Native America

Native American land has been targeted for decades for uranium mining and, more recently, for radioactive waste dumps. Native Americans have disproportionately been affected by the serious health consequences from uranium mining and have struggled for compensation and restitution. The Navajo Tribe has now banned uranium mining on their land.



Resisting environmental racism at Yucca Mountain, Nevada

Corbin Harney (standing), Western Shoshone spiritual leader, and Raymond Yowell, then Western Shoshone Indian Nation chief, at Peace Camp, NV, Oct. 2002, leading protests against nuclear weapons testing, militarism, and radioactive waste dumping at the Nevada Test Site. Photo by Gabriela Bulisova.November 20th marked the end of a rushed, "going-through-the motions" Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS) by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), a thinly veiled attempt to revive the cancelled Yucca Mountain high-level radioactive waste dump in Nevada.

NRC didn't even bother to provide advance notice to the affected Indian tribes downstream from the targeted site, let alone consult with them in a government-to-government manner, as is the agency's legal obligation. But at least NRC is consistent: it didn't provide any funding to the tribes, either, placing an extraordinary burden on the tribal nations to meet the arbitrarily-short deadline. In this regard, NRC's SDEIS public comment proceeding itself was a violation of environmental justice (EJ), not to mention the agency's biased push to bury 70,000 metric tons, or more, of high-level radioactive waste on indigenous land, guaranteed to leak into the precious, even sacred, drinking water supply.

Despite NRC's own EJ violations, the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe and the Native Community Action Council met the deadline, with powerful comments. They thereby continued a tradition of protecting Yucca Mountain, and its groundwater, that dates back not just years or decades, but centuries and millenia, to time immemorial. More.


Resistance commemorates dark Atomic Age anniversaries in New Mexico

July 16th marks two dark Atomic Age anniversaries in New Mexico of national and even global significance. It's 70 years since "Trinity," the world's first atom bomb explosion, at Alamogordo, NM -- the Manhattan Project "test" for Nagasaki to follow three weeks later. And it's 36 years since one of the worst (and least known) radioactivity disasters in U.S. history, the massive uranium tailings dam release at Church Rock, NM. Ninety million gallons of liquid radioactive waste, and eleven hundred tons of solid mill wastes, spilled into the Rio Puerco River, vital source of drinking and livestock grazing water for Navajo communities downstream.

But resistance to nuclear weapons and nuclear power remains strong in the "Land of Enchantment," despite decades of ongoing radioactive abuses. For example, Diné No Nukes of New Mexico will join with S.A.N.S. and Nuclear Energy Information Service to celebrate a successful fundraiser for their collaborative "Radiation Monitoring Project," purchasing detectors to be used in Navajo country, still contaminated from decades of uranium mining and milling.

And Downwinders and nuclear weapons watchdog groups, including Beyond Nuclear's Alliance for Nuclear Accountability coalition partners Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, Nuclear Watch New Mexico and Southwest Research Information Center are not only commemorating "Trinity." They continue their decades-long efforts, such as watchdogging the "Birthplace of the Bomb," Los Alamos National Lab; resisting nuclear weaponeers' attempt to keep their omnicidal trade going for decades to come, at unthinkable expense; opposing threatened in situ uranium mining; and outing the truth about the 2014 radioactivity leak at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, NM, to name but a few of their ongoing campaigns.


"Uranium? Leave It In the Ground!" film showing & discussion, Nov. 16


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.


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

Yucca Mountain, as framed by 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.