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Maralinga – ushered in Australia’s nuclear age

A picture in time: Maralinga, the blinding flash that ushered in Australia’s atomic age.  https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/sep/27/a-picture-in-time-maralinga-when-the-atomic-age-reached-australia

Nuclear tests conducted in South Australia from 1956 resulted in swaths of countryside obliterated and decades of highly contaminated land.

The atomic age reached Maralinga with a blinding flash. At 5pm on 27 September 1956, a 15-kilotonne atomic device was detonated at the site in the western plains of South Australia.

The ensuing blast had as much explosive strength as the weapon which fell on Hiroshima 11 years earlier.

More than a decade after that horror struck Japan, Australia had become tangled up in the UK’s nuclear testing program, which saw swaths of countryside obliterated to further the nuclear arms race.

The atomic test at Maralinga was carried out by the British government as part of Operation Buffalo, run by the UK’s Atomic Weapons Research establishment.

In the moments after the detonation, RAAF personnel flew through the mushroom cloud to carry out tests with little instruction or protective equipment to shield them from the radiation.

For the next seven years, major and minor nuclear tests were carried out at Maralinga. The minor tests led to contamination of the area with plutonium-239, which has a radioactive half-life of 24,000 years.

Prior to the test, very little effort was put into finding and notifying the Anangu Pitjantjatjara people who lived on the land. In addition to the obvious immediate dangers of nuclear fallout in the area, the Indigenous community would endure the long term hazards of poisoned land and water for more than thirty years.

Maralinga was not the first nuclear weapons test conducted on Australian soil. Three years earlier, on 3 October 1952, Britain detonated a nuclear weapon on the Montebello Islands off the coast of Western Australia.

A further two detonations were carried out at Emu Field. Britain moved the testing site to Maralinga after previous locations were deemed to be too remote for nuclear weapons tests.

When Maralinga was eventually closed as a testing site in 1967, the British government began the process of cleaning the 3,200 sq km of contaminated land.

By 1968, the Australian and British governments agreed that Britain has successfully decontaminated the area by covering contaminated debris in concrete and ploughing the plutonium-laden soil into the ground.

In 1984, as the land was slated to be returned to the Tjarutja people, scientists found the land was still highly contaminated.

Nine years later, in 1993, following a royal commission, and after mounting pressure, the British government agreed to pay a portion of the estimated $101m cleanup cost.

It wasn’t until 1994, 38 years after the initial blast, that the Australian government paid $13.5m to the Indigenous people of Maralinga as compensation for what had been done to the land.

September 27, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, history, indigenous issues, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Maralinga – ushered in Australia’s nuclear age

A picture in time: Maralinga, the blinding flash that ushered in Australia’s atomic age.  https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/sep/27/a-picture-in-time-maralinga-when-the-atomic-age-reached-australia

Nuclear tests conducted in South Australia from 1956 resulted in swaths of countryside obliterated and decades of highly contaminated land.

The atomic age reached Maralinga with a blinding flash. At 5pm on 27 September 1956, a 15-kilotonne atomic device was detonated at the site in the western plains of South Australia.

The ensuing blast had as much explosive strength as the weapon which fell on Hiroshima 11 years earlier.

More than a decade after that horror struck Japan, Australia had become tangled up in the UK’s nuclear testing program, which saw swaths of countryside obliterated to further the nuclear arms race.

The atomic test at Maralinga was carried out by the British government as part of Operation Buffalo, run by the UK’s Atomic Weapons Research establishment.

In the moments after the detonation, RAAF personnel flew through the mushroom cloud to carry out tests with little instruction or protective equipment to shield them from the radiation.

For the next seven years, major and minor nuclear tests were carried out at Maralinga. The minor tests led to contamination of the area with plutonium-239, which has a radioactive half-life of 24,000 years.

Prior to the test, very little effort was put into finding and notifying the Anangu Pitjantjatjara people who lived on the land. In addition to the obvious immediate dangers of nuclear fallout in the area, the Indigenous community would endure the long term hazards of poisoned land and water for more than thirty years.

Maralinga was not the first nuclear weapons test conducted on Australian soil. Three years earlier, on 3 October 1952, Britain detonated a nuclear weapon on the Montebello Islands off the coast of Western Australia.

