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Human Rights

The entire nuclear fuel chain involves the release of radioactivity, contamination of the environment and damage to human health. Most often, communities of color, indigenous peoples or those of low-income are targeted to bear the brunt of these impacts, particularly the damaging health and environmental effects of uranium mining. The nuclear power industry inevitably violates human rights.

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Monday
Jul292013

Mayor, environmentalists declare victory of people power over nuclear power

Sarnia Mayor Mike BradleyAs reported by the Sarnia Observer, the Mayor of Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, Mike Bradley (photo, left), has declared victory in a years-long campaign to block the shipment of radioactive steam generators, by boat on the Great Lakes, from Bruce Nuclear Generating Station in Kincardine, Ontario, across the Pacific, to Sweden. 

“It's a real testament to citizen power,” said Bradley, who has been a vocal critic of the move, along with a growing list of Ontario mayors, coalition groups, environmental activists, and U.S. Senators. “We're fighting a very large and powerful organization.”

First Nations, including the Mohawks, as well as hundreds of municipalities in Quebec representing millions of citizens along the targeted shipment route, made the difference for the resistance.

Kay Cumbow, the nuclear power watchdog in Michigan who first discovered the risky shipping scheme through her research, then warned and activated others, has said "Thanks to everyone who wrote letters, signed petitions and helped get the word out about the dangers of this scheme that would have put the Great Lakes at risk, endangered workers as well as communities enroute, and would have put radioactive materials into the global recycled metal supply."

Maude Barlow, national chairwoman of the Council of Canadians, was quoted by the Ottawa Citizen: "This is a huge victory for communities around the Great Lakes...The Great Lakes belong to everyone and communities have a right to say 'no' to any projects that will harm them."

As indicated by Mayor Bradley in a separate Sarnia Observer article, the next big fight against "nuclear madness" brewing at Bruce involves proposals by Ontario Power Generation, the Canadian Nuclear Waste Management Organization, and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to bury all of Ontario's so-called "low" and "intermediate" level radioactive wastes -- from 20 atomic reactors across the province -- within a mile of the Lake Huron shoreline. Several communities near Bruce, largely populated by Bruce nuclear workers and in effect company towns, have also volunteered to be considered for a national Canadian high-level radioactive waste dump (for 22 reactors). Ojibwe First Nations, whose land the Bruce Nuclear site is built upon, have expressed grave concerns about the proposed DUDs.

Saturday
May252013

Suicide bomber strikes at French uranium mine in Niger

As a reminder once again that the possession of nuclear resources can trigger violence, a suicide bomber struck at the Areva-owned Arlit uranium mine in Niger on May 23rd, killing one person and injuring more than a dozen others. The attack was perpetrated by an Al Qaeda jihadist simultaneously with an attack on a military base in Agadez, Niger. The attacker drove inside the Arlit complex in a vehicle loaded with 400 kilograms of explosives. The incident exposed once again the security vulnerabilities at the site, already the source of controversy given the extreme water depletion caused by the operation and the pervasive high level of radioactive contamination of air, water, soils and rocks. Niger is one of the biggest sources of uranium in the world. French industrial giant, Areva, an arm of the French government, also mines uranium in Canada and Kazakhstan. Niger is rated as one of the poorest countries in the world and the locals see little benefit from the exploitation of uranium which has also destroyed the pastoral traditions of the indigenous Tuareg peoples. (Pictured, a typical house of a uranium miner in Arlit.) The independent laboratory, CRIIRAD, has done extensive investigations and analysis in Niger.Read more.

Saturday
Dec222012

PFS pulls the plug on parking lot dump targeted at Skull Valley Goshutes in Utah

Skull Valley Goshute Margene Bullcreek led the fight against the radioactive waste dump targeted at her community. Photo by Gabriela Bulisova.As reported by the Salt Lake Tribune, the Private Fuel Storage (PFS) Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) has given up on itsplans to turn the tiny Skull Valley Goshutes Inidan Reservation in Utah into a parking lot dump (or "centralized interim storage facility") for commercial high-level radioactive waste. At one time, PFS was comprised of more than a dozen nuclear utilities, led by Xcel Energy of Minnesota, with Dairyland Power Co-Op as a front group.

In 2005-2006, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) granted PFS a construction and operating license, despite objections by traditionals with the Skull Valley band, nearly 500 environmental and environmental justice organizations, as well as the State of Utah. The plan was for 40,000 metric tons of irradiated nuclear fuel to be "temporarily stored" (for 20 to 40 years) in 4,000 dry casks on the reservation. However, as the ultimate plan was to transfer the wastes to the Yucca Mountain dump, when that proposal was cancelled in 2009, this would have meant the wastes would have been stuck indefinitely at Skull Valley.

