Yakama Nation Tells DOE to Clean Up Nuclear Waste By Michelle Tolson YAKAMA NATION, Washington State, U.S. , Apr 14 2014 (IPS) - The Department of Energy (DOE), politicians and CEOs were discussing how to warn generations 125,000 years in the future about the radioactive waste at Hanford Nuclear Reservation, considered the most polluted site in the U.S., when Native American anti-nuclear activist Russell Jim interrupted their musings: “We’ll tell them.”
He tells IPS “they looked around and saw me. I said, ‘We’ve been here since the beginning of time, so we will be here then.’ That was when they knew they’d have a fight on their hands.” With his long braids, the 78-year-old director of the Environmental Restoration & Waste Management Programme (ERWM) for the Yakama tribes cuts a striking figure, sitting calmly in his office located on the arid lands of his sovereign nation.
The Yakama Reservation in southeast Washington has 1.2 million acres with 10,000 federally recognised tribal members and an estimated 12,000 feral horses roaming the desert steppe. Down from the 12 million acres ceded by force to the U.S. government in 1855, it is just 20 miles west from the Hanford nuclear site.
Though the nuclear arms race ended in 1989, radioactive waste is the legacy of the various sites of the former Manhattan Project spread across the U.S.
While the Yakama have successfully protected their sacred fishing grounds from becoming a repository for nuclear waste from other project sites by invoking the treaty of 1855 which promises access to their “usual and accustomed places,” Hanford is far from clean, though the DOE promised to restore the land.
“The DOE is trying to reclassify the waste as ‘low activity.’ They are trying to leave it here and bury it in shallow pits. Scientists are saying that it needs to be buried deep under the ground,” Jim explains.
Tom Carpenter of Hanford Challenge watchdog group tells IPS “it is a battle for Washington State and the tribes to get the feds to keep their promise to remove the waste. There are 42 miles of trenches that are 15 feet wide and 20 feet deep full of boxes, crates and vials of waste in unlined trenches.”
There are a further 177 underground tanks of radioactive waste and six are leaking. Waste is supposed to be moved within 24 hours from leak detection or whenever is “practicable” but the contractors say there is not enough space.
Three whistleblowers working on the cleanup raised concerns and were fired. Closely followed by a local news station, it is an issue that is largely neglected by mainstream media and the Yakama’s fight seems all but ignored. “We used to have a media person on staff but the DOE says there is no need as ‘everything is going fine,” says Russell Jim. His department lost 80 percent of its funding in 2012 after cutbacks. His tribe doesn’t fund ERWM, the DOE does. “The DOE crapped it up, so they should pay for it.”
But everything is not fine. With radioactive groundwater plumes making their way toward the river, the Yakama and watchdog groups says it is an emergency. Some plumes are just 400 yards from the river where the tribe accesses Hanford Reach monument, according to treaty rights.
Hanford Reach nature reserve, a buffer zone for the site, is the Columbia’s largest spawning grounds for wild fall Chinook salmon
Washington State reports highly toxic radioactive contamination from uranium, strontium 90 and chromium in the ground water has already entered the Columbia River.
“There are about 150 groundwater ‘upwellings’ in the gravel of the Columbia River coming from Hanford that young salmon swim around,” explains Russell Jim………..
“The DOE tells congress the river corridor is clean. It’s not clean but they are afraid of damages being filed against them.” A cancer survivor, Jim’s tribe received no compensation for damages from radioactive releases from 1944 to 1971 into the Columbia as high as 6,300,000 curies of Neptunium-239……….
teven G. Gilbert, a toxicologist with Physicians for Social Responsbility, tells IPS there is a lack transparency and data on the Hanford cleanup. “It is a huge problem,” he says, adding that contaminated groundwater at Hanford still interacts with the Columbia River, based on water levels.
Though eight of the nine nuclear reactors next to the river were decommissioned, the 1,175-megawatt Energy Northwest Energy power plant is still functioning
“Many people don’t know there is a live nuclear reactor on the Columbia. It’s the same style as Fukushima,” Gilbert explains.
In the middle of the fight are the tribes, which are sovereign nations. Russell Jim says they are often erroneously described as “stakeholders” when they are separate governments.