A further two detonations were carried out at Emu Field. Britain moved the testing site to Maralinga after previous locations were deemed to be too remote for nuclear weapons tests.

When Maralinga was eventually closed as a testing site in 1967, the British government began the process of cleaning the 3,200 sq km of contaminated land.

By 1968, the Australian and British governments agreed that Britain has successfully decontaminated the area by covering contaminated debris in concrete and ploughing the plutonium-laden soil into the ground.

In 1984, as the land was slated to be returned to the Tjarutja people, scientists found the land was still highly contaminated.

Nine years later, in 1993, following a royal commission, and after mounting pressure, the British government agreed to pay a portion of the estimated $101m cleanup cost.

It wasn’t until 1994, 38 years after the initial blast, that the Australian government paid $13.5m to the Indigenous people of Maralinga as compensation for what had been done to the land.

September 27, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, history, indigenous issues, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Higher cancer and stillbirth rates in Aboriginal people living near Australia’s Ranger uranium mine

Aboriginal people near the Ranger uranium mine suffered more stillbirths and cancer. We don’t know why,  The Conversation, Rosalie Schultz, Adjunct Senior Lecturer, College of Medicine and Public Health Centre for Remote Health, Flinders University, August 2, 2021 This article mentions stillbirth deaths in Aboriginal communities.

The Ranger uranium mine, surrounded by Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory, operated for 40 years until it closed in 2021During this time, Aboriginal people in the region experienced stillbirth rates double those of Aboriginal people elsewhere in the Top End, and cancer rates almost 50% higher.

But a NT government investigation couldn’t explain why. And as I write today in the Medical Journal of Australia, we’re still no wiser.

We owe it to Aboriginal people living near mines to understand and overcome what’s making them sick. We need to do this in partnership with Aboriginal community-controlled health organisations. This may require research that goes beyond a biomedical focus to consider the web of socio-cultural and political factors contributing to Aboriginal well-being and sickness.

Investigating the health impacts

Uranium was mined at Ranger from 1981 until 2012. Processing of stockpiled ore continued until 2021. This is despite community opposition when the mine was proposed and during its operation.

Over the life of the mine, there have been more than 200 documented incidents. Diesel and acid spills have contaminated creeks and drinking water.

The Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation represents the Mirarr people of the region. For decades it has expressed grave concerns about continuing incidents and the lack of an effective government response.

When Ranger’s operators proposed expanding the mine in 2014, opponents pointed to suggestions of higher rates of stillbirth and cancer among Aboriginal people living nearby.

The NT health department then set up an investigation. Investigators began by identifying all Aboriginal people who had spent more than half their lives near the mine between 1991 and 2014. These people were compared with all other Aboriginal people in the Top End.

The investigators considered the worst-case scenario would be if Aboriginal people were exposed to radiation from the mine contaminating bush food, water or air, and this exposure increased stillbirth and cancer rates.

Investigators also looked at smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol and poor diet as possible contributing causes.

Here’s what they found

Investigators found the rate of stillbirth was 2.17 times higher among Aboriginal women near the mine. Radiation can lead to stillbirth by causing congenital malformations, and some other risk factors for stillbirth appeared more common amongst women near the mine. However the investigation found neither radiation nor other risk factors explained the higher rate of stillbirth.

The rate of cancer overall was 1.48 times higher among Aboriginal people near the mine than elsewhere in the Top End. No rates of single cancers were significantly higher…………. https://theconversation.com/aboriginal-people-near-the-ranger-uranium-mine-suffered-more-stillbirths-and-cancer-we-dont-know-why-164862

August 2, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, health, indigenous issues, Reference | Leave a comment

Students from North Arizona researched and wrote about the effects of uranium mining, especially on indigenous people.

Navajo youth essay winner looks at uranium trail in Arizona

Picking up the fight — Beyond Nuclear International Diné student wins uranium essay contest, Beyond Nuclear, By Sandra J. Wright, 18 july 21,
Charisma Black, along with other students from northern Arizona, took on a challenge issued by the 4th World Foundation to research uranium mining effects on Black Mesa.

Each writer was also asked to propose actions to limit exposure to radiation.

Black was named the winner of the contest in April. On May 13, she accepted the $500 scholarship award along with a large hand-woven basket filled with traditional clothing and jewelry.

Tommy Rock, an alumnus of Northern Arizona University’s School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability, presented the award to Black.

