(December 21, 1990) Last year, following a strong campaign, Argentine President Carlos Menem announced that a nuclear waste dump planned near the village of Gastre in the region of Patagonia (Chubut Province in southern Argentina), was to be abandoned, or "frozen", at least until the year 2040.
(344.3441) WISE Amsterdam - Yet at least 70 people are presently working at Argentina's National Commission for Nuclear Energy (CNEA) on the project. Another 50 people are at work on the same project at the National University of Cuyo.
The planned dump has been fought against for a number of years by activists and communities in both Argentina and Chile, as the site is near the Argentine/-Chilean border. Now, though, the plan is apparently receiving support from France. And when Juan Schroeder, a nuclear campaigner from Greenpeace Argentina, denounced the French connection, he, and later his family, began receiving death threats. (Editor's note: This is not the first time Schroeder has been threatened, nor the first time Argentine anti-nuclear activists have received death threats.)
What Schroeder was objecting to when he received the threats were plans by the French government to export nuclear wastes to Argentina. According to Greenpeace, a proposal for this was made to the Argentine government on 24 October 1989 by Mr. Henry Troude on behalf of Pechiney Ugine Kuhlmann S.A. Troude, responsible for the French side of the project, happens to be a retired Captain of the French War Marines, and is associated with another Frenchman, Roger Albert on a number of top-level contracts with Argentina's government.
The proposal offers to finance the Gastre nuclear dump and says some 15,000 hectares will be needed. The French also propose to finance a roadway or railroad between Puerto Madryn and Gastre, and provide transportation. Security for the operation would have three levels: External security would be provided by Argentina's National Police; the French enterprise would be in charge of two internal security "lines".
According to the text of the proposal, the dump site would earn some US $30 billion before it stops receiving wastes after 10 years. After expenses are deducted, the Argentine government would receive some $13.5 billion.
Greenpeace points out that, despite Menem's declarations that the project had been abandoned, the Decree number 302/79 of 1979 (which established that the dump site project at Gastre be created) has never been cancelled. The manager responsible for the Gastre project, Norberto Cialella, said in a public debate held at the University of Patagonia in October that "the works for the dump site have never been stopped and proceed normally." Also the Technical Co-ordinator of the Project, Ernesto Petraitis, declared to a journalist that the work goes on as usual. It was when this information, along with the French plans, was disclosed by Schroeder last October, that he received the death threats. The first came on 29 October. The second came at the end of November, when an unknown voice said by telephone to his wife that "now the whole family will have to pay."
Senator Hipolito Solari Irigoyen, from the Radical Party, and a number of other politicians from various parties have expressed their solidarity with Schroeder. Over 100 ecological groups in Argentina, together in a national network, have given their active support to the struggle against any nuclear dumps being located in Patagonia, as well as against the import of nuclear waste from France. Meanwhile, Schroeder, one of the best-known and most active ecologists in Argentina, and one of the founders of the National Network of Ecological Action, has cancelled a trip abroad after the threats against his family. Observers say, however, that the political cost of any attempt against his personal security or that of his family would be extremely high to the nuclear establishment.
Source and contact: Carlos Cardoso Aveline, UPAN, Caixa Postal 189, 93001 Sao Leopoldo, RS, Brazil, tel: +55-512-92-7933, fax: +55-512-92-6617.