Years after mining stops, uranium’s legacy lingers on Native land http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/2016/tribal-series/crow-series/years-after-mining-stops-uraniums-legacy-lingers-on-native-land August 22, 2016 By Brian Bienkowski
Editor’s Note: This story is part of “Sacred Water,” EHN’s ongoing investigation into Native American struggles—and successes—to protect culturally significant water sources on and off the reservation.
CROW AGENCY, Mont.—The Crow are not alone in their struggle with uranium. The toxic metal is irrefutably intertwined with Native Americans, long a notorious national environmental injustice. Some 15,000 abandoned uranium mines with uranium contamination pocket 14 Western states. Of those, 75 percent are on federal and tribal lands, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Contamination is especially concentrated across the Colorado Plateau near the Four Corners region of Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico, leaving a lasting impact on tribes such as Navajos, Utes, Hopi and Zuni.
The area became saturated with the dangerous metal from the heavy mining fueled by Cold War-era anxieties in the 1940s and ’60s, and the lax cleanup of the 1980s.
Most of the mines were on federal land—managed by the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management. But tribes, namely the Navajo, were swept into the uranium-mining boom for both their labor and land and are still dealing with the mess it left.
More than 521 abandoned uranium mines pocket Navajo land alone. Some 90 percent of uranium milling in the United States took place on or just outside the boundaries of Native American reservations, according to a 2015 study. This left a legacy of dirty water, leftover toxic waste and health problems such as lung cancer and developmental delays for children in many Western tribes.
Such pollution becomes a force multiplier for Native Americans—on the Crow reservation it adds to economic, health and historical burdens, and further complicates the ability to cultivate and sustain their culture.
In the body, most—but not all—uranium is excreted. What remains settles mostly in the kidneys and bones. Excess uranium has been linked to increased cancer risk, liver damage, weakened bone growth, developmental and reproductive problems.
Even at low levels uranium may play a role in some cancers and fertility problems. Studies have shown it acts as an endocrine disruptor, mimicking the hormone estrogen. Hormones are crucial for proper development, and such altering can lead to some cancers and fertility and reproductive problems.
For the Navajo Nation, many men worked in mining or milling, unaware of the risks, and later dealt with various cancers and failing kidneys. In 2000 researchers reported that from 1969 to 1993 Navajo uranium miners had a lung-cancer rate about 29 times that of non-mining Navajos, according to the study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
Most of the mining tunnels, pits and waste piles remain on the reservation today near Navajo families. Water, already scarce, remains tainted with uranium and other metals. In one report, researchers found elevated uranium levels in the urine of 27 percent of almost 600 Navajo tribal members tested. The U.S. population as a whole is closer to 5 percent.
The uranium-mining legacy also left contaminated groundwater on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, home to the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Indians. In Washington state, two mines were shuttered in the 1980s, but more than 30 million tons of radioactive rock and ore remain at the site. Today it is a federal Superfund site. Researchers are now tracking cancer rates on the Spokane Indian Reservation.
“We see a high percentage of wells contaminated with trace elements like uranium in the double digits all over the U.S, but they are certainly more prevalent in Western, more arid areas.”
– Joe Ayotte, USGSThis toxic trail spreads throughout the West. Some uranium mining took place near the Crow Reservation, but naturally occurring levels can infiltrate drinking water wells too. And private wells don’t have the same safeguards of testing and treatment that public water does.
“We see a high percentage of wells contaminated with trace elements like uranium in the double digits all over the U.S, but they are certainly more prevalent in Western, more arid areas,” says Joe Ayotte, chief of groundwater quality studies section for the U.S. Geological Survey.
The USGS reported 20 percent of untreated water samples from public, private and monitoring wells nationwide contained concentrations of at least one trace element, such as uranium, arsenic and manganese. Manganese and uranium were found at levels at or above human health standards in 12 percent and 4 percent of wells nationwide, respectively, according to the study.
Like the rest of the country, Montana home wells have historically not been tested for elements such as uranium and manganese, so it’s unclear if Crow is an outlier or the norm for the state.
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality does not have regulatory authority over private wells on tribal lands, says Lisa Peterson, an agency spokesperson, adding that they haven’t received any information about contamination on the Crow Reservation.
For questions or feedback about this piece, contact Brian Bienkowski at email@example.com.
One of the largest and oldest black churches in the US warns that black people are disproportionally harmed by global warming and fossil fuel pollution, Guardian, Oliver Milman, 24 July 16, African American religious leaders have added their weight to calls for action on climate change, with one of the largest and oldest black churches in the US warning that black people are disproportionally harmed by global warming and fossil fuel pollution.
The African Methodist Episcopal church has passed its first resolution in its 200-year history devoted to climate change, calling for a swift transition to renewable energy.
“We can move away from the dirty fuels that make us sick and shift toward safe, clean energy like wind and solar that help make every breath our neighbors and families take a healthy one,” states the resolution, which also points to research showing that black children are four times as likely as white children to die from asthma.
“Damage to our climate puts the health of children, elderly, and those with chronic illnesses at greater risk and disproportionately impacts African Americans. We believe it is our duty to commit to taking action and promoting solutions that will help make our families and communities healthier and stronger,” stated Bishop John White, president of the council of bishops of the AME church.
The resolution follows an open letter sent by African American clergy last year that called for political leaders to take “bold action to address climate change”……..
Dupont-Walker said that the church’s voter mobilization campaign will work throughout the 2016 election cycle to question candidates on climate change. Local officials and landlords will also be put under pressure over inadequate housing and infrastructure that helps spread pollution to black communities.
According to the NAACP, African Americans emit far less carbon dioxide per person compared with white people and yet will bear the brunt of heat-related deaths, due to the concentration of black people in cities…….https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/24/african-methodist-episcopal-church-climate-change-letter
Indigenous Fight Against Nuclear Colonialism
Indigenous people protest EPA’s nuclear plans
EXCELLENT VIDEOS and PHOTOS, National Security Archive Government Films and Photographs Depict Test “Able” on 1 July 1946
National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 553 July 1, 2016 Edited by William Burr with Stav Geffner For more iThe Atomic Tests at Bikini Atoll, July 1946nformation contact: William Burr at 202/994-7000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Atomic Tests at Bikini Atoll, July 1946 Washington, D.C., July 1, 2016 – Seventy years ago this month a joint U.S Army-Navy task force staged two atomic weapons tests at Bikini atoll in the Marshall Islands, the first atomic explosions since the bombings of Japan in August 1945. Worried about its survival in an atomic war, the Navy sought the tests in order to measure the effects of atomic explosions on warships and other military targets. The test series was named Operation Crossroads by the task force’s director, Rear Admiral William Blandy. The first test, Able, took place on 1 July 1946. Of the two tests, the second, Baker, on 25 July 1946, was the most dangerous and spectacular, producing iconic images of nuclear explosions. A third test was scheduled, but canceled. Photographs and videos posted today by the National Security Archive document Crossroads, focusing on the Able test.
Also documented is the U.S. Navy’s removal, in early March 1946, of 167 Pacific islanders from Bikini, their ancestral home, so that the Navy and the Army could prepare for the tests. The Bikinians had the impression that the relocation would be temporary but the islands remain uninhabitable due to subsequent nuclear testing in the atoll……….
The plan to turn South Australia into the world’s nuclear waste dump has been met with near-unanimous opposition from Aboriginal people.
The Royal Commission acknowledged strong Aboriginal opposition to its nuclear waste proposal in its final report – but it treats that opposition not as a red light but as an obstacle to be circumvented.
Radioactive waste and the nuclear war on Australia’s Aboriginal people,Ecologist Jim Green 1st July 2016
Australia’s nuclear industry has a shameful history of ‘radioactive racism’ that dates from the British bomb tests in the 1950s, writes Jim Green. The same attitudes persist today with plans to dump over half a million tonnes of high and intermediate level nuclear waste on Aboriginal land, and open new uranium mines. But now Aboriginal peoples and traditional land owners are fighting back!
Then the government tried to impose a dump on Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory, but that also failed.
Now the government has embarked on its third attempt and once again it is trying to impose a dump on Aboriginal land despite clear opposition from Traditional Owners. The latest proposal is for a dump in the spectacular Flinders Ranges, 400 km north of Adelaide in South Australia, on the land of the Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners.
The government says that no group will have a right of veto, which is coded racism: it means that the dump may go ahead despite the government’s acknowledgement that “almost all Indigenous community members surveyed are strongly opposed to the site continuing.”
The proposed dump site was nominated by former Liberal Party politician Grant Chapman but he has precious little connection to the land. Conversely, the land has been precious to Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners for millennia.
It was like somebody ripped my heart out’
The site is adjacent to the Yappala Indigenous Protected Area (IPA). “The IPA is right on the fence – there’s a waterhole that is shared by both properties”, said Yappala Station resident and Adnyamathanha Traditional Owner Regina McKenzie.
The waterhole – a traditional women’s site and healing place – is one of many archeological and culturally significant sites in the area that Traditional Owners have registered with the South Australian government over the past six years. Two Adnyamathanha associations – Viliwarinha Aboriginal Corporation and the Anggumathanha Camp Law Mob – wrote in November 2015 statement:
“Adnyamathanha land in the Flinders Ranges has been short-listed for a national nuclear waste dump. The land was nominated by former Liberal Party Senator Grant Chapman. Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners weren’t consulted. Even Traditional Owners who live next to the proposed dump site at Yappala Station weren’t consulted. This is an insult.
“The whole area is Adnyamathanha land. It is Arngurla Yarta (spiritual land). The proposed dump site has springs. It also has ancient mound springs. It has countless thousands of Aboriginal artefects. Our ancestors are buried there.
“Hookina creek that runs along the nominated site is a significant women’s site. It is a registered heritage site and must be preserved and protected. We are responsible for this area, the land and animals.
“We don’t want a nuclear waste dump here on our country and worry that if the waste comes here it will harm our environment and muda (our lore, our creation, our everything). We call on the federal government to withdraw the nomination of the site and to show more respect in future.”
Regina McKenzie describes getting the news that the Flinders Ranges site had been chosen from a short-list of six sites across Australia: “We were devastated, it was like somebody had rang us up and told us somebody had passed away. My niece rang me crying … it was like somebody ripped my heart out.”