Black’s extended family is from the Pinon, Arizona, area of the Navajo Reservation. But her immediate family moved to Phoenix when she was young.

She returned to northern Arizona about two years ago, and is a graduating student of Flagstaff High School. Only 18 years old, Black has spent a lot of time thinking about uranium.

“My greatest concern was for family members,” Black said. “Uranium has shortened my time with some of them. We have to take care of them. I hope things can change for everyone, not just us Navajo and Hopi people.”

Her awareness of the uranium issue began when she was 10 years old……………

Black’s essay spoke to the environmental reality of living on Black Mesa.

“Uranium is a big issue because it contaminates the water source from underground aquifer of both Navajo and Hopi,” Black wrote. “Water that is accessed is being not only depleted at a dramatic rate, water is also undrinkable in areas that only have wells and windmills for drinking.

“This impacts their health, their livestock, their fields, etc.,” she said. “It is becoming unsafe, uninhabitable and unsustainable to live on the land in Black Mesa. New disease and sickness have come to Black Mesa.”

Black concluded that people “have to participate and learn better ways to keep our land, air and water clean for our peoples, animals and other species. We need to continue the advocacy and organizing to bring attention to the issue of uranium contamination on Black Mesa for sustainability, healthy communities and future generations.”………….

Somana Tootsie, the director of the 4th World Foundation, was on hand during the dinner held in Black’s honor.

Tootsie said that the contest was designed to get tribal youth in the region talking about the larger picture of environmental awareness and responsibility.


“This was an opportunity for young people to hold a conversation with their family members about the effects of uranium on their tribes and neighbors,” Tootsie said.

“We received amazing responses and great ideas on what to do to get more attention on the need for the removal or remediation of radioactive materials left exposed throughout northern Arizona,” she said. “We wanted to get them interested in science.”………….

Exposure not just Navajo

Exposure is not limited to the Navajo, Hopi and other tribes of the region. Radiation from the nuclear testing begun during World War II has created “downwinder” victims across the country to the east.

He finds hope that more people are working the devastating effects of the uranium industry.

“We have many grass-roots organizations addressing uranium,” Rock said. “The University of New Mexico has undertaking a study on uranium exposure. Amended by these studies, we have better access to health care from exposure.

The Navajo Nation Environmental Agency has been stepping up,” he said. “We have the Dine’ Uranium Remediation Advisory Committee, which I sit on.”

The uranium industry has definitely affected drinking water across northern Arizona, and people need to be informed of that fact, Rock said.

“We all must face the reality that we need access to potable water,” Rock said. “Not just for us, but for future generations. We need to be informed.

“We live off the land, and uranium has a great impact on our environment,” he said. “We have to educate tribes, chapter houses, communities, and tell them what we are learning, what we are doing.”………….. https://beyondnuclearinternational.org/2021/07/18/picking-up-the-fight/

July 19, 2021 Posted by | indigenous issues, Uranium, USA | Leave a comment

Maralinga nuclear bomb tests – British and Australian governments’ callous cruelty to First Nations people.

Australia’s Chernobyl: The British carried out nuclear tests on Indigenous land. It will never heal.   https://www.mamamia.com.au/maralinga-nuclear-testing/ CHELSEA MCLAUGHLIN, JULY 5, 2021  For tens of thousands of years, the Aṉangu people lived on the warm, red earth of their country.

The land provided them with food, water and shelter as they travelled around an area we now know as outback Far North South Australia.

But after colonisation, they were moved off their land: forcibly removed, sent into missions across the region and displaced by train lines linking Australia’s east and west that impacted their water supply. 

Much of the information around the tests was highly classified, and some information remains so.

For tens of thousands of years, the Aṉangu people lived on the warm, red earth of their country.

The land provided them with food, water and shelter as they travelled around an area we now know as outback Far North South Australia.

But after colonisation, they were moved off their land: forcibly removed, sent into missions across the region and displaced by train lines linking Australia’s east and west that impacted their water supply. 

Much of the information around the tests was highly classified, and some information remains so.

Thirty per cent of the British and Australian servicemen who were exposed during these tests died of cancer, though a Royal Commission in 1984 was not able to reach a conclusion linking their health issues directly to the blasts. 

Similarly, many locals died prematurely, went blind and suffered from illness that may have been linked to radiation.

British nuclear scientists, wanting to determine the long-term effects of the tests on Australia and its citizens, ordered the testing of dead Australian infants and children for radiation contamination.

Between 1957 and 1978 in hospitals around Australia, bones were secretly removed from 21,830 bodies. They were reduced to ash and sent away to be analysed for the presence of Strontium 90, a radioactive isotope produced by nuclear fission.

Unsurprisingly, none of the First Nations people of the region were told about the tests and many of the bones were taken without permission.

Associate professor Liz Tynan, the author of Atomic Thunder: The Maralinga Story, told Mamamia‘s The Quicky First Nations people were still in the area during the periods of testing, and this led to disastrous consequences.

Tynan said the Milpuddie family – Charlie, Edie, two kids and their dogs – were found by British service personnel in 1957, camped on the crater left by the bomb Marcoo soon after it had been detonated. 

They were rounded up and most of the family, not Edie, but most of them, were given showers. Edie didn’t wish to have a shower,” Tynan explained.

“They were tested for radioactivity and the geiger counters did detect radioactivity, particularly on the young boy Henry. Anyway, there were rather insensitively treated I suppose, given showers, had clothes put on them and then take off down south to a mission.”

Their dogs were shot in front of them. Edie was pregnant at the time, and she later lost her child.

“It was a tragic story and indicative of the callous approach to Indigenous people that was displayed by both the British government and their officials that were conducting the tests, and by the Australian government as well,” Tynan said.

Following the testing, many Aṉangu people returned to the area, but the lands that had previously sustained and protected them were now poison.

We still don’t know the truth impact of the bombs at Maralinga, as well as nearby Emu Fields and the Montebello Islands off the coast of Western Australia.

“The South Australian Department of Health commissioned a fairly extensive study, [but] that study was hampered by the fact there was no base-line data from which to understand the general health of the population before the tests,” Tynan said.

The study did show an increase in various cancers, but most of the findings were inconclusive due to a lack of information. Indigenous Australians were not counted in the census at the time and there was very little known about the health of the populations.

In 1964, a limited cleanup of the Maralinga site, named ‘Operation Hercules’, took place. 

A year after a 1966 survey into the level of contamination at the site, a second clean-up titled ‘Operation Brumby’ filled 21 pits with contaminated equipment and covered them with 650 tonnes of concrete.

Tynan said it was later found the survey data was drastically wrong, and the contamination was 10 times worse than thought.

It wasn’t until decades later, with the help whistleblowers and scientists, that the government began to realise the true, horrifying extent of the damage done to the land at Maralinga.

Under an agreement between the governments of the United Kingdom and Australia in 1995, another clean-up took place. And while this was more thorough than the previous, it still came with issues.

Whistleblower Alan Parkinson, who wrote the 2007 book Maralinga: Australia’s Nuclear Waste Cover-up, exposed the unsatisfactory methods.

The plan had been to treat several thousand tonnes of debris contaminated with plutonium by a process called situ vitrification. Against the advice of Parkinson, the government extended the contract of the project manager, even though that company had no knowledge of the complex process of vitrification.

Parkinson was let go from the project.

The government and the project manager then embarked on a hybrid scheme in which some pits would be exhumed and others treated by vitrification. After successfully treating 12 pits, the 13th exploded and severely damaged the equipment. The government then cancelled the vitrification and simply exhumed the remaining pits, placed the debris in a shallow pit and covered it with clean soil.

Parkinson told The Quicky another, complete clean-up of Maralinga could take place, but it was unlikely because of the cost and the courage it would take to admit the previous attempts were insufficient.

Around the same time as the 90s clean up was the Australian government push for a nuclear waste dump to be located nearby. 

Fearing even further poisoning of their country, First Nations woman Eileen Wani Wingfield co-founded the Coober Pedy Women’s Council to campaign against the proposal.

The plan was eventually abandoned, but has popped up again in many forms over the decades. Currently, the Coalition is amending a bill that could see a site set up near Kimba.

Glen Wingfield, Eileen’s son, has spent his life working and learning from his parents’ tireless campaign for protection of their country.

The theme of NAIDOC Week 2021 is Heal Country! but as Wingfield told The Quicky, much of the Aṉangu lands in and around Maralinga are beyond healing.

