>This story comes from a blog called “Beyond Nuclear” which decries the shabby treatment American Indians and others have received due to uranium mines that have been abandoned and not cleaned up, plus the nuclear storage areas planned for Indian reservations. Don White
Standing Room Only for Indigenous Speakers in Washington, DC
It was standing room only when Beyond Nuclear brought a team of speakers to Washington in February, 2009 to address the human rights abuses caused by uranium mining – and in particular the disproportionate targeting of indigenous peoples. The speakers included the actor, James Cromwell, Dr. Bruno Chareyron (below right, French nuclear engineeer), Sidi-Amar Taoua (keft, Touareg, Niger), Mitch (Aboriginal, Australia), Manny Pino (Acoma Pueblo), Jenny Pond (filmmaker, Poison Wind
Nat Wasley (Beyond Nuclear Initiative, Australia). They drew standing room only crowds at their opening panel session at the 12,000-strong PowerShift 2009 youth conference with audiences turned away as fire code rules for the room were exceeded! Beyond Nuclear staff members were panelists and two additional packed-to-capacity PowerShift panels on nuclear energy and Beyond Nuclear’s Paul Gunter conducted a solo workshop there that also had to turn people away due to overflow capacity. The speakers also held a press conference at the National Press Club and a Hill briefing and met with a dozen legislative offices on Capitol Hill. Pond’s film, Poison Wind –
describing the impact of uranium mining on Native American communities in the American Southwest, was screened at the 14th St. NW location of Busboys and Poets along with two short documentaries from Al Jazeera detailing the plight of the Touareg in Niger.
More from the Uranium Mining and Human Rights Tour
Indigenous Activists Decry Human Rights Violations of Uranium Mining
A shack made of metal drums from the local uranium mine (pictured left) is where Areva’s mineworkers live in Niger, according to local advocates in Arlit, one of two towns where Areva subsidiaries operate mines. Radioactive scap metal is available in the local markets, according to Bruno Chareyron, director of an independent French nuclear lab whose team traveled to Niger in 2003 to test levels of radioactivity in the mining communities. These metals are in turn used by villagers in their homes.
Areva, the French nuclear company that has mined in Niger for 40 years, denies there is any contamination of drinking water from the mine. However, Chareyron and his team, which measures radiation levels at contaminated sites in France and around the world, found high levels of radioactivity in drinking water and in rocks outside the mineworkers’ hospital in Arlit, Niger (which is closed to non-miners and is owned and operated by Areva).
Chareyron was speaking during a three-day tour of indigenous advocates in Washington DC hosted by Beyond Nuclear and designed to highlight the human rights abuses around the world caused by uranium mining and which unfairly target indigenous peoples. The actor, James Cromwell, (pictured right with a fan in Washington) also joined the tour and spoke passionately from the heart, having lived with the nomadic Touareg in the Niger. While filming Babe and its sequel, Cromwell also visited sacred Aboriginal sites in Australia.
“I am here to tell you not to buy our uranium because it is killing us and our government has stripped us of all our rights to say ‘no’,” said Mitch (pictured left), an Aboriginal activist from Australia. Sidi-Amar Taoua, a Touareg from Niger, described how the proposal to open as many as 140 new uranium mines in the Sahara desert in northern Niger would drive the Touareg from the land and eliminate their way of life.
Manuel Pino (pictured left)of the Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico talked about the genocide that has already happened to southwestern Native Americans who have suffered the vast majority of uranium mines on their land, most never cleaned up. Many miners and their families still suffer the often fatal health effects, “but anyone who mined after 1971 is not entitled to compensation,” he said. “We’re here to tell Congress to change that.” Pino added: “In this process of nuclear renaissance, it’s almost like the federal government is ignoring the historical legacy of uranium mining in the past and prioritizing the economic benefits of nuclear power in the future at the expense of our land, our water and our people.” Watch for video footage of the all three days’ events, coming soon.
Support Congressman Raul Grijalva’s bill to ban uranium mining at the Grand Canyon. Read more here, then contact your representatives and urge them to support this bill.
Support and Join the Energy Action Coalition. Are you as student or youth activist? Consider joining Energy Action Coalition, a movement to create change for a clean, efficient, just and renewable energy future.
Working with the Western Shoshone Defense Project
and Western Shoshone National Council
, Beyond Nuclear’s Kevin Kamps, then with NