Quebec and Labrador First Nations draw the line against uranium By: Henry Lazenby 27 Sep 2014 TORONTO (miningweekly.com) – At a workshop on uranium development hosted by the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) on Friday, First Nations from across the region reaffirmed their opposition to uranium development on their territories and throughout Quebec.
In March 2013, the AFNQL passed a resolution inviting its members to voice their opposition to uranium development and to declare a blanket rejection of the uranium exploration and exploitation on all First Nation territories. This followed a resolution adopted by the Grand Council of the Crees in August 2012 declaring a permanent moratorium on uranium development in Cree territory.
“The exploration and exploitation of uranium constitute major and irreversible threats to our population, our territories and the resources they contain. As First Nations, we have a sacred duty to protect our territories and ensure the sustainable development of our natural resources,” Timiskaming First Nation Chief Terence McBride said.
“Our experience here today has clearly demonstrated that the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador are united in our opposition to uranium development in our territories. We strongly encourage all the First Nations and citizens in Quebec to clearly and publicly express their opposition to uranium development,” Cree Nation Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come added.
In March 2013, Quebec’s Minister of the Environment announced a moratorium on uranium exploration or mining permits until the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) had completed hearings on the uranium industry in Quebec and provided recommendations to the Minister. The BAPE’S mandate began in May.
This week, the BAPE completed the second phase of its inquiry, during which it heard from various ministries, experts and industry representatives on a number of topics relating to uranium and its associated risks. The third phase of the BAPE hearings were scheduled to start in November, at which time members of the public would have the opportunity to make oral and written submissions to the BAPE.
Anyone wishing to make submissions must file a notice of intention, available on the BAPE website, by October 16.
AUDIO: Maralinga: Australia’s experience of nuclear testing http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2014/s4082110.htm ABC Radio p.m Mark Colvin reported this story on Friday, September 5, 2014 DAVID MARK: It happened in the 1950s. But the truth about a series of nuclear tests in which Britain let off atomic bombs at Maralinga in the South Australian desert only started to emerge in the ’70s.
Even now, there are still survivors demanding justice. Many are now dead, but there are still fears about the effects of the big doses of radiation they absorbed having on their children and even their grandchildren.
The journalist Frank Walker has written a book about Maralinga and he told Mark Colvin about what Australian servicemen actually experienced at the test site. …………
British scientists came over in their white overcoats and the helmets and the oxygen tanks – the whole thing – while the RAAF blokes stood there in their regular flying gear wondering what the hell was going on…….
FRANK WALKER: The British scientists wouldn’t do a lot of things that they said the Australian servicemen had to do, such as drive the heavy vehicles into the red hot zone and pick up the scientific equipment and bring it back to them.
What the British wanted to know was could a nation survive an atomic war? In other words, if Britain was caught in an atomic war, they – obviously bombs would fall on London, Manchester, all the big industrial cities – but what would – could Britain survive? Could they grow food? Could the people survive? Would the children grow up to be adults?
This was what they wanted to know and this was why the instructions were to have men positioned at certain distances from the blast to see whether they could function afterwards.
MARK COLVIN: Now we’ve talked a bit about the servicemen, but we haven’t talked about the traditional owners of the land. What happened to them? FRANK WALKER: They were treated absolutely abominably. First of all, they were just totally disregarded. They had no knowledge of whether Aborigines used Maralinga as a traditional hunting area and when it turned out they did, that this was actually a – many songlines went through this territory, that they would walk through this territory from waterhole to waterhole. They knew this land very well. They were – they tried to keep them out.
They had one sort of patrol bloke who knew the outback very well. He was a bushman, a bloke by the name of MacDougall, very interesting character. He had a job of trying to keep Aborigines out of an area that’s about a million square kilometres.
MARK COLVIN: One bloke.
FRANK WALKER: One bloke.
MARK COLVIN: So, we will probably never know if any Aborigines were killed in the actual blast?
FRANK WALKER: I believe they were. I believe – there were several accounts that came up before the atomic royal commission in the 1980s where soldiers, where lower ranks described finding corpses in the Maralinga area. Certainly we know that some did come through the area and were found alive and they tried to decontaminate them and so on.