“A lot of the Aboriginal communities that live in and around that area, they just will not and do not go back near that country. I think that’s a word, healing, that we can’t use in the same sentence with that area.”

Tynan agreed, saying there are parts of the area that will be uninhabitable for a quarter of a million years.

“There are parts of the site that you can’t go to, that are still very dangerous,” she said.

“The real problem at Maralinga was the plutonium which was detonated in a series of trials… The particular type of plutonium they used, plutonium 239, has a half-life of 21,400 years which takes hundreds of thousands of years for that radioactivity to diminish.”

Wingfield said the broken connection between these people and their lands is “just downright disgraceful and horrible”.

“No amount of conversation will ever cover what’s been done for people in and around. The lasting effects of health issues on people have been passed through people who were there to generational abnormalities… I think when you talk compensation and stuff, I don’t think we’ll ever get close.”

July 6, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, indigenous issues | Leave a comment

The U.S. Nuclear Weapons Program Left ‘a Horrible Legacy’ of Environmental Destruction and Death Across the Navajo Nation 

The U.S. Nuclear Weapons Program Left ‘a Horrible Legacy’ of Environmental Destruction and Death Across the Navajo Nation   Inside Climate News,  By Cheyanne M. DanielsAmanda Rooker, June 27, 2021

Navajo uranium miners have died of lung cancer and other respiratory illnesses. They weren’t told of the risks, and they want compensation for radiation exposure continued.

”…………… Despite the stunning beauty of the 27,000-square-mile Navajo Nation, which encompasses parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, the land is marred by a toxic history: a “horrible legacy” of uranium mining and processing that began in 1944, with the U.S. nuclear weapons program and has slowly killed Navajo miners and their families, littered the land with 523 abandoned mines and tainted pristine aquifers with radioactive ore and the dry air with radioactive dust. 

Harrison, 70, and his father Phil Harrison Sr., were both uranium miners. Harrison worked in the mines for only three months, but his father worked there for 20 years and died at 44 from lung cancer. The 1990 Radiation Exposure Compensation Act presumes that an increased incidence of lung cancer and other respiratory illnesses among the miners was caused by large doses of radiation and other airborne hazards they were exposed to. 

The Navajo fought for years to have this law enacted. To date, $2.5 billion in benefits have been paid out to 37,000 claimants—uranium miners and so-called “downwinders” affected by nuclear weapons testing in the 1950s and 1960s at the Nevada Test Site, 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas. 

Now, with the law scheduled to “sunset” in July 2022, another reckoning is at hand, as Harrison and other Navajo activists, downwinders, Catholic leaders and peace and environmental organizations like the Union of Concerned Scientists lobby Congress to extend the act and add new beneficiaries. Those include all uranium miners who have come down with cancer or respiratory illnesses since 1972 and thousands of additional downwinders in Nevada and Arizona.

“The tragic legacy of uranium mining on the Navajo Nation continues to this day, perhaps to an extent that would not have occurred if it weren’t taking place in a rural American Indian community,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez told a House Judiciary subcommittee in March. In prior testimony, he referred to the Navajo’s “horrible legacy,” and said that “past uranium activity has devastated Navajo families, traditions, and our Mother Earth.”

With the Biden administration making environmental racism a top priority, and pressure building to extend the radiation compensation act, an international campaign is gaining momentum to make “ecocide”—systematic and longlasting environmental devastation—a crime, like genocide, before the Internaitonal Criminal Court in the Hague. 

The United States is not among the 123 member nations of the court and thus would not be subject to sanction for environmental destruction in America, should ecocide eventually become a crime, in a process that could take seven years or more. But ecocide’s champions say that making it an international crime would have a powerful moral impact by associating environmental destruction with genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes that are an affront to humanity at large. 

In their 1995 book “Ecocide of Native America: Environmental Destruction of Indian Lands and Peoples,” Donald A. Grinde Jr. and Bruce E. Johansen wrote that Kerr-McGee opened the first uranium mine on the Navajo Nation in 1948: 

“There were no taxes at the time, no health, safety or pollution regulations, and few other jobs for the many Navajos recently home from service in World War II,” they wrote. “Labor was cheap. Thirty years after mining began, an increasing number of deaths from lung cancer made evident the fact Kerr-McGee had held miners’ lives as cheaply as their labor. As Navajo miners continued to die, children who played in water that had flowed over or through abandoned mines and tailing piles came home with burning sores.” 

