groups are victims of prejudice, whether racial or economic. Examples can be drawn from all over the world, but the nuclear establishment especially provides graphic illustrations: Each phase of nuclear development -- both civilian and military -- has a deadly impact on all forms of life, but those peoples who have been hit the hardest have been the traditional landholders.

Among those hardest hit by the Chernobyl catastrophe, for example, were the Sami reindeer herders and landowners living in northern Scandinavia, Finland and the former USSR. The Sami are a semi-nomadic people who follow the huge herds of reindeer on their natural migration from the uplands in summer to lowland pastures in winter. They have made a compromise between their culture and the outside world by selling their reindeer (from which they derive their staple food, much of their clothing, tools and shelter) to their southern neighbors. In this way they are able to retain their traditional ways, at the same time accepting some of the technological advances offered by 'civilization'. When Chernobyl's fallout dropped onto the feeding grounds of their reindeer herds, this way of life, even the very existence of these people, became threatened.

All too often it is people like the Sami who are the first to pay the costs of humankind's efforts to control the atom. This has been true from the very beginning of nuclear development, and it is true all along the nuclear chain -- a chain that begins in those few areas still occupied by their traditional landholders with uranium mining, and ends on those same lands with weapons testing and waste storage.

By another irony, it happens that the majority of the world's uranium reserves are on traditional lands. In the US, on what land is left to the Navajos, there were at one time a total of 42 uranium mines in operation, in addition to seven uranium mills. Shiprock Mine, formerly operated by the Kerr-McGee corporation, employed Navajo miners at two-thirds the normal pay rate. By 1960 radiation levels in the Shiprock mine were 90 times the permissible level. 'Diseconomies' of uranium closed the mine in 1970, causing the loss of any health insurance the miners might have had. A world glut of uranium supplies then closed most of the other mines. But the damage had already been done. By 1980, of the 150 Navajo miners employed by Kerr-McGee 38 were already dead of cancer and another 95 had cancer and lung diseases. Meanwhile, Kerr-McGee had left behind 70 acres of raw uranium tailings (which retain 85% of their radioactivity) just 60 feet from the community's only significant water supply. People continue to sicken and die. They lose the ability to bear children. Reproductive cancer among Navajo teenagers is 17 times the national average.

This same scenario is elsewhere being played out again and again. On Aboriginal lands in Australia, the Kokotha are fighting exploitation and development of uranium resources on their lands by Australian and French mining companies. In Namibia, while still under illegal occupation by South Africa, uranium was mined and other resources plundered with the help of the British-based multinational Rio Tinto Zinc. Even now, three years after independence from occupation by South Africa, the mining continues. In Canada, because of destruction of their lands from uranium mining by Canadian corporations, Adele Ratt of the Cree Nation in La Ronge declared the entire north of Saskatchewan to be in a state of emergency. In the Pacific, the Tahitians and other Pacific Islanders are still feeling the devastating effects of French nuclear weapons testing, despite the current moratorium. Elsewhere in the Pacific, in the Marshall Islands, already devastated by US nuclear tests, the islanders' homes are being considered by the US as a dump site for nuclear wastes from the US mainland. In the former Soviet Union information is slowly coming to light about the effects of its nuclear weapons testing program on the Kazakh minority living near the Semipalatinsk test site, and on tribal societies such as the Samoyeds, Khanty, Mansi, Evenks and Chukchee, among others, living to the north of the Novaya Zemlya test site in Siberia. In addition, it only recently became known that there had been a secret nuclear weapons testing site in Chukotka during the 1950's and 1960's, further exposing the Chukchee people to fallout. The mortality rate resulting from cancer among the Chukchee is thought to be the highest in the world.

The fact that the much of the information concerning the effects on these peoples has only recently come to light is not surprising. Racism produces disinformation -- precisely about those groups that it marginalizes. How much more do we not know, for instance about the conditions in the uranium mines in Argentina, in the Andes (the last refuge for traditional land holders in that region)? Or in Columbia, where holes drilled by companies exploring for uranium were left open, but only the local people know about it because the companies simply forgot about it when they found they could not exploit the uranium economically? Or in Brazil? In Morocco?

At any rate, all of the above examples clearly illustrate the term "environmental racism" as it is currently defined. But we would like to broaden that definition, thereby broadening the discussion.

Racism, by itself, is a symptom of the deep sickness at the heart of our society. But racism never exists by itself. The sickness of which it is a symptom is rooted in the shattering of what was once a strong connection the people who walked the earth had with the land and all living systems. To understand this rupture -- a rupture which underlies the entwined oppressions of race, sex, class and ecological destruction -- we need to look at two things: first, at the current model of development, then at the history of the last 500 years which led to this model.

The current model of development includes a system that benefits a relatively small part of the world's population who can be found in the industrialized countries and in the local elites of Central and Eastern Europe and the South. For this model to operate, political choices have to be made. In the case of nuclear development, one of the choices has been to ignore the social costs. When social costs are ignored, selected groups of people are made victims. This is marginalization.

More is involved here than even the marginalization of people. Knowledge is also marginalized, set aside, lost. Traditional ways of thinking and practical knowledge disappear forever. With the development of a nuclear (nuclearized?) society, we are becoming poorer in knowledge and solutions. We have lost wisdom, impoverishing ourselves by cutting ourselves off from receiving what Starhawk, author of Dreaming the Dark, calls "the rich gifts of vision that come from those who see from a different vantage point."

This model also compartmentalizes and divides. It restricts our thinking and our actions for change. To illustrate this in relation to environmental racism and nuclear development, it gives us two movements: the anti-racist movement and the environmentalist movement.

With its specialization and compartmentalization, the current model pushes us to be nuclear and racist, or anti-nuclear, or anti-racist. By accepting its divisions, we find ourselves still caught within its confines. In this way we play the game of those enforcing this model, of those in power. We need to be creative and change the rules. We must redefine power and reshape it. We must see that it becomes something shared with others, something empowering, and not something exercised over them or used against them. And we need to link these two movements, now separated under the current model, and move together to create a healthy society, based on justice, equality and sustainability, where people are no longer afraid of differences in others, or afraid to be different. But to do that, we first have to make the connections between all systems of domination. And we must recognize that the dominant culture is willing -- to a frightening extent -- to write off the lives and interests of those groups of people it considers of low value.

 

On Power

We are looking for a new power, power shared with others, not power exercised to gain control over them. Feminism, ecology and non-violence belong together and are interrelated. But at the same time, we must be watchful that, while we struggle together against the big war, the little war in our everyday life is not forgotten -- the little war being waged against the weak, the handicapped, the elderly, against children and women. All of us must be concerned with both levels: the big and little war waged against us as individuals, against smaller countries, against the planetary environment, every single day. Resistance to war, to the use of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy is impossible without resistance to sexism, to racism, to imperialism, and to violence as an every day pervasive reality. There is a very profound relationship between the fact that many women and children are commonly attacked, beaten up, and raped, and that a nuclear war as well as a nuclear catastrophe threatens this entire planet Earth, which has no emergency exit.

Petra Kelly
(Reprinted from Anumukti, Oct/Nov 1992)

 

We also need to understand how we got stuck with the current model of society and its divisions in the first place.

When Columbus' ships first arrived in what Europeans so arrogantly called the "New World", it is estimated that between 70 million and 120 million people lived in the Americas. This was a population larger than that found at that time in Europe. The systems of government developed by the people the Europeans encountered were, says historian Howard Zinn in A People's History of the United States, "complex, where human relations were more egalitarian than in Europe, and where the relations among men, women, children, and nature were more beautifully worked out than perhaps any place in the world".

These societies had developed scientific systems of agriculture based on the conditions of their environment. For centuries they had, just as had other traditional landholders across the world, engaged in sustainable land management and land-use in the areas in which they lived. They were able to work in harmony with the environment to maximise benefits without destroying it.

The European invaders carried with them a new ethic and practices which brought about a change in these relations -- between nature and people and between the people themselves. The invaders were quick to clear huge tracts of land, over-plant indigenous crops for export and introduce alien crops better suited to the agricultural techniques and climate of Europe. This caused the destruction of much flora and fauna, a depletion of nutrients in the soil and the eventual degradation of the land. Their mining activities further degraded the land and resulted in entire nations throughout the Americas in being displaced, enslaved or completely destroyed.

For the Europeans back in Europe, the 16th and 17th centuries -- the period which marked the beginning of European colonial expansionism -- was a time when Western Culture was undergoing crucial changes. It was the time of the Renaissance and Reformation, when a flowering of art, science and humanism took place. But it was also a time marked by persecutions. Even as the Renaissance bloomed in the late 15th century, the persecution, torture and burnings of women (and sometimes men) accused of being Witches was increasing, and Christian heretics, individuals and whole communities were wiped being out.
These persecutions ensured that those who would benefit from the changes occurring in society would be the rising monied-professional classes. And they made possible the extensive and irresponsible and even ruthless exploitation of women, working people and nature. They are also an expression of the weakening of traditional restraints and an increase in new pressures that were linked to other changes going on at the time, including the expropriation of land and natural resources and the expropriation of knowledge.

Though the feudal society which this new order superseded was an authoritarian, hierarchical system, it had nevertheless been based on an organic model in which people still retained important ties to the land on which they lived. Feudal society was a complex system of interlocking rights and responsibilities. Under this system the lords possessed the land but did not own it as we understand ownership of private property today. Thus European peasants -- free and serf -- had access to it. The land was expected to provide a livelihood. Profit was not yet its primary purpose. Feudal society was still guided by an economic principle of use, thus land had value because it provided subsistence, not because it was seen as a resource to be exploited for maximum gain. But with the rise of a market economy, along with the declining fertility of the land (for, unlike traditional landholders, the Europeans did not practice sustainable land management), that was changing.
Whole tracts of land that had once seen common use were being expropriated by the lords -- now truly landlords -- and put to producing for the market not what was needed, but what could be sold for profit. The poor -- and now landless -- were forced into wage labor at wages that did not provide even the subsistence income they had previously expected. Their communities became fragmented, and the decisions which had once been left to the villages or their representatives were appropriated by the landlords along with the land.

Those who emigrated were primarily those who had been cut off from the experience of a tie to the land and community -- some only for a generation. They took with them this new ethic of private property and the absolute right of ownership, which they imposed not only on the Americas, but on Africa, India and the Far East as well. What is more, they extended this ethic to the ownership of people. The property ethic supported a ruthless slave trade, justified the taking of lands from native peoples, and reinforced the European notion of the inferiority of women.

This idea of the inferior status of women -- and the subsequent denial of rights and power to them -- was new to the Americas where women were held in enormous respect among native peoples. Communal power was often found in the hands of the women, who were regarded as the keepers of the family and of the nation. The European ideology of female inferiority directly benefited the male-dominated power structures and those in power, including the church hierarchy and the evolving merchant class, and in its turn, reinforced the ideas used to justify the slave trade and expropriation of land.

The ethic of ownership -- an ethic of extract, accumulate, control, consume and discard -- shapes the landscape of our reality today, from how the food we eat is grown to property speculation that is driving people of color and poor working-class white families out of their neighborhoods to how we produce our energy or whether we use money to feed and educate people or use it to develop nuclear weapons. To oppose it effectively, we simply cannot continue operating according to the rules set under the current model which divides and compartmentalizes. We must change our understanding to recognize that destruction is inherent in every form of domination and that all forms of domination are intertwined. It is domination that we need to challenge, and this means changing our present relationships -- to the land, to authority, to each other.

The WISE-Amsterdam Collective
March 1993

Apartheid's environmental toll

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#387-388
Special: Environmental Racism and Nuclear Development
28/03/1993
Article

(March 28, 1993) The following is excerpted from a booklet of the same name published by the US-based Worldwatch Institute as part of its "Worldwatch Paper Series". Though written in 1990, before many of the negotiated transformations of South Africa began to take place, the information is still highly relevant. For one thing, what the booklet's author calls the "super-structure of apartheid" is still largely in place.

by Alan B. Durning

Modern history is all too full of societies that have squandered their patrimonies, fouled their nests, and poisoned their people. What is exceptional in South Africa's assault on its natural inheritance, however, is the factor of apartheid; the network of racist policies, and the extraordinary means to which the state has resorted in maintaining them, have doomed the nation's ecology to suffer great insults. Apartheid cannot be blamed for all of the country's ecological traumas, but it must take the blame, in part or in whole, for many. Its environment has been degraded far more than would have occurred if racial separatism had never been institutionalized. In this respect, South Africa stands alone.

Directly and indirectly, the set of policies and institutions called apartheid has exacerbated a long list of ecological ills. The bits and pieces of South Africa reserved by government fiat for the region's original inhabitants, and then packed with black people not wanted in the white economy, are today among the world's most degraded lands.

All societies are stratified, to a greater or lesser degree, along lines of wealth, race, and sex: South Africa is unique in the degree of its inequality and in the way the government in Pretoria enforces inequality through the law. Apartheid, as an extreme form of the social injustices found so pervasively, reveals with exceptional clarity the way unfairness within the human estate extends its damage into the natural estate as well. Today, apartheid's grip on the nation is weakening, and a spirit of reconciliation has begun to take hold among leaders of both races...At this crucial juncture, a full ecological reckoning of apartheid's past may help point the way to a future in which black and white live together in a greener land.

Homelands or Wastelands?

In 1652, Dutch settlers put ashore at the Cape of Good Hope to build a way station on the trade route to the Orient. Foreshadowing all that was to follow, they planted a hedge around their encampment and forbade the region's aboriginal people, the Khoisan, from remaining inside. The colonists and their descendants have been pushing that hedge out in larger circles ever since.

With the Land Act of 1913, the Dutch, by then known as Afrikaners, completed their appropriation of the 1.25-million-square-kilometer region today called the Republic of South Africa. The act divided the national territory between whites and blacks, marking off 87 percent of the land for the whites, and relegating the vastly more numerous black population to the so-called Native Reserves it established on the remaining 13 percent.

Since the advent of apartheid in 1948, four of the 10 reserves have been pushed into a hollow sort of independence. Theoretically, they are autonomous nations with full self-rule. In fact, they have either puppet regimes or well-intentioned leaders with little effective power because the regions they govern are remote, barren, overcrowded, and entirely dependent on the republic for economic survival. In effect, Pretoria first guaranteed itself an army of low-paid workers by denying blacks land and then absolved itself of responsibility for those workers by declaring them citizens of "independent" internal nations.

The ecological results of this policy of "separate development" are written all over the topography of the reserves, or, as they are euphemistically called, "homelands" or "bantustans". Poor land, crowding, a shortage of labor, and dire poverty, all flowing from apartheid, have been disastrous for these regions. As one US Agency of International Development official in the neighboring Swaziland said, "Many of the homelands bear more resemblance to the face of the moon than to the commercial farms and game pre-serves that cover the rest of the country."

Few comprehensive surveys of land degradation exist for the reserves, but what data do exist show a dismal picture. When the government's Ciskei Commission gave its report a decade ago, 46 percent of the land in the Ciskei reserve was already moderately or severely eroded and 39 percent of its pastures overgrazed.

Similar land degradation is apparent in most homelands. In the Msinga district of the kwaZulu reserve, erosion gullies called dongas have grown into small valleys and topsoil is scarce. KwaZulu farmer Creina Bond Alcock reported that "old fields have vanished completely in some parts of Msinga, opening up extraordinary expanses of stone." Sunduza village in the Transkei homeland is scarred with dongas 20 meters deep, and in the once-fertile Lebowa reserve boulders occasionally roll down denuded mountain slopes and crush the huts below.

South Africa's forests, too, are overburdened. Two-thirds of South Africans use wood for fuel, but because of the extreme population pressures in the homelands, wood is increasingly difficult to come by. Professor Anton Eberhard of the University of Cape Town surveyed fuel-wood gathering in four reserves and found that women typically make treks of six to nine kilometers every other day, collecting loads each time that weigh about 30 kilograms. Similar situations exist in other countries in the developing world, but nowhere else are they a consequence of national policies aimed at subjugating the majority of the inhabitants.