McKenzie said on ABC television: “Almost every waste dump is near an Aboriginal community. It’s like, yeah, they’re only a bunch of blacks, they’re only a bunch of Abos, so we’ll put it there. Don’t you think that’s a little bit confronting for us when it happens to us all the time? Can’t they just leave my people alone?”
Adnyamathanha Traditional Owner Dr Jillian Marsh said in an April 2016 statement:
“The First Nations people of Australia have been bullied and pushed around, forcibly removed from their families and their country, denied access and the right to care for their own land for over 200 years. Our health and wellbeing compares with third world countries, our people crowd the jails. Nobody wants toxic waste in their back yard, this is true the world over. We stand in solidarity with people across this country and across the globe who want sustainable futures for communities, we will not be moved.”
The battle over the proposed dump site in the Flinders Ranges will probably be resolved over the next 12 months. If the government fails in its third attempt to impose a dump against the wishes of Aboriginal Traditional Owners, we can only assume on past form that a fourth attempt will ensue……
Now Aboriginal people in South Australia face the imposition of a national nuclear waste dump as well as a plan to import 138,000 tonnes of high-level nuclear waste and 390,000 cubic metres of intermediate level waste for storage and disposal as a commercial venture.
The plan is being driven by the South Australian government, which last year established a Royal Commission to provide a fig-leaf of independent supporting advice. The Royal Commissioner is a nuclear advocate and the majority of the members of the Expert Advisory Committee are strident nuclear advocates.
Indeed it seems as if the Royal Commissioner sought out the dopiest nuclear advocates he could find to put on the Expert Advisory Committee: one thinks nuclear power is safer than solar, another thinks that nuclear power doesn’t pose a weapons proliferation risk, and a third was insisting that there was no credible risk of a serious accident at Fukushima even as nuclear meltdown was in full swing.
Announcing the establishment of the Royal Commission in March 2015, South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill said: “We have a specific mandate to consult with Aboriginal communities and there are great sensitivities here. I mean we’ve had the use and abuse of the lands of the Maralinga Tjarutja people by the British when they tested their atomic weapons.”
Yet the South Australian government’s handling of the Royal Commission process systematically disenfranchised Aboriginal people. The truncated timeline for providing feedback on draft Terms of Reference disadvantaged people in remote regions, people with little or no access to email and internet, and people for whom English is a second language. There was no translation of the draft Terms of Reference, and a regional communications and engagement strategy was not developed or implemented.
Aboriginal people repeatedly expressed frustration with the Royal Commission process. One example (of many) is the submission of the Anggumathanha Camp Law Mob (who are also fighting against the plan for a national nuclear waste dump on their land):
“Why we are not satisfied with the way this Royal Commission has been conducted:
Yaiinidlha Udnyu ngawarla wanggaanggu, wanhanga Yura Ngawarla wanggaanggu? – always in English, where’s the Yura Ngawarla (our first language)?
“The issues of engagement are many. To date we have found the process of engagement used by the Royal Commission to be very off putting as it’s been run in a real Udnyu (whitefella) way. Timelines are short, information is hard to access, there is no interpreter service available, and the meetings have been very poorly advertised. …
“A closed and secretive approach makes engagement difficult for the average person on the street, and near impossible for Aboriginal people to participate.”
The plan to turn South Australia into the world’s nuclear waste dump has been met with near-unanimous opposition from Aboriginal people. The Aboriginal Congress of South Australia, comprising people from many Aboriginal groups across the state, endorsed the following resolution at an August 2015 meeting:
“We, as native title representatives of lands and waters of South Australia, stand firmly in opposition to nuclear developments on our country, including all plans to expand uranium mining, and implement nuclear reactors and nuclear waste dumps on our land. … Many of us suffer to this day the devastating effects of the nuclear industry and continue to be subject to it through extensive uranium mining on our lands and country that has been contaminated.
“We view any further expansion of industry as an imposition on our country, our people, our environment, our culture and our history. We also view it as a blatant disregard for our rights under various legislative instruments, including the founding principles of this state.”
The Royal Commission acknowledged strong Aboriginal opposition to its nuclear waste proposal in its final report – but it treats that opposition not as a red light but as an obstacle to be circumvented.http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2987853/radioactive_waste_and_the_nuclear_war_on_australias_aboriginal_people.html
Ruling will keep nuclear waste at Prairie Island indefinitely, Post Bulletin Brian Todd, email@example.com 16 June 16, WELCH — A ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will leave the spent nuclear fuel at the Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant right where it’s sitting for the foreseeable future.
The Court of Appeals on June 3 upheld a 2014 ruling that allows for the continued onsite storage of radioactive material, mostly spent nuclear fuel. The 2014 ruling is from a case brought by several states regarding the environmental impact, and potential health and safety concerns regarding on-site storage of radioactive materials.
Shelley Buck, Prairie Island Indian Community Tribal Council president, said the community’s worst fear is that the nuclear waste will remain on the tribe’s ancestral homeland forever.
“Our fears are much closer to reality because of this ruling,” Buck said.
Buck described the spent fuel as “some of the most dangerous and toxic substances known to mankind.” That nuclear waste, she said, is stored 600 yards from the homes of some of the community’s members.
“We are frustrated that the U.S. Court of Appeals has failed to consider the very real health and safety impacts of permanent on-site storage of highly radioactive nuclear waste,” she said…….http://www.postbulletin.com/news/local/ruling-will-keep-nuclear-waste-at-prairie-island-indefinitely/article_c2774613-7455-5c92-a87d-8bc0bd2d3339.html
Stop Australia From Committing “Cultural Genocide” and Environmental Injustice http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/36006-stop-australia-from-committing-cultural-genocide-and-environmental-injustice, 14 May 2016 By Jessica Ramos, Care2 | Report Australia is about to make a horrible mistake. The country has (at least, tentatively) earmarked the location of its first nuclear dumping site next to an aboriginal cultural site. And the aboriginal community is speaking out — calling the proposed site “cultural genocide.” Australia is on the path to repeating the United States’ past mistakes and environmental injustices.
Can You Put a Price on Cultural Genocide and Death? Yes, Apparently
The traditional lands at the center of the controversy belong to the Adnyamathanha, also known as the “rock people,” from Flinders Ranges, South Australia. In 2009, the Federal Court of Australia recognized the Adnyamathanha’s native rights over 16,000 square miles of territory. But a nuclear dumping site of low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste (e.g. from medical procedures) endangers their territory and legal rights.
As reported in The Guardian, Wallerberdina Station (a cattle station) near Barndioota — less than 500km north of Adelaide in the Flinders Ranges — was originally one of six sites selected for the proposed nuclear dump last year, but now it’s the only location under consideration after a “four-month consultation process.” I’m not sure who was consulted, but it doesn’t appear to be the Adnyamathanha.
“This is our land, we have been here forever and we will always be here and we are totally opposed to this dump,” says Vince Coulthard, the Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association (ATLA) chief executive, to The Guardian. Apart from calling the move “cultural genocide,” Coulthard adds that the community has been mostly excluded from the decision-making process.
Important Adnyamathanha cultural sites near the proposed dumping site need to be taken into consideration. Hookina Creek, a women’s place and registered heritage site, is one of these sites. When Regina McKenzi, an Adnyamathanha woman, learned about the proposed dumping area coming to her ancestral lands, she told The Guardian that she felt like she was “getting news of a death.”
But, hey, the Adnyamathanha will be compensated for, so that’s something — right? As reported in The Guardian, Josh Frydenberg MP, the Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia, explains that the Adnyamathanha community will receive $2m for local projects and $10m if the Wallerberdina Station is ultimately selected. Frydenberg adds that consulting the aboriginal community is the next wave of the process — even though it should’ve been a priority since the process’ inception, in my humble opinion.
National Treasures, Not Nuclear Dumping Sites
If you’re from the United States, then this whole ordeal should sound somewhat familiar. When I wrote about the massive mine spill caused by the EPA near the Navajo Nation last year, it was hard not to reflect on the ways indigenous communities experience environmental injustice. The Navajo Nation is probably the most infamous and prominent example with its long history of uranium mining that caused high rates of cancers and lung disease in the community.
But this form of injustice isn’t limited to one tribe. According to the Scientific American, “[n]ative tribes across the American West have been and continue to be subjected to significant amounts of radioactive and otherwise hazardous waste as a result of living near nuclear test sites, uranium mines, power plants and toxic waste dumps.”
Environmental injustice just doesn’t compromise the physical health of the locals. It also compromises the environment, and, ultimately, the cultural health. To this day, many indigenous identities are intricately tied to ancestral lands. By polluting sacred, ancestral and/or historical sites, these companies and governments are also polluting ancestral memories and robbing future generations of their ancestral identities. Millions of dollars can never compensate for these past and future losses.
Cultures, languages, traditions and stories that have survived centuries of colonization are national treasures — not nuclear dumping sites.
The final decision for the nuclear dumping site will occur in a year, please act now by signing and sharing this petition urging Australian leaders not to dump nuclear waste near Adnyamathanha territory.
Tribe on front lines of fight over nuclear lab contamination Seattle Times, April 4, 2016 By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN The Associated Press ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The tribal community of San Ildefonso Pueblo sits in the shadow of Los Alamos National Laboratory, one of the nation’s premier laboratories and the birthplace of the atomic bomb.
The tribe is on the front lines of a battle to rein in contamination left behind by decades of bomb-making and nuclear research.
Pueblo Gov. James Mountain says he’s encouraged that New Mexico regulators, under a revamped cleanup proposal, have identified as a priority a plume of chromium contamination at the tribe’s border with the lab.
San Ildefonso Pueblo, in northern New Mexico’s high desert, has a tribal enrollment of about 750. Its members are known for their artistry, creating jewelry, paintings, traditional black-on-black pottery and other works.
Groundwater sampling shows increasing chromium concentrations at the edges of the plume, indicating it’s migrating through an area considered sacred by the tribe and closer to the Rio Grande, which provides drinking water to communities throughout the region. The plume has stretched about 1 mile into the upper part of the regional aquifer, and is about a half-mile wide and 100 feet thick.
It’s about a half-mile from the closest drinking water well.
“Without a doubt, it definitely raises concerns,” Mountain said.
The contamination was first detected more than a decade ago, and officials traced it to potassium dichromate used to prevent corrosion inside cooling towers at Los Alamos lab’s power plant. As part of regular maintenance from 1956 to 1972, the chemicals were discharged into canyons below…….
The U.S. Energy Department’s Office of Environmental Management is asking for $189 million for work at the lab next fiscal year. That would pay for handling radioactive waste stored at the lab, as well as completing the chromium investigation.
“The essence is groundwater is precious in New Mexico so we take threats to groundwater very seriously,” he said. “We certainly think there’s an elevated risk associated with any contamination to groundwater.”
The area also is home to flaked stone tools, ceramic shards and even a wagon road that dates back to the homestead period of the 1800s.
“It’s a very important area to the pueblo,” Mountain said. “And it’s not just on the parameters of physical inhabitation. There’s an effect on the pueblo’s health and welfare, on our mental well-being, our spiritual well-being.” http://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/tribe-on-front-lines-of-fight-over-nuclear-lab-contamination/
18 Mar 16 Traditional Owners and members of the Aboriginal-led Australian Nuclear Free Alliance (ANFA) have today reaffirmed their opposition to the suggestion that South Australia should host a high level international nuclear waste dump. This announcement comes as the submission period closes for comments on the tentative findings of South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission
A major recommendation of the Commission to date has been that South Australia could host an international waste storage and disposal facility. This suggestion is strongly rejected by Aboriginal people across the state because of the risks posed to country and culture. Several Aboriginal communities throughout South Australia live with the negative impacts of the nuclear industry through uranium mining and nuclear weapons testing and are committed to resisting any further nuclear proposals.
“We have long memories; we remember the atomic weapons tests at Maralinga and Emu Fields and the ongoing denial around the lost lives and health impacts for Aboriginal people. We don’t want any nuclear projects here in South Australia and we won’t become the world’s nuclear waste dump,” said Arabunna elder and Australian Nuclear Free Alliance president Kevin Buzzacott.
Enice Marsh, senior Adnyamathanha woman and Australian Nuclear Free Alliance member said:
“Any kind of radioactive waste dump would put our groundwater at risk. Groundwater is about survival; we don’t want to be faced with another huge risk like this.”
Sue Coleman-Haseldine is a Kokatha-Mula woman and co-chair of the Australian Nuclear Free Alliance. She has recently travelled to Vienna to share her family’s experience with the nuclear industry: “They’ve poisoned us once and there’s no way in the world they’re going to do it again.”
“This problem doesn’t stop at South Australia’s border, there is nowhere that should be designated an international waste dump,” Ms Coleman-Haseldine concluded.
It is an area integral to the lives of the Adnyamathanha people for generations and whose presence has left a rich cultural and archaeological record along the creek.
These waters are also just a few kilometres from Wallerberdina, a cattle station near Barndioota partly-owned by former Liberal senator Grant Chapman.
It is also one of six sites nominated to host Australia’s first nuclear waste dump.The Adnyamathanha people, who manage the Yappala Indigenous Protected Area which shares a boundary with Barndioota, said they were “shocked” by the prospect of storing Australia’s low and intermediate level nuclear waste so close to a significant cultural site.
Traditional owner Regina McKenzie said the facility would jeopardise their links to a place important for the present — a place where her children have learnt to swim and the family comes to camp — as well as the past, as seen in the tools, paintings and storylines that mark the area.
“The emotional stress we’re feeling is off the charts,” Ms McKenzie said. “We’re still the custodians here; we’ve always looked at it that way.”
The Adnyamathanha people are also worried about the risk from large floods known to hit the area, and elder Enice Marsh pointed out damage around the creek caused by the last flood a decade ago.
Ms Marsh said she feared the loss of her people’s heritage in the region if rising flood waters mixed with radioactive waste. “If we’re going to have that poison stuff here, even if it’s a low-level situation, it’s just absolute madness to put something like this near somewhere that’s so special,” she said.
“It’s everything; it’s a type of importance that you would never be able to describe. “The connection to this land for Adnyamathanha people is their culture, their customs; it’s their identity.”…….
With a final decision from the Government due by the end of the year, Ms McKenzie said the Adnyamathanha people would continue to oppose the expansion of the nuclear industry into their traditional lands.
“We’re feeling as though we’re being forced to do something we don’t want to do,” she said. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-02-24/traditional-owners-flinders-ranges-fears-on-nuclear-waste-dump/7195030
Sacred Native American Lands Could Become Nuclear Waste Dump Derrick Broze February 22, 2016 (ANTIMEDIA) Nye County, Nevada —During the 1970s and 80s, a large movement of antinuclear and anti-war activists protested the growing acceptance of nuclear power and the possibility of an impending global nuclear war. The protesters were not only concerned with the Cold War breaking down into a hot war, but also with the dangers that nuclear technology presented to the environment and the health of the public……..
Unfortunately, Native communities in the region are not new to this type of exposure to radiation. From 1951 to 1992, the U.S. government used a 1,300-square mile patch of land known as the Nevada Test Site for nuclear weapons testing. 928 American and 19 British nuclear tests were conducted at the Nevada Test Site. Although no official tests have been conducted to examine the health effects on the Paiute and the Shoshone, the communities believe the radiation has affected their health — and the health of the land…….
The DOE is currently accepting public comment from communities, states, tribes, and other stakeholders regarding how to establish a nuclear waste repository with respect to the community. The DOE says it aims “to establish an integrated waste management system to transport, store, and dispose of commercial spent nuclear fuel and high level defense radioactive waste.” The public comment period ends on June 15, and the DOE and Nuclear Regulatory Commission will likely issue statements shortly after.
Ian Zaparte, representative of the Western Shoshone government, says the NRC and the DOE are ignoring the possibilities for danger in the area.
“There are 26 faults, seven cinder cone volcanoes, 90 percent of the mountain is saturated with 10 percent water,” Zaparte told MintPress. “If you heat the rock, it will release that water. If the water comes up and corrodes the canisters, it will take whatever is in storage and bring it into the water and into the valley.”
However, Ian Zaparte takes his criticism of the project even further. He believes the actions taken by the U.S. government constitute acts of genocide against the Western Shoshone and other tribal nations who have been subject to the effects of nuclear testing and power. He is determined to fight for his people’s way of life and the land that his ancestors fought for. http://theantimedia.org/sacred-native-american-lands-could-become-nuclear-waste-dump/
The Battle Continues To Stop Yucca Mountain From Becoming A Nuclear Waste Dump Not far from the site of 40 years of nuclear weapons testing, a proposed long-term nuclear waste dump draws opposition from the Shoshone and Paiute Nations, environmental activists and even Nevada state officials. MintPress News, By Derrick Broze | February 18, 2016 The Moapa River Reservation is downwind of the Nevada Test Site, and locals have long maintained that radiation has harmed the health of the local population.
“We hope that that stuff [radiation] went up in the air and blew over us,” Vernon Lee, a Southern Paiute with the, who has lived on the Moapa River Reservation since 1973, told MintPress News. “We know that we got some because we are just east of the testing, but we hope we got less.”
Areas around the test site, particularly those located “downwind,” saw increases in cancers, including leukemia, lymphoma, thyroid cancer and brain tumors, throughout the entire span of the nuclear weapons testing. A 1984 study by the Journal of the American Medical Association found increased rates of canceramong Mormon families as far away as southwestern Utah, for example.
For Lee, the decades of environmental degradation and risks to human health reflect a much larger issue. The problem, he believes, is that the U.S. government does not recognize the tribal nations as equals. Officially, the U.S. Department of Interior states that the U.S. government operates under a “federal Indian trust responsibility,” a legal obligation that includes “moral obligations of the highest responsibility and trust” toward Native American tribes.
“To me, that doesn’t exist. It’s a word on paper, but I don’t think I have ever seen it put into practice,” Lee said.
“Trust responsibility, to me, is that government-to-government relationship that they are supposed to have with the tribes. It’s ridiculous the way the U.S. government treats the sovereign tribes. It’s very unfair.”
Native communities have a long history of resources discovered beneath the reservations being exploited by the U.S. government and supported industries. These communities have suffered exposure to dangerous substances through uranium mining and milling. In Nevada, the lives of generations of Western Shoshone and Moapa Paiute have become intertwined with the history of nuclear weapons testing and, more recently, the disposal of nuclear waste from faraway power plants.
“There are multiple problems. Moving the waste is a problem. High risk, unnecessary risk. If the company is ever going to benefit from nuclear power they should process it and store it themselves. Stop shipping it across the country and exposing the population to a potential disaster,” Lee said, alluding to the controversial long-term nuclear waste repository planned for Yucca Mountain, about a three hours’ drive from the reservation……….. http://www.mintpressnews.com/the-battle-continues-to-stop-yucca-mountain-from-becoming-a-nuclear-waste-dump/213976/
for Zaparte, the actions taken by the U.S. government so far constitute an act of genocide against the Western Shoshone and other tribal nations who have been subject to the effects of nuclear testing and power. He is determined to fight for his people’s way of life and the land that his ancestors fought for.
“We have a deliberate act by the United States to systematically dismantle my living life ways for the profit of the nuclear industry and the benefit of the United States,” Zaparte said. “At the worst, this is genocide underthe U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide
The battle for Yucca Mountain The Battle Continues To Stop Yucca Mountain From Becoming A Nuclear Waste Dump Not far from the site of 40 years of nuclear weapons testing, a proposed long-term nuclear waste dump draws opposition from the Shoshone and Paiute Nations, environmental activists and even Nevada state officials. MintPress News, By Derrick Broze | February 18, 2016
“…………Commercial nuclear power plants produce spent nuclear fuel, a radioactive byproduct. High-level radioactive waste is also produced as spent nuclear fuel is reprocessed into material for nuclear weapons. Disposing of both of these byproducts is a difficult and dangerous task.
In response to growing concerns over nuclear waste storage, Congress passed the federal Nuclear Waste Policy Act in 1982, which charged the Department of Energy with finding a place to build and operate a geologic repository, or underground nuclear waste disposal facility. Operating on the notion that the safest way to dispose of the waste is to bury it in rock deep underground, the DOE studied several sites for a possible geologic repository before settling on Yucca Mountain, located 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
The plan for the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository had the support of President George W. Bush, but met with opposition from Nevada state officials and environmental and Native activists, who fear that the rock at Yucca Mountain will not be able to contain nuclear waste for long periods of time.
In 2009, environmental and anti-nuclear organizations, including Beyond Nuclear, Greenpeace, Center for Health, Environment & Justice, and the International Society for Ecology, sent a letter to President Barack Obama calling the selection of the Yucca Mountain site “a purely political decision.” They argued that it has been been evident since 1992 that the site “could not meet the EPA’s general radiation protection standard for repositories.”
Obama opted to end funding for the project, setting off an ongoing legal battle. In August 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ordered the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to approve or reject the DOE application for the proposed waste storage site at Yucca Mountain. The Associated Press reported:
“In a sharply worded opinion, the court said the nuclear agency was ‘simply flouting the law’ when it allowed the Obama administration to continue plans to close the proposed waste site 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. The action goes against a federal law designating Yucca Mountain as the nation’s nuclear waste repository.”
In January 2015 the NRC concluded that the DOE’s license application for Yucca Mountain satisfies nearly all of the commission’s regulations. The commission must now clear all challenges from the state of Nevada and Native communities, a process which could take several more years.
Then, in August, the NRC released a supplement to the DOE’s 2002 and 2008 environmental impact statements for the planned nuclear waste repository. The NRC’s report evaluates different potential radiological and non-radiological impacts on the environment, soil, and public health, and the potential for disproportionate impacts on minority or low-income populations. The NRC wrote:
“…[T]he NRC staff finds no environmental pathway that would affect minority or low-income populations differently from other segments of the general population. Therefore, the NRC staff concludes that no disproportionately high and adverse health or environmental impacts would occur to minority or low-income segments of the population in the Amargosa Valley area.”
The nonprofit environmental advocacy group Natural Resources Defense Council disagreed, stating that the NRC “still adheres to the flawed assumptions the DOE used to frame the foundation of its analysis of potential environmental impacts of the repository.”
As this process drags on, two companies are providing interim storage sites for the country’s nuclear waste. One is located in Andrews County, Texas, and owned by Waste Control Specialists. The other is anunderground storage site in Southeastern New Mexico, operated by Holtec International and the Eddy-Lea Alliance of New Mexico. Waste Control Specialists are hoping to turn the temporary West Texas facility into a long-term waste storage site.
An act of genocide?
About 90 miles from the money and vices of Las Vegas, Ian Zaparte stands at the base of Yucca Mountain, discussing the history of theft of Shoshone land and the threats posed by the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository.
Zaparte represents the Western Shoshone traditional government and has been fighting in defense of his community and the planet for 30 years.
The Western Shoshone are one of 12 Indian nations whose chiefs signed the Treaty of Ruby Valley with the governors of the Nevada and Utah territory in 1863. In addition to recognizing the sovereignty of each of the Indigenous nations, the treaty gave the Indian nations ownership over millions of acres of land in Idaho, Nevada, California and Utah. It also allowed settlers access to the land for gold mining and homesteading, but did not give them title.
However, a history of land grabs through controversial legal means saw that land handed over to various agencies of the U.S. government, including the Bureau of Land Management. In 1979, the U.S. put $26 millionin a fund for the Shoshone for title to 24 million acres, but the tribe declined the money. The Supreme Court ruled six years later that the settlement, whether officially accepted by the tribe or not, extinguished the Shoshones’ claim to the land.
Essentially, the U.S. government has stated that encroachment upon Indian lands by settlers, railroads, telegraphs, ranches and gold mines extinguished the Shoshone claim to the land. In 2006, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination found “credible information alleging that the Western Shoshone indigenous people are being denied their traditional rights to land.”
According to a University of Michigan Environmental Justice Case Study:
“The Western Shoshone argue that the basis of this plenary federal power is rooted in the colonial arrogance of the 17th century, and the laws that gave the United States Government control over the Native Americans are ‘extensions of Christian claims to world supremacy.’”
Since the Western Shoshone have lost claims to their traditional lands, the U.S. government is free to use the land for projects, such as nuclear weapons testing and the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository.
Zaparte says the NRC and the DOE are ignoring the possibilities for danger in the area and denying the impact the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository would have on local communities, including the Paiute and the Shoshone.
“There are 26 faults, seven cinder cone volcanoes, 90 percent of the mountain is saturated with 10 percent water,” Zaparte told MintPress. “If you heat the rock, it will release that water. If the water comes up and corrodes the canisters, it will take whatever is in storage and bring it into the water and into the valley.”
The DOE is currently accepting public comment from communities, states, tribes and other stakeholders on how to establish a nuclear waste repository with respect to the community. The DOE says it aims “to establish an integrated waste management system to transport, store, and dispose of commercial spent nuclear fuel and high level defense radioactive waste.” The public comment period ends on June 15, and the DOE and Nuclear Regulatory Commission will likely issue statements shortly after.
Although the Yucca Mountain project has stalled during the Obama administration, a new president, especially a nuclear-friendly president, could theoretically rally for funding of the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository. The timing of the DOE’s study could potentially make the Yucca Mountain a topic of debate in the 2016 presidential election.
Still, for Zaparte, the actions taken by the U.S. government so far constitute an act of genocide against the Western Shoshone and other tribal nations who have been subject to the effects of nuclear testing and power. He is determined to fight for his people’s way of life and the land that his ancestors fought for.
“We have a deliberate act by the United States to systematically dismantle my living life ways for the profit of the nuclear industry and the benefit of the United States,” Zaparte said. “At the worst, this is genocide underthe U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide.”………http://www.mintpressnews.com/the-battle-continues-to-stop-yucca-mountain-from-becoming-a-nuclear-waste-dump/213976/
The Cold War arms race triggered a boom in uranium mining in the U.S. Between the 1940s and 1980s, uranium mining operations were carried out under a 19th century mining law that did not require them to clean up after themselves.When demand for uranium waned in the 1980s, companies simply walked away, leaving open pits and tunnels – and enormous amounts of radioactive waste. Today more than 15,000 abandoned uranium mines dot the U.S. West. Three-quarters of them are located on federal and tribal lands.
Ray Manygoats grew up near Tuba City, Arizona, near a now-abandoned uranium mine. He is no stranger to the substance the Diné (Navajo) people call “the yellow monster.”
“Yellow stuff was always everywhere,” Manygoats told the House Oversight Committee in 2007. “I saw liquids bubbling and tried to stay away from them…we would play in the yellowcake sand near the mill, jumping and rolling around in it.”
Manygoats has suffered from a variety of health troubles, including growths on his eyes; his father has respiratory problems.
Effects on drinking water
“There is a really large and convincing and definitive literature that shows that for miners working underground, uranium mining is associated with a greatly increased risk of lung cancer,” said Douglas Brugge, Professor of Public Health and Community Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine. “We also know that uranium, radium, radon and arsenic – which is frequently in the ore as well – are toxic. And we know from a fairly large number of studies that people who are drinking water contaminated with uranium have some adverse health effects, mostly kidney damage.”
In 2014, University of New Mexico researchers sampled mine waste at one Arizona site and found uranium concentrations in spring water that was four times the federal drinking-water limit. Thirty percent of Diné lack access to public water and are forced to drink from unregulated wells, springs and livestock ponds, any of which could be contaminated.
Today, only a few companies continue to mine for uranium in the U.S. The most common method is in situ leaching: oxygenated water is injected into the earth, where it dissolves uranium. The solution is then brought back up to the surface and shipped off to processing plants.
In situ mining has been going on since 1988 in northwestern Nebraska, not far from the South Dakota Pine Ridge Reservation that is home to the Oglala Lakota people.
“We are 30 minutes away as the crow flies, fifteen minutes as the wind blows, from the mine site,” said Debra White Plume, executive director ofOwe Aku (“Bring Back the Way”), a grassroots Lakota environmental group.
White Plume and other concerned activists have gone up against one of the world’s largest mining corporations in an attempt to block it from opening up three new mines in the area.
Ninety-eight wells have had to be closed on Pine Ridge because of unusually high rates of cancer, kidney disease and other health problems, said White Plume. She’s convinced that uranium is to blame, and she grows frustrated over suggestions that poor diet or smoking could be a factor.
“Why do the innocent human beings at home have to prove that the big corporation is contaminating them? Why aren’t laws in place that say, ‘OK, if that corporation is going to come into our community, let them show us how they will not harm us, let them show us how they aren’t going to threaten everything we depend on for life: Water, food, air, land?’” she asked.
The US Environmental Protection Agency says it has spent more than $100 million to identify areas at highest risk, part of a multi-year plan to address uranium contamination across the country.
Native Americans: ‘We Are The Miner’s Canary’ Indigenous Delegation Sounds Alarm on Homegrown Radioactive Pollution Crisis By Klee Benally, www.cleanupthemines.org, Popular Resistance January 23rd, 2016Washington, DC — From January 25-28, 2016 Indigenous representatives from the Northern Great Plains & Southwest were in the District of Columbia (DC) to raise awareness about radioactive pollution, an invisible national crisis. Millions of people in the United States are being exposed as Nuclear Radiation Victims on a daily basis. Exposure to radioactive pollution has been linked to cancer, genetic defects, Navajo Neuropathy, and increases in mortality. The delegation will speak about the impacts they are experiencing in their communities, which are also affecting other communities throughout the US.
“Native American nations of North America are the miners’ canaries for the United States trying to awaken the people of the world to the dangers of radioactive pollution”, states Charmaine White Face from the South Dakota based organization Defenders of the Black Hills.
South Dakota has 272 Abandoned Uranium Mines (AUMs) which are contaminating waterways such as the Cheyenne River, and desecrating sacred and ceremonial sites. An estimated 169 AUMs are located within 50 miles of Mt. Rushmore where millions of tourists risk exposure to radioactive pollution each year.
The delegation is warning of the toxic legacy caused by more than 15,000 AUMs nationwide, extreme water contamination, surface strip coal mining and power plants burning coal-laced with radioactive particles, radioactive waste from oil well drilling in the Bakken Oil Range, mill tailings, waste storage, and renewed mining threats to sacred places such as Mt. Taylor in New Mexico and Red Butte in Arizona.
Indigenous communities have been disproportionately impacted as approximately 75% of AUMs are located on federal and Tribal lands………https://www.popularresistance.org/native-americans-we-are-the-miners-canary/
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- 2 WORLD
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