But the accounts of corpses being found in some of the craters and in trails near the test sites were – could not be proven. It ended up being the junior blokes, junior ranks would say, “We saw it. We saw them bulldoze the bodies.” The senior ranks would come along and say, “No, it never happened.”…..FRANK WALKER: I think both governments are extremely liable. The Australian Government at the time, at the very best, turned a blind eye to what was going on. The British Government was running the show and they were quite content in they treated Australia as though it were just do whatever they wanted and, under Menzies, the government did………
the only sensible thing to do is to STOP MAKING RADIOACTIVE TRASH
Red Wing officials disappointed in feds’ decision on spent nuclear fuel, MINN POST, By Joe Kimball | 09/03/14 Red Wing city officials and leaders of the Prairie Island Indian Community say they are unhappy with a recent Nuclear Regulatory Commission ruling that does little to resolve the ongoing dispute over storage of spent nuclear fuel.
The Prairie Island nuclear power plant is on the Mississippi River in Red Wing, and is adjacent to the Indian reservation.
A story in the Rochester Post Bulletin says the NRC ruling:
“…opens the door for on-site nuclear waste storage for 100 years or more. The language also lifts a suspension on licensing additional nuclear facilities even without the creation of a national repository for nuclear waste.”
Not good, says Red Wing City Council member Peggy Rehder, who has lobbied in Washington, D.C., on the issue, and wasn’t surprised with the ruling……
And Ron Johnson, president of the Prairie Island Indian Community’s Tribal Council, said in a statement:
“…the NRC affirmed a new rule and generic environmental impact statement that concluded that spent nuclear fuel — some of the most dangerous and toxic substances known to mankind — can be safely stored 600 yards from our homes indefinitely if no geologic repository is ever built. No other community sits as close to a nuclear site and its waste storage.”
According to the paper, Xcel Energy says it has “38 casks containing nuclear waste near Red Wing and is permitted to store waste in 64 casks when the current operating licenses end in 2033 and 2034.” http://www.minnpost.com/political-agenda/2014/09/red-wing-officials-disappointed-feds-decision-spent-nuclear-fuel
With uranium poisoning wells, Navajos must drive miles to get drinking water
BUT MANY WHO ARE CONSTRICTED BY CIRCUMSTANCE STILL USE CONTAMINATED SUPPLIES
Brandon Loomis, The Republic | azcentral.com Uranium’s deadly flow 11 Aug 14
THE NAVAJO NATION ESTIMATES THAT 54,000 NAVAJOS HAUL WATER FROM UNREGULATED WELLS AND STOCK PONDS NUMBERING IN THE LOW THOUSANDS. “……….Twice a week, the Yazzies, 57-year-old Milton and 83-year-old Della, come down off their lonely hill on the Navajo Reservation’s western side and point themselves toward the city for the clean water they need to keep living. For ages, they drank from a well less than a mile from their home. Then they learned that poison lurked there.Uranium is gurgling up all over Navajo country.
At least three Yazzies have died of kidney ailments, a common result of chronic exposure to uranium. Federal environmental officials warned against drinking more. Milton learned to conserve, using an outhouse across their driveway and leaving the tank-supplied indoor plumbing to Della, because of her failing eyesight.
He begged the tribe, the feds, anyone who would listen, to build a pipeline through the sparsely populated Black Falls area, southeast of Cameron.
“I’ve been working so hard all these years to get good drinking water,” he said, “and it never came.”
Though they live out of anyone’s sight, the Yazzies are far from alone in their hardship……….http://www.azcentral.com/longform/news/arizona/investigations/2014/08/05/uranium-mining-poison-wells-safe-drinking-water/13635345/
Uranium mining on Navajo Reservation: How we did this The Republic | azcentral.com August 10, 2014 Uranium mining for America’s Cold War nuclear arms buildup has proved a lasting scourge on the nation’s largest American Indian reservation, and one that the same government that demanded the ore has been slow to address.
As the last of the sickened Navajo miners are stricken with lung diseases, younger generations are coping with kidney disease and other ailments, wondering whether the radioactive wastes have also sickened them. Meanwhile, hundreds of abandoned mines remain hazards with a cleanup cost that will stretch into the billions of dollars. Photographer David Wallace first took an interest in the problem in 2010 while on assignment documenting solar-energy installations at off-the-grid homes on the Navajo Reservation. He heard of sick miners and residents, and in 2013 began contacting activists with Forgotten People, a Navajo social-justice group.
