nuclear-news

The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry Fukushima Chernobyl Mayak Three Mile Island Atomic Testing Radiation Isotope

Small nuclear reactors – a way to get indigenous people to then accept nuclear waste?

Gordon Edwards is president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility and notes the Moltex SMR design involves dissolving spent nuclear fuel in molten salt, and there lies an issue, he believes.

“What happens when you dissolve the solid fuel in a liquid, in this molten salt – then all of these radioactive materials are released into the liquid,” says Edwards, “and it becomes more dangerous to contain them because a solid material is much easier to contain than a liquid or gaseous material.

Peskotomuhkati chief unhappy about nuclear reactor testing on his traditional territory  https://www.aptnnews.ca/national-news/peskotomuhkati-nation-nuclear-reactor-testing-new-brunswick-small-modular-reactors/

Christopher Read cread@aptn.caMay 16, 2021,

Feds say they won’t reach zero emissions by 2050 without small nuclear reactors.

It’s a new kind of nuclear reactor that the federal government is putting up $50.5 million in development money for, but some Indigenous leaders are already speaking out against it

.Moltex Energy Canada is getting the tax-dollar investment to develop what the nuclear industry calls a “small modular reactor” or SMR – which is generally considered to be a reactor with a power output of 300 megawatts or less.The Moltex SMR design is to be developed at New Brunswick Power’s Point LePreau Nuclear Generating Station, which is on the north shore of the Bay of Fundy and in Peskotomuhkati traditional territory.

ARC Clean Energy Canada is another operation also set to develop an SMR at the Point LePreau site.  It was announced in February that ARC would get $20 million from the New Brunswick government if the company can raise $30 million of its own cash.

Hugh Akagi is Chief of Peskotomuhkati Nation and has concerns about more nuclear development in the aging facility.

“Well, I don’t feel very good about it, to be honest,” says Akagi. You paid that money if you pay tax on anything in this country, you’ve just made a donation to Moltex. If you’re not concerned about $50 million being turned over to a corporation for a technology that does not exist – I hope you heard me correctly on that.”

The federal government has taken a shine to the idea of SMRs and Minister of Natural Resources Seamus O’Regan is on the record as saying “We have not seen a model where we can get to net-zero emissions by 2050 without nuclear.”

Under the Small Modular Reactor Action Plan, the federal government is pushing for SMRs to be developed and deployed to power remote industrial operations as well as northern communities.

Three streams of government-supported SMR developments are underway at two sites in Ontario as well as at Point LePreau.

As well, the governments of New Brunswick, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta have all signed a memorandum of understanding pledging their support for SMR development.

Akagi says he hasn’t been formally consulted – but has been to a presentations put on by NB Power about the SMR project.

He says he is unlikely he’ll ever give it his support.

“Until I can have an assurance that the impact on the future is zero,” says Akagi, “I don’t want to 100 years, 200 years is still seven generations. I want zero impact.”

But Moltex Energy Canada CEO Rory O’Sullivan says his company’s technology will ultimately reduce environmental impact, by recycling spent nuclear fuel from full scale reactors.

“Instead of putting it in the ground where it’ll be radioactive for very long periods, we can reuse it as fuel to create more clean energy from what was waste,” says O’Sullivan. “We can’t get rid of the waste altogether. But the aim is to get rid, to get it down to about a thousandth of volume of the original long-lived radioactivity.


O’Sullivan admits to formerly seeing nuclear as too much of a problem to be a viable solution in the climate crisis.

“When I graduated as a mechanical engineer I saw that nuclear is potentially as too expensive, has the waste issue, has a potential safety issue,” says O’Sullivan. “Well, actually, with these innovative new designs, you can potentially have nuclear power that is lower cost, cheaper than fossil fuels – you can get much safer solution using innovation and you can potentially deal with the waste.”

Gordon Edwards, one of Canada’s most prominent nuclear critics, isn’t buying that argument.

Edwards is president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility and notes the Moltex SMR design involves dissolving spent nuclear fuel in molten salt, and there lies an issue, he believes.

“What happens when you dissolve the solid fuel in a liquid, in this molten salt – then all of these radioactive materials are released into the liquid,” says Edwards, “and it becomes more dangerous to contain them because a solid material is much easier to contain than a liquid or gaseous material.”

Edwards also works on a radioactive task force with the Anishinabek Nation and the Iroquois Caucus.

And as he sees it, small modular reactors could make it harder for Indigenous communities to say no to the deep geological repositories [DGRs] being pitched to Indigenous communities as a supposedly safe way for Canada’s nuclear industry to entomb highly radioactive waste for hundreds of thousands of years.

“We don’t accept the small modular reactors because we know that it’s just a way of implicating us so that we can then have less of an argument against being radioactive waste dumps,” says Edwards. “If we accept small modular reactors into our communities, how can we then turn around and say we don’t want to keep the radioactive waste? It would just put us in an impossible position.”

Edwards and other nuclear critics such as Akagi recently participated in an online webinar focused on concerns around nuclear development at Point LePreau.

And those adding their voices to the critical side of the ledger on nuclear development at Point LePreau include Jenica Atwin – the Green Party’s MP for Fredricton, and Wolastoq Grand Council Chief Ron Tremblay – who issued a Resolution calling for nuclear development to be halted.

Atwin put out a release in April calling Canadian nuclear policies “profoundly misguided.”

“My basic premise is that the government needs to be more responsible in the information that they’re sharing just in general to talk about the risks that exist alongside whatever benefits they’re kind of toting,” says Atwin. “And right now, we’re only hearing that it’s the greatest option. This is how we fight climate change. It is clean, it’s cheap energy. And I have to disagree.”

If all goes to according to the Moltex plan, its SMR could be operable by about 2030.

May 17, 2021 Posted by | Canada, indigenous issues, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, wastes | Leave a comment

Saugeen First Nation do not want Canada’s nuclear waste. Nuclear Waste Management Organization says the project will not be built without their consent.

Saugeen First Nation debates fate of Canada’s nuclear waste CTV News , Scott Miller CTV News London Videographer @ScottMillerCTV  Contact Sunday, May 16, 2021   ”…… Last January, the Saugeen Ojibway Nation voted 85 per cent against plans to bury Ontario’s low and intermediate level nuclear waste along the shores of Lake Huron. 

Saugeen members will have a similar decision to make on plans to bury Canada’s high-level nuclear waste under 1,500 acres of farmland, north of Teeswater, because the planned project also falls within their traditional territory.

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization says the project will not be built without SON’s consent.

“Well it’s important now because that’s what was agreed to as part of the treaties. So there’s constitutional rights that are at play,” says NWMO’s Indigenous Knowledge and Reconciliation Section Manager, Jessica Perritt.

SON leadership have said they didn’t ask for nuclear waste to be created and temporarily stored in their territory, but now, they must be part of deciding its fate.

“We’ve got to treat our people, not like the olden days where the Indian Agent didn’t even allow us to think or make decisions. We can make decisions for ourselves,” says Roote………..

Members of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation and residents of South Bruce have until 2023 to decide if they want to permanently house Canada’s first and only underground nuclear waste storage facility. https://london.ctvnews.ca/saugeen-first-nation-debates-fate-of-canada-s-nuclear-waste-1.5430208

May 17, 2021 Posted by | Canada, indigenous issues, wastes | Leave a comment

There’s a long and devastating history behind the proposal for a nuclear waste dump in South Australia,

There’s a long and devastating history behind the proposal for a nuclear waste dump in South Australia, https://theconversation.com/theres-a-long-and-devastating-history-behind-the-proposal-for-a-nuclear-waste-dump-in-south-australia-158615,,,Katherine Aigner

PhD candidate Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy, Australian National University   On Saturday at the Adelaide Festival there will be a public showing of Australian Atomic Confessions, a documentary I co-directed about the tragic and long-lasting effects of the atomic weapons testing carried out by Britain in South Australia in the 1950s.

Amid works from 20 artists reflecting on nuclear trauma as experienced by Indigenous peoples, the discussion that follows will focus on the ways in which attempts at nuclear colonisation have continued in South Australia, and are continuing right now.

For the fourth time in 23 years South Australia is being targeted for a nuclear waste dump — this time at Napandee, a property near Kimba on the Eyre Peninsula.

The plan is likely to require the use of a port, most probably Whyalla, to receive reprocessed nuclear fuel waste by sea from France, the United Kingdom and the Lucas Heights reactor in NSW via Port Kembla.

The waste will be stored above ground in concrete vaults which will be filled for 100 years and monitored for a further 200-300 years.

Nuclear waste can remain hazardous for thousands of years.

The Barngarla people hold cultural rights and responsibilities for the region but were excluded from a government poll about the proposal because they were not deemed to be local residents.

The 734 locals who took part backed the proposal 61.6%

The Barngarla people are far from the first in South Australia to be excluded from a say about proposals to spread nuclear materials over their land.

It’s not the first such proposal

Australian Atomic Confessions explores the legacy of the nine British atomic bombs dropped on Maralinga and Emu Field in the 1950s, and the “minor trials” that continued into the 1960s.

After failed clean-ups by the British in the 1960s followed by a Royal Commission in the 1980s, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency conducted a cleanup between 1995 and 2000 it assures us was successful to the point where most of the contaminated areas at Maralinga fall well within the clean-up standards applied for unrestricted land use.

But experts remain sceptical, given the near-surface burial of plutonium and contamination remaining across a wide area.

The Tjarutja people are allowed to move through and hunt at the Maralinga site with their radiation levels monitored but are not permitted to camp there permanently.

We are told that what happened in the 1950s wouldn’t happen today, in relation to the proposed nuclear waste dump. But it wasn’t our enemies who bombed us at Maralinga and Emu Field, it was an ally.

In exchange for allowing 12 British atomic bombs tests (including those at the Monte Bello Islands off the northern coast of Western Australia), the Australian government got access to nuclear technology which it used to build the Lucas Heights reactor.

It is primarily the nuclear waste produced from six decades of operations at Lucas Heights that would be dumped onto Barngarla country in South Australia, closing the links in this nuclear trauma chain.


Nuclear bombs and nuclear waste disproportionately impact Indigenous peoples, yet Australia still has not signed up to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The declaration requires states to ensure there is no storage or disposal of hazardous materials on the lands of Indigenous peoples without their free, prior and informed consent.

Nor has Australia shown any willingness to sign up to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which came into force on January 22 this year after a lobbying campaign that began in Australia and was endorsed by Indigenous leaders worldwide.

Aboriginal people have long known the dangers of uranium on their country.

Water from the Great Artesian Basin has been extracted by the Olympic Dam copper-uranium mine for decades. Fragile mound springs of spiritual significance to the Arabunna People are disappearing, posing questions for the mining giant BHP to answer.

Australian uranium from BHP Olympic Dam and the now-closed Rio Tinto Ranger mine fuelled the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Senior traditional custodian of the Mirrar people, Yvonne Margarula, wrote to the United Nations in 2013 saying her people feel responsible for what happened.

It is likely that the radiation problems at Fukushima are, at least in part, fuelled by uranium derived from our traditional lands. This makes us feel very sad.

The Irati Wanti (The Poison, Leave It!) campaign led by a council of senior Aboriginal women helped defeat earlier proposals for nuclear waste dumps between 1998 and 2004.

There remains strong Indigenous opposition to the current nuclear waste proposal.

Over the past five years, farmers have joined with the Barngarla People to protect their communities and the health of the land.

In 2020 the government introduced into the Senate a bill that would do away with traditional owners’ and farmers’ rights to judicial reviews and procedural fairness in regard to the use of land for the facility.

Resources Minister Keith Pitt is deciding how to proceed.

April 10, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, history, indigenous issues, politics, wastes | Leave a comment

Deb Haaland -new U.S. Secretary for Interior, – first Native American in a U.S. presidential cabinet

Democracy Now 17th March 2021, Deb Haaland, a tribal citizen of the Laguna Pueblo, is being sworn in as
secretary of the interior and will be the first Native American ever to
serve in a U.S. presidential cabinet. Just four Republicans joined
Democrats in voting to confirm Haaland, who will manage 500 million acres
of federal and tribal land.

Haaland will also oversee government relations
with 574 federally recognized tribal nations and is expected to address the
legacy of uranium mining on Indigenous land and other areas. Leona Morgan,
a Diné anti-nuclear activist and community organizer, says that while
it’s “impossible to expect one person to correct the centuries of
racism and policy that have really devastated our people,” there is hope
that Haaland will use her power to make important changes. “She will be
held accountable,” Morgan says.

https://www.democracynow.org/2021/3/17/deb_haaland_interior_secretary?s=09

March 19, 2021 Posted by | indigenous issues, politics, USA | Leave a comment

Time to clean up Bikini Atoll,to right the nuclear wrongs done to the Pacific islands people.

After 75 years, it’s time to clean Bikini   https://thebulletin.org/2021/03/after-75-years-its-time-to-clean-bikini/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=ThursdayNewsletter03112021&utm_content=NuclearRisk_CleanBikini_03082021

By Hart RapaportIvana Nikolić Hughes | March 9, 2021,   Due to their remote location in the Northern Marshall Islands, the people of Bikini Atoll were spared the worst of the mid-Pacific fighting between the American and Japanese armies in the final years of World War II. Their millennia-old culture and sustainable way of life ended abruptly when, in early 1946, Commodore Ben Wyatt, a representative of the occupying United States Navy, informed King Juda and other Bikini residents that the US would begin to test nuclear weapons near their homes. Wyatt asked the Bikinians to move elsewhere, stating that the temporary move was for “the good of mankind and to end all wars.” Though Wyatt may have believed his words to be true, the show of might by the US that followed neither ended all conflict, nor was the exodus short-lived. Seventy-five years later, Bikinians have yet to return.

Nuclear testing in Bikini and other Marshall Islands, which lasted from 1946 to 1958, received international attention at the time. In those early Cold War days, America demonstrated its nuclear prowess through images of mushroom cloud blasts towering over the Pacific on the cover of Time magazine and other prominent publications. The word Bikini infiltrated popular culture via the name of a two-piece swimsuit (named by a French designer to be “explosive”) and SpongeBob’s home, without simultaneously suffusing our conscience with an awareness of the injustices and suffering those blasts caused the Marshallese people.

It is time, finally, to recognize and right the wrongs perpetrated by the US government in the Marshall Islands. The US forced a new and dangerous technology on the native lands and peoples, without fully comprehending the short- and long-term consequences. The Marshall Islands–and Bikini specifically–ended up the site of most of the tests of US hydrogen bombs, weapons up to a thousand times more powerful than atomic bombs used in attacks on Japan in 1945. Later, when the refugees were briefly returned to Bikini after testing ended, they were exposed to harmful radiation amounts with devastating health effects.

To be sure, the US government has taken steps to monitor and address the contamination that resulted from these nuclear detonations. However, the status quo—studies by the Energy Department for the sake of scientific publications and reports, while Bikinians continue to live on other islands—is not only inadequate, but morally repugnant. Bikini is a native land and water that, over thousands of years, was critical to the people’s sustenance and the bedrock of their culture. While some of those who survived the decades of relocations are still alive, their children and grandchildren, including the descendants of King Juda, have yet to resettle their ancestral home. Without an immediate US-government-funded plan to resettle the living refugees, the millennia-long culture and history tied to the atoll may be lost forever. Also, as one of the highest lying islands in the region, Bikini could be the solution to challenges the Marshallese face from global warming and corresponding rise of sea levels.

But it’s not as simple as saying: “Let’s move the Bikinians back.” A permanent return to the atoll by a multi-generational community would risk serious health effects unless sources of remaining radiological contamination in Bikini’s fruit, soil, and lagoon are addressed and removed, according to our research at Columbia University’s K=1 Project, Center for Nuclear Studies. We have found radioactive materials throughout Bikini Atoll, resulting in background gamma radiation above the limit agreed upon by the Republic of the Marshall Islands and US and levels of cesium-137 in various fruits that violate most relevant international and domestic safety standards. Even the waters surrounding Bikini, a formerly plentiful source of food, are riddled with radioisotopes from the detonations. The cleanup may require a novel scientific approach on par with that used after the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear accidents. That said, a modern nuclear testing cleanup protocol may prove useful in the event of future nuclear incidents in the United States or elsewhere.

The Biden administration has promised to lead in domestic and international spheres with morals and compassion. To do so, it must engage in a truthful, comprehensive accounting of past missteps in the Marshall Islands, regardless of whether the cost of reparations and resettlement exceeds its current pledge of roughly $110 million to Bikini. Commodore Wyatt’s allegedly “temporary” displacement of Bikinians from their native land has lasted 75 years and counting. Will the Biden administration act with morals to clean remaining radioactive material from US detonations? Will it act with compassion to help Bikinians find their way home?

March 13, 2021 Posted by | environment, history, indigenous issues, OCEANIA, Reference | Leave a comment

France has consistently underestimated the devastating impact of its nuclear tests in French Polynesia

Guardian 9th March 2021, France has consistently underestimated the devastating impact of its nuclear tests in French Polynesia in the 1960s and 70s, according to
groundbreaking new research that could allow more than 100,000 people to
claim compensation. France conducted 193 nuclear tests from 1966 to 1996 at
Moruroa and Fangataufa atolls in French Polynesia, including 41 atmospheric
tests until 1974 that exposed the local population, site workers and French
soldiers to high levels of radiation. By crunching the data from 2,000
pages of recently declassified French defence ministry documents, analysing
maps, photos and other records, and carrying out dozens of interviews in
France and French Polynesia, researchers have meticulously reconstructed
three key nuclear tests and their fallout.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/mar/09/france-has-underestimated-impact-of-nuclear-tests-in-french-polynesia-research-finds

March 11, 2021 Posted by | France, history, indigenous issues, OCEANIA | Leave a comment

French report on the unfairness of France’s nuclear history in Algeria

French report grapples with nuclear fallout from Algerian War  https://thebulletin.org/2021/03/french-report-grapples-with-nuclear-fallout-from-algerian-war/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=ThursdayNewsletter03042021&utm_content=NuclearRisk_AlgerianWar_03042021&__cf_chl_captcha_tk__=32bfe924bf6171eab26d9deb08cd73459b5e69dc-1614896664-0-AWxxiguytXLkG_ERcOpFeDyCqmv7X1FYZmZBNGAnlwY6ZlI8PgWd2By Austin R. Cooper | March 4, 2021 n January, the French historian Benjamin Stora filed a report commissioned by the French President Emmanuel Macron aimed at “reconciliation of memories between France and Algeria,” which France ruled as the jewel of its colonial empire for more than 130 years.

The Stora Report addressed several scars from the Algerian War for Independence (1954–62), a bloody struggle for decolonization that met savage repression by French troops. One of these controversies stems from French use of the Algerian Sahara for nuclear weapons development.

France proved its bomb in the atmosphere above this desert, naming the inaugural blast , or Blue Jerboa, after the local rodent. Between 1960 and 1966, France detonated 17 nuclear devices in the Algerian Sahara: four atmospheric explosions during the Algerian War, and another 13 underground, most of these after Algerian Independence.

French nuclear ambitions became inextricable from the process of Algerian decolonization. The Saharan blasts drew international outrage, stalled ceasefire negotiations, and later threatened an uneasy peace across the Mediterranean.

The Stora Report signaled that radioactive fallout from the Algerian War has remained a thorn between the two nations. But the document comes up short of a clear path toward nuclear reconciliation.

A United Nations dispute. The French bomb collided with the Algerian War before the first mushroom cloud rose above the Sahara. In November 1959, Algerian allies representing independent states in Africa and Asia contested French plans for the desert in the First Committee on Disarmament at the United Nations.

Part of the French strategy at the United Nations was to drive a wedge between the nuclear issue and what French diplomats euphemistically termed the “Question of Algeria.” French obfuscation continued for decades.

France would not, until 1999, call the bloodshed a war, preferring the line that what happened in Algeria, as part of France, amounted to a domestic dispute, rather than UN business. Macron became, in 2018, the first French president to acknowledge “systemic torture” by French troops in Algeria.

The Afro-Asian challenge to Saharan explosions hurdled France’s diplomatic barricades at the United Nations. The French delegation tried to strike references to the Algerian War as irrelevant. But their African and Asian counterparts painted the desert blasts as a violation of African sovereignty.

The concern was not only for contested territory in Algeria, but also for independent states bordering the desert, whose leaders warned that nuclear fallout could cross their national borders. Radiation measurements taken in the wake of Gerboise bleue proved many of them right.

Nuclear weapons represented another piece of French imperialism on the continent.

Secret negotiations resumed in September 1961, with US Ambassador to Tunisia Walter N. Walmsley serving as France’s backchannel. The US State Department worried that French attachment to the test sites might thwart the decolonization process.

Lead Algerian negotiator Krim Belkacem asked Walmsley if prospects for a ceasefire still hinged on France retaining control of the test sites. Krim got his answer when Franco-Algerian talks resumed the following month, at the end of October 1961.

France did not abandon its goal to continue nuclear explosions in the Sahara. But the Algerian position appeared to have softened. So long as further blasts did not impinge on Algeria’s “eventual sovereignty” over the desert, as one archival document put it, a deal looked possible.

The Evian Accords marked a nuclear compromise. Finally signed in March 1962, the landmark treaty granted France a five-year lease to the Saharan test sites but did not specify terms of use.

Going underground. Advice from the French Foreign Ministry played a key role in pushing France’s weapons program beneath Saharan mountains. French diplomats suggested that underground explosions would present, according to one archival document, “significantly less serious” challenges than atmospheric ones for future relations with Algeria and its African neighbors.

This did not stop Algeria’s first president, Ahmed Ben Bella, from winning political capital with the nuclear issue. In public, Ben Bella cast Saharan blasts as an intolerable violation of Algerian sovereignty, as had his allies at the United Nations. In private, however, Ben Bella acquiesced to the Evian terms and reportedly tried to squeeze French financial aid out of the deal.

The Hoggar Massif shook 13 times before France handed over its two Saharan test sites to Algeria in 1967. An accident occurred during one of these underground blasts, dubbed Béryl, when containment measures failed. Several French soldiers and two high-ranking French officials suffered the highest radiation exposures, but roughly 240 members of “nomadic populations” in the region received lower doses.

Meanwhile, France began construction on its Pacific test range in French Polynesia, the site of nearly 200 nuclear explosions between 1966 and 1996. Most took place underground, but France also conducted atmospheric detonations in Polynesia, and these continued into the 1970s. Even though the Limited Test Ban Treaty had gone into effect in 1963—prohibiting nuclear blasts in the atmosphere, underwater, and in outer space—France refused to sign it.

Contamination and compensation. As part of its reconciliation proposal, the Stora Report encouraged Franco-Algerian cooperation on environmental remediation of the Saharan test sites. An expert report from the International Atomic Energy Agency, however, concluded in 2005 that environmental interventions were “not required” unless human traffic near the sites should increase.

The Stora Report briefly mentioned compensation linked to radiation exposure from French nuclear weapons development, but this deserves a closer look. In 2010, the French Parliament passed a law recognizing these victims and establishing funds and procedures to provide compensation for illness and injury. So far, France has earmarked 26 million euros for this purpose, but almost none of that has gone to Algerians.

Decades earlier, France’s nuclear allies turned to compensation programs in an attempt to reconcile with marginalized groups affected by weapons development without disclosure or consent. In 1993, for example, the United Kingdom settled with Australia as redress for indigenous people and personnel involved in UK explosions conducted in the former colony.

Facing similar lawsuits, the United States provided monetary compensation and health benefits to the indigenous people of the Marshall Islands, where US nuclear planners “offshored” their most powerful blasts during the Cold War arms race. Other US programs have made compensation available to communities “downwind” of the Nevada Test Site and surrounded by the uranium mines fueling the US nuclear arsenal, including Tribal Nations in the Four Corners region.

Compensation programs map a global history of colonial empire, racial discrimination, and dispossession of indigenous land, but postcolonial inequalities look particularly stark from the Sahara. Including appeals, France has granted 545 of 1,739 total requests filed by French soldiers and civilian participants in the nuclear detonations, as well as exposed populations in Algeria and Polynesia. Only 1 of 52 Algerian dossiers has proven successful.

French officials responsible for evaluating these files report that the ones from Algeria often arrive incomplete or in a shoddy state, and pin the blame on the Algerian government’s inability or unwillingness to provide the geographical, historical, and biomedical evidence that French assessment procedures demand. Claims must demonstrate that an individual worked or lived in a fixed area surrounding one of the two Saharan test sites, between February 1960 and December 1967, and suffered at least one of 21 types of cancer recognized as radiation-linked by French statute.

A step toward reconciliation. If Macron really wants to tackle France’s nuclear history in Algeria—and its aftermath—his government should start here. The French Parliament opened the door to Algerian compensation in 2010, and important revisions to the evaluation procedures took place in 2017, but there has never been a level playing field. Macron could, for example, require that French diplomats posted in Algeria help Algerians build their cases and locate supporting documents.

Another option: Macron could declassify archival materials documenting the intensity and scope of radioactive fallout generated by French nuclear blasts. Draconian interpretations of French statutes on the reach of military secrecy continue to block access to the vast majority of military, civil, and diplomatic collections on France’s nuclear weapons program—including radiation effects. Foreign archives have provided useful information, but official documentation from the French government would help exposed populations—like those in the Sahara—understand what happened, evaluate the risks, bolster their claims, and likely find these more successful.

The Stora Report did well to acknowledge nuclear fallout from the Algerian War. Giving Algerians a fair shot at compensation should mark France’s first step toward reconciliation.

March 6, 2021 Posted by | AFRICA, civil liberties, environment, France, history, indigenous issues, investigative journalism, Reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Radiation illnesses and COVID-19 in the Navajo Nation

Radiation illnesses and COVID-19 in the Navajo Nation, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, By Jayita SarkarCaitlin Meyer, February 3, 2021 The COVID-19 pandemic is wiping out Indigenous elders and with them the cultural identity of Indigenous communities in the United States. But on lands that sprawl across a vast area of the American West, the Navajo (or Diné) are dealing not just with the pandemic, but also with another, related public health crisis. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says COVID-19 is killing Native Americans at nearly three times the rate of whites, and on the Navajo Nation itself, about 30,000 people have tested positive for the coronavirus and roughly 1,000 have died. But among the Diné, the coronavirus is also spreading through a population that decades of unsafe uranium mining and contaminated groundwater has left sick and vulnerable.