With per capita consumption of fuelwood at 200-800 kilograms annually, forests in the homelands don't stand a chance. Twenty years was all it took for fuelwood gathering to strip the forests from the isolated slopes of Lebowa's Leolo Mountain, and kwaZulu's complement of distinct woodlands fell from 250 to 50 in the last half century. A century ago, Cetshwayo - the Zulu warrior who led his tribe against white troops set on subjugating them - was buried in the heart of the Nkandla forest. The forest's receding edge is now visible from his grave. In the Qwa Qwa reserve, forests exist only in history.

Environmental deterioration in the homelands has four interlocking causes, and all of them trace their roots to apartheid: poor land, politically enforced overpopulation, labor shortage, and poverty. First, the 10 homelands are situated in fragile environments n regions best suited as rangeland. From the very beginning, blacks were given land where topsoil is thin, rainfall scarce and unpredictable, and the ground sloping and rocky. Borders were carefully drawn, and sometimes redrawn, to exclude anything of value: industrial sites, transport lines, mineral resources, and fertile land. The geographic result is that the reserves are landlocked archipelagos, scattered across the map of South Africa.

Second, apartheid forces the land to support an astronomical number of people. Of South Africa's nearly 40 million inhabitants, 29 million are black, five million are white, and the remainder are classified as either "colored" or "Indian". Perhaps slightly more than half of the black population is crowded into the reserves by apartheid, and most of the remainder lives in segregated urban townships and illegal squatter settlements.

Overwhelmed by population growth and land degradation in the reserves, per capita food production has fallen dramatically, so much so that the homelands are now net importers of food. In the late forties, Bophuthatswana's farmers were harvesting around 110 kilograms of maize and sorghum for each resident of the reserve. In the late fifties, they were taking in 80 kilograms per person, and in the early seventies only 50 kilograms. Today, the harvest is undoubtedly spread even thinner.

Third, the homelands suffer a labor shortage. Seemingly paradoxical, this problem is a result of the fact that few of those present are in their peak working years. In South Africa's peculiar migrant labor system, these destitute lands provide the white economy with reservoirs of cheap black labor. Some 70 percent of homeland income is earned in the white economy by unskilled wage earners who cram buses and mini-buses for hundred-kilometer daily or weekly commutes, or who spend most of their lives working thousands of kilometers from their families.

The homelands, then, are home mostly to children, the old, and the infirm. In the sixties, when "removals" were near their peak, many elderly blacks were consigned to these areas because the government considered them, in the words of one cabinet minister, "surplus appendages". A detailed survey in one region of kwaZulu found that most inhabitants were children or elderly, and that 81 percent of working age inhabitants were women, mostly mothers who could not leave their children to work far away. These women, struggling to provide for so many youngsters and elders, are too pressed to undertake land-conserving projects.

Finally, poverty itself makes land conservation difficult. Cut out of the prosperous South African economy by law, and living hand to mouth, homeland farmers lack the cash to make long-term investments in protecting their land. With average disposable income of around US$150 a year, one-sixteenth of the white average, they simply cannot afford to buy fencing supplies to control grazing, hire laborers to help terrace sloping fields, or invest in tree planting to conserve soil and water.

These four elements n fragile land, overpopulation, labor scarcity, and poverty n combine to form a trap of economic and environmental impoverishment. The poor get poorer, and the land is worn down to bedrock. In South Africa, blacks are disenfranchised not only politically but ecologically.

Pillaging the Earth's Crust

Today, South Africa is the Saudi Arabia of minerals. The country's thousand-odd mines and quarries scrape the earth's crust and burrow deep into it, putting the nation high on the list of major mineral producers. It is first among countries in production of gold, chromate, and platinum, second in manganese, third in uranium, fourth in antimony, fifth in diamonds, sixth in asbestos, seventh in nickel, eighth in iron ore, ninth in coal, and eleventh in silver.

Apartheid is linked to mining's environmental toll in three ways. First, the enormous costs to the white government and economy of maintaining apartheid have made Pretoria financially dependent on mining. Consequently, the state has given great freedom to the minerals industry, allowing it to endanger black miners and the environment while protecting it from public scrutiny. Second, as occurs all too commonly around the world, the environmental costs of mining fall onto the poor, who are, in the apartheid state of South Africa, almost exclusively dark skinned. Third, the political powerlessness of South African blacks has left them unable to counter the industry's irresponsibility.

In these circumstances, Pretoria has been loathe to touch the mining industry. The Chamber of Mines, a confederation of major mining corporations, keeps a tight lid on information about environmental impacts, and the government shields it from criticism.

Excavating minerals always entails environmental risks. In South Africa the extent of ecological damage from minerals extraction is massive, from poisoned streams to strip-mined hillsides, and it is overwhelmingly blacks who must live with the consequences. Their townships and squatter settlements are downwind and downstream from the mines. Riverlea, a typical "colored" township near Johannesburg, for example, is centered on a massive yellow gold mine dump. Much mining is now located on the peripheries of large urban areas n just where squatter settlements have been springing up as blacks illegally flee overcrowded homelands and townships. Because South African gold mines extract large quantities of uranium as a secondary product, the nearby black communities may also be exposed to the cancer-causing radium and radon that commonly leak from uranium mine wastes.

Blacks suffer underground as well. The mines, controlled by six major corporations, employ 750,000 workers, mostly black, who labor in conditions that are among the most hazardous anywhere. The risks of gold mining are so great that the all-black National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) commemorated the hundredth anniversary of the discovery of gold in Johannesburg with a report called "A Thousand Ways to Die". Half a million men descend into the gold mines each morning; on a typical day, two of them are carried out dead. Since the beginning of the century, some 46,000 workers have died underground. For every ton of gold South Africa extracts, a black miner dies in an accident that probably would not have happened in another country.

Although the extreme depth and heat of South African gold mines make them perilous in themselves, sociologist Jean Leger of the University of Witwatersrand attributes their high death rates more to what he terms "racial despotism". White supervisors underground, who rarely venture into the risky areas where blacks work, are paid bonuses to boost output. As a result, black miners who slow production to point out safety hazards are more likely to be punished than praised.

A State of Siege Energy Policy

The geologic luck of South Africa's whites is to possess both precious minerals and abundant coal reserves to power their mining efforts. But this economic foundation of apartheid would not stand were it not for the strength of the republic's legion of captive laborers. A unique political creation, this dispossessed work force has little choice but to toil for the wages offered.

Apartheid has distorted the nation's pattern of energy use as dramatically as its pattern of land ownership. Suppressed wages for miners keep coal inexpensive and so promote wasteful use and, therefore, excessive pollution. International censure of apartheid has led the government into a quest for energy independence with dire costs for the environment: coal-based electricity is used wherever possible, the state has created the world's largest coal-to-oil synthetic fuels program, oil imports are assured by linking them to coal exports, and nuclear power has been pursued for both energy independence and military security reasons.

South Africa's extreme degree of coal reliance is only necessary because of apartheid. Confronted with oil-exporting nations in Africa, the Middle East, and elsewhere that are vehemently opposed to the white government's policies, South Africa has based its energy economy almost exclusively on coal. One environmental result has been accelerated exploitation of coal seams through strip mining.

In addition to apartheid's tendency to increase South African reliance on coal, the republic's security concerns have led it into the nuclear realm. South Africa has the continent's only uranium conversion and enrichment facilities, its only two nuclear plants (along with plans for a third), and its only atomic weapons. The power stations are part of South Africa's effort to build an energy fortress, invulnerable to black labor unrest in the coalfields. The reactors may also have been part of a strategy to gain sufficient knowledge for weapons construction, something Pretoria achieved the capacity to do in 1981, according to US intelligence agencies.

South Africa's overreliance on coal, and resort to nuclear power, stand in contrast to the likely pattern of energy development had the nation not sought to separate the races. With a major oil exporter just up the coast in Angola, and another further on in Nigeria, the country would have been expected to use more petroleum and less coal. A more balanced mix of fossil fuels would still have created environmental problems, but not in the extreme forms now evident in South Africa.

Source: Exerpted from Worldwatch Paper 95: Apartheid's Environmental Toll, by Alan B. Durning, May 1990.

Contact: The full 50-page study can be obtained from: Worldwatch Institute, 1776 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington DC 20036 USA. Cost: US$4.00.

Black workers in South African mines

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#387-388
Special: Environmental Racism and Nuclear Development
28/03/1993
Article

(March 28, 1993) After the World Uranium Hearing in Salzburg, Austria in 1992, two members of South Africa's National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) visited Holland to talk about the situation of black mineworkers in their country.

Dirk Bannink

One of them works on an education project and the other works on health and safety issues. The NUM has more than 200,000 members and at the Palaborwa mine, where these two men are active, 100% of the workers are unionized. The workers in the mines are exclusively black, while management is almost exclusively white.

 

US-South African weapons-grade uranium deal

South Africa, which officially renounced its nuclear weapons production in 1991, has asked the US to buy its weapons-grade uranium. The idea is that the US would dilute the highly enriched uranium (HEU) to a lower-grade uranium fuel and sell it back for South Africa's nuclear reactors. According to Leonard Spector of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, both governments stand to gain: South Africa would get fuel it cannot produce on its own and the US would make sure Africa can no longer make nuclear weapons....But no one outside the South African government actually knows how much enriched uranium it has produced since secretly launching its nuclear weapons program in the 1970s. According to the African National Congress, South Africa has produced more than 200 kg of HEU - enough to fuel 25 nuclear warheads - at the Atomic Energy Corporation's top-secret facility in Pelindaba near Pretoria.

The ANC says a team from the International Atomic Energy Agency, while recently visiting South Africa on a short-notice inspection, found equipment used to manufacture parts for a nuclear explosive device at an abandoned plant near the Pelindaba Research Plant, including assembly technology, testing gear and metallurgical equipment used to make "fissile cores" for nuclear bombs.

A report in Nucleonics Week, included in a package released late December by the ANC, alleged that an IAEA team discovered South Africa clandestinely produced ''several hundred'' kilograms of weapons grade uranium during the 1970s and the 1980s. According to the journal's September 1992 edition, "The amount of weapons-grade uranium produced at this plant may well be in excess of 400kg..."

Sources: The Dallas Morning News (US), 28 Feb. 1993; Inter Press Service (GreenNet, gn:nuc.facilities, 25 Dec. 1992).

The men talked about the situation in Northern Transvaal where the Palaborwa mine is located. The mine is owned by the Palaborwa Mining Company, with Rio Tinto Zinc (RTZ) as its greatest shareholder at 39.8%. Although it is operated primarily as a copper mine, it contributes an estimated 300 tons as a by-product annually to the South African uranium production.

There are approximately 130,000 inhabitants in the city of Palaborwa, which was created expressly for the mine. The population is a mixture from across the country. The unemployment rate there is very high, but about the national average: 75%. Three out of five people are illiterate. Near the city are piles of chemical wastes and uranium waste-tailings. In the middle of these dumps the mining company built an artificial lake stocked with fish. These fish are there for monitoring the amount of chemical substance in the water; if the fish die, the concentration is too high.

There is no information on the dangers of the tailings available to the residents and workers. Houses are built on the edges of the tailings piles, and children play in and with the waste. After heavy rainfalls, large amounts of the waste slides from the sites to the houses. Thirty kilometers from Palaborwa a school has been built in a uranium tailings dump.

The consequences for the inhabitants and workers are severe: higher rates of all kinds of sicknesses. Many mineworkers are told they have tuberculosis; most likely, though, their illnesses, which affect their eyes, lungs and other organs, are radiation-related. There is also an increasing number of spontaneous abortions and miscarriages in the mine's vicinity.

Although every mine has a doctor, they are paid by the mine owners and are taking care of the company's interests rather than the miners'. They always tell the workers that an illness is not the consequence of their work but that it has other causes.

Mineworkers receive industrial masks from the company, but there is no education about safe working conditions. The company is always on the lookout for what it calls "firebrands", and rapidly discharges anyone questioning the conditions. As soon as a strong group is formed which demands, for instance, information on safety measures or safer working conditions, that group will be split up or its members fired. There are, after all, no problems with finding new employees with an unemployment rate of 75%.

When a mine is no longer profitable it is closed down and the company leaves to go to more profitable areas. Of course, cleaning up is no part of the company's mining activities and all the waste is left behind without even monitoring.

There is at present no anti-mining movement in South Africa. there are some environmental groups, but these are almost exclusively occupied with preserving natural landscapes. These groups are formed by whites and they are not (or don't want to be) informed about the environmental and health consequences of mining activities.

The African National Congress (ANC) has no clear policy on nuclear power and uranium mining. It is not yet a main issue. The NUM is of course most interested in jobs, but there are some people who are busy with the safety and health conditions in the workplace. Until a short time ago, though, they did not even know that uranium was dangerous. No information as to just what uranium was was available to them. Thus, visiting the World Uranium Hearing was for them very important, as well as a revelation.

World Bank advised "stimulate emigration of dirty industry"

Vice President of the World Bank Lawrence H. Summers said, in an internal memo dated December 1991, "Shouldn't the World Bank stimulate the emigration of dirty industry to the less developed countries?" He later added, "The less populated countries of Africa are under contaminated," and clinched his statements with, "Concern over an agent that causes prostrate cancer in one person out of a million would obviously be much greater in a country where people survive until they get prostrate cancer than in a country where the mortality rate for those under five years is 200 in one thousand."

Summers explains what some of his colleagues in the World Bank think but don't say: "I think that the logic of sending toxic waste to countries with less revenue is impeccable, and that we should assume it [the logic]."

Translated from "No Comment" column of Ecoprensa (Chile), No. 33, July 1992, p.11.

# # # # # # # # #

As with the copper mines at Palaborwa, South Africa produces all its uranium as a by-product of other mining activities. Of its total annual production (15% of the world production in the early/mid 1980s, but 'only' 8.4% in 1989), 95% is a by-product of gold mines. The country has three principal uranium deposits: Palaborwa, Witwatersrand and Karoo Basin (Cape Province). More important than Palaborwa is the yellowcake production of the fifteen gold mines of Witwatersrand, owned by two companies: Anglo-American Corporation (AAC) and General Mining and Finance Corporation (GENCOR). AAC is in control of about 60% of all gold and uranium mining activities within South Africa. Both companies work closely with the South African Atomic Energy Commission.

The main importing countries re the USA, France, Japan, Taiwan and Germany. The most important consumers of South African uranium are EXXON, COGEMA, Kansai and Taipower.

Due to low wages as a result of the racist Apartheid system and due to the exploitation of uranium, together with gold and copper, uranium mining is economically extremely feasible, even though the ore contains only 0.01% uranium. Because of the close connection of mining operations with the system of migrant workers and "homeland" policy, creating the so-called "Bantustans", all Bantu-speaking peoples of South Africa are affected by the hazards of mining and radioactive emissions from the tailings.

Sources:

  • Conversation in Amsterdam, 27 Sept. 1992
  • World Uranium Hearing Grey Book 1992
  • "The African Uranium Producing Countries: A rough political-economic analysis", R. Huisman, Sept. 1990, The Netherlands

Contact: NUM, Box 3658, Witbank 1035, South Africa.

 

Exclusion and Death in Brazil

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#387-388
Special: Environmental Racism and Nuclear Development
28/03/1993
Article

(March 28, 1993) Through four centuries of Brazilian history, black slaves were the main producers of the richness that sustained the national development and contributed to the flourishing of industrial capitalism.

Lucia Maria Xavier de Castro

 

The news from the "cross swamp"
is the children feed themselves on light.
Chico Buarque

 

Slavery was spread throughout all areas of Brazil's economic life under colonization by the Portuguese, from agro-industry to sugar and coffee exports, mineral exploitation and cattle raising n literally all sectors of the economy including housekeeping work, which included not just the keeping of the house itself, but the intimate relations of the white Brazilian children who in the first stages of their lives were nurtured by "Black Mammies". This was an influence on the dominant culture that still is generally unrecognized, but which in fact cannot be underestimated.

When the system of slavery was abolished, blacks were reduced to the status and conditions of tools n considered to be no more than machines consisting of meat and bones, without souls, without feelings, only valued for their work capacity, without human and citizen rights. From the time of the first Brazilian Constitution there was no place in the national model of development for blacks. Foreign workers took their place in the fields and also in terms of new productive processes. Research shows that the immigration process was carried out with the goal of effectively eliminating the black population by whitening Brazilian society.