Later that year, Wallace began visiting the homes of a sick miner and some families who had long histories of exposure to uranium-contaminated water. In January 2014, environment reporter Brandon Loomis joined the project and the two made periodic daylong visits to homes and mines in the Cameron, Gray Mountain and Black Falls areas north of Flagstaff — a quadrant of the reservation that was heavily mined and remains hazardous to many residents……….
U.S. and Navajo officials say both momentum and funding are building to enable a thorough cleanup. At the current rate of progress, though, still more generations of Navajos will face threats from hundreds of abandoned mines in the decades to come.
Wallace is a two-time runner-up for the Arizona Press Club Photographer of the Year award and a two-time regional Emmy winner for his videos.
How to reach Wallace
Loomis is an environment reporter with more than two decades of experience covering land and water issues in the West. He joined The Arizona Republic in 2012 after similar assignments at newspapers in Alaska, Wyoming, Idaho and Utah, and is now on a nine-month fellowship with Marquette University.
How to reach Loomis
Study may help explain link between uranium exposure and skin cancer http://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-08-link-uranium-exposure-skin-cancer.html After years of delving deep into DNA and researching ways in which metal damage may lead to cancer, a team of researchers is taking a step back to look at the surface where one answer may have been all along. The varying health risks from exposure to natural uranium are well established, but Diane Stearns, professor of biochemistry at Northern Arizona University, and her team have been trying to determine if there is a link between uranium exposure and skin cancer, stating that skin may have been overlooked in the past.
In a recent article published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology, the NAU team shared results from a study that explored photoactivation of uranium as a means to increase its toxicity and ability to damage DNA.
“Our hypothesis is that if uranium is photoactivated by UV radiation it could be more harmful to skin than either exposure alone,” Stearns said.
Through the study, the team found that once uranium was present in the skin, exposure to UV radiation or sunlight could be chemically toxic and lead to cancerous lesions. The team members recommend that future risk assessments regarding cancer caused by uranium exposure include the possibility of photoactivation in skin.
They also propose that photoactivated uranium exposure could be even more harmful in cells that can’t repair the damage on their own. Stearns explained such cases are found in individuals with Xeroderma Pigmentosum or XP, a disease that causes extreme sensitivity to sunlight.
Through research into the XP cell lines, the team discovered regional relevance for the study. The disease is prevalent on the Navajo Nation, a site of historically high levels ofuranium mining and processing in the Southwest. The 2012 documentary Sun Kissed further piqued the researchers’ curiosity. The film cites the incidence of XP in the general population as one in 1 million, yet cases increase significantly to one in 30,000 in the Navajo population.
Stearns believes there may be implications that should be taken into consideration for a population like the Navajo community with carriers of XP mutations and relatively high exposure to uranium and the sun.
“We just want to make people aware that uranium exposure could contribute to skin cancer and could also be exacerbating XP,” Stearns said.
Stearns said as she looks to the future, she hopes to fine-tune her understanding of the photoactivation mechanism and how it is damaging DNA. “We have predicted the link but now we would like to study it step by step to establish an even stronger connection.”
Together with her Navajo students at NAU, she also hopes to determine whether the old uranium mines might explain the increase in cancer and what is being called a sudden emergence of XP on the Navajo Nation.
“I’ve had several Navajo students come to me because they found out I was doing uranium research and they had a relative who died of cancer and always wondered if it was uranium,” Stearns said. “It’s been a really personal way for them to see the value in scientific research because it can directly relate to their community.”
Well, for a few weeks, the Australian media has been happily occupied titillating us all with matters legal – the court cases of Oscar Pistorius and of Rolf Harris.
Meanwhile barely noted by the media, a 7 year legal battle was over this week – one that has far more significance for all Australians. And especially for indigenous Australians.
The Aboriginal Traditional Landowners of the Muckaty station area, (Northern Territory) fought against nuclear waste dumping on their land, and following the last weeks of this case, that plan has been scrapped. It has been a very unequal fight, yet those proud indigenous people have won out, against the legal forces of the Australian Government, and the Northern Land Council, which first signed up to the dump plan.