In 2006 a very unlikely coalition, involving the likes of Mormon political leaders and wilderness advocates, succeeded in creating the first federal wilderness area in Utah in a generation. This created a "moat" around the Skull Valley reservation, blocking the railway needed to directly deliver the waste. And, after lobbying efforts at the top echelons of Republican Party decision making circles by U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) as well as Utah Governor Huntsman, the George W. Bush administration's Department of the Interior refused to approve the lease agreement between PFS and the Skull Valley band, as well as the intermodal transfer facility on Bureau of Land Management property which could have allowed heavy haul trucks to ship the waste containers the final leg of the journey to the reservation.

The Skull Valley Goshutes were first targeted by the nuclear power establishment more than 20 years ago.Altogether, 60-some tribes have been actively targeted for high-level radioactive waste parking lot dumps. All the proposals have been stopped, as through the work of Native American grassroots environmental activists like Grace Thorpe, working in alliance with environmental and environmental justice organizations.

Saturday
Dec222012

25 years ago today, the "Screw Nevada Bill" was passed

Yucca Mountain, as viewed through the frame of a Western Shoshone ceremonial sweat lodge. Photo by Gabriela Bulisova.As reported by the Las Vegas Review Journal, in the wee hours of Dec. 22, 1987, 49 states ganged up on one, singling out Yucca Mountain in Nevada as the sole site in the country for further study as a potential national dump for high-level radioactive waste. Numerous targeted dumpsites in the East had been indefinitely postponed a year or two before, due to widespread public resistance. Deaf Smith County, TX and Hanford, WA were also being considered for the western dumpsite. But TX had 32 U.S. Representatives, WA had a dozen, and NV, just one. TX and WA Representatives also held the powerful House Speaker and Majority Leader slots. On the Senate side, NV had two rookie Senators, regarded at the time as easy to roll. The "raw, naked" political decision was made behind closed doors.

But the science -- Yucca's geological and hydrological unsuitability -- caught up to the proposal. So did Harry Reid's revenge, as he grew in power to become Senate Majority Leader. Led by Western Shoshone spiritual leader Corbin Harney, the Western Shoshone National Council maintained tireless opposition to the dump, joined, over time, by more than 1,000 environmental groups. Then, in 2009, President Obama and his Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, wisely cancelled the dangerous, controversial proposal.

Nuclear industry, U.S. congressional, and U.S. Department of Energy, Environmental Projection Agency, and Nuclear Regulatory Commission promotion of the Yucca Mountain dump over decades actively ignored the "peace and friendship" Treaty of Ruby Valley of 1863, which recognized Yucca Mountain as Western Shoshone Indian land.

Although $11 billion of ratepayer and taxpayer money had already been wasted, another $90 billion would have been wasted if the project had gone forward. If the dumpsite had opened, many thousands of high-level radioactive waste trucks, trains, and barges would have travelled through most states, past the homes of tens of millions of Americans, at risk of severe accidents or intentional attacks unleashing disastrous amounts of radioactivity into metro areas. And if wastes had been buried at Yucca, it would have eventually leaked into the environment (beginning within centuries or at most thousands of years), dooming the region downwind and downstream as a nuclear sacrifice area.

Dec. 21st marked the 30th anniversary of the passage of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. Such laws, transferring title and liability from the nuclear utilities which generated the wastes -- in order to make a profit -- onto ratepayers and taxpayers, represent an unprecedented, large-scale, and open-ended subsidy.

Monday
Dec032012

Researchers plan to study effects of Navajo Reservation uranium exposure on pregnancy and child birth

Three decades after the end of uranium mining on the Navajo Nation, researchers plan to conduct a study in response to community concerns about the effects of exposure to uranium waste on pregnancies and child development on the Navajo Nation.


The Navajo Birth Cohort Study is a three-year study on the Navajo reservation. It will provide early assessment and education on environmental and prenatal risks from exposure to environmental contaminants.


In 2009, Congress mandated and awarded money for the Navajo Birth Cohort Study. The money will support the University of New Mexico Community Environmental Health Program as it designs and conducts the study in collaboration with the Navajo Area Indian Health Services, the Navajo Division of Health, Southwest Research and Information Center and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.


Johnnye Lewis, Ph.D., director of the Community Environmental Health Program, Health Sciences Center, at the University of New Mexico, is the principal investigator in the project. She coordinates the professional research team drawn from the five agencies responsible for implementing the project.


"This particular set of funding is for Navajo, but this is not just a Navajo problem," said Lewis. "There are 10,400 abandoned uranium mine waste sites in the western U.S., many of those on tribal lands. So I think the information we gain from this study will have impacts much further reaching than just Navajo."


More information on the Navajo Birth Cohort Study is available by calling toll-free (877) 545-6775 or contacting a Clinical Liaison at the nearest IHS facility. Navaho-Hopi Observer