In Indigenous lands where nuclear weapons testing took place during the Cold War and the legacy of uranium mining persists, Indigenous people are suffering from a double whammy of long-term illnesses from radiation exposure and the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, we have not witnessed in the mainstream media and policy outlets a frank discussion of how the two public health crises have created an intractable situation for Indigenous communities. The Diné are drinking poisoned water, putting them at risk for more severe coronavirus infections.

From 1944 until 1986, 30 million tons of uranium ore was extracted on Navajo lands. At present, there are more than 520 abandoned uranium mines, which for the Diné represents both their nuclear past as well as their radioactive present in the form of elevated levels of radiation in nearby homes and water sources. Due to over four decades of uranium mining that supplied the US government and industry for nuclear weapons and energy, radiation illnesses characterize everyday Diné life.

The water crisis Continue reading

February 4, 2021 Posted by | health, indigenous issues, Uranium, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

From tears to joy — Beyond Nuclear International

First Native American nominated to US cabinet position

From tears to joy — Beyond Nuclear International
……………..“A new scintilla of hope has bloomed among us in part because Haaland, like millions of Indigenous peoples, strongly believes in and practices the Seven Generation rule,” wrote Moya-Smith. “The rule says that all significant decisions must be made with the next seven generations in mind, and includes preserving and protecting the water, the earth and the two leggeds and the four leggeds for people you will never meet — at least in this life.”
……. Haaland has been in the forefront of the fight to get restoration and compensation for Native uranium miners and their families. Getting the mines cleaned up will also likely be high on her priority list at Interior.
……Last year, Haaland was also recognized by the Nuclear Free Future Award, receiving the award in the Special Recognition category.

January 18, 2021 Posted by | environment, indigenous issues, politics, Uranium | Leave a comment

The Shoshone Nation’s battle against nuclear racism and trespassers on indigenous land

January 4, 2021 Posted by | indigenous issues, Uranium, USA | 1 Comment

The continuing tragedy and nuclear abomination of U.S. tests on the Marshall Islands

The lingering legacy of US nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands,  https://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/the-lingering-legacy-of-us-nuclear-testing-in-the-marshall-islands/NTHZG3PJNS6NXV4SZLPTHCANNY/13 Dec, 2020,  By RNZ.

The US detonated its largest nuclear bombs around the Marshall Islands in the 1940s and 50s – but the Marshallese are still campaigning for adequate compensation.

The Marshall Islands are two chains of 29 coral atolls in the middle of the Pacific Ocean between Papua New Guinea and Hawaii.

Following the tests, whole islands ceased to exist, hundreds of native Marshallese had to be relocated off their home islands and many were affected by fallout from the testing.

In 1977, US authorities put the most contaminated debris and soil into a huge concrete dome called the Runit Dome, which sits on Enewetak Atoll and houses 88,000 square metres of contaminated soil and debris.It has recently received media attention as it appears to be leaking, due to cracking and the threat from rising sea levels, while some Marshallese have fears it may eventually collapse.

However, American officials have said it’s not their problem and responsbility falls on the Marshallese, as it is their land.

The US has cited a 1986 compact of free association, which released the US goverment from further liability, which will go up for renegotiation in 2023.

Meanwhile, the Marshallese continue to campaign for adequate compensation from the US.

Giff Johnson, editor of the country’s only newspaper the Marshall Islands Journal and RNZ correspondent, has experienced the unfolding legacy of US nuclear testing first hand. His wife Darlene Keju, an outspoken advocate for test victims and nuclear survivors, herself died of cancer in 1996.

While he said that suggestions that the Rumit Dome – nicknamed “The Tomb” by locals – was about to collapse were alarmist, there were still major concerns surrouding it.

“I wouldn’t say the dome is on the verge of collapse, there’s concern about its leaking, about cracks, and also about the overall contamination of that atoll,” he said.

“The issue is it’s got plutonium, which has a half-life of 24,000 years, and how long does concrete last?”

Describing the structure as a “symbol of the nuclear legacy here”, Johnson said that US government scientists had reported there was already so much contamination in the area that it would be difficult to find what leakage from the dome had added.

The United States has continued to refuse to accept responsibility for the Runit Dome’s condition, despite its history of nuclear testing in the country.

In 1954, the US carried out their first nuclear weapon test, Castle Bravo, at Bikini Atoll in 1954 – which resulted in the contamination of 15 islands and atolls. Only three years later, residents on the affected atolls of Rongelap and Utirik were encouraged to return to their homes, so researchers could study the effects of radiation.

“The nuclear weapons test legacy is the overriding issue in the Marshall Islands with the United States and it remains a festering problem, because US compensation and medical care and so forth was only partial for what was needed,” Johnson said.

The first compact to free association between the Marshall Islands and the US contained a compensation agreement, including the establishment of a nuclear claims tribunal to adjudicate all claims. While it determined there was a large amount of compensation due to Marshallese on various atolls, this has never been paid out, apart from funding of $150 million in 1986.

Since then, the US has accepted no more liability on nuclear compensation, as the compact resulted in the Marshall Islands being an independent country, able to join the United Nations.

However, Johnson said the United States Congress had taken a different position on this.

“For example, while the US executive branch would say, well the Marshall Islands is in charge of all the former nuclear test sites, the US Congress a few years back passed legislation requiring the US Department of Energy to monitor the Runit Dome, where so much radioactive waste is stored.”

There have also been big differences in the treatment of Marshallese nuclear victims and those in the United States

“The US used Bikini and Enewetak to test its biggest hydrogen bombs,” Johnson said. “While it maintained a nuclear test site in Nevada, it only tested relatively small nuclear devices there, because it simply could not test hydrogen bombs in the continental United States – Americans wouldn’t have stood for it.”

Not long after the 1986 free association compact ended American responsibility for nuclear compensation in the Marshall Islands, the US Congress enacted a radiation compensation act for Americans – which Johnson said really emphasised the unfairness of the situation.

“Long story short, they appropriated $100 million and then they ran out, the US congress appropriated more, again ran out, appropriated more and fast-forward to 2020 and they’re over $2 billion in compensation awarded to American nuclear victims.

“Then the question comes, that if they’re willing to just keep recapitalising the compensation fund for American nuclear victims, why aren’t they able to reinstitute the compensation fund for Marshallese, who were exposed to far more nuclear fallout than the downwinders in Utah and Nevada?”