This kind of exclusion from the system is also reinforced by the RACISM. The idea that black people are inferior, a subrace, lazy, and that they aren't clever enough to study has lasted for decades. Even today, we can see this idea being perpetuated and spread by the public schooling system.

The Brazilian model began with excluding a huge population; such exclusionary practices remain.

According to the Institute of Applied Economic Research (IPEA), a Brazilian state organ, out of one-hundred-forty-million inhabitants, 65 million are living in poverty n that is to say they do not receive the minimum amount of food necessary to survive. Such poor in 1960 made up 41.4% of the Brazilian population, but in 1987 this group increased to 44.2%. Among them, 34 million cannot afford food; these are the destitute. The destitution is a social state of the population in which generation after generation has been living in the street, under bridges, in slums and around the peripheries of the large cities. They are: beggars, paper searchers, boys, girls, prostitutes, street sellers, the unemployed and the employed under-paid, such as domestic workers. For these people there are no social security benefits, homes, health or education. They survive by transforming the city sites and the urban decay to create an informal market, and it is from this informal marketing that they scrape a living.

Brazil has the second largest black population in the world. Its development model only takes into account the (small) middle class and the wealthy social stratum, so the rest must fight to survive by eating urban garbage, but still all the while believing that this development is to benefit everyone.

For children and adolescents, the situation is at its worst. Out of every 1000 babies now born, 69 die before reaching their first birthday because of diseases caused by malnutrition, as well as the terrible living conditions. So, there are 350,000 children starving to death per year, most of them around the age of five, in a country which ranks fourth among the largest food exporters in the world and sixth in terms of malnutrition. Not to mention the extermination, a systematic method of eliminating poor people. Such extermination has come to be seen from the point of view of the social ideal as something necessary in order to restrain violence by eliminating "bad elements" and disorderly people and also those that do not contribute to society. And in this perverse way of dealing with the social problems comes also the extermination and murdering of children and adolescents.

 


Brazil-West German nuclear agreement

The official part of the nuclear agreement between Brazil and the Siemens-owned West German "Kraftwerksunion" (KWU) only mentioned the export of eight commercial reactors and reactors for nuclear submarines. But Brazil was also secretly promised facilities to develop its own military nuclear program.

Brazilian-German cooperation predated this agreement by many years. On August 10 and 11, 1944 a meeting took place in Strasbourg, Germany which in one sense marked the beginning of nuclear development in Brazil. The meeting was between top Nazis and economic experts. Facing imminent defeat, the issues they addressed included how to extend Nazi banking and industry interests into the postwar years and how information obtained in war time research could be preserved. This research included the field of rocketry and nuclear power. Plans were made to set up firms in different parts of the world, including Brazil, using the wealth accumulated during the war n wealth mainly made up of international currencies, diamonds and the gold taken from the teeth of extermination camp victims. The goal was to set up a network of Nazi refugees who could continue work towards the restoration of the Third Reich.

This sort of thinking was apparent in a letter sent by members of the Movement for Nazi Reorganization to the Cardinal of Sao Paulo, Brazil after the signing of the 1975 agreement. "Hitler is dead," said the letter's authors, "but he lives on in us, his children who have been reborn the world over. We support the nuclear agreement between Brazil and West Germany because it is one of the ways in which the Aryan race can re-establish its proper role in the world..."

Sources: World Uranium Hearing Grey Book 1992, p.63; "The Nuclear Fix: A Guide to Nuclear Activities in the Third World", Thijs de la Court, Deborah Pick and Daniel Nordquist, WISE, 1982, pp.29-30.

Although the public political orientation in terms of education, health, habitation, etc. is stated by laws (ie, there are laws that guarantee these things), there is a lack of comprehensive planning and resources to implement them. Monumental projects, corruption and political paternalism have interfered with the development of a healthier life for the population. This is because the ideological options of the ruling class form the model of society and nation n a model that inflicts on the majority population a kind of unnecessary development that is overbearing, dirty, burdened, electric and destructive, as with nuclear development.

In 1975, at the climax of the military dictatorship, Brazil signed a nuclear agreement with West Germany to construct eight nuclear power plants and a uranium enrichment facility. This kind of deal displeased many sectors of society because of security and the matter of siting the power stations. And also because the large amount of money needed would have to be diverted from essential social programs. But the government still insists the implementation of these plans is very important for the development of the nation.

Nuclear energy is considered to be the passport to the developed world, advanced technology, and independence; nuclear weapons will transform Brazil into one of the world's powerful countries. In this case, we have to take note of the political relationship with the developed countries with which we have out-standing debts. These external debts put us in a position where we are forced to accept the exploitation of our natural resources and our dignity.

Seeing first some fundamental criteria for the choice of power source, we can see that regional development is not taken into consideration. Brazil's so-far only existing nuclear power station, located at Angra (one reactor operating and another under construction), doesn't bring any progress to the area, not even on the regional level. To build the plant it has been necessary to bring in workers from outside the region. Once the reactors are built, however, there is no further place for these same workers, because the workers now needed for operating the plant must have special skills. Once Angra-1 began to produce energy, the production of 600 MW did not reduce the energy prices in the area, nor did it make changes in terms of new industry to create new jobs; the tax base for the city of Angra dos Reis is still dependant on tourism, thus no new resource was in fact created at all.

The nuclear plant exists for the local population as a myth, something mysterious and beyond understanding. The local people only have contact with the plant when the military comes to carry out exercises for evacuation plans to protect them from some untouchable threat, thus their awareness of the plant is only through their fear of it. This myth also refers to the political power that doesn't require participation of the populace in decision making and that this power can have a direct influence on their lives.

Nuclear Energy doesn't bring any benefits to the people, and for nature, for her ecological systems, its effects are lethal. Nuclear energy pollutes and produces disease, even with low radioactivity. But the waste is the biggest problem for those with this kind of technology n this atomic garbage. There is no solution for this problem. The poor and marginal people see that on a practical level the resources that can be used to create jobs and investments are instead used to develop projects that only create deficit.

To think in a conscious way about development with technological improvement by human hand in a healthy world....we have 65 million poor people who do not have anything to eat, and the nuclear energy produced by us can do no more than illuminate our graves.

Contact: Lucia Maria de Castro, IBRADES, Rua Bambina 115, 222 51050 Botafogo, Rio Janeiro (RJ), Brazil; tel: +55-21-286-8522.

 

For Whom the Bells Do Not Toll....

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#387-388
Special: Environmental Racism and Nuclear Development
28/03/1993
Article

(March 28, 1993) The following is one of a series of interviews with tribal people of Jadugora, Batin and Nawapahar area Singhbhum Jharkhand (Bihar), India whose lands are being mined for uranium. The interviews were taped and translated into English for presentation at the World Uranium Hearing in September 1992 with support from the AJSU-All Jharkhand Students Union and JOHAR-Jharkhandis' Organisation for Human Rights.

INTRODUCTION

Uranium Corporation of India Ltd. is a 100% government of India-owned mining company coming directly under the Atomic Energy Commission, a portfolio always handled by the Prime Minister. Uranium has been found in some places in India, but up until now, the only uranium mines in India are in Singhbhum District in Jharkhand (Bihar), the homeland of the Santal, Ho and Munda tribes people. Attempts to open up two tribal states, Meghalaya and Nagaland, for uranium mining are being resisted by the tribals there. In Singhbhum it is mined in the Jadugora, Batin and the Nawapahar mines, all within a radius of four km.

Mining was first started here by the British colonial government and is now being continued by the Indian government. The mines are situated 2000 ft below and there is a refining mill to purify the ore which is then transported to the Nuclear Fuel Centre at Hyderabad in the State of Andra Pradesh in South India. The waste or tailings obtained from this process is flushed through metal pipes over inhabited villages to a tailing pond situated between Telaitan and Dhumurdih villages. The tailing pond, or slakedam as it is locally called, is built in a valley that was once the rich rice fields of the tribal people of these two villages.

UCIL mines together employ about 4000 workers who have permanent jobs. Another 1000 workers are employed by contractors who take jobs on contract from UCIL. Of the 4000 workers, a small part work in the office/administration, some others in the hospital and some in maintenance. Most of the permanent workforce work as underground miners. Ninety-five percent of these underground miners are tribal. In the top manage-met or first grade posts there are almost no tribals employed, while 100% of the contract workers are tribal.

No trade union or political party has to date addressed the issue of radiation effects on workers and villagers effectively. The workers or villagers do not have any information or know-ledge about the hazards or effects of uranium mining.

 

INTERVIEW

What is your name and which village do you come from?
My name is Mangal Majhi and I come from Matigara village which is 1/2 km from here in Jadugora where I am presently living.

Could you tell us about this area before the mining company came?
This area was once full of dense forest. The forest was so dense that people had to get back from the Kalkapur market before sunset, as elephants and wild animals used to roam around in the evenings. I used to work for Holder Company since 1945. The Atomic Energy Commission had given the contract to them. Officials from Delhi used to come to give us training. We were never interested in the job, or to work. The foreigners would come to our houses to take us to work. We, along with 15 women helpers, used to perform the job of drilling using big drums after cutting them suitably. In the evenings the foreigners used to take us back to our homes. Some of us went to Rajasthan and other parts of the country with this same company. The non-tribals working along with us became big shots in the company but our status remained the same as we live by the truth. After working in different parts of the country I was sent back to my home town Jadugora where I worked for UCIL.

Did you know what was being mined here in the beginning? Were the Santals ever told what was being mined here?
In the beginning we did not know and our Santal community was never informed. In fact we had to take an oath of secrecy.

What is your opinion about the fact that the mine is built over your JAHER or holy place?
NO. We did not like this, but the government did it all forcibly, we tribals are illiterate and simple and not considered even human. There is no one to protect us. We surely did not want them to defile our sacred places.

In you memory during the past fifty years did the people ever get organized to fight mining operations?
Yes, some people got organized and fought. They agitated and in the agitation some lost their lives too. I was not here at that time but heard about it when I came back. The agitation subsided when it did not get support from other quarters.

Did you ever handle uranium ore with your bare hands?
Yes, I have handled the ore while drilling operations, I was mostly in the survey work. The geologist used to tell us at what depth the uranium would be available after inspection. All this affected my health, I developed gastric trouble, as we could never eat on time. The doctors kept telling me that I had TB. Then I consulted a private doctor in Jamshedpur who told me that I did not have TB. But by then the UCIL doctors had already given me 90 injections and some medicines, as a consequence of which my eyes and ears have been damaged. I got my eyes treated by Dr. Mustafa of Bistupur, I now feel as if some insect is moving in my ear. I still feel sick, I became sick because of drinking uranium-contaminated water. I am taking medicines for the last 15 years. They took my blood, stool, urine, and even semen samples but the results were never shown to me. They keep telling me I have TB.

Who told you that you became sick by drinking uranium contaminated water?
No one told me so, but I feel it. We have witnessed effects of uranium contaminated water on plants and animals here. There used to be a kundu tree here near the stream and one-day it suddenly died. The fish in that stream also developed all kinds of diseases and started dying. Due to this, some cows and goats of ours have also died and others are not as fat as they normally should be. I am still a sick person and one fourth of my body is useless, even after taking medicines for fifteen years.

 

OBSERVATIONS

It is impossible for us to relate cause and effect in a scientific way to prove that the people and all organisms living in and around Jadugora Uranium Mines are effected by radiation due to mining.

Technology has made many things possible today, and this is the age of technological advancement. The system that creates this technology has also made it beyond the reach of the victims of this technology to hold it/them (technology) accountable.

We do not seek a scientific way to prove that we are suffering, that so many of us have diseases we need not have. We all here just have to under-stand one another, all victims of this scientific advancement.

The government of India and the UCIL management has deliberately kept vital information about the effects of radiation away from the people on whose very lands mining operations is taking place.

The UCIL management has constantly lied to the people that the radioactivity here in Jadugora is below the permitted level and not dangerous.

The lands and forest and water sources and sacred places of the people have been forcefully taken away from them mostly against their knowledge or free will.

The forest, culture, beliefs and self-respect of the people have been violated in the name of technological advancement which to a good extent meant military advancement too.

We see the general health and immune system of a once very strong and healthy people fast deteriorating.

The tailing pond is used as a passage for many villagers and grazing ground for cattle. In 1986 the dam of the tailing pond burst and the overflow affected many villages and habitation, no inquiry was conducted, and only a temporary patch has been put across the dam to repair it. No inquiry or report was given to the people by the management.

The overflow water from the tailing pond flows into the fields of the villages and into a canal and finally into the big Subarnarekha river, which is presently being dammed with funds from the WORLD BANK, this therefore will spread the radioactivity far and wide as the government claims that the Subarnarekha project is basically for irrigation.

Children, women bathe in the over-flow water of the dam as their traditional sources of water have been diverted to the mines and industries.

The yellowcake is sent back from the Nuclear Fuel Centre in Hyderabad, just to be dumped on tribal lands. It is transported in a hazardous way, and often children pick it up and use it as plasticine to play.

It is kept on the Raka railway station, which is on a dense passenger traffic route exposing hundreds of passengers to risks. The railway wagons are the regular ones and also used for food and consumer goods transportation.

The unused uranium ore is used as landfills and to construct the roads all around, and the pathways to homes and even the courtyards.

We have learnt that many tribal workers are laid off as unfit for work after working in areas exposed to radon gas or yellowcake.

The patients/victims are never told about the causes and consequences of their illness. When interviewed, two UCIL Hospital doctors informed us that blood samples taken from patients go to the Bhaba Atomic Research Centre in Bombay for testing. Their results are never shown to the concerned doctors or the patients. All in the name of the Official Secrecy Act.

We do not believe that there could be a safe way to mine uranium. We cannot take these great risks to produce a dangerous mineral that is used largely for war and mass destruction.

We would like to make it clear that our struggle for the stopping of uranium mining on our lands cannot be delinked from our struggle against the policies of the rich industrialized countries and their agencies n i.e., the INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND, IMF AND THE WORLD BANK, to further exploit our resources and control our economy and politics.

The production of uranium and other hazardous minerals is linked to the policies and agendas forced on us by the FIRST world. Today this has become a question of prime importance for us in the Indian sub-continent.

Any attempt to isolate the uranium question from the New World Order or the policy of Structural Reform or hegemony of the rich countries would only weaken our struggle.

Contact: Xavier Dias, JOHAR-Jharkhandis' Organisation for Human Rights, Post Bag no. 3, Chaibasa - District Singhbhum 83 32 01, Jharkhand, India.

Forgotten Korean Victims

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#387-388
Special: Environmental Racism and Nuclear Development
28/03/1993
Article

(March 28, 1993) Japan is the only officially recognized country to have been subject to bombings with nuclear weapons. However, the victims of those bombings were not just the Japanese. There were some Allied Forces who were prisoners of war in both cities at the time, along with many Chinese and Koreans from Japanese-occupied countries who were also victims. In fact, nearly 10 percent of the total victims were immigrant Koreans.

Yuri Kitaoka

Background

Korean workers had begun immigrating to Japan since the Japanese occupation of their country in 1910, many forcibly taken away from their lands and jobs in their homeland. After World War II broke out, the Japanese government coerced Korean and Chinese people into working in factories or mining in Japan. By 1945 the numbers of Koreans living there had increased to more than two million, which was almost 10% of the whole Korean population. And when the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 and on Nagasaki on 9 August, those two cities had grown into the main munitions supply cities in Japan, so many were concentrated into those areas.

A citizens group for Korean victims estimates the number of Korean victims at Hiroshima to have been seventy thousand, of whom thirty-five thousand died. At Nagasaki there were thirty thousand victims with fifteen thousand dead. Although everybody faced equal risks at the time the bombs dropped, most Koreans found the aftermath much harder than the Japanese. For example, many of them had no place to evacuate to without any relatives to go to, thus they had to return to the contaminated and devastated cities. Even people who had evacuated were forced back to the cities to help with the cleaning up there. If medical teams found that a patient was Korean, he or she had to stand at the end of the lines of people seeking help.