Background. The global nuclear lobby is happy to have a research reactor at Lucas Heights, in Sydney. This reactor was envisaged, way back, after World War 2 as part of a push to get a nuclear bomb. It remains there as a way in for the nuclear industry in Australia. The medical isotope production was tacked on later – to make the reactor look more respectable, but medical isotopes can be made in alternative ways. Australia sent the high level nuclear reactor wastes overseas is legally bound to take them back.
2004 The Australian government first attempted to site a nuclear waste dump in South Australia, but South Australia resisted this and won. A Territory has less power and that is why the Government targeted the Northern Territory. The Northern Territory Government passed the Nuclear Waste Transport , Storage and Disposal Prohibition Act 2004
2005 . A government expert team investigated and selected 3 sites suitable for burial of the returned high level nuclear wastes. All of these sites were on Commonwealth land. The Muckaty area, which is seismically risky, as well as being on Aboriginal land, was not selected. Nevertheless, the Howard Liberal government passed a draconian Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act 2005 , over-riding environmental and Aboriginal heritage laws, and State and Territory laws and selecting Muckaty for the site
2010. The Labor government repealed that Act in 2010, and promptly replaced it with an equally draconion Radioactive Waste Management Act 2010.
The medical waste deception. The argument that a Northern Territory waste dump is needed for medical wastes is disingenuous. “Waste from nuclear medicine procedures, the majority of which is for diagnostic services rather than treatment, is low level and short term waste can be stored on site and safely disposed of locally. The small amount of higher level waste from nuclear medicine can also be stored locally, as it is currently” -Public Health Association of Australia,
The future. The relatively small amount of high level waste from the Lucas Heights reactor could be stored at Lucas Heights, and the reactor could be shut down, to stop further toxic production. The Australian government, lik ethe rest of the world, does not know where to put the ever accumulating collection of radioactive trash.
My bet is that our not very bright, and totally unethical government will try it on Aboriginal people again – with blackmail or bribes – ‘whatever it takes’.
AUDIO: Australia shamed as court hears how Government tried to impose nuclear waste dump on Aboriginal land
Muckaty Court Case heads to Darwin http://caama.com.au/muckaty-court-case 17 June 14 Damian Williams The federal court case on the planned Muckaty nuclear waste dump has now adjourned. Paddy Gibson for the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning is following the trial:
The court is now adjourned. The last sitting was on Saturday. The judge travelled again out to Muckaty. Aboriginal people thanked the court judge for coming to Muckaty out-station coming to country to hear from the elders directly and other Aboriginal people who are opposing nuclear waste dumping on their land. The case will now move to Darwin to take evidence from Northern Land Council
Crucial day of evidence, we heard from – a very senior man, Dick Foster known as reliable authority on who owns this land. NLC was relying on this man, Dick Foster. In their early nomination they actually used Mr Foster’s name. Whereas Dick has been crystal clear since 2007 that the NLC is wrong The NLC are relying on the wrong idea that a small piece of Muckaty belongs to just on e family group. Not alright for this family to sell one piece of the and made it clear that this was wrong. The anthropology used was not correct. They needed to slow the process down. NLC should have heard from all of the groups on how decisions would be made for that small piece of land. NLC forged ahead in 2007 far too quickly according to Mr Foster. Sold Muckaty out without the consent of Aboriginal owners. Far too much pressure.
Needed to encourage proper discussion on how that should be done. Sold Muckaty out
His evidence crucial. Process was far too rushed.
He made it clear that there was a lot of pressure on senior people like himself. with a number of government people on senior Aborigines,
That evidence was very significant. No one in this case is questioning the cultural knowledge of Mr Foster, though not a traditional owner himself. No question that he is not an authentic witness on Aboriginal culture, and the land around Muckaty
The other point about the evidence that came out on the country – people have not been told the real story, right back to 2007. Even the individuals who nominated the land were never told. had no idea of the true nature of what was planned. No one was ever told that there could be accidents. Those sorts of question are in the legislation, but this was never explained to the people. People were not told of possibility of drastic accident. People were never properly informed that they may lose their land forever.