“We were the only tribe to take on the nuclear issue and testify at the 1980 Senate subcommittee. In 1982 we immediately filed for affected tribe status. The Umatilla and the Nez Perce tribes later joined.”,,,,,,,,http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/yakama-nation-tells-doe-clean-nuclear-waste/
Navajo to benefit from $1B for uranium cleanup http://www.chron.com/news/science/article/Navajo-to-benefit-from-1B-for-uranium-cleanup-5374413.php By FELICIA FONSECA, Associated Press | April 3, 2014 FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — More than $1 billion is going to help clean up abandoned uranium mines that have left a legacy of disease and death on the Navajo Nation.
The money is part of a $5.15 billion settlement that the federal government reached with Anadarko Petroleum Corp. for the cleanup of thousands of long-contaminated sites nationwide. The settlement announced Thursday resolves a legal battle over Tronox Inc., a 2005 spinoff of Kerr-McGee Corp. that Anadarko acquired in 2006.
Kerr-McGee once operated about 50 uranium mines in the Lukachukai Mountains of northeastern Arizona near Cove and a uranium mill in Shiprock, N.M. Uranium waste was thrust over the mountain side and carried by rainwater across the land used by hikers, anglers, medicine men and Navajo shepherds, said David Taylor, an attorney with the Navajo Nation Department of Justice.
“I have a feeling of just deep appreciation for the Navajo children, who literally are playing in uranium piles today who aren’t going to have to do that in the future,” he said.
But, Taylor added: “The path before us is still monumental. We’ve got a good start now, and I hope we can build on that.”
The more than $1 billion will address about 10 percent of the tribe’s inventory of abandoned uranium mines. About 4 million tons of uranium ore were mined from the reservation from 1944 to 1986 for wartime weapons. Many families still live among the contamination and fear drinking water polluted by uranium. Navajo President Ben Shelly said the settlement will ease some concerns about public health.
About $1 billion of the money benefiting the Navajo Nation will be administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in San Francisco. Of that, nearly $87 million will be set aside specifically for two sites known as the Quivira Mines near Church Rock, N.M. The Navajo Nation separately will receive $43 million to address Shiprock mill, where uranium ore was processed near the San Juan River, the EPA said.
The federal government has been working for years with the Navajo Nation to address the more than 500 abandoned uranium mines on the reservation, but they’ve been hampered by the costs of remediation and the unwillingness of some companies to pay for cleanup of their previous operations.
Jared Blumenfeld, the EPA’s regional administrator in San Francisco, said federal agencies spent about $100 million as part of a five-year cleanup plan. The EPA is drafting a second, five-year plan, but the budget is expected to be much less, he said.
“The mess that’s on the Navajo Nation in terms of abandoned uranium mines should never have been put there, and all of us have been waiting for this day to start to make a big dent in the cleanup,” he said.
The mountainous sites near Cove rarely are visited, but a network of roads established for mining, logging and firewood gathering provide access. Tribal officials say Navajo medicine men gather plants and herbs for prayer and healing purposes from the mountains, and families set up summer camps where sheep graze nearby.
The federal government initially sought $25 billion to clean up decades of contamination at dozens of sites. A U.S. bankruptcy judge in New York ruled in December that Kerr-McGee improperly shifted its environmental liabilities to Tronox and should pay between $5.15 billion and $14.2 billion, plus attorneys’ fees.
Anadarko CEO Al Walker said the settlement eliminates the uncertainty of the dispute.
Blumenfeld said Navajos have struggled with the legacy of uranium contamination for too long. He said dozens of tribal members already have been trained in how to properly dispose of and transport contaminated waste, and they soon can be put to work.
“It’s one of those environmental justice burdens that has garnered a lot of attention and, thankfully, now it’s garnering a lot of money,” Blumenfeld said.
Uranium Mining http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2014-03-28/article/41964?headline=Uranium-Mining—-By-Tejinder-Uberoi March 28, 2014 In a stark example of environmental racism, Native Indians have become the target of toxic uranium mining. Energy Fuels Resources recently obtained federal approval to reopen a mine in close proximity to the Grand Canyon’s popular South Rim entrance.
Environmental activists have joined forces with Native Navajos to protest the decision siting serious health risks. Earlier uranium mining has scarred the landscape and left deposits of radioactive waste from 1,000 closed mines. The mining companies failed to adequately remove the radioactive wastes which have resulted in a dramatic increase in cancer and other serious ailments.
One native Indian activist, Klee Benally, remarked that “this is really a slow genocide of the people, not just indigenous people of this region, but it’s estimated that there are over 10 million people who are residing within 50 miles of abandoned uranium mines.” The long term impact of contaminated water seepage into groundwater and its impact on wildlife have been ignored. The five-year cleanup plan initiated by the EPA has also been ignored.
San Francisco Peaks, an area considered sacred by 13 Native tribes, has been severely impacted; to compound health concerns is the practice of using treated sewage water to make snow at the popular Snow bowl resort. The future of indigenous tribes has been railroaded over the interests of corporate greed and government watchdogs have fallen asleep at the wheel.
Livestream Navajo Window Rock Uranium Film Fest Grassroots Gathering (includs video) http://bsnorrell.blogspot.com.au/2013/12/livestream-navajo-window-rock-uranium.html Live from Navajo Nation: International Uranium Film Festival, with grassroots talks and workshops Dec 2 — 4, 2013. By Brenda Norrell Censored News NAVAJO NATION – The grassroots gathering at the International Uranium Film Festival on the Navajo Nation began this morning, with talks by Native Americans battling uranium mining in their homelands. The festival will also feature 21 films, many focused on the poisoning and disease by Navajoland Cold War uranium mining, on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Navajo President Ben Shelly spoke during the opening of the three day event.
President Shelly said he is still “talking” with the US about cleaning up the Church Rock, N.M., uranium tailings spill that happened in 1979. Shelly said he is still “talking” about cleaning up the Tuba City dump site too.
The Church Rock spill poisoned the region, and then flowed down the Rio Puerco toward Flagstaff, Arizona, poisoning more land and water on the Navajo Nation and causing cancer and disease. Continue reading
they always give the dirty jobs to indigenous people
NAU seeks Navajos for uranium cleanup training http://www.sunherald.com/2013/11/25/5146098/nau-seeks-navajos-for-uranium.html BY FELICIA FONSECA Associated PressNovember 25, 2013 FLAGSTAFF, ARIZ. — Northern Arizona University is using federal grant money to address two of the most widespread problems on the Navajo Nation — unemployment and uranium contamination.
A $200,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will allow the school’s Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals to train up to 40 people over three years to safely handle radioactive materials and to find a job in a place where the unemployment rate hovers around 50 percent.
About 4 million tons of uranium ore were mined from the reservation from 1944 to 1986 for wartime weapons, leaving a legacy of death and disease. Families still live among the contamination that the tribe and federal government are working toward cleaning up. The top priority is the former Northeast Church Rock Mine near Gallup, N.M. Continue reading
Navajo Pueblo Nuclear Holocaust Focus of International Uranium Film Festival Southwest By Brenda Norrell Censored News, 5 Nov 13 The International Uranium Film Festival will feature two films focused on the Navajo and Pueblo areas where both Navajos and Pueblos were — and are — victims of Cold War uranium mining and radioactive tailings left behind.
The poisoning of the people did not end there. The dust from the uranium mines blew across their food drying in the sun. The women washed clothes filled with radioactive soot. The runoff poisoned both the wildlife, including the deer that was food, the waterways, and the people.
The legacy of death continues today, as radioactive tailings remain scattered across this region of Pueblos and the Navajo Nation, between Albuquerque, New Mexico and Flagstaff, Arizona. In the Navajo communities of Cove and Red Valley, near Shiprock, N.M. every family had members stricken with respiratory diseases, cancer and other rare diseases. One elderly Navajo woman in her 80s was living in a radioactive hogan, built with radioactive stones.
The film, Dii’go To Baahaane Four Stories about Water, in Dine’ (Navajo) with English subtitles, and the film Tailings, will be shown at the Uranium Film Festival in Albuquerque. Schedules are still being prepared for the festivals in Santa Fe, and in Window Rock on the Navajo Nation……. http://bsnorrell.blogspot.com.au/2013/11/navajo-pueblo-nuclear-holocaust-focus.html
The Civil Rights Movement and Nuclear Test Ban Treaty HUFFINGTON POST, Vincent Intondi 10/07/2013“………..having the first African American president also advocate for nuclear disarmament should not come as a surprise. President Obama was simply following in the path of those before him. Indeed, since 1945, many in the African American community, including some of the most prominent black leaders in U.S. history, actively supported nuclear disarmament, often connecting the nuclear issue with the fight for racial equality and liberation movements around the world. And it was due, in part, to these black activists, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and his wife, Coretta, that President Kennedy was able to pass the partial nuclear test ban treaty fifty years ago this week. Continue reading
Securing approval for nuclear waste site won’t be ‘quick or easy process’: First Nations “If things go south in a hurry, where do our people go? We do not have the luxury of picking up and leaving.” The Star, By: John Spears Business reporter, on Mon Sep 16 2013 KINCARDINE—First Nations communities near Ontario Power Generation’s proposed nuclear waste disposal facility won’t be rushed into supporting the project, a federal hearing has been told. Continue reading
“As an elder of the Yankunytjatjara and the APY Lands I state my absolute disappointment and disgust with the governments of South Australia and the Commonwealth. I say “NO” to mining in APY Lands and I say “NO” to homeless centres being built for our people away from their traditional homelands.”
Elder believes the APY Land is being dismantled http://cooberpedyregionaltimes.files.wordpress.com/2008/11/coober-pedy-regional-times-12-09-2013.pdf, by Yami Lester, (OAM) Order of Australia Medal)
Yankunytjatjara Elder Yami Lester is deeply disturbed by the exodus of Anangu from the APY Lands over the past several years. Big mining has been approved for the area but there are no jobs.. He says many families are not returning, causing a decline in the population of the lands. Lester who was awarded the Order of Australia medal in 1981 for service in the field of Aboriginal Welfare says,“The governments are now impatient to mix Anangu into the mainstream, hundreds of kilometres from their homelands.
French nuclear tests ‘showered vast area of Polynesia with radioactivity’ http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/03/french-nuclear-tests-polynesia-declassified Angelique Chrisafis in Paris The Guardian, Thursday 4 July 2013
Declassified papers show extent of plutonium fall-out from South Pacific tests of 60s and 70s was kept hidden, says French paper French nuclear tests in the South Pacific in the 1960s and 1970s were far more toxic than has been previously acknowledged and hit a vast swath of Polynesia with radioactive fallout, according to newly declassified ministry of defence documents which have angered veterans and civilians’ groups. Continue reading
The proposed legislation can be found at the website of Defenders of the Black Hills,
Uranium Mining and Native Resistance: The Uranium Exploration and Mining Accountability Act http://intercontinentalcry.org/uranium-mining-and-native-resistance-the-uranium-exploration-and-mining-accountability-act/ BY CURTIS KLINE • JUL 2, 2013 NATIVE AMERICANS IN THE NORTHERN GREAT PLAINS HAVE THE HIGHEST CANCER RATES IN THE UNITED STATES, PARTICULARLY LUNG CANCER. IT’S A PROBLEM THAT THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT HAS WOEFULLY IGNORED, MUCH THE HORROR OF THE MEN AND WOMEN WHO MUST CARRY THE PAINFUL, LIFE-THREATENING BURDEN.
The cancer rates started increasing drastically a few decades after uranium mining began on their territory.
According to a report by Earthworks, “Mining not only exposes uranium to the atmosphere, where it becomes reactive, but releases other radioactive elements such as thorium and radium and toxic heavy metals including arsenic, selenium, mercury and cadmium. Exposure to these radioactive elements can cause lung cancer, skin cancer, bone cancer, leukemia, kidney damage and birth defects.”
Today, in the northern great plains states of Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas, the memory of that uranium mining exists in the form of 2,885 abandoned open pit uranium mines. All of the abandoned mines can be found on land that is supposed to be for the absolute use of the Great Sioux Nation under the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty with the United States.
There are also 1,200 abandoned uranium mines in the Navajo Nation, where cancer rates are also significantly disproportionate. In fact, it is estimated that 60 to 80 percent of all uranium in the United States is located on tribal land, and three fourths of uranium mining worldwide is on Indigenous land.
Defenders of the Black Hills, a group whose mission is to preserve, protect, restore, and respect the area of the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie Treaties, is calling the health situation in their own territoryAmerica’s Chernobyl. Continue reading
A powerful manuscript entitled “The Black Mist and its Aftermath — Oral Histories by Lallie Lennon” (2010) was submitted to the South Australian and federal governments as well as to the International Atomic Energy Agency
Now aged in her 80s, Lallie has never had her health issues properly investigated, much less received any compensation. She continues to suffer from the beta burn-related skin condition to this day.
Professor Sir Ernest Titterton, the duplicitous architect of nuclear testing in Australia, typified the official contempt for survivors when he dismissed the Black Mist event as a “scare campaign”.
More recently, the ultra-right wing Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt has repeated this line.
Australian atomic massacre still ignored http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/54394, June 29, 2013 By David T. Rowlands Nearly 60 years have passed since Totem 1, a British nuclear test in the Australian desert, was recklessly conducted in unfavourable meteorological conditions.
Nuclear testing of any sort, even in the most “controlled” of circumstances, is inherently abusive, a crime against the environment and humanity for countless generations to come. Yet the effects of Totem 1 were particularly bad, even by the warped standards of the era.
The mushroom cloud did not behave in the way it was supposed to. Instead of rising uniformly, part of it spread laterally, causing fallout to roll menacingly at ground level over a remote yet still populated corner of South Australia, sowing injury, illness and death in its wake.
The number of casualties is unknown because the secretive and unaccountable nuclear establishment has always declined to investigate the full impact of its own criminal negligence. But it has been suggested by investigators that perhaps 50 short-term Aboriginal fatalities resulted.
In addition to those who died, many others were exposed to harmful levels of radiation. The long-term health effects on these individuals have never been charted — but anecdotal reports of high cancer rates and horrendous birth defects in isolated “downwinder” communities have circulated.
At the time of the tests, it was well known by authorities that communities of Aboriginal people were close by. Yet the official attitude was that the concerns of a “handful of natives” could not be allowed to interfere with the “interests” of the British Commonwealth. Continue reading
Government had made it clear that it wished to re-engage itself more directly in the control of community land through leasing options as well as to open up Aboriginal land for development and mining purposes.
The plan was to empty the homelands, and this has not changed. However, it was recognised that achieving this would be politically fraught – it would need to be accomplished in a manner that would not off-side mainstream Australia. Removing Aboriginal people from their land and taking control over their communities would need to be presented in a way that Australians would believe it to be to Aboriginal advantage, whatever the tactics.
So began the campaign to discredit the people and to publicly stigmatise Aboriginal men of the Northern Territory
And even in 2009 when the CEO of the Australian Crime Commission, John Lawler, reported that his investigation had shown there were no organised paedophile rings operating in the NT, no formal apology was ever made to the Aboriginal men and their families who were brutally shamed by the false claims.
Sixth Anniversary of the Northern Territory Intervention – Striking the Wrong Note Lateral Love Australia‘concerned Australians’ Michele Harris, 21 June 13 Aboriginal advocate Olga Havnen, in her Lowitja O’Donoghue oration has asked a critical question. She asks what has been the psychological impact of the Intervention on Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory. It is surprising that so little attention has been given to this critical, yet in some ways tenuous, link before now.
Even before the Intervention began in June 2007, government had long planned a new approach to the ‘management’ of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory. It was no longer part of government thinking that self-determination and Aboriginal control over land could be allowed to continue. These were the Whitlam notions of 1975 and they were no longer acceptable. Continue reading
Ultimately, the most affected aren’t the [indigenous] leaders who are comfortable in their palaces –most of them for more than two decades in power. The real losers in this are ordinary people in African countries.
As the G8 meet in Northern Ireland, the spotlight has been brought back to taxes and role of multi-nationals in developing countries. It is not just tax evasion and tax holidays that governments provide them that hurt developing economies but land grabbing has also become an every day reality in most African countries. Some companies involved are from these G8 countries.
More work on the ground needs to be done for local communities to have their rights to land well kept as governments push in favour of foreign companies
Push for transparency at G8 alone will not solve land grabs in Africa Rose Bell’s blog JUNE 17, 2013 In 2012, a few months before he passed away, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi while attending the World Economic Forum on Africa was asked a question that intrigues most African citizens. Why do African leaders- revolutionaries turn to looting their own countries once in power? The brainy later leader of Ethiopia responded by highlighting foreign corporations’ role in impoverishing Africa. He hinted that African leaders, in their quest to find jobs for an increasing unemployed population, were being held hostage by corporations that come in to invest.
Consider that when global actors invest in Canadian or Australian mines – or indeed, when Canadian mining companies seek to operate in Latin America – they do so on the premise that title to the lands and
resources is assured. Increasingly, that premise is being called into question, as Indigenous people use domestic and international law, the press and the mechanisms of environmental activism to shut down mine sites…….
Toward an Aboriginal Grand Strategy, Global Brief, DOUGLAS SANDERSON June 21, 2013 “Classical wampum diplomacy may be dead and gone. But North America’s Indigenous people are once again power players…….today, in the year 2013, Indigenous people are resurgent: their claims to protection of their lands and interests are increasingly being heeded by the courts. Indeed, these Aboriginal interests are intersecting decisively with the economic interests of states and the profitability of major companies. Continue reading
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