On 15 August 1945, Korea finally became independent and Korean people in Japan were free. But they lost everything in Japan as well as their homeland. After they returned to Korea, they had to start their lives all over again from nothing. To add to the losses and the agonies of radiation disease, poverty and discrimination, the Korean War broke out soon afterwards. Some of those arriving in Korea had been born in Japan or lived so long a time there and spoke little Korean. Many of them had no opportunity or access to education and training for a good job so that they could only get jobs subjecting them to terrible physical conditions. One side-effect of the Korean War was that the diseases and after-effects caused by the radiation were hardly known in Korean until the 1960's. If a victim had money to go hospital, doctors put the name of disease as something else. One man whose fingers and toes swelled abnormally was thought to have leprosy and he had to leave his village with his family.

The answers to a questionnaire by the citizens group for Korean victims in 1979 shows that 80% of them are suffering from various illnesses, though just 19% of them can afford to go hospital. One third of have no jobs and 80% live in poverty.

The Japanese Government's Attitude

After the hydrogen bomb tests on Bikini Island by the USA, Japanese citizens began to organize groups against nuclear weapons and to support victims of the bombs. In 1957 and 1968 two bills to benefit the victims were passed. Far from satisfactory, they at least enabled victims to obtain the right to free medical treatment, though living expenses were not included. Non-Japanese victims were not covered under these bills at all.

In 1965 the South Korean and Japanese governments concluded a treaty giving compensation to Koreans suffering under the occupation. Nothing, however was mentioned about compensation to Korean nuclear victims. This made them very angry and stimulated the organizing of a group to push for their right to compensation from the Japanese government. In 1970 Son Jan To, one of the victims living at that time back in South Korea, entered Japan illegally and made a direct appeal to the government for free medical treatment. The government rejected this appeal because of the 1965 treaty. Supported by Japanese citizens groups, Son Jan To went to court in 1972. He went before the Supreme Court in 1978, where he won his case.

Victims and supporters began voicing their demands more strongly. To avoid dealing with them, in 1980 the government started a project under which the Korean victims could have access to free medical treatment. This sounds nice, but the project has strict conditions such as:

  1. medical costs are paid by Japan, but travel costs to Japan must be paid by the Korean government;
  2. only fifty people per year are accepted;
  3. the treatment period is only two months, with exceptional cases lasting six months maximum;
  4. excluded completely are serious cases and patients of advanced age;
  5. only hospitals in Hiroshima and Nagasaki can participate in this program.

There are some 23 thousand victims now in South Korea, but just 351 people have made use of this program. Even though South Korea has no hospital and doctors specialized and experienced in treating radiation diseases, the South Korean government felt so humiliated with this situation that it refused to continue with the program after 1987.

The Korean victims' organization started to make their demands clear. Based on compensation paid to out Japanese victims up to 1987, the group calculated that US$ 23 hundred million was owed to Korean victims and claimed this amount from the Japanese government.

Ignoring the claim, in 1970 the Japanese government decided one-sidedly to give 400 million Yen (approximately $US 3.16 million) for medical support. In the name of "humanitarian aid" the government intended to finish the discussion over compensation. Li Men Hi, a victim, had attempted suicide by taking in pesticide in front of the Japanese embassy at Seoul soon after she heard the decision. She had been desperate for help, have struggled so long a time in poverty with radiation disease of her own and her sick daughter. Now supported by a citizens group and individuals, Li Men Hi is now under treatment in a hospital in Japan, though a severe life is still waiting after her return to Seoul.

 

OOPS...

In the article, "Forgotten Korean Victims" a mistake has been discovered by the author. [after printing] The article mentions a Korean woman, Li Men Hi, who was said to have committed suicide in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul. In fact, she was rescued after having tried to commit suicide and it is she, not her daughter, who is now in care at a hospital in Japan.

Most of the victims are aging and dying every year in suffering various disease and in poverty. At least they have been able to have free medical services since 1989. Some are too poor and weak, however, to reach the nearest hospital and have difficulties in completing the paper work necessary for the bureaucracy without help. They are also greatly in need of living expenses.

North Korea seems to have two thousands victims, but nothing further about their situation is known.

The Monument of Korea Victims in the Peace Park

When a monument for Korean victims was built in 1970, Hiroshima city refused to allow it to be located in the Peace Park where the center of the bombing occurred and is commemorated by a monument for the atomic bomb victims. The reason the city authorities gave was that "the Park is too crowded." Angry victims and supporting groups have for years been demanding that the Korean monument be relocated, but Hiroshima city ignored their voices.

In 1990, for the first time, a Korea victims delegation made an official visit to Japan. When the delegates saw the monument standing outside of the Peace Park, beside a busy street, some of them could not stand it and cried out, "Why should we still discriminated even after death!?". Major media publicized this scene widely, so that finally Hiroshima city agreed to relocate the monument inside the Park. More than two years since the decision was made, the monument still stands on the same place because of no consensus on how to move it. Twice now, too, the paper cranes which are left at the monument as a symbol of peace and dedicated to the victims have been set on fire.

Contact: The Citizens Group for Supporting the Korean Victims, c/o Ms. Matsui, 3-36-5 Momoyama-dai Suita-shi Ohsaka, Japan, tel: +81-6-871-3446.

 

French N-Tests in the Algerian Desert

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#387-388
Special: Environmental Racism and Nuclear Development
28/03/1993
Article

(March 28, 1993) Like the US, France too has a less well-known nuclear weapons test site in addition to its Pacific sites. Before going to the Pacific islands of Muroroa and Fangataufa, the French military carried out numerous nuclear tests in the Algerian desert.

Julius Caland

Between February 1960 and April 1961, four atmospheric nuclear devices were tested at a site close to Reggane, without any regard for the local population. The bombs were most often ignited from a tower of approximately 100 meters height and had a yield of up to 70 kilotons. After heavy protests from the neighboring African states, France conducted only sub-surface tests after November 1961 and, according to different sources, tested another 10 to 13 nuclear devices in the Hugger Mountains until 1966. The last French nuclear test in Algeria was conducted at Mouila, south of Reggane. In spite of Algeria gaining independence in 1962, the "Treaty of Evian", which spelled out the terms of independence, allowed France to continue nuclear weapons testing in Algeria until 1966.

A study initiated by the Greens in the European Parliament has shown that many people have died after having recovered metal, abandoned after the departure of the French military. People interviewed spoke of copper cables, up to 40 km long, that were stripped of their plastic coatings before being melted, and then sold in Morocco. The plastic was burnt in the open air. The Touaregs, who were at the time being chased from Mali, were especially involved in this kind of trade, which was carried on at least until 1967.

The French government has not yet released any documents on the tests and their consequences on either the French or Algerians who took part in them, or on the contamination of the test sites themselves and the people in the surrounding area. Nor has the Algerian government pressured them to do so: Algeria is still too dependent on the money that Algerian foreign workers continuously transfer from France to Algeria.

Sources: Silence, Jan. 1993, p.21; World Uranium Hearing Grey Book, 1992, p.75.

Human experimentation: Minorities and prisoners targeted

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#387-388
Special: Environmental Racism and Nuclear Development
28/03/1993
Article

(March 28, 1993) Dwayne Sexton was three years old in 1965. That was the year he became part of a US government experiment to find the parameters of the radiation sickness syndrome, ie, precisely how large a dose it would take to cause a person to lose his or her appetite, get nauseous and vomit. His parents were told the experimental treatments Dwayne would receive at the Institute of Nuclear Studies in Oak Ridge, Tennessee would kill their son's leukemia cells. But three years later, a month after his last treatment, Dwayne was dead.

Ayn Lowry

At least 89 cancer patients, including Dwayne Sexton, were systematically exposed to large doses of radiation at the Institute between 1960 and 1974. An 18-month investigation by Mother Jones magazine, published in 1981, says that it appears that the radiation treatments began as a legitimate attempt to improve cancer therapy techniques. So what happened?

Beginning in the 1960's, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) urgently needed data on human sensitivity to radiation for the US space program. One question that especially concerned them was at what point would nausea and vomiting caused by radiation sickness set in? To an astronaut unable to remove an oxygen mask, this could prove vital. The cancer patients who came through the doors of the Oak Ridge Institute were to become the human guinea pigs that provided that information.

NASA was also interested in finding how much radiation caused sterili-zation and how long an astronaut would remain sterile after exposure. For some reason, so was the US Atomic Energy Commission (AEC).

Between 1963 and 1973, the AEC conducted experiments on 131 state prisoners from Washington and Oregon by irradiating their testicles. There was clearly no therapeutic benefit that could be remotely linked to such a project. The inmates who participated were paid monthly sums for volunteering to receive anywhere from eight to 600 rads of x-ray radiation. James Daughterty, one of them, said he received "$5 a month for the program, $25 for every biopsy, and $75 for the vasectomy at the termination of the program. It meant an awful lot at the time. I had no smoking, none of the little necessities that you have to have. I had no income of any kind....You hate to be without toothpaste or anything."

The US Department of Defense (DOD) was also interested in the effects of ionizing radiation on humans. Their main concern was finding out how troops would function under nuclear attack. The Oak Ridge study was not the only place they had to look for the answers. Between 1960 and 1971 the DOD financed experiments performed at the University of Cincinnati by a team under the direction of Dr. Eugene L. Saenger. Saenger exposed poor, terminally ill cancer patients to radiation at levels comparable to what could be expected to be found on a nuclear battlefield. Of the 87 people who took part in the experiments, 84 were charity patients, 61 were black, and all had an average schooling of five years.

Some patients received up to 250 rads of radiation -- a dose at which more than 20% of them would be expected to die of infections resulting from a weakened immune system. In an early report, Saenger's team stated that all the patients were in "relatively good health". None were in the final stages of their disease. Nevertheless, of the first 40 patients receiving "treatment", nine died within 38 days. Within 60 days, 25 of them had died.

 

When Jessica Mitford wrote her prison expose, Kind and Unusual Punishment, in 1971, a University of California scientist said to her:

If the researchers really believe these experiments are safe for humans, why do they go to prisons for subjects? Why don't they try them out in their laboratories on students or 'free-world' volunteers?...They make a clear distinction between people they think of as social equals or colleagues and men behind bars whom they regard as less than human.

Nazi experimenters had the same attitude towards Jews, Gypsies, Poles and others. In his book,The Destruction of the European Jews, Raul Hilberg describes how the Nazis sterilized Jews with X-rays in order to find out the same scientific information the AEC was seeking. The purposes of these experiments were very different: the Nazis were looking for ways to sterilize people in order to "purify" the Aryan race, whereas the AEC wanted to find out what would happen to astronauts and workers who received high doses of radiation to their reproductive organs. But the basic violation of human rights by wilfully subjecting a human being to deleterious exposures of ionizing radiation for purposes other than therapy are the same.

Feb. 24, 1981 Memo from Bob Alvarez, Environmental Policy Institute, to Karen Wilson, Dir., National Committee for Radiation Victims.

According to authors Joel Griffiths and Richard Ballentine, in their book Silent Slaughter, during the first five years of the project, no consent forms were used, and reports sent to the Pentagon say that the patients were not forewarned of the after-effects. "There is no discussion of possible subjective reactions resulting from treatment....Further, other physicians, nurses, technicians and ward personnel are instructed not to discuss post-irradiation symptoms or reactions with the patient." Consent forms were required in the later years, but the University of Cincinnati Faculty Committee that investigated Saenger's project in 1971 said that none of the forms properly stated the real risk to patients, which is, said the committee's report, "the risk of death from bone marrow failure within 40 days". That investigation resulted in the project finally being shut down.

Saenger's project produced about 900 pages of reports for the US Depart-ment of Defense. The university medical center received more than $850,000. From the point of view of the DOD, the information was worth the money, and, one assumes, the risk to the patients. It was certainly important enough to be circulated to dozens of military officials, weapons makers, and government weapons contractors. It was not, as Bob Alvarez, formerly of the Washington-based Environmental Policy Institute, pointed out in a 1981 memorandum, circulated to open scientific literature.

Saenger to this day maintains that the patients received the radiation for medical reasons. The fact that the research could be used by the Department of Defense, he says, was just an added benefit. In defense of his research he states: "The most important field of investigation today is that of attempting to understand and mitigate the possible effects of nuclear warfare upon human beings. I'm a person who takes the defense of our country very seriously. I think it is important to find out the kind of things we are learning in this study."

By 1972, the year after Saenger's project had been brought to an end, the furor surrounding him had died down. Today, at least in official circles, Saenger is considered to be a respected member of the "radiation protection community". He has received tributes for his work from various places, including the US National Academy of Sciences. But there are still those who have not forgotten and there is a move now to try to get the US Congress to review the whole affair and Saenger's role in it.

Sources:

  • "Informed Consent" by Howard L. Rosenberg, Mother Jones (US), Sept./Oct. 1981, pp.31-44
  • Memorandum from Bob Alvarez Environmental Policy Institute, to Karen Wilson, Dir. National Committee for Radiation Victims, 14 Feb. 1981
  • "Investigator of Tragedy Overdosed Poor Patients", by Dave Davis, The Plain Dealer, 15 Dec. 1992

Contacts: Kitty Tucker, Health & Energy Institute, 615 Kennebec Ave., Takoma Park MD 20912.

 

ICUC/NACE/EPP92 Saskatchewan Tour Final Report

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#387-388
Special: Environmental Racism and Nuclear Development
28/03/1993
Article

(March 28, 1993) The Inter-Church Uranium Committee has just completed a tour to broaden the discussions in Saskatchewan about whether to expand the uranium industry here.

November 13, 1992

The tour consisted of two guests: Lance Hughes, Acting Director of a native controlled organization in Oklahoma, USA called Native Americans for a Clean Environment (NACE), and Dirk Jan Dullemond who took part in the European Peace Pilgrimage 1992 (EPP92) by walking 2600 miles across America to the Nevada Nuclear Weapons test site.

The purpose of the tour was simply to begin dialogue with Saskatchewan residents about these broader issues. The experience of people all along the nuclear pathway must be understood by Saskatchewan people so an informed decision regarding uranium expansion can be made.

As is often the case around the world, Indigenous people are at many stages along the nuclear pathway, and we are extremely concerned about what may await people in northern Saskatchewan when the mining has stopped, and all that is left are the radioactive tailings. We are positive the uranium companies will be gone and Saskatchewan taxpayers will be left to deal with the legacy of illness and environmental contamination.

The relationship between Saskatchewan and Oklahoma is not one we are proud of. Lance lives near a uranium conversion facility called Sequoyah Fuels, owned and operated by General Atomics. The plant makes uranium hexaflouride, which is then shipped off to other nuclear facilities for use in both civilian and military programs. Sequoyah Fuels receives 50% of its uranium from the mines of Northern Saskatchewan through the CAMECO Corporation. Because of the many years of sloppy operations at this facility, there are 21,000 pounds of uranium in the ground water surrounding the plant. The facility has operated without proper licenses for the past several years, and NACE is now involved in legal proceedings in an attempt to make the facility operate by the laws of the land. The Cherokee Nation, the second largest tribe in the US, has joined NACE in its battle to close the facility. Cherokee chiefs have sent letters asking Saskatchewan to stop sending uranium there.

Dirk Jan Dullemond spoke about the nuclear weapons testing carried out on the land of the Western Shoshone Nation for over 30 years. There have been over 900 tests conducted above and below ground by the US and Great Britain. The people there continue to experience high cancer rates directly resulting from exposure to radiation from the testing. There has been no compensation and, although the Cold War is over, the military presence is still very strong in the area. Through facilities such as Sequoyah Fuels in Oklahoma, Saskatchewan uranium makes its way into nuclear weapons, some of which are tested in the Nevada desert. The discussion here is focused on the economic benefits for the province as defined by the nuclear establishment and the business elite. Lance points out that part of uranium "economics" for the Navajo is providing compensation for the miners and their families, as well as building schools and other facilities to care for the growing number of children born mentally and physically handicapped due to radiation exposure. As well, he tells of the health survey NACE conducted in its community showing 50% of the people living near this facility have some form of cancer.

Although the tour was short, we were able to meet with several northern Tribal Councils as well as health professionals, politicians and concerned citizens organizations. Generally the response was good and it is clear that we need to continue this work. Lance was able to provide much needed information to northerners about health problems being experienced by Native Americans, particularly the Navajo in the American southwest who are now in the post uranium mining era.