The government is trying to say that it’s only for 200 years. But there are provisions sin the legislation, that the government could hold that land forever. Never explained to any traditional owners in the consultation process. That is clear from the evidence which has come out. They’re trying to say that this will be at temporary facility.
Relying on faulty flawed anthropology. Enormous amount of pressure was put on the traditional owners. They were relying on faulty, flawed anthropology. Iy was rushed through inn order to do a deal. Rights systematically stripped away from the traditional owners. Very strong case coming out now from the people who are opposed to the nuclear waste dump.. Quite shocking to learn how the government and NLC have treated these people, through this process.
Evidence is now wound up in Tennant Creek and Muckaty
Next is a trip to Darwin. The focus now will be on the NLC and the Commonwealth. They will be subject to the same cross examination that the Aboriginal people had to go through.
The Aboriginal people are happy and proud with what they have achieved. They have been so strong, so articulate.- that they have stood up to these non indigenous very highly paid, highly educated barristers for the Land Council and government attacking them in the witness stand. Some of the Aboriginal witnesses were cross examined for 3 hours – with lawyers for the government and NLC trying to trick them trap them The truth has come out on how this nomination came about back in 2007. Evidence is now wound up
We’ve had to go through 7 years of heartache, pain, stress sickness, and many people have died. A lot of people not alive now to give evidence on how they were treated. A very sad stressful thing that has happened to this community. In Darwin the pressure will be on the NLC and Government.
Indigenous land owners accuse lawyer of manipulating nuclear waste storage report June 4, 2014 – Jane Lee Legal Affairs Reporter for The Age A lawyer who was key to the Howard government’s plan to store nuclear waste on indigenous land has been accused of manipulating the legal process required to ensure its approval.
Traditional owners from four indigenous clans are challenging the Ngapa clan’s 2007 nomination of Muckaty Station for the dump site in the Federal Court in Melbourne. The owners, including Aboriginal elders, argue they did not consent to the nomination, were not consulted on the agreement reached and were misled on the government’s proposal for the nuclear storage site.
Ron Levy was then the chief legal counsel for the Northern Land Council, which was set up to help indigenous people in the Northern Territory acquire and manage traditional lands. Mr Levy will be called as a witness later in the five-week case before Justice Anthony North.
Ron Merkel, QC, for the traditional owers, told the court on Thursday that Mr Levy “personally edited” anthropologists’ views in a Council report which concluded that only the Ngapa Lauder clan owned the site. Mr Levy also wrote a new section in the final report, reflecting his view that the Land Commissioner could depart from judges’ previous decisions on land claims, “if relevant material was before the commissioner.”
Mr Merkel said that he did this “(so) that the Lauder Ngupas would be recognised by the Northern Land Council as the only traditional owners of the site so their consent could be secured.” The site nomination could then “jump a hurdle” of having to consult in more detail about about the plan with other clans, he said………..
Mr Merkel told the court on Tuesday that Mr Levy, who controlled the consultation process, also failed to tell the full Northern Land Council or traditional owners about the only up-front $200,000 payment given to traditional owners for the site nomination or the terms of their agreement.
But he later told the federal goverrnment that he had all traditional owners’ full consent.
Mr Merkel said there was no explanation for this “unless … Mr Levy had a plan from the outset about how to achieve the end result and he did”. http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/indigenous-land-owners-accuse-lawyer-of-manipulating-nuclear-waste-storage-report-20140604-39jk8.html#ixzz33nhZjp26.
In Australian Federal Court, Aborigines continue the fight against radioactive waste dumping on their land
Nuclear waste dump on Aboriginal land invalid, court told The West Australian, 3 June 14. Sydney (AFP) – The earmarking of a remote Australian outback area as a nuclear waste dump was invalid because officials failed to contact all traditional Aboriginal landowners affected, a court heard Monday.Muckaty Station in the Northern Territory was nominated in early 2007 as a site to store low and intermediate radioactive waste under a deal negotiated with the Aboriginal Ngapa clan.
While Australia does not use nuclear power, it needs a site to store waste, including processed fuel rods from the country’s only nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights, on the outskirts of Sydney,…..Opponents have fought against the dump for years, with a trial starting in the Federal Court in Melbourne Monday alleging Muckaty’s nomination was invalid due to a failure of the government and the land council to obtain the consent of all Aboriginal owners.