Johnson also had concerns about the lack of a baseline epidemiological study by the US, following the tests. Studies on the affects of radiation centred around thyroid issues, but many islanders have reported cancer, miscarriages and stillbirths in the years following.

His wife Darlene Keju died of breast cancer, which also affected her mother and father – she grew up on one of the islands in the downwind zone of the tests.

The US had never looked at rates of cancer, or studied the differences between low fallout and high fallout areas, he said.

Johnson hoped the nuclear legacy between the countries could be worked out amicably, but he wasn’t too optimistic.

“The original compensation agreement was negotiated in a period of the Cold War and the US did it in an adversarial way with the Marshall Islands, which had no standing because it wasn’t a country at the time, information was withheld, they didn’t know what they know today, and it needs to be worked out, a suitable decent fair agreement needs to be sorted out.”

Despite this tension, Johnson said the Marshallese did not harbour anti-American sentiment and the compensation issues were a “black mark on an otherwise good relationship” between the two countries.

He said around 30 to 40 percent of all Marshallese were living in the US.

“The Marshall Islands, since WWII, has a very long standing high regard and strong relationship with the US that came out of the end of the Japanese period of militarism and the execution of many islanders and privation, into a period where the US fostered democratic institutions, created opportunities for education, providing scholarships, opening the door to people going to the US and the unpacked treaty really put this together, in terms of the relationship that’s of benefit to both sides.”

However, ongoing tensions between the US and China may help the Marshall Islands in their push for further compensation.

“In the current situation where we have the US continuing to be in an uproar over China … that has elevated the strategic importance of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau – the three north Pacific countries that are all in free association with the US. It does give the Marshall Islands a bit more leverage in negotiating and talking with Washington.

“Possibly the changing geopolitical situation out here might offer an opening to get some interest to try to amicably do something to resolve the whole thing,” Johnson said.

But the nuclear legacy is not the only issue affecting the island – climate change is looming large and reports by US scientists have said that the Marshall Islands could be uninhabitable by the 2030s, due to rising sea levels.

“Because the Marshall Islands has such little land, these are really small islands, it magnifies the importance of land to Marshallese people,” Johnson said. “I think people care about their islands and want to find a way to make them liveable for the long term, but that may depend on the world community to a great extent now.”

December 14, 2020 Posted by | indigenous issues, OCEANIA, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Indigenous opposition to uranium milling and the import of radioactive material

Indigenous activists speak out against plans to import radioactive material to southeast Utah. Residents complain of health problems and believe the environment is being damaged.   https://www.sltrib.com/news/2020/12/10/indigenous-activists/

By Zak Podmore,  Dec. 11, 2020, 

When locations were chosen more than half a century ago for the dozens of uranium mills that dot the Four Corners landscape, one common factor was almost always considered: proximity to productive uranium mines.

The region’s best uranium deposits typically only contain a small percentage of the valuable radioactive mineral, and being able to process the material at a nearby mill was critical to saving on transportation costs.

For the last conventional uranium mill still operating in the United States, however, the business model has changed. San Juan County’s White Mesa Mill, which is owned by the Denver-based company Energy Fuels Resources, hasn’t processed ore from local mines in recent years. Instead, it has survived primarily by accepting uranium-bearing material from around the country and, more recently, as far away as Japan. State regulators are also considering an application from the company to import material from Estonia.

Members of the Ute Mountain Ute community of White Mesa, which is located three miles from the mill site, spoke out against the mill’s continued operation on Tuesday at an annual town hall event that was held virtually this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The event, which was sponsored by a coalition of 12 grassroots community groups and environmental organizations, featured presenters from across Indian Country who spoke about the legacy of uranium production and nuclear waste storage on Native Americans as well as the White Mesa Mill.

“The White Mesa Mill was originally designed to run for 15 years before being closed and cleaned up, but the mill is still in operation 40 years later,” said Talia Boyd, cultural landscapes program manager for the Grand Canyon Trust and a member of the Navajo Nation, who noted uranium production has had a disproportionate impact on Indigenous peoples. “Community members are concerned about public health impacts and contamination of land, air and water as well as the mill’s ongoing desecration of cultural and sacred sites.”

The mill has accepted radioactive material from the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, and Energy Fuels has expressed interest in processing tailings from the more than 500 abandoned uranium mines that have yet to be cleaned up on the Navajo Nation.

Scott Clow, environmental programs director for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, said that such proposals address a real need to remediate contaminated sites on tribal lands, but that they also “pit tribes against tribes.”

“We all want those places to be cleaned up, but we don’t want it to go to White Mesa,” Clow said.

Thelma Whiskers and Michael Badback of the White Mesa Concerned Community group said emissions from the mill can be smelled in White Mesa on a regular basis, adding they believe the facility has had negative health impacts on local residents.

“Let’s just keep … fighting to not have [the mill] close to the reservation,” Whiskers said. “I care for the community members and the children and the grandchildren.”

Energy Fuels has repeatedly told The Salt Lake Tribune the mill is in compliance with all environmental regulations and both air and water quality are actively monitored, but Clow expressed concerns about the state’s repeated decision to relax compliance limits for certain contaminants present in the groundwater directly beneath the mill. The company has argued the contaminants, including chloroform and nitrate/chloride, are nonradioactive and originated with previous industrial activity on the site or are naturally occurring.

In an effort to better understand both the potential environmental and health impacts of the mill, Clow said the tribe has projects underway with both the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Two new monitoring wells were drilled this fall between the mill and the community with EPA funding in order to better track potential water quality changes, Clow said, and a branch of the CDC is helping the tribe plan epidemiological work in the White Mesa community that could provide more information about health concerns among residents.

Other speakers at the event addressed the legacy of uranium production elsewhere in Indian Country.

Taracita Keyanna of the Red Water Pond Road Community Association spoke about the 1979 Church Rock Spill on the Navajo Nation in New Mexico, which remains the second-largest radioactive disaster in world history after the Chernobyl meltdown in the former Soviet Union.

“A lot of the land in our community has been disrupted and we can no longer use it [for livestock],” she said. “We can’t grow crops because the EPA has stated that if we grow crops we’ll be further exposed to uranium contamination. We can’t drink the water.”

Keyanna added the uranium contamination has had not only physical health consequences but has caused spiritual and mental health impacts as well, all of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

“It feels like a prison,” Keyanna said. “We’re not only prisoners during this pandemic, but we’ve kind of always been prisoners [since] this uranium industry started in our community.”

Leona Morgan, co-founder of the Indigenous-led group Haul No!, which opposes Energy Fuels’ plans to mine for uranium near Grand Canyon National Park and haul ore across the Navajo Nation, encouraged meeting participants to oppose a separate proposal currently being considered by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that could result in radioactive material being hauled from the Church Rock area to the White Mesa Mill for processing.

Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, called the mill’s activities near the Ute Mountain Ute land, like the mining and milling that took place on the Navajo Nation decades ago, an example of “environmental racism and environmental injustice.”

“It’s not just an individual human rights issue,” he said, addressing the residents of White Mesa. “It’s a collective rights issue for your people to live in a safe and healthy environment: your homeland.”

Zak Podmore is a Report for America corps member and writes about conflict and change in San Juan County for The Salt Lake Tribune. 

December 14, 2020 Posted by | indigenous issues, Uranium, USA | Leave a comment

Canada’s indigenous communities must not be guinea pigs for useless Small Nuclear Reactors (SMRs)

From the Hill — Small Modular Reactors, The Rossland Telegraph , by Dick Cannings MP on Monday Nov 30 2020,   Earlier this year, Seamus O’Regan, the Minister of Natural Resources said in a speech that “We are placing nuclear energy front and centre… This is nuclear’s moment.” And in discussions around building a new economy after COVID, the government is doubling down on those sentiments.  The latest debates are slightly different from those of the last fifty years as they involve a new technology:  Small Modular Reactors, or SMRs.   Spoiler alert–I don’t necessarily share the Minister’s unbridled enthusiasm for nuclear energy as the answer to all our prayers……..can nuclear power help us in our efforts to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions within the next few years?  SMRs represent an experimental technology that, according to industry experts, will not be producing power anywhere in Canada for about a decade.  Once the technology matures and SMRs can be produced in quantity, they could theoretically be cheaper than present, very expensive nuclear plants.  But those claims are very difficult to assess.

SMRs are often touted as a solution to get remote indigenous communities off diesel power.  While I am very much in favour of helping these communities find alternate power sources, SMRs do not fit the bill.  These communities want power generation solutions that they can build and manage themselves.  They want alternative power sources now, not in ten years.  And they do not want to be the guinea pigs for brand-new nuclear technology that will likely provide few jobs for local residents and cost significantly more than mature technologies such as solar, wind, and bioenergy.  A Special Chiefs Assembly of the Assembly of First Nations passed a unanimous resolution in December 2018 demanding “that the Government of Canada cease funding and support of the Small Modular Nuclear Reactors program.”

……… [smrs] shouldn’t be relied on by present day governments as the panacea to a clean energy future.  Even the Canada Energy Regulator (formerly the National Energy Board) predicts that SMRs will collectively contribute only the equivalent of half of a conventional hydro dam by 2050.

To reach meaningful targets by 2030 and 2040, we need to double down on technologies we know will get us there…… And energy efficiency efforts alone could get us almost half-way to our targets.  These are the routes to success.https://rosslandtelegraph.com/news/column-hill-small-modular-reactors#.X8Ven2gzbIU

December 1, 2020 Posted by | Canada, indigenous issues, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

The tragic nuclear history of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Six Million dead, The Congo Holocaust has its origins in minerals plunder and colonialism  https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/72759838/posts/3011373848, By Linda Pentz Gunter, 8 Nov 20, 

When you’ve lost family members to the Nazi death camps, it’s a pain that never goes away. Six of my relatives were killed there, four more shot in Polish ghettos and at Forlì. They died long before I was born and were people I never knew. But we have their photographs. Their pain stares out from those images, a perpetual ache.

But what use is endless mourning if no lessons are learned? The most important one surely is that no such Holocaust must ever be allowed to happen again? And yet it has. To almost universal silence. No one speaks of today’s six million dead. They lie beneath the mineral-rich soil of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), invisible and unmourned by the world beyond their country’s borders.

“The Holocaust continues in DRC with the complicity of the international community,” Rodrigue Muganwa Lubulu wrote to me in an email exchange. “Women and girls are raped every day and the dead are counted by tens each day.” He is the program director for CRISPAL Afrique and gave a zoom talk recently hosted by ICAN Germany.

The tragedy of the DRC, the second largest country in Africa, began with the discovery in 1915 of the Shinkolobwe uranium deposit, the richest ever discovered at the time. Its plunder, from 1921 until its closure in 2004, “has been a curse for the powerless community” around the mine, said Lubulu, “because not only have they been forced to abandon their lands, houses and fields in favor of uranium mining, but also all the men were forced to dig out those extremely radioactive materials without protective equipment.”

The cancers and other illnesses that killed those uranium workers are still harming the community today, Lubulu says, even though the mine is now shut down.

The DRC was first colonized by Belgium in 1908 and known as the Belgian Congo until it gained independence in 1960. (It was known as Zaire between 1971 and 1997.) It rapidly became a country of great interest, especially to the United State and the then Soviet Union, engaged in a growing Cold War arms race. Then, as now, the country promised riches to its White pillagers. In the Eastern part of the country, wrote Armin Rosen, in a June 26, 2013 article in The Atlantic, “just feet beneath the surface of the earth are enough minerals to keep the global technology and defense industries humming.”

But during World War II, the uranium mined from Shinkolobwe went to the American Manhattan Project. “More than 70 percent of the uranium in the Hiroshima bomb came from Shinkolobwe,” says Lubulu, whose organization is holding workshops and other events in an effort to persuade the government of the DNC to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

He is haunted by what might have been if the “ore of death” as he calls uranium, had instead been left where it belongs; in the ground. “Without the uranium of Shinkolobwe, the 5th of August 1945 would have been a perfect and productive day in Hiroshima,” he said during his ICAN presentation.

This is supported by a recollection from the Manhattan Project’s Colonel Ken Nichols, who wrote: “Without Sengier’s foresight in stockpiling ore in the United States and aboveground in Africa, we simply would not have had the amounts of uranium needed to justify building the large separation plants and the plutonium reactors.” Edgar Sengier was the then director of Union Minière du Haut Katanga, and had stockpiled 1,200 tonnes of uranium ore in a warehouse in New York. This ore and an additional 3,000 tonnes of ore stored above-ground at the mine was purchased by Nichols for use in the Manhattan Project.

That connection between his homeland and Hiroshima, and the haunting reminders of its outcome so movingly expressed by Japan’s Hibakusha, as the atomic bomb survivors are known, is what spurs Lubulu and CRISPAL to urge on the ratification and implementation of the TPNW.

“You cannot separate nuclear weapons from uranium,” Lubulu said. “Once you have one, you get the other. Once you dig it out, it becomes a monster and you can’t control it anymore.”

Tragically, that monster could be unleashed again at Shinkolobwe. Both France and China are interested in mineral rights there. CRISPAL needs to move fast to educate people about these renewed dangers. But they face dangers of their own in doing so.

Since 1997, when internal and cross-border strife took hold in the DRC, at least six million people have died. Trying to leaflet or hold meetings in such communities, especially if it is in opposition to uranium mining, is fraught with danger. No one involved has forgotten the brutal treatment of Congolese anti-uranium mining activist, Golden Misabiko, who was arrested, imprisoned twice, poisoned by his own government in an apparent, and mercifully unsuccessful, assassination attempt, separated from his family and forced into exile.

Despite this, Lubulu believes that, above all, love will find a way. “There is no door that enough love cannot open,” he said in concluding his presentation. Hopefully, the rest of the world will start sending some love in Congo’s direction.

November 9, 2020 Posted by | AFRICA, history, indigenous issues, Uranium | Leave a comment

315 nuclear bombs and ongoing suffering: the shameful history of nuclear testing in Australia and the Pacific

315 nuclear bombs and ongoing suffering: the shameful history of nuclear testing in Australia and the Pacific, https://theconversation.com/315-nuclear-bombs-and-ongoing-suffering-the-shameful-history-of-nuclear-testing-in-australia-and-the-pacific-148909, Tilman Ruff, Associate Professor, Education and Learning Unit, Nossal Institute for Global Health, School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne, Dimity Hawkins, PhD Candidate, Swinburne University of Technology
November 3, 2020
     The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons received its 50th ratification on October 24, and will therefore come into force in January 2021. A historic development, this new international law will ban the possession, development, testing, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons.Unfortunately the nuclear powers — the United Kingdom, France, the United States, Russia, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea — haven’t signed on to the treaty. As such, they are not immediately obliged to help victims and remediate contaminated environments, but others party to the treaty do have these obligations. The shifting norms around this will hopefully put ongoing pressure on nuclear testing countries to open records and to cooperate with accountability measures.

For the people of the Pacific region, particularly those who bore the brunt of nuclear weapons testing during the 20th century, it will bring a new opportunity for their voices to be heard on the long-term costs of nuclear violence. The treaty is the first to enshrine enduring commitments to addressing their needs.

From 1946, around 315 nuclear tests were carried out in the Pacific by the US, Britain and France. These nations’ largest ever nuclear tests took place on colonised lands and oceans, from Australia to the Marshall Islands, Kiribati to French Polynesia.

The impacts of these tests are still being felt today.

All nuclear tests cause harm

Studies of nuclear test workers and exposed nearby communities around the world consistently show adverse health effects, especially increased risks of cancer.

The total number of global cancer deaths as a result of atmospheric nuclear test explosions has been estimated at between 2 million and 2.4 million, even though these studies used radiation risk estimates that are now dated and likely underestimated the risk.

The number of additional non-fatal cancer cases caused by test explosions is similar. As confirmed in a large recent study of nuclear industry workers in France, the UK and US, the numbers of radiation-related deaths due to other diseases, such as heart attacks and strokes, is also likely to be similar.

Britain conducted 12 nuclear test explosions in Australia between 1952 and 1957, and hundreds of minor trials of radioactive and toxic materials for bomb development up to 1963. These caused untold health problems for local Aboriginal people who were at the highest risk of radiation. Many of them were not properly evacuated, and some were not informed at all.

We may never know the full impact of these explosions because in many cases, as the Royal Commission report on British Nuclear Tests in Australia found in 1985: “the resources allocated for Aboriginal welfare and safety were ludicrous, amounting to nothing more than a token gesture”. But we can listen to the survivors.

The late Yami Lester directly experienced the impacts of nuclear weapons. A Yankunytjatjara elder from South Australia, Yami was a child when the British tested at Emu Field in October 1953. He recalled the “Black Mist” after the bomb blast:

It wasn’t long after that a black smoke came through. A strange black smoke, it was shiny and oily. A few hours later we all got crook, every one of us. We were all vomiting; we had diarrhoea, skin rashes and sore eyes. I had really sore eyes. They were so sore I couldn’t open them for two or three weeks. Some of the older people, they died. They were too weak to survive all the sickness. The closest clinic was 400 miles away.

His daughter, Karina Lester, is an ambassador for the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons in Australia, and continues to be driven by her family’s experience. She writes:

For decades now my family have campaigned and spoken up against the harms of nuclear weapons because of their firsthand experience of the British nuclear tests […] Many Aboriginal people suffered from the British nuclear tests that took place in the 1950s and 1960s and many are still suffering from the impacts today.

More than 16,000 Australian workers were also exposed. A key government-funded study belatedly followed these veterans over an 18-year period from 1982. Despite the difficulties of conducting a study decades later with incomplete data, it found they had 23% higher rates of cancer and 18% more deaths from cancers than the general population.

An additional health impact in Pacific island countries is the toxic disease “ciguatera”, caused by certain microscopic plankton at the base of the marine food chain, which thrive on damaged coral. Their toxins concentrate up the food chain, especially in fish, and cause illness and occasional deaths in people who eat them. In the Marshall Islands, Kiritimati and French Polynesia, outbreaks of the disease among locals have been associated with coral damage caused by nuclear test explosions and the extensive military and shipping infrastructure supporting them.

Pacific survivors of nuclear testing haven’t been focused solely on addressing their own considerable needs for justice and care; they’ve been powerful advocates that no one should suffer as they have ever again, and have worked tirelessly for the eradication of nuclear weapons. It’s no surprise independent Pacific island nations are strong supporters of the new treaty, accounting for ten of the first 50 ratifications.

Negligence and little accountability

Some nations that have undertaken nuclear tests have provided some care and compensation for their nuclear test workers; only the US has made some provisions for people exposed, though only for mainland US residents downwind of the Nevada Test Site. No testing nation has extended any such arrangement beyond its own shores to the colonised and minority peoples it put in harm’s way. Nor has any testing nation made fully publicly available its records of the history, conduct and effects of its nuclear tests on exposed populations and the environment.

These nations have also been negligent by quickly abandoning former test sites. There has been inadequate clean-up and little or none of the long-term environmental monitoring needed to detect radioactive leakage from underground test sites into groundwater, soil and air. One example among many is the Runit concrete dome in the Marshall Islands, which holds nuclear waste from US testing in the 1940s and 50s. It’s increasingly inundated by rising sea levels, and is leaking radioactive material.

The treaty provides a light in a dark time. It contains the only internationally agreed framework for all nations to verifiably eliminate nuclear weapons.

It’s our fervent hope the treaty will mark the increasingly urgent beginning of the end of nuclear weapons. It is our determined expectation that our country will step up. Australia has not yet ratified the treaty, but the bitter legacy of nuclear testing across our country and region should spur us to join this new global effort.

November 3, 2020 Posted by | environment, health, history, indigenous issues, Reference, wastes | Leave a comment