We were able to spend a good part of the week at the annual NDP [New Democratic Party] convention as well. Again, many people had not considered the implications of uranium mining on people outside Saskatchewan. Lance had the opportunity to speak several times to delegates and was well received.

ICUC has made some very important contacts with individuals and organizations in the international community who are affected by Saskatchewan uranium. We will continue to facilitate exchanges with people affected by our uranium. It is absolutely essential for Saskatchewan residents to inform themselves of these connections. It is crucial for people to make oral or written presentations to the two environmental assessment review panels currently examining 12 new mines proposed for the north.

Submitted by: Stephanie Sydiah
Coordinator, ICUC/NACE/EPP92 SASK. TOUR
Phillip Penna
Coordinator, Inter-Church Uranium Committee

Contact: Inter-Church Uranium Committee, Box 7724, Saskatoon Canada, S7K 4R4, Canada
tel: +1-306-934-3030; fax: 652-8377
e-mail: web:icuc.

 


CALL FOR HELP FROM SASKATCHEWAN

We (the Saskatchewan Anti-Uranium Coalition) request that groups and individuals make presentations, written or videotaped, to the Uranium Development Panel (see accompanying article). Video presentations must be within 15 - 30 minutes.

Specifically, we would like presentations which deal with the experience of the nuclear industry in your communities (and personally), why you are concerned about an expansion of the uranium industry in Saskatchewan (or anywhere else for that matter), and how the Saskatchewan uranium industry specifically affects you and your community/region (if at all). Weapons connections, waste issues, Aboriginal concerns, etc. are great things to focus on.

All these mines are in the poorest region in Canada. It is also the home to Dene, Cree, Inuit, and Metis. Uranium mining must stop. We make a plea for your help. If you have any questions, please contact us.

If you decide to make a presentation, please send it to us (by mid-April!), and we will pass it on to the panel for you. The reason for the video tape idea is this: our coalition would like to collate them, copy, and distribute them ourselves throughout the province as an educational tool beyond the hearings process. You decide if and how you want to proceed, we just ask you to take part.

Source and contact: Saskatchewan Anti-Uranium Coalition, Box 7724, Saskatoon, Sask., Canada S7K 4R4; tel: +1-306-934-3030; fax: 306-652-8377.

 

Orchid Island: Taiwan's Nuclear Dumpsite

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#387-388
Special: Environmental Racism and Nuclear Development
28/03/1993
Article

(March 28, 1993) Off the coast of the southeast Taiwan lie two small islands which, although geographically and historically quite different, share one distinction. They are both places where Taiwan sends its undesirables. One of them, Green Island, is famous for its high security prison. The other, Orchid Island, is where Taiwan dumps its mid- and low-level nuclear waste.

An example of Environmental Colonialism

Duncan R. Marsh
Edgar (Jun-Yi) Lin
Pi-yao Lin

Orchid Island, 65 km off Taiwan's southeast coast, is the homeland of the Yami people, one of Taiwan's nine aboriginal tribes. The Yami have traditionally supported themselves with agriculture (primarily taro) and fishing, although tourism is also a big part of the economy today. They have no written language, only a small number of pictographs. Young people today can communicate in Chinese and some have attained high levels of education in Taiwan. There are some 2900 Yami people, but only about 2000 people live on Orchid Island today.

For geographical and political reasons, the Yami have historically been the most isolated of Taiwan's aboriginal tribes. During the Japanese occupation of Taiwan from 1895 to the end of World War II, the Japanese designated Orchid Island as a culture reserve and strictly restricted access to those conducting anthropological research (some scholars say their purpose was to study the Yami culture as a model to understand the peoples of southeast Asia whom the Japanese were planning to colonize). After World War II, Orchid Island became isolated again. When the Kuomintang Nationalists took over in 1949, their policy for many years was to limit people from going out to sea. So until thirty years ago, the Yami had very little contact with Taiwan or modern society at all. The exception was religion. Canadian missionaries arrived in 1949 and today many Yami are Christians, divided between Catholic and Presbyterian. In the 1960s, the government of the Republic of China began to take a large role in the lives of the Yami with the introduction of mandatory primary schooling in Mandarin Chinese and later the construction of public housing. At this time, tourism began to take hold and has slowly increased ever since.

The Need for a Nuclear Dump

In the early 1970s, Taiwan's Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) convened a group of experts to examine various sites for a temporary storage facility for mid- and low-level nuclear waste. In 1974, this committee chose the Long Men (Dragon Gate) area on the southern tip of Orchid Island. A harbor was built in 1978, construction began on the depository 1980, and shipments began arriving in May of 1982. Since then, the site has been the depository for mid- and low-level nuclear waste from Taiwan's three nuclear plants as well as nuclear medical and research centers. To date, over 90,000 containers, each weighing 50 kg, have been stored there. (The Orchid Island facility is only for mid- and low-level radwaste. Taiwan's spent fuel radioactive waste is stored at the nuclear plants themselves.)

The radwaste has been stored in 23 concrete trenches, which constitute the first of six construction phases in the Long Men facility. The total planned storage space will accommodate 340,000 barrels (over 18,000 tons). The second phase, which had begun construction in 1990, has been stopped partly by protest from opposition groups and partly because the Taiwan Power Company (Taipower) is in negotiations with mainland China over storage facilities on the mainland. In the meantime, the first 23 trenches are expected to fill to capacity next year.

The reasons why Orchid Island was found suitable for a nuclear waste dumpsite were the following: size: the dumping site is one square km; isolation: no people lived within a 5 km radius of the site; geography: the Dragon Gate area is surrounded on three sides by mountains and the other side faces the sea; safety of transportation: ships could come directly to the facility; final treatment: dumping the processed low-level radioactive waste into the ocean. (Some people feel that this was the main reason for the choice of Orchid Island. Between Taiwan and the Philippines lines the Bashi Channel, with one of the deepest sea trenches in the world.) Ocean dumping of nuclear waste was later banned by the London Convention.

There may be another unspoken reason why Orchid Island was selected. The local population was remarkably unlikely to offer strong political opposition to development of a nuclear waste storage site. For they didn't know what nuclear waste was.

A Fish Cannery

The history of the Orchid Island nuclear waste depository is fraught with governmental deception of the Yami people. In the mid-1970s, when plans were being made for the facility, government representatives approached the Orchid Island Yami district commissioner, who was illiterate. He was told that the government was going to build a fish cannery on the Long Men site and would he please sign on the paper here? He did so, and for some years the government kept up this deception, even during construction. The people were told they could sell their surplus fish to the cannery. Eventually, people in the church discovered the truth form reading news reports. Even then, the Yami had little idea what nuclear waste was and what dangers it presented. By the time they became more knowledgeable, the site was constructed and operating.

The ROC government has never been open with the public about the nuclear waste site on Orchid Island, and, as with other nuclear issues, the govern-met has exerted pressure on scholars not to report on the site. An example is a report written in 1984 by Chang, Lung-sheng and Thomas NcHenry on government policy on Orchid Island. Mr.Chang today is the director of Taiwan's Environmental Protection Agency and in 1984 was director-general of the Ministry of Interior's Construction and Planning Division. The 55-page report, which includes detailed information on various government projects on Orchid Island, does not include a single word about the nuclear waste site, which is the single biggest government project on the island. Chang's report was written two years after the waste site began operation and over six years after construction began. From reading their report, one would have no idea that such a site existed.

The term "temporary" is also a deception. Taipower and the AEC's "temporary" plan is for a 50-year storage period, totaling over 31,000 tons of radioactive waste. The final destination of this waste was wishfully intended by the Atomic Energy Com-mission to be the deep-sea trench south of Taiwan. Such dumping has since been declared illegal by inter-national law. Taipower presently claims it will move the accumulated containers of radwaste to another site but to do so would be extremely ex-pensive. The appearance is that the existence of this radwaste on Orchid Island is only as temporary as its half-life, which in some parts may be as much as 10,000 years.

Racial "Nimby"

The use of Orchid Island as a dumping ground for Taiwan's nuclear waste is the concept of NIMBY ("not in my back yard") on a national level. Taiwan's nuclear program, a product of Taiwan's backwardly inefficient energy production and policies, has little space on Taiwan to send its waste. So the waste which is the product of the people of Taiwan is being dumped on a small island tribe of 2000 people who were tricked into believing that the new site would be something which would benefit their economy. This is more than another reckless step in the desperate push to nuclearize Taiwan; it is the colonialism of the late 20th century. The colonialism of the last century borrowed the resources of the native peoples. The environmental colonialism on Orchid Island today means dumping the garbage of our civilization onto a minority people. It is racial discrimination in practice on a national level.

Since their realization of the government's deceit, the churches on Orchid Island have formed strong anti-nuclear groups. Those Yami outside of the church, though, have been less vocal. Nuclear opposition members say the hand of the government can be felt here, too. They claim that those who keep their mouths shut about the waste site are favored for secure government jobs on the island, and scholarships for their children. Those students on government scholarships aren't likely to protest for fear of losing their scholarship.

Around the Chinese New Year season in 1991, the Yami people rose up in protests which caught the attention of the media and public in all of Taiwan. Led by Kuo JIan-ping, a Yami Presbyterian missionary, and with the support of anti-nuclear groups in Taiwan like the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union and the Green Association, the Yami anti-nuclear group held demonstrations on Orchid Island and in Taipei, where they carried a protest letter straight to the Taiwan Power Company.

The Yami protest letter contained three requests: 1) the expansion of the second phase of construction on the waste site be stopped; 2) the immediate stoppage of transport of nuclear waste from Taiwan to the Orchid Island storage site; 3) by June 30, 1991, the shutdown of the storage site. Their first request was met, although there are likely other factors involved besides the protests. But the operation of the storage site has continued despite the opposition.

Kuo, who educated himself by reading numerous books and articles on nuclear energy while a student in Taipei, says the protests haven't continued because the Yami feel further protest now will have no effect on the operation of the plant. Rather, the Yami and Taiwanese environmental groups are waiting for Taipower's decision about future radwaste storage location. If Taipower moves to further expand to Orchid Island site, Kuo says the Yami are prepared to oppose it fiercely.

The Yami people opposed to the nuclear waste site claim that it is an infringement on their rights and their way of life. Traditionally, the Yami have been a self-sufficient society, relying on agriculture (primarily taro), and fishing for their food. Now they feel these two food sources are threatened by leakage from the waste site. They are concerned about radiation in the soil and sea contaminating their food. Many of them are now scared to eat fish or seafood. In the end, many are worried that they may not be able to stay on Orchid island permanently. In the words of Chung Jia-shan, a Yami church elder and labor organizer who now lives on Taiwan, "We are concerned about our destiny and our existence as a race."

Contact: Anti-Nuclear Coalition for Taiwan, Box 843, Tunghai University, Taichung, Taiwan 40704; phone/fax: +886-4-359-5622.

Racism, resources and nuclear weapons. Some reflections on the Rodney King case

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#387-388
Special: Environmental Racism and Nuclear Development
28/03/1993
Article

(March 28, 1993) In the fall of 1991 Rodney King, a black man, was pulled from his car and beaten by police. The beating was so brutal that it knocked the fillings out of his teeth. Unfortunately, this was not such an unusual occurrence in Los Angeles, California, where the incident took place. What was unusual was that a passerby happened to have a video camera and filmed the beating, resulting in the arrest of the policemen involved. But on April 29, 1992 the policemen were acquitted of all but the most insignificant charges, and freed. The news of the verdict provoked insurrections and pitched battles with the police and the military. Beginning in Los Angeles, these insurrections quickly spread across the US to some 100 cities. By the time it was over, states of emergency had been declared in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Berkely, Seattle and even Las Vegas. Some 61 people had been killed, mostly by police and the National Guard, hundreds injured, and approximately 25,000 arrested.

Arjun Makhijani

The near-total acquittal of the police officers in the Rodney King case and the angry destruction that followed emboldened President de Klerk of South Africa to remind the United States to attend to its own problems of racial injustice and human rights before instructing others. The advice may be ill-mannered, but it poses some fundamental questions we must not shirk. Is the legacy of slavery and the institutionalization of racism that followed its formal abolition only incidental to the operation of society as a whole today? Or does it still basically distort and pervert the core values of equality and freedom that we cherish?

Did the conquest, genocide and broken treaties by which the lands on which we live were obtained create a negative aspect to the national character that still persists? Or is it merely a fading stain that poses questions for ivory-tower academics to worry about in this five-hundredth anniversary of Columbus's voyage? In other words, must there be some restructuring of the political, military, and economic institutions of this country and of some of its dominant social values? If that is true then no amount of effort directed at rebuilding the devastated areas of Los Angeles will address the principal underlying issue: how to cure the disease of racism in the United States.

Many Whites argue that they did not participate in the system of slavery or in the grave injustices that went with the expropriation of native American land. This is true, and indeed, many Whites have helped fight the ills that resulted from them. Why, then, should they bear the burdens of programs such as affirmative action, or pay high taxes to cure ills that seem to resist solution?

Had exploitation and marginalization of many ethnic groupings in this country and of most people in Third World at large ended definitively, then these arguments would carry the day. Indeed, there would be little basis for racism. But the wanton beating of Rodney King and verdict of the jury are expressions of the violence and moral corruption that is endemic in the economic and social system as a whole. Let us look at the evidence.

Resources and Violence

Since the Second World War, five hundred million children around the world, mostly in the Third World, but also here in the United States, have died needless deaths for want of simple things such as food, clean water and elementary medical care. Forty thousand children around the world still die that way every day. Yet there is plenty of food in the world to go around and the resources that it would take to alleviate the worst aspects of these ills are a small fraction of the world's trillion-dollar-a-year expenditures on armaments.

There is a link between the deaths of so many children and huge military budgets. From local police in villages in the Third World to nuclear weapons threats, military budgets provide the instruments of coercion and violence that are one essential element in perpetuating the enormous poverty that coexists with a surfeit of goods and wastefulness. A world full of weapons is one expression of the reality that profit and consumption of the rich and powerful have a higher priority and a far greater pull on political will than the needs of the alleviation of suffering and poverty.

US governmental and corporate policies have led the international military and economic alliance, across race and nationality, in order to create and maintain the structure of this violence in the period after the Second World War. One of the main methods of US policy has been to link up with the most convenient local forces, democratic or dictatorial, to establish or maintain US corporate economic hegemony. This has included the training of armed forces and military dictators, the covert overthrow of democratically elected governments, and the threat of the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear Third World countries. These elements have often been combined. For instance, US nuclear-capable bombers were put on alert as the CIA was assisting the overthrow of the democratically-elected Arbenz government in Guatemala in 1954. And the institutions representing the rich in the Third World have often actively sought and collaborated in this system, which continues to result in the devastation of their own countries and people.

US policy was spelled out in National Security Council Memorandum number 68 (NSC-68), in 1950. The policy of containment that it developed was far beyond mere deterrence of a Soviet nuclear attack on the U.S. or even a Soviet military attack on Europe. "Containment" according to this policy was linked to keeping the Soviet influence out of the rest of the world, and fostering an economic system more conducive to US capitalism -- "attempting to create a healthy international community," as NSC-68 put it. NSC-68 advocated being ready for everything from local conventional wars to local nuclear wars to a war of "global annihilation" should the US not be able to "hold" any of the "critical points" in the world within its own orbit relative to the Soviet Union, directly or indirectly.

The history of the implementation of this policy shows that in practice every government (and even institutions within countries such as political parties and labor unions), no matter how democratic, that sought local control over resources so as to exclude or even moderately limit multinational corporations was vilified, subverted and opposed vigorously as "communist," while governments that allowed an "open door" to foreign capital were supported even when they were viciously dictatorial. Indeed, the US has been instrumental in setting up or helping create many dictatorial governments.

The uranium of the Congo and Namibia, the gold and diamonds of South Africa and other African countries, the oil of Iran and Arabian countries like Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Libya, were among the resources whose control occupied a large portion of US policy, not only for itself. These resources were also at the center of post-war recovery in Europe and Japan. They were essential to the success of the Marshall Plan in rebuilding Western Europe.