“What we’re here to say is ‘no more’ and that this process was so legally flawed that it is invalid,” Ron Merkel, who is representing traditional owners, told the court.
“The opposition is in no small part based on a spiritual affiliation to the land and that radioactive waste will poison the land,” he said in comments cited by Australian Associated Press.
The court was told the consent of all groups with a claim to the land was required for the facility to go ahead, but some Aboriginals whose country was affected have never had a chance to voice their concerns until now……..Speaking to reporters, Kylie Sambo, of the Warlmanpa people, said the idea of a waste facility on the land, which is in the centre of the country, was “poison”.
“We don’t want it to spoil our country because we love our land and we’ve been there for centuries,” she said. “My uncle once told me, ‘You may think you own the land, but in fact the land owns us’.”
The Australian Conservation Foundation said the case raised questions about the country’s management of long-lived radioactive waste.
“Australia has never has an independent assessment of how best to manage radioactive waste; now we urgently need one,” campaigner Dave Sweeney said.
The case is set to run for five weeks. https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/world/a/24084083/nuclear-waste-dump-on-aboriginal-land-invalid-court-told/
Uranium Contamination Across America: Holding the Silent Killers Of Environmental Destruction Accountable By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers Global Research, April 29, 2014 PopularResistance.org The findings of the most recent IPCC report are sobering. We have 15 years to mitigate climate disaster. It is up to us to make a major transition to a carbon-free, nuclear-free energy economy within that time-frame. Big Energy and our plutocratic government are not going to do it without effective pressure from a people-powered movement.
More people are getting this concept. This year, there are several major campaigns around Earth Day, for example the Global Climate Convergence and the Cowboy Indian Alliance camp in Washington, DC. We celebrated Earth Day by launching a new national campaign to clean up the thousands of abandoned uranium mines (AUMs) scattered throughout the Great Plains and West Coast.
Uranium: The Invisible Killer
In the days leading up to the launch of Clean Up the Mines campaign, our team of eleven organizers toured Southwest South Dakota to learn more about the AUMs. Our tour was led by Charmaine White Face, a scientist and coordinator of Defenders of the Black Hills, who took us to various sites and brought her Geiger counters. There are 272 AUMs in South Dakota that continue to emit radiation, radon and toxic elements into the air, water and land. The mines were abandoned by corporations like Kerr McGee and Atlantic Richfield who walked away from them when the Uranium Rush that started in the early 1950s was over. We described this in more detail in our previous article about how uranium mines are poisoning the breadbasket of America.
The Northern Great Plains Region of Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota contain more than 3,000 AUMs. There are more than 1,000 AUMs in Arizona and New Mexico. In total, in the 15 western states there are estimated to be more than 10,000 AUMs. One in 7 people in the western US live within 50 miles of an AUM, according to the EPA. This is a national environmental crisis – a silent Fukushima – for which responsibility needs to be taken………..
Accountability for Silent Killers
Exploring the legacy of uranium mining – for Earth destroying weapons of mass destruction and risky nuclear energy – reminded us how far humans have come in environmental destruction. It also showed, once again, how all is related. The Gaia theory of the Earth as a living being where all is connected is evident in the uranium toxicity that spreads through water, air and food
There is a growing movement that links native peoples with the descendants of those who colonized them. Now, many non-natives follow the lead of native peoples against fossil fuel and mineral extraction throughout the continent. It is this kind of solidarity and unity that will not only clean up the mines but will also make even greater changes in our economy, environment and government.
The toxicity of AUMs also reminds us of the cost of living under the rule of an illegitimate governmentwhere money, not the people, rule; of big finance capitalism that puts profit ahead of people and planet – and is enabled by the corrupt corporate government. The experience of the uranium mines shows us that even if it means people will die younger than they should, profit is king when we live under the ‘rule of money.’ It shows us we have an even larger task – ending a plutocratic oligarchy and creating a real democracy where the people rule……http://www.globalresearch.ca/uranium-contamination-across-america-holding-the-silent-killers-of-environmental-destruction-accountable/5379605
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
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