In their 1995 book “Ecocide of Native America: Environmental Destruction of Indian Lands and Peoples,” Donald A. Grinde Jr. and Bruce E. Johansen wrote that Kerr-McGee opened the first uranium mine on the Navajo Nation in 1948: 

“There were no taxes at the time, no health, safety or pollution regulations, and few other jobs for the many Navajos recently home from service in World War II,” they wrote. “Labor was cheap. Thirty years after mining began, an increasing number of deaths from lung cancer made evident the fact Kerr-McGee had held miners’ lives as cheaply as their labor. As Navajo miners continued to die, children who played in water that had flowed over or through abandoned mines and tailing piles came home with burning sores.”

………Harrison points into the distance, where a few houses can be seen. “Probably around 300 miners from this area alone have passed on from lung disease or lung cancer,” Harrison said. “The fathers are gone from this area. … So it’s just the widows and the kids.”…………….. https://insideclimatenews.org/news/27062021/nuclear-weapons-navajo-nation-uranium-mining-environmental-destruction-health/

June 28, 2021 Posted by | environment, indigenous issues, USA | Leave a comment

Radioactive Waste Contaminates the Land and Water

The U.S. Nuclear Weapons Program Left ‘a Horrible Legacy’ of Environmental Destruction and Death Across the Navajo Nation   Inside Climate News,  By Cheyanne M. DanielsAmanda Rooker, June 27, 2021 ”……………Radioactive Waste Contaminates the Land and Water

Uranium is recovered from the earth in two ways. The first is conventional mining of the ore, in which miners dig the rock out of open pits that strip away the topsoil. The second, which is the most common extraction method in the United States, pumps chemicals into groundwater to dissolve uranium from the rock, known as “situ leaching.”

After the extraction, the ore is taken to mills, where it is crushed, ground up and dissolved to be solidified, dried and packaged.

Regardless of the extraction method, mining and milling uranium leaves behind radioactive waste that contaminates water and the land, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Waste from open pit mines is often left in piles outside the mine, while tailings from the milling process remain radioactive and contain hazardous chemicals. 

“Wind can blow radioactive dust from the wastes into populated areas and the wastes can contaminate surface water used for drinking. Some sites also have considerable groundwater contamination,” according to the EPA website. 

The EPA is conducting water studies at three areas on the reservation that have been affected by historical mining to “inform future investigations and potential cleanups by EPA and private parties.”

The Journal of Contemporary Water Research & Education said in a June 2020 study that while high concentrations of uranium and arsenic may be found naturally in some areas, contamination is “especially troublesome on the Navajo Nation, where past (uranium) mining activity may have contaminated water supplies.”

Out of 82 unregulated wells sampled for the study, nine exceeded the maximum contaminant level for drinking water standards for uranium and 14 exceeded standards for arsenic. Because of these contaminants, a study published by the Journal of Vacuum Science & Technology in March 2020 found that nearly 30 percent of Navajo homes had to rely on hauling water to meet their needs.

The lack of drinking water affects not only the Navajo living on the reservation, but their livestock and land usability, as well.

The EPA began investigating the effects of the uranium mines in the Cove region in January 2015, after a settlement from Tronox, a company spun off from Kerr-McGee in 2006, provided almost $4.4 billion for cleanup of more than 50 abandoned uranium mines. Forty-two of the mines are on or near the Navajo Nation, which received $45 million in the settlement, and 32 are in the Cove area, where more than 7 million tons of ore were mined, according to the EPA

The funds allowed for the assessment and cleanup of 230 of the 523 abandoned uranium mines across the reservation, which is ongoing. In the Northern Abandoned Uranium Mine Region, where the Cove Chapter is located, 121 of the 229 mines are targeted in the cleanup process.

Kerr-McGee was among the companies that extracted a total of 30 million tons of uranium ore from the Navajo land from 1944 until 1986. In his testimony in March before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Nez, the Navajo Nation president, said that “not a single one” of the 523 abandoned mines on Navajo lands “has been cleaned up properly.” https://insideclimatenews.org/news/27062021/nuclear-weapons-navajo-nation-uranium-mining-environmental-destruction-health/

June 28, 2021 Posted by | environment, indigenous issues, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

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