Many of the nuclear war scenarios that the Pentagon used for planning purposes started with a crisis of control of oil in the Persian Gulf. It was the quest for control of these same resources that caused the US and Britain to overthrow the elected Iranian government, headed by Mossadegh, in 1953 and replace it by a pliant dictator. This was the "Shah of Iran" who had initially been put there as Britain's puppet when his father supported the fascists during World War II. Through terror and torture, the Shah made protest outside the mosques essentially impossible. This led to a radical Islamic revolution in 1979; the crisis that followed has not yet ended. Oil loomed so large in these events that James Schlesinger, who had occupied various positions in government, including head of the CIA, Secretary of Defense and Secretary of Energy, felt the overthrow of the Shah was the most serious setback to capitalism since the Bolshevik revolution.

This pattern of exploitation of resources and cheap labor by the US and Western Europe was designed to keep social and economic conflict far away from the areas where Whites lived or came to occupy and make their own. It was a pattern that emerged slowly, over a hundred years or so, after the poor in Europe became very angry and began beheading the rich and the powerful during the French revolution in 1789.

But aims and policies so cynical and inhumane could not fail to be reflected in the home countries of their originators. It is difficult to compartmentalize immorality. When profit and power are put before people (rather than in their service) then we should expect to see expressions of this towards all people, including White people. Examples abound all over the world. The nuclear establishment provides many graphic illustrations.

The Nuclear Weapons Establishment

Nuclear threats that were used against others have rained down radioactivity on the US. When the Pentagon was looking for a site to test nuclear weapons on the continental US, it chose the one in Nevada because it controlled the land, though that land belongs by treaty to the Shoshone people. As another example, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) decided not to improve uranium mine ventilation where mainly Navajo miners worked that had high levels of radioactivity so that it could better study the effects of radiation on health and set standards for other workers.

There were effects on White people also. The AEC knew full well that by choosing a western site, the tests would cause fallout of radioactivity over nearly the whole country because of the prevailing winds from the west. Indeed, one of aims of the nuclear establishment was to use nuclear testing as for "reeducation" of people so that they would "feel at home with the idea of neutrons trotting around."

The University of California at Berkeley gets commissions for designing nuclear weapons at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory; an editorial in 1960 in its Engineering alumni magazine, opined that the "major birth defects" in six thousand children from atomic fallout could be justified in the face of the of the "need" for nuclear weapons for deterrence and especially for use in "brush fire" wars, such as the one in Korea.

The Atomic Energy Commission experimentally released radioactive iodine-131 from its Hanford, Washington plant which wound up in children's milk. It rained down well over half-a-million pounds of uranium from its Fernald, Ohio plant, called the Feed Materials Production Center, which had a water tower with a logo resembling that of the Purina company of pet food fame, making it appear benign. It denied benefits to sick veterans who had obeyed orders, marching into ground zero after atomic tests. It experimented on pilots, the cream of the armed forces, by making them fly though mushroom clouds shortly after atomic tests, to see if they could fight in nuclear wars. And it refused to recognize that the diseases and suffering of the downwinders and atomic veterans could be connected to their exposure from weapons production and testing. That is still the case with the vast majority of workers and people living near the weapons plants. All this was done, often in contravention of laws, to a predominantly White population in the name of "national security."

The Inner Cities

When the actions of public policy are dominated by the goals of profit and power, other ends will fall by the wayside when they are inconvenient, almost as a matter of habit. One connection between nuclear threats and the beating of Rodney King is the unjustified use of force by governments on people. Such use of force has occurred in other systems than capitalism, of course, notably in the former Soviet Union. A lack of accountability to the people is the common thread between them.

There is another connection. Military forces around the world, but most notably those in Europe, Japan and the US, maintain control over the borders of the wealthy areas, keeping impoverished and marginalized people out. With the fall of the Berlin wall, which the Soviet system used to keep educated people locked in, this policy of locking people out has become more transparent in Europe. In the US, it is ever so clear in the militarized border with Mexico, complete with searchlights, not far from Los Angeles. The goods and resources and cheap labor from the Third World are welcome, and even obtained by force, but the people must be kept out, except as convenient.

It is difficult for governments and the dominant sections of society to admit to themselves, much less to others that the content of their deeds is at fundamental variance with the professed ideals of freedom and equality. Racism is one way for those who benefit from unjust arrangements to rationalize away and project onto the oppressed a more difficult, complex and disturbing reality. Certainly, the problems of the Third World or of inner cities are not caused by external forces alone. There are internal forces, such as drugs and violence as well that are basic. But there is a dynamic by the which negative internal and external forces interact. The unbridled use of force and the financial and military aspects that are involved in it form an essential part of that negative dynamic, as does the failure of society to deal squarely with the problem of racism. The fact that the previous president of the country was elected partly on the basis of a racist advertisement (the "Willie Horton" ad) is a stark symbol of the external factors that drive the hopelessness that many young people in the inner cities feel, which is one cause of a negative internal dynamic.

The inner cities of the US are a kind of internal Third World; local police forces execute an internal military policy. One important factor to keep in mind is that inner cities in the US now consist mainly of people for whom the larger economy has little use in the production of profit, having found ample cheap labor in the Third World. Therefore, a military containment of the inner cities, rather than exploitation in any old-fashioned sense, is now a principal objective. This policy has many similarities with the US "pacification" program during the Viet Nam war.

Inner cities have now become heavily armed, frustrated and violent places without hope for many of their residents. Police, prisons, and society at large have become more brutal in the policy of containment as even as they grow more fearful. As the US experience in Viet Nam shows, such policies have a way of becoming uncontrollably violent, immoral and unjust.

Violence, Profit and Accountability

Like people without hope in many parts of the world, young men in US inner cities have noticed that control over property can be had with armed force. Is there a moral difference between setting up and arming dictators in foreign countries for the sake of profit and taking local property by a stick-up? Is there a moral difference between selling billions of dollars of armaments to torturers and dictators who use them to kill thousands of people and keep millions in thrall and selling drugs and committing drive-by murders in the street?

While former President Bush decried the looting, many have noticed he did not similarly decry the wanton looting by Michael Milken that contributed to the Savings and Loan crisis, and cost thousands of people their jobs while he made more than five hundred million dollars as a single year's compensation from the junk bond firm of Drexel Burnham Lambert, headquartered in Los Angeles. Young people without hope of a decent life around the world have noticed the utterly amoral arming of both sides in the Iran-Iraq war, and the cynical turns from arming and assistance to Saddam Hussein to war against him to a de facto acceptance of his remaining in power at the end of the war so that insurgents fighting to be liberated would not come to control the oil, among other cynical reasons.

The location of the inner cities inside wealthy countries introduces objectives other than military containment -- namely, the alleviation of poverty and unemployment. These issues become more acute when the larger society is reminded through dramatic events, such as those that followed the videotaping of the beating of Rodney King, of the potential for a more general destructiveness that stems from the hopelessness that many young people in the inner cities feel.

Past programs have been based on a mixture of containment of and charity towards African-Americans. They are unlikely to address the real needs of the people they are directed to -- how could they, when even the basic communication between the presumed benefactors and the beneficiaries is missing? Indeed, one of the basic elements that has been missing from that dialogue is that recognition in policy that people who live in the inner cities know their problems, have ideas about their solutions, and have the leadership that it will take to address them. A dialogue that shows the kind of respect that such a premise implies has been essential to success; its absence as a matter of policy in the country at large has been one essential component of the failure to address the problems of the inner cities.

Finally, programs directed at inner cities do not exist in a vacuum. They are part of a larger system of policies. How can programs address the long-term issues of social stability and harmony, health care and job security that all of us need to live safe and satisfying lives, when such a huge proportion of the resources of the country continues to be devoted to military spending. This parallels in foreign policy the emphasis on police and prisons for inner cities, while at the same depriving us all of essential resources for peaceful purposes.

A New Direction

There is another direction, at once more practical, moral and hopeful which can help us get out of this mess. We must confront together the fundamental problems of the US and global economies that have given rise to so much injustice, suffering and environmental devastation. We must fundamentally reevaluate programs inspired by fear and guilt that make White society put combinations of money and police and prisons into inner cities, hoping that somehow the basic problems will go away. Instead, we must address the needs of particular communities and areas in the context of the larger community in the country and the world. This will help us address the root causes of the persistence of racism, violence, and misery which lie in the inequities of the larger global social and economic system.

There is ample precedent for this great common enterprise. People of all ethnic backgrounds have struggled shoulder-to-shoulder in this country and throughout the world for justice, decency and a modicum of well-being for everyone. In the nineteenth century, when there were signs in New York City that proclaimed "Irish and dogs not allowed," Blacks and Irish Americans struggled side-by-side in unions for better wages and working conditions, until racism divided them late in the nineteenth century. There were Whites who fought alongside Blacks in their struggle for civil rights, some even dying alongside them in that struggle, and many did not hesitate to follow Martin Luther King, as a leader of all the people of this country, and not only African-Americans. Millions of Blacks, Whites, soldiers, pacifists, draft resisters and other civilians struggled together to end the Viet Nam war.

We have common problems enough. The lack of good schools, safe neighborhoods, and health insurance affects Blacks disproportionately, but it affects everyone. So does the shortage of well-paid jobs. The degradation of the environment may affect communities of color disproportionately, but few breathe truly clean air everyday, or are confident that it will be better for their children. While toxic dumps are located disproportionately in rural areas and in communities of color, few can escape the ill-effects of toxic chemicals in our midst. Even the lack of leadership in Washington, corrupted by military and corporate machinery that greases elections with copious sums of money, has become a pressing common problem.

There is a tradition of struggle at the grassroots that can provide the basis for success. The examples above show that it has already done so in many areas. Just in the recent past that tradition has helped to shut down nuclear weapons production in this country. It has slowed the deadly international trade in toxic wastes. It has spawned a movement for safe energy and sane lifestyles. In the Sanctuary movement, of the 1980s, many Americans, including Whites, provided shelter to Central Americans fleeing war and violence, thereby opposing the US government at considerable risk and cost to themselves. And millions of Americans, Black and White, worked together to assist the struggle of the people of South Africa against apartheid, which is probably the real cause of President de Klerk's peevish comments about the Rodney King case.

A common struggle, moved by the value that everyone has a right to a decent and peaceful life, good government and a healthy environment, can provide the common bonds to enable us to overcome racism in this country, and exploitation around the world.

Contact: Arjun Makhijani, President, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, 6985 Laurel Ave., Takoma Park MD 20912, US
tel: +1-301-270-5500; fax: 301-270-3029.

Radiant Iraq: Assassination by Conventional Nukes

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#387-388
Special: Environmental Racism and Nuclear Development
28/03/1993
Article

(March 28, 1993) Recently a draft report was released by the US General Accounting Office on US troop exposure to radiation during the Gulf War. According to the report, several dozen US troops were exposed to small amounts of radiation but were ill equipped to avoid or react to the contamination. The exposure resulted from depleted uranium (DU) used by the allied forces to toughen armor piercing artillery. The US military claimed it would ordinarily would pose no health risk because it is covered by other shielding material. Nevertheless, some tank crews were exposed when they were near vehicles that accidentally caught fire and ignited the DU coated ammunition. The report concluded that the Army did not provide proper warnings or training for the hazard. US Congressman Ron Wyden, who ordered the report, emphasized the need for a review of the uranium exposures, stating that the Army " has not effectively educated its personnel in the hazards of depleted uranium contamination and in proper safety measures." The radioactive debris left behind in the desert seems to have been of little concern to either the report's researchers or Wyden.

Henk van der Keur

Clumsy stuff, this depleted uranium. What to do with this low-radioactive nuclear waste which remains radioactive for years? In the United States they have the solution: recycling it in conventional arms.

The US-led coalition which defeated Iraq in the Gulf War left at least 40 tons of depleted uranium in Kuwait and southern Iraq. In May 1991 radiation experts had already reported that the radio-active debris from high-tech munitions will be in the long-term responsible for the death of half a million residents in Iraq and Kuwait. These data are mentioned in a secret report from the British Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and were revealed by the Independent on Sunday in November 1991. The publication caused not a single report of importance in the media, which had earlier speculated wildly on the nuclear bomb of Saddam Hussein. All the news from Iraq was focussed on the expeditions of the UN inspection-teams to the sites of the hidden weapons of mass destruction.

Depleted Uranium (DU) is the slag left over from the uranium enrichment process after the fissionable uranium-235 isotope has been extracted for the production of nuclear weapons or fuel elements for nuclear power stations. Since natural uranium consists of more than 99% non-fissionable uranium-238, large amounts of this byproduct are developed during the enrichment -process. For decades this long lived and low-level radioactive waste has been a topic of a scientific debate n the stockpile is becoming larger and there is no satisfactory solution to the problem of how to dispose of it.

There have been debates on whether to send depleted uranium fuel into space or bury it at the bottom of the sea; the current plan is to put it in deep storage in hollowed-out salt layers. But 15 years ago, even while the debate was still going on, the US military had already concluded agreements with the nuclear industry, whereby industry would take over the expensively stored military waste for nothing. This business agreement means great economic profits for both partners. Nuclear waste is now merchandise and no longer a problem for the nuclear industry. The munitions makers no longer have to worry about the wastes they are creating and the problems and costs involved in storage, allowing them to experiment with new uses. DU is, for example, harder than tungsten, a very hard metal the US must import at additional cost. A report by the Canadian-US organization Uranium Traffic from 1984 mentions that the US army used at least 6500 tons of DU in munitions and tank armor. It is highly likely that the amount has multiplied since that time. Last year the US Congress decided to double the amount of uranium in the tank amour of the new generation of Abram tanks.

DU is also exported on a large scale as raw material for arms. Between December '80 and February '81, the US Navy shipped fifty tons to Saudi-Arabia. Another secret license approved by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) allowed Nuclear Metals Inc. to export 500 tons to the Royal Ordnance munitions factories in England. Probably these licenses are only the tip of the iceberg.

The hardness and the mass of the low-level radioactive uranium make the metal two and a half times as heavy as steel, the beloved material for munitions designers. So it is also used in tank armor for protection.

According to the Pentagon, tank crews are exposed to a radiation dose equivalent to a daily chest X-ray n a dose which is far above the limits the NRC sets for residents. In the US press many articles were published about soldiers having symptoms of radiation diseases.

During the Gulf War, US and British forces for the first time used DU projectiles on a large scale. The Iraqi forces, thanks to western arms deliveries, possessed a huge arsenal of modern arms, but they didn't have the amour penetrating projectiles. Ironically, only projectiles of DU could be responsible for the 'friendly fire' that hit the ten Abram tanks and the fifteen Bradley vehicles. The uranium which was found in the grapeshot proved undoubtedly that the military vehicles were hit by ammunition from their own side.

The destructive power of the uranium bullets is not restricted to the actual penetrating power caused by their weight. The armor-piercing capacity of the projectile after hitting the target is strengthened by ignition of the fragments. The melting fragments easily penetrated the layers of amour protecting the Iraqi crews, burning them alive. The Iraqi Soviet-made tanks had nothing to resist the anti-tank high-tech weapons of the allied armies.

DU munitions have led to serious pollution of the soil, the ground- and surfacewater in the areas where they have been tested. Uptake of contaminated water by the body causes a diversity of diseases, because the low-level radioactive heavy metal accumulates in the bones and kidneys. Chronic poisoning leads, among other things, to irreversible damage to the kidneys and the growth of tumors. Like lead, uranium becomes permanently deposited in bone tissue, and might be expected (though no study has looked for this effect) to cause similar developmental problems in chronically exposed children. Like calcium, uranium readily crosses the placenta, as was demonstrated in human experiments conducted under the auspices of the Oak Ridge National Laboratories in which various uranium compounds were injected to pregnant women. Children are especially vulnerable, because their cells are dividing rapidly as they grow. The poison is able to pass the placenta, by which the chance of congenital defect rises very fast.

Uranium particles can also enter the body via the lungs. DU projectiles which come to ignition are pulverized into large quantities of microscopic particles that are scattered by the wind over large areas. These micro-particles send out ionizing radiation (alpha radiation). Upon inhalation, the radioactive particles lodge in the lungs, damaging the surrounding tissue. The radiation stimulates in the long-term the growth of tumors and growth of lung cancer. US nuclear scientist Leonard Dietz calculates that a single 2.5 µm uranium dioxide particle of depleted uranium will cause a surprisingly high radiation dose of 17 rads/yr. to lung tissue surrounding the particle and within the range of the alpha particles n a hundred times more than the maximum allowable dose limit. And, although alpha radiation has a relatively low penetrating power, the skin is not (as was earlier thought) an entirely impervious barrier for this type of radiation either.

