Environmental Justice

The siting of nuclear facilities - whether uranium mines, waste dumps, enrichment plants or other radioactivity-emitting operations - invariably occurs in communities of color and/or low-income. This consistent environmental racism is not unique to the nuclear industry but is a pattern that Beyond Nuclear is working to end.



Defending Western Shoshone treaty rights against Yucca dump

CNN Money has quoted Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps, defending Western Shoshone Indian Nation treaty rights against the Yucca Mountain high-level radioactive waste dump proposal:

"...Yucca was originally Shoshone land, taken by the federal government in 1951 for weapons testing, said Kevin Kamps, a nuclear waste specialist at Beyond Nuclear.

And Nevada was chosen not because it was a good site, but because it had the fewest representatives in Washington of any state under consideration, critics say.

"The most common name for that legislation was the 'Screw Nevada Bill,' " said Kamps. "It never should have been targeted to begin with."..."

The U.S. government signed the "peace and friendship" Treaty of Ruby Valley with the Western Shoshone Indian Nation in 1863; it recognized Western Shoshone sovereignty at Yucca Mountain, throughout most of what is now the State of Nevada, as well as portions of California and Idaho.

The "Screw Nevada Bill," enacted into law in 1987, singled out Yucca Mountain as the only targeted site in the country to undergo further study as a potential high-level radioactive waste repository. The States of Washington and Texas, also on the target list, joined forces, and in coalition with eastern states also on the dumpsite target list, ganged up on Nevada. Texas and Washington had 32 and 12 Representatives in the U.S. House, respectively, whereas Nevada had but one. Texas and Washington also split between them the powerful positions of Speaker of the House and House Majority Leader at that time. Even Nevada's U.S. Senate delegation consisted of two low ranking first-term Senators. But one of those rookies was Harry Reid, who has since devoted his political career to stopping the Yucca dump, and now serves as Senate Majority Leader.


Court ruling an indirect EJ victory for Western Shoshone Indian Nation!

This Jan. 2004 photo by Gabriela Bulisova shows the frame of a sacred ceremonial Western Shoshone sweat lodge with Yucca's west face in background.As reported by the Las Vegas Review Journal, U.S. Senator Harry Reid (Democrat-Nevada), Majority Leader, called today's decision by the Federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit regarding the Yucca Mountain, Nevada high-level radioactive waste dump "an important win in the long battle to put the ill-conceived Yucca Mountain project permanently to rest." The three-judge federal appeals panel ruled against a lawsuit filed by the States of Washington and South Carolina, Aiken County (South Carolina), and three private (nuclear industry affiliated) businessmen in Washington State seeking to block the Obama administration's cancellation of the Yucca dump.

July seems to be the month for major Yucca decisions. On July 9, 2002, the U.S. Senate voted 60 to 39 to allow the U.S. Department of Energy to proceed with a construction and operations license application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which George W. Bush signed into law two weeks later. Then, on July 9, 2004, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals (although comprised of a different three judge panel) ruled in favor of the State of Nevada and an environmental coalition, ordering the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency back to the drawing board on its Yucca regulations (EPA had wanted to cut off regulations at 10,000 years, long before Yucca's worst radiation releases downstream; under court order, EPA acknowledged in 2008 that high-level radioactive waste at Yucca would remain hazardous for a million years!).

Although a major battle victory, today's ruling does not end this 25+ year long war over the Yucca dump. Under law, the NRC has until later this year (with the possibility for a one year extension) to issue a final "yea or nay" on DOE's 2008 Yucca application. In March 2010, Obama Energy Secretary Steven Chu moved to withdraw the application, but in late June 2010 a panel of three administrative law judges at NRC (the Atomic Safety (sic) and Licensing Board, or ASLB) rejected the motion. The five NRC Commissioners have yet to sustain or overrule the ASLB ruling.

Reflecting the national significance of this court ruling is the widespread media coverage: Associated Press; The Hill (times two!); Hanford News and Tri-City Herald (Washington State); Augusta Chronicle (Georgia). The coverage is likely to expand as word spreads.


3rd Annual Protect the Earth Great Lakes Community Gathering, Michigan's Upper Peninsula, July 30-August 1

Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps helped lead the nuclear power and uranium mining workshops at the 1st (2008) and 2nd (2009) annual "Protect the Earth" gatherings held at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan. These events were devoted to stopping metallic sulfide and uranium mining throughout Michigan's Upper Peninsula, particularly at the sacred Ojibwe "Eagle Rock" site on the Yellow Dog Plains near Lake Superior. Save the Wild U.P., one of the annual gathering's sponsors, has an excellent map showing the location of this Kennecot "Eagle Project," numerous other metallic sulfide mining proposals, and three known uranium mining proposals. Uranium mining is unprecedented in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, although it has already devastated Ojibwe lands at Elliot Lake, Ontario to the east, as described in the book of Serpent River First Nation testimonials edited by Lorraine Rekmans and Anabel Dwyer, and as depicted in an iconic photo by Robert Del Tredichi showing a wall of uranium tailings, visible behind the trees -- radioactive waste from the Stanrock mill near Elliot Lake, Ontario.

At the June 2010 Midwest Renewable Energy Fair in Wisconsin, Kevin also met with Gabriel Caplett and Teresa Bertossi, editors of Headwaters: Citizen Journalism for the Great Lakes. Along with youth from the Keewenaw Bay Indian Community who had recently been arrested trying to defend Eagle Rock from bulldozers, Gabriel and Teresa gave an emergency presentation at Wisconsin's Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free networking caucus about the imminent mining threat at the sacred site. Hence the urgency of this year's 3rd annual Protect the Earth Great Lakes Community Gathering.

Check out this year's beautiful poster. This year's event will feature Ojibwe environmental justice activist Winona "No Nukes" LaDuke as keynote speaker, and renowned Native American musician Joanne Shenandoah. See the text of the email announcement just sent to Beyond Nuclear here.


The jobs scam - selling blacks on nuclear power

Glen Ford, a co-founder of the Black Agenda Report - writes about the deliberate efforts by the nuclear power industry to build new reactors in poor black communities desperate for jobs. As Ford points out, "corporate promoters are already re-reving their propaganda machines to sell Blacks on nuclear power with the same jobs-creaation argument they pushed three decades ago. Nuclear companies have been flying Black and brown delegations to visit happy neighborhoods around power plants in France." Ford, the godfather of black journalism, recalls how 30 years ago Westinghouse advertised on a syndicated television news interview program he then co-owned and hosted called America's Black Forum, believing that "jobs-hungry Black folks would serve as a counter-point to the long-haired white kids and tree-huggers that the media caricatured as the core of the environmental movement".


Bruce Dixon questions environmental racism of new Georgia reactors

Bruce Dixon, co-founder of the Black Agenda Report, has an excellent article on the Huffington Post as well as the BAR Web site regarding the decision to award the first $8 billion in federal loan guarantees to the construction of two new reactors in a poor black community in Georgia that does not want the plant. As Dixon notes: "The Obama administration likes to call it "safe nuclear energy," often in the same breath as "clean coal." Both are colossal and equally transparent lies." And putting the lie to the nukes-will-bring-you-wealth myth, Dixon writes: "If leaky civilian and military nukes really are the job-creating answers to poverty, shouldn't Burke County, GA be one of the wealthiest, instead of the poorest places east of the Mississippi 25 years after its first civilian nukes, and six decades after neighboring towns, some of them all black on the South Carolina side of the river, were bulldozed to create the Savannah River nuclear weapons facility?" 

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