Three months before the Gulf War, in October 1990, Dietz wrote an urgent letter to Les Aspin, chairman of the Committee on Armed Services of the US House of Representatives. (He will be the new US Secretary of Defense, HvdK). Dietz explained in his letter to be very careful about the use of DU munitions in test areas, referring to his publications from 1980. From 1955 to 1983, he was employed at the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory (KAPL) in Schenectady, New York. His professional responsibility was research and development of high sensitivity equipment and techniques. In 1979, while analyzing environmental air filters exposed on the KAPL site perimeter, the research team under his direction discovered and measured airborne emissions of depleted uranium from the NL Industries plant which is located on the western boundary of Albany, New York. NL Industries was manufacturing depleted uranium inserts for 30 mm cannon shells used by the Air Force. The KAPL site is west of Albany, a straight-line distance of approximately 10 miles from the NL plant. Dietz and his team detected airborne DU contamination as far west of Albany as the Kesselring site at West Milton, NY, where prototype reactor facilities are located for training Navy personnel, approximately 26 miles away.

Four months after the war, May 13, 1991, Dietz received a letter from Aspin in which he declared that he asked the Defense Department to review the issues Dietz raised in his letter. The Pentagon then sent on the report "Depleted Uranium Munitions" by Joe Osterman, director of the Pentagon Office of Environment and Life Sciences. In a business-like way Osterman affirms in this report the disastrous impacts of depleted uranium on public health, particularly the risks of nephro-toxicity ( poisoning of the kidneys). However, he mentions nothing about the chronic effects in the case of DU particle inhalation. Dietz wouldn't put up with the conclusion of the report and wrote a letter to Osterman in which he informed him of his research: "In your report, you describe several potential health risks resulting from the ingestion of depleted uranium. You also mention the potential risk for inhalation of depleted uranium in combat situations but you do not discuss long-term effect that might result. Have you investigated the probability that lung cancer could develop in someone who has thousands of µm-sized depleted uranium particles trapped permanently in his or her lungs?"

John Kolmer, an assistant to Osterman, answered Dietz in vague terms that the chance of lung cancer exists, but he repeated the view of his chief: the major danger caused by depleted uranium is nephrotoxicity. Kolmer closed his letter as follows: " The potential risk to human health from exposure to depleted uranium is, of course, dose and time related, both of which must be measured, approximated, or assumed. Let me assure you that we feel that your concern, which parallels our own, is real and we thank you for sharing that with us."

The NL Industries munitions factory was closed in 1980 by order of the authorities of New York State because the plant regularly exceeded the radioactive emission limit of 150 microcuries a month. Leonard Dietz asked in a letter to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, "If New York State authorities were concerned about the release each month of radiation equivalent to the particles from one or two uranium projectiles, why isn't the US government concerned about the effects of tens of thousands of projectiles being fired in a few days of war?"

The military, claiming that DU poses little threat, is taking no initiative to monitor the health effects of the use of DU, let alone to estimate the long-term impact of their production and use. The Congress was concerned about the exposure of soldiers and clean-up teams to oil fires in the Gulf and ordered the military to set up a registry of persons exposed to the smoke, but has taken no such initiative on DU exposure. For years, US radiation researchers, peace and environmental organizations have insisted in vain on large-scale registration for medical monitoring of civilian residents in the vicinity of the test sites and soldiers who have touched DU.

The soothing declarations of the Army that any concentrations of DU in Iraqi vehicles left in the desert would be small contradict the findings of the reporters from the Atomic Energy Authority. Major Joe Padilla, a Defense Department spokesperson, said, for example, that "the DU would have oxidized and blown away". But the UKAEA report said: "The DU will be spread around the battle-field and target vehicles in varying sizes and quantities, from dust particles to full size penetrators and shot. It would be unwise for people to stay close to large quantities of DU for long periods and would obviously be of concern to the local population if they collect this heavy metal and keep it. There will be specific areas in which many rounds will have been fired, where localized contamination of vehicles and soil may exceed permissible limits and these could be hazardous to both clean up teams and the local population."

The German physician Siegwart-Horst Günther stays regularly in Iraq and collects money via his German-based foundation, Humanitarian Aid for the Children in Iraq, to buy medicines, which he brings himself to hospitals in southern Iraq. Besides this, he does some field research on DU munitions. In the German newspaper Neues Deutschlands (July 16, 1992) he declares that he saw twelve children playing with fragments of the projectiles and that he presumed that the military debris is responsible for the strong increase of leukemia and other variants of cancer among children. He wasn't able to diagnose the causes of a number of diseases n all of them lethal. Months earlier, Günther asked the German authorities for permission to bring a number of children to Germany for medical research. The request was rejected. After that rejection, the physician decided to take a projectile with him from the Iraqi desert for evidence. He showed a piece of a projectile at a press conference in Berlin. Somewhat later his 'evidence' n taken from a projectile which before and during the Gulf War had been transported via the Netherlands and Germany by the thousands n was seized by the police. Günther was charged with illegal possession of arms and 'Freisetzung ionisierender Strahlung' (liberation of ionizing radiation) and fined....

It is evident that the control of the media is the most successful chapter from the script Desert Storm. News-facts which didn't fit into the ideology behind the mobilization against 'the Hitler of Baghdad' didn't have a chance. The commercials for the 'precise bombardments' had to convince everybody that modern war is accompanied with a minimum of civilian victims. The atrocious chapter in which Iraq figures as a test area for a new generation of arms was hidden from the eyes of the television watchers and the minds of the readers of the newspapers. Oil and military bases in the Gulf were certainly not the only interests of the US and the allied forces. The economic recession and the end of the Cold War compelled the creation of a new market for the military industry. The 'winners of the Cold War' found a very suitable market in the expansionist Ba'athelite in Iraq. Before and during the Gulf War, the rich countries received a lot of profits from their enormous arms deliveries to Iraq, to use it as a test site afterwards for their 'conventional nukes'. While Bush orated about his New World order, he started a new arms race. The civilians of Iraq are still suffering the consequences of the Gulf War n not only in the form of interNational sanctions and business-embargoes, but also in the form of depleted uranium wandering about the country.

Contact: Henk van der Keur, LAKA Foundation, Pesthuislaan 118, 1054 RM Amsterdam, The Netherlands; tel: +31-20-6168294.

Resources & Events

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#387-388
Special: Environmental Racism and Nuclear Development
28/03/1993
Article

THE WORLD URANIUM HEARING NEWSLETTER,

(March 28, 1993) published by the World Uranium Hearing Society (WUH) to up-date participants of the WUH held in Sept. 1992 of their further proceedings. It is also intended to address other organizations and individuals interested in the effects of uranium mining, nuclear weapons tests and nuclear waste storage on nature and mankind, with a focus on indigenous peoples, and in the making of a nuclear-free future. Contact: WUH, Schwanthalerstrasse 88, W-8000 München 2, FRG, tel: +49-89-532 687; fax: 532-88-55.

DOCUMENTATIONS OF THE WUH AVAILABLE. Print documentation testimonies and lectures will be available in English by early April. Versions in other languages (Russian, Spanish, French, German) will take more time and depend on funding. Costs: (deadline: July 15) is US$ 60 (DM 95); the regular price will be US$ 80 (DM 125) plus shipping costs. The docu-mentation is also available on diskette (DOS. Word 5.0). Video and Audio Documentation also available soon. Documentaries (approx. 1 hour, English) of each day of the Hearing including excerpts of all testimonies and all lectures will be available by summer. Audio tapes are available now. Contact: WUH, Schwanthalerstrasse 88, W-8000 München 2, FRG, tel: +49-89-532 687; fax: 532-88-55.

"INDIGENOUS ENVIRONMENTAL PERSPECTIVES; A North American Primer". A Discussion and series of case studies of North American Indigenous environment issues and a framework for discussion of sustainable development. Prepared for the UN Conference on the Environment and Development, and Protecting Mother Earth Conference, 1992. Order from: Indigenous Womens Network, PO Box 174, Lake Elmo MN 55042 USA; tel: +1-612-777-3629. Cost: US$ 6. (The Network also puts out a biannual magazine, "Indigenous Woman". Subscription rates: US$ 10 per year.)

PACIFIC NEWS BULLETIN, a monthly news bulletin published by the Pacific Concerns Resource Centre (PCRC) for the Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific Movement. News of the occupied Pacific from Aotearoa (New Zealand) to Fiji to 'French' Polynesia to West Papua to East Timor to the Hawaiian Islands. Subscription rates: in Australian dollars or US cash. Australia: individual: $12; NGOs: $15; institutions: $30. Pacific/Asia/Third World: indiv: $15; NGO's $20; instit: $30. N.America/Europe/Japan: indiv: $25; NGOs: $30; instit: $40. Send to: Pacific News Bulletin, PO Box 489, Petersham NSW 2049, Australia.


April 8-12, 1993: PEACE DEMONSTRATION AT NUR-RUNGAR (KOKATHA LAND), South Australia.Nurrungar is a US Star Wars base in South Australia. It is also on the traditional lands of the Kokatha people. The base is involved in "waging war against Third World countries to secure their resources for the US and its First World allies. It is a war base and a weapons develop-ment facility...Join us in the desert - Easter '93." Contact: Sydney Anti-Bases Action Committee, PO Box A899, Sydney South 2000, Australia; fax: +61-2-267-2726.

May 13, 1993: WESTERN SHOSHONE CALL FOR ACTION, Reno, Nevada, USA. The Western Shoshone are calling for a demonstration to support Western Shoshone sovereignty and the Dann family. After nearly two decades of legal battles with Western Shoshone ranchers Carrie and Mary Dann, the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and local Nevada law enforce-ment initiated an armed, military-style invasion, with helicopters last November. The Western Shoshone are demanding that the US government participate in direct and meaningful negotiations with the Western Shoshone National Council, recog-nition of land rights, and an end to plans to roundup livestock at the Dann Ranch. Supporting organizations include the American Peace Test, American Indian Movement, Citizen Alert, among many others. Contact: Western Shoshone Defense Project, General Delivery, Crescent Valley NV 89821, USA; tel: +1-702-468-0230 (on May 13: +1-702-827-5511).

June 26 -July 4, 1993: NO-NUKES ASIA FORUM, Japan. Japan is involved in planning the commercial use of nuclear power in Asia, especially in South Korea, Taiwan and Indonesia. Residents from areas near power plants or from planned sites of nuclear power plants have been invited to Japan by the utility companies to expose them to "public acceptance." Engineers from the Asian region have also gone to Japan for "training". These public tactics strongly suggest the Japanese nuclear industry intends to hold onto leadership in the Asian nuclear market as industrialization leads to increased demand for electric power. This forum will include discussions and information exchanges on: how Japanese nuclear policy works in the present situation of Asia; how nuclear establishments cooperate in Asia; and what impact nuclear plants have on our lifestyles and on the economies of Asian communities. Contact: Organizing Committee for No-Nukes Asia Forum, c/o Tanpopo-sha, Nishi-Kanda Bldg. 4F, 2-7-4 Nishi-Kanda, Chiyodaku, Tokyo 101, Japan. Fax: +81-6-765-7415 (Osaka).

July 16 - August 9: PEOPLE UNITED FOR A NUCLEAR FREE WORLD, Belgium. International walk and camp initiated by the Belgium-based group For Mother Earth and the German group Atomteststop-kampagne. The walk will pass by the major nuclear facilities in the north of Belgium to call attention to the threat of the Nuclear Age we live in, and envision alternatives. It will start at Zeebrugge to mark the anniversary of the first Nuclear Test "Trinity", exploded on July 16, 1945 at Alamogordo, the ancestral land of Pueblo Indians in New Mexico (USA). The approxi-mately 450 km hike will end in Brussels August 5, the 30th anniversary of the Limited Test Ban Treaty in which the signers pledged to negotiate a Comprehensive Test Ban (CTB) as soon as possible: we are tired of waiting! An international camp will be set up to commemorate the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Participants will direct non-violent actions towards the nuclear powers in support of a CTB and a nuclear free future. Contact: For Mother Earth, Zilverhof 19, 9000 Gent, Belgium; tel: +32-91/33.32.68; fax: 33.49.24.

Sept. 12-17: WOMEN OF COLOR CONFERENCE, Fiji. A global summit and conference hosted by the Global Women's Ministry, Auckland (NZ). Key themes include networking support, cross-cultural communi-cations, self-determination, political empowerment, economic development and independence.Contact: 1993 Conference for Women of Color, PO Box 57-043, Owairaka, Auckland, Aotearoa/NZ; fax: +64-9-623-4133

Saskatchewan uranium hearings update

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#387-388
Special: Environmental Racism and Nuclear Development
28/03/1993
Article

(March 28, 1993) Two governmental environmental review panels for proposed uranium mines in Saskatchewan are underway (see WISE NC 362/363, pp. 6-11). Members of both panels have stated that submissions from outside of Canada are welcome. Contact the Panels' Secretariat at the address below for documents (sent out free of charge). Note that they will accept collect phone calls.

Miles Goldstick

The Uranium Development Panel (run by both the federal and province of Saskatchewan governments) submitted its final report on 15 January 1993 for the McArthur River underground exploration program, one of the five proposed mines it is examining. The public hearings for this part of the project were completed in December 1992. The public hearings for the production phase of the McArthur River project are not expected until mid-1994. For the Midwest Joint Venture, McClean Lake project, and Cluff Lake extension, public hearings are scheduled for between March and May 1993; and the final reports are expected in the early fall of 1993. For the Midwest Joint Venture, the Panel's 41-page request for additional information, lists 65 deficiencies and related information requests. The Panel's request for additional information on the McClean Lake project is 37 pages in length and lists 59 deficiencies and information requests.

The Rabbit Lake Uranium Mine Environmental Assessment Panel (run by the federal government only) announced on 20 November 1992 that the environmental impact assessment (EIS) submitted by CAMECO Corporation for three proposed uranium mines at Rabbit Lake, Saskatchewan (Collins Bay A- and D-zones and Eagle Point) was not adequate and CAMECO has been required to provide more information "in a number of critical areas". Once the additional information has been submitted there will be a public review period lasting at least 30 days before a decision is taken on whether to proceed to the public hearings. According to the Panel Secretariat, CAMECO was expecting to complete its report of additional information in late February, thus the public hearings would be in late April 1993 at the earliest.

Also on 20 November 1992 the federal government Panel released two documents: the 400-page "Compilation of Submissions" on CAMECO's (Canadian Mining and Energy Corporation) EIS and the 20-page "Request for Additional Information" on the EIS. The latter document lists 29 deficiencies and makes specific information requests for each. The deficiencies cover a wide range of environmental and socio-economic aspects of the proposed mines. The compilation includes all written submissions received by the Panel on the EIS. There are a total of 18 submissions: five from federal government agencies, three from pro-mining associations, seven from anti-mining individuals and organizations, and three from Panel- appointed experts.

The report by the people of Wollaston Lake is particularly critical of CAMECO's plans and style. The Wollaston submission reads, "Wollaston residents know, without benefit of an elaborate environmental assessment and review process, that any further developments will result in some further alienation from a land base." CAMECO's evidence of public consultation is referred to as "a transparent manipulation of public opinion."

Contact: Panel Secretariat, Uranium Mine Development Review Office, Room 420, 1955 Smith Street, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada S4P 2N6; tel: +1-306-780-8251 (collect calls accepted!); fax: +1-306-780-8250.

Secret N-dump discovered on Inuit lands

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#387-388
Special: Environmental Racism and Nuclear Development
28/03/1993
Article

(March 28, 1993) The 450 residents of Point Hope in northwest Alaska were outraged recently when they learned that the US government secretly buried 15,000 tons of radioactive-contaminated soil near their village in 1962.

WISE Amsterdam

Ironically, in 1962, area Inuit (Eskimos) had successfully fought a government plan to use a nuclear explosion to blast a harbor out of ice at Cape Thompson, Alaska, 25 miles from Point Hope. But that same year, the US Geological Survey went ahead with a secret plan to bury 15,000 tons of radioactive soil there as part of a nuclear research project.

The contaminated soil, including more than 43 pounds of nuclear material from the Nevada test site, was placed in a dozen separate pits to determine how radioactivity spreads in a Arctic environment, then buried in a four foot-deep unmarked mound of clean dirt.

The unknowing residents of rural Point Hope, continued to practice their livelihood of hunting, herding, and gathering throughout the area; and are angry about the nuclear waste there. The above-average cancer rate in Point Hope, had previously been blamed on smoking and diet, but is now suspected to be related to the radioactive soil buried there for almost 30 years.

Source: CCNS RadioActive Hotline (GreenNet, gn:nuc.facilities, 1 Jan. 1993).
Contact: Dont Waste US; 310 Domer St. #1, Takoma Park MD 20912, US.

Waste merchants intentionally poison natives

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#387-388
Special: Environmental Racism and Nuclear Development
28/03/1993
Article

(March 28, 1993) There are thousands who have suffered the consequences of highly dangerous industries operating in and near Indian communities. Angry tribal leaders accuse industry and the military of economic and environmental racism for devastating their land and their people.

Valerie Taliman

They say that calculated decisions were made that resulted in the deaths of thousands of Native people - people that corporate and government officials deemed expendable.

The intentional poisoning of Native people has been going on for a long time. It can be traced back to the small-pox infected blankets that the US Cavalry distributed to Indian prisoners of war. It continued through the decades in the form of military and industrial development that polluted Indian lands and water supplies.

Today the poisonous deals come in slick packages from friendly waste merchants or from David Leroy, who heads the Office of US Nuclear Waste Negotiations.

Leroy has been trying to sell tribal leaders a deal to set aside 450-acre parcels of Native lands for federal storage of radioactive waste from the nation's 110 nuclear plants [the so-called Monitored Retrievable Storage (MRS) facility for spent reactor fuel rods].

In return for poison, Leroy holds out prospects of more federal money for health care, education and other economic benefits that financially strapped tribes critically need. It is a strategy that some tribal leaders call "economic blackmail."

Leroy mailed letters to more than 65 tribal leaders nationally and has lobbied at major Indian gatherings such as the National Congress of American Indians attended by 1500 delegates.

So far, only the Mascalero Apache tribe in New Mexico has received grant money to study the prospect of a nuclear waste facility on the reservation [US$100,000 to allow a feasibility study and another $200,000 for "public education"]. It is a prospect that has caused much controversy among tribal members, many of whom oppose it.

Waste deals disguised as "economic development"

This recent round of waste proposals comes on the heels of scores of proposals from waste disposal operators who have deliberately targeted Indian lands for waste incinerators and landfills.

In the last two years alone, more than 50 tribes from Arizona, New Mexico, Alaska, California, New York, Nevada, Utah, South Dakota, Washington, Wyoming and Florida have been approached by waste merchants seeking deals on Native lands where state regulations do not apply and there is less red tape governing toxic waste incinerators and landfills.

Toxic waste deals are often disguised as "economic development" projects. Waste companies promise million-dollar deals to people who often live in economically depressed communities that seldom attract offers of this magnitude.

In exchange for millions, waste companies propose to build high-level waste incinerators and massive dumps to store tons of toxic waste shipped in from all over the nation.

Waste merchants also recognize the political and economic vulnerability of Native nations. Because affluent communities have the money and political power to ban waste sites from their neighborhoods, most landfills, incinerators and toxic dumps are built near low-income communities of color, many near Indian lands.

Unless a tribe has existing environmental regulations, toxic waste falls under the jurisdiction of federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) laws that are often less stringent than those of states.

Native leaders say the lax and distant enforcement exercised by the EPA is not enough to protect tribes from companies that are trying to take advantage of the sovereign status of Native people.

"Environmental laws do not protect our people," said Gail Small, a North Cheyenne attorney and activist. "With less than four percent of our original land base left, we refuse to accept the deliberate targeting of our land for white America's trash and poison's."

Encroaching on the Western Shoshone

That feeling is shared by the Western Shoshone Nation whose land in Nevada was taken by the government to build the Nevada Test Site. The military has exploded more than 700 nuclear bombs since 1951 including 100 above-ground blasts that were allowed until 1963. Although the Treaty of Ruby Valley never ceded lands to the US, providing only permission for settlers to pass through Shoshone land, the federal government ignored the treaty and took more than 800,000 acres for weapons testing.

The Department of Defense (DOD) now uses that land to conduct both underground nuclear tests and ariel bombing at adjacent Nellis Air Force Gunnery Range and the Tonopah Test Range. These tests expose millions of citizens in a five-state surrounding area to radiation.

"We are the most bombed nation in the world," William Rosse, Sr. proclaims at the many environmental gatherings he attends. "We've had more than our share of radiation," says Ros-se. "Now they want to put the Yucca Mountain repository on our lands."

The proposed high-level nuclear waste repository would create cavities and tunnels spreading over 1500 acres inside the Yucca Mountain to store 70,000 metric tons of deadly nuclear waste. An additional 150 surface acres would be used to house administrative and warehouse facilities. The estimated price tag to taxpayers so far is $15 billion.

The repository is intended to keep nuclear waste "safe" for 10,000 years by placing steel canisters filled with the most deadly substances on the planet in tunnels up to 115 miles long.

If approved, the repository would operate from 2003 to 2053, taking in nuclear waste from nuclear waste sites throughout the nation.

Only five states would not be impacted by the transportation of high-level radioactive waste, causing many state and local emergency response teams to worry about the prospect of accidents.

With up to 4000 shipments of radioactive waste crossing the nation annually, trucking industry statistics reveal that up to 50 accidents per year could occur during the 30-year period that nuclear waste would stream to Yucca Mountain.

Fearing the dangers posed, some tribal leaders have called for a ban on the transportation of hazardous waste through their reservations and a handful of tribes have outlawed hazardous waste operations.

Source: Groundwork (via GreenNet, gn:nuc.facilities, 17 Oct. 1992). Groundwork can be reached at PO Box 14141, San Francisco CA 94114, USA.
Contacts: Jan Stevens, Native American Energy Network, PO Box 554, Davenport OK 74026, US
tel: +1 918-968-2583; fax: 918-968-3887
Ian Zabarti, Western Shoshone National Council, General Delivery, Crescent Valley NV 89821; tel:+1 702-863-0332

What NCAI, CERT, NARF, or Mr. Leroy will not tell tribes

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#387-388
Special: Environmental Racism and Nuclear Development
28/03/1993
Article

(March 28, 1993) The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) is now in the fifth year of a cooperative Agreement with the US Department of Energy and they have held seminars in conjunction with NARF (Native American Rights Fund) and CERT (Council of Energy Resource Tribes), in which they have allowed the US Radioactive Waste Management Program to dispense information on the progress of their nuclear waste program, and to assist the Negotiator to locate prospective tribal hosts for MRS storage sites.

Elmer Savilla

What the tribes are not being told by Mr. Leroy or any of the Indian organizations who convene meetings for the likes of Mr. Leroy is the myriad of problems and long-range contamination that is already being caused, or can be caused by deliberate, natural, or accidental release of radioactive materials.

Nor are the environmental problems limited to only radioactive materials. Chemical waste and other industrial and medical waste as well as big city "white trash", all contribute to health and environmental problems on Indian reservations. As pointed out before, the polluters are aided by some tribal leaders and national Indian organizations who while professing to be "neutral" are spreading the gospel of Waste-Tech as well as that of Mr. Leroy. They are not being honest with their constituency because they are not telling them of the wide range of already existing problems. Consequently, NCAI, NARF, and CERT (whose membership consists of tribal leaders) are at cross purposes with the real constituency: The People!

At these Department of Energy-sponsored meetings with tribes, no mention is made of problems or risks connected to nuclear pollution. If information was being shared openly tribes could then decide for them-selves if "glowing in the dark" was for them, but the information given out is not pro and con. Only the information approved by the Department of Energy is dispensed. The Native Americans for a Clean Environment (NACE) located in Tahlequah, Oklahoma has been a watchdog on nuclear matters and when NCAI, NARF and CERT proposed a workshop to form the Indian Nuclear Advisory Council, NACE warned them that the law firm to be used for legal assistance was the same law firm that represented the Sequoyah Fuels uranium facility in Gore, Oklahoma.

 

I can assure that there is nothing voluntary or inclusive about this process. Most tribal citizens learn of these MRS applications in the newspaper, if they learn of them at all, because most of our people live under tribal governmental structures forced upon us by the federal government through the US Indian Reorganization Act. Those structures do not require the consent of all tribal citizens, as was traditional in the past.

The government has used this system much to its advantage. Leroy stated at the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Conference on March 26, 1991, that "I have pledged to the Senate that I will not engage in the artificial creation of grassroots support in local communities. Instead, we are to work through the governor or tribal council of all interested jurisdictions." So much for voluntary citizen participation...

...Let's look at a couple of examples of this "voluntary" system. Mescalero Apache is further along in this process than any other community. When their application was first publicly announced, the tribal citizens wanted to talk to outside experts about the MRS. This was opposed by the tribal chairman and tribal council. After agreeing to allow a general membership meeting on the issue, the chairman announced that he would sponsor a cultural event, with free food, on the other side of the reservation on the same day and then would only allow 30 chairs to be used for the general membership meeting. After being approved for phase II, part B, of their MRS application, the Mescalero wrote to David Leroy insisting that they needed $300,000 more, as the previous several hundred thousand "wasn't enough money to educate their citizens."

Lance Hughes, Native Americans for a Clean Environment

The Sequoyah Fuels company has experienced over 15,000 safety violations and an explosion of plutonium material which contaminated an entire Cherokee community. NCAI, NARF and CERT were not impressed by the warning from NACE, saying that they were in no position to "access the validity" of the allegations against Sequoyah Fuels. NACE says that Indian babies are being born without eyes, with brain and spinal cancer, missing limbs, etc. Cherokee Chief Wilma Mankiller and NACE are presently trying to shut down the plant permanently, with no help from those Indian organizations. [ Since this article was written, and despite the lack of help, NACE and the Cherokee tribe did in fact succeed in shutting the plant. Now they are faced with decommissioning and cleanup problems. See WISE NC 384, 15 Dec. 1992.]

An important part of the Energy meetings was said to be to outline the transportation routes on which the waste could be carried to storage sites. Mr. Torrell, of the office of External relations, Department of Energy, told tribes at a seminar in Sacramento in January of 1991 that... " tribes will be consulted on route selection and emergency response training will be provided well in advance of the beginning of shipments."

However, one dark night in September of 1991 tribal police were startled to discover that a truck shipment of radioactive material (nuclear fuel rods) was being transported across the Shoshone Bannock reservation at Fort Hall, Idaho without advance notice to the tribe. Jennifer Weisbacher, ShoBan tribal police Captain, stopped the truck and refused to allow it to travel through the reservation. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) had planned to make 247 truck shipments across Sho-Ban land even though the tribe had an Ordinance banning nuclear shipments over their roads. Apparently the Department of Energy may have assumed that their Cooperative Agreement with NCAI gave them some sort of license to violate their own policies.

The Sho-Ban tribe was taken to court to test their authority to stop the nuclear shipments. In January the federal courts upheld the Sho-Ban Ordinance. There has been at least one other tribe (in Maine) and a large number of cities and counties which have discovered and stopped similar truck shipments.

It is important to know that shipping accidents are far from rare. In September 1991 a radioactive container fell off of a truck and went unnoticed for 10 hours. The NRC said that it could have been lethal in a one hour exposure to it. There are many ways, bizare and otherwise, in which radioactive nuclear material can be a danger to all of us. The Native Americans for a Clean Environment reports that in New Mexico, a mountain sheep was filled with a radioactive isotope. It got lost and now cannot be found. Pity the hunter who finds it.

In 1989 the FBI raided the Energy Departments' Rocky Flats, Colorado plant which manufactures plutonium weapons, because of alleged safety violations, potentials for disaster, and the intimidation of workers who com-plained. There were reports that hazardous waste was being burned in illegal incinerators, releasing radioactivity into the air.


US Nuclear weapon testing

While the US is well known for its nuclear weapons testing in the Pacific and in Nevada on Western Shoshone Lands, what many people don't remember is that the first US nuclear bomb test was carried out near Alamogordo in southern New Mexico, on traditional territory of the Mescalero Apache. Two underground tests followed at other sites in New Mexico. Three other underground tests, including one involving a 30 megaton nuclear device, were carried out on Amchitka (Aleute Islands, Alaska). The native inhabitants of Amchitka are the Aleutes who had already been subject to deportation by the US Army during World War II because their physical appearance resembles the Japanese. Since the US feared an invasion of the Aleute Islands by Japanese forces, it was decided to forcibly relocate the Aleute population to avoid problems. Also during the 1950's the US conducted three atmospheric tests in the South Atlantic, and testing was done in Mississippi and Colorado, as well. When critical voices within the US blamed the tests for contaminating the North American continent, the test sites were moved to the Pacific.

"We cannot help but see that the United States and other nuclear powers are testing their most destructive weapons on other peoples' lands." - Raymond Yowell, Chief, Western Shoshone National Council.

Source: World Uranium Hearing Grey Book 1992, p.48; Pacific News Bulletin, Oct. 1992, p.12

In 1992 a leak of cooling water containing radioactive tritium went undetected for several days at a South Carolina reactor plant. The leak occurred just after $2 billion had been spent to upgrade the plants safety. This illustrates how easily mistakes and accidents can happen. Tritium is used to boost the explosive power of nuclear weapons. Energy officials downplayed the incident but local residents would not listen because, they said, "we don't believe you."

And in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a University of Michigan experiment has been releasing isotopes into the sewer system since 1957, with the permission of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In Tennessee the NRC says that frogs hatched in nuclear power plant sludge ponds are radio-active and that on highways cars that run over them carry radioactivity away on their tires. The NRC issued a warning not to eat the frogs. Is this the ultimate "roadkill"?

One of the first public exposures to radioactivity occurred from 1944 through 1947 when radioactive material was deliberately released into the air and in 1964 into the water of the Columbia River at Hanford, Washington. But it wasn't until 1988 that the federal government admitted the contamination and began a study of the results. Farmlands on the Yakima reservation may have been affected, as was land in the counties of Adams, Franklin, Walla Walla, Grant and Benton. DOE understated the event, saying "A number of radioactive materials were released at that time. Several are important to human exposure." Lesson number one is "don't count on the Department of Energy for protection or for help."

The urgency of the Department of Energy to locate "temporary" nuclear storage sites on Indian reservations is made clear by recent setbacks in their original plans for permanent sites. In November 1991, a US District Court Judge ruled that Secretary of Interior Lujan had exceeded his authority when he transferred a New Mexico site to the Energy Department which they had planned for use for pluto-nium waste storage to be brought in from Idaho and Colorado. Now they must quickly find new storage locations.

For the Department of Energy the present situation can best be described as a crisis, because there is a rapidly increasing amount of high and low level nuclear material to be stockpiled, coupled with a serious shortage of places to put it. Virtually every state in the nation has gone on record as opposing any site location for permanent nuclear waste repositories in their states. That leaves the American Indian nations extremely at risk for siting and they are vulnerable first because of their need for development, and secondly because of their lack of political power. It will take concerted efforts by tribal citizens to resist the material temptations and keep the solid and nuclear waste purveyors of pollution at bay.

Left alone, certain tribal leaders can no longer be trusted to turn them away because they are also in a moral crisis situation. An insistence on informed consent will help to insure survival.

Source: Condensed version of a larger report as it was published in News From Indian Country (US), Mid-March, 1992. For the full report, write to NACE at the address below.

Contacts: NACE, PO Box 1671, Tahlequah OK 74465, US; tel: +1-918-458-4322; fax: 918-458-0322.
For information on the Hanford site, which impacts on the Yakima, Colville, Nez Percé, Coer d'Alene, Spokane, Kalispell, Unatila and Klickitat tribes, contact the Hanford Education Action League (HEAL), North 1720 Ash, Spokane WA 99205-4202
Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS), 412 West San Francisco St., Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501, US
tel: +1 505-986-1973 (for calls inside the US, CCNS has a toll-free number: 1-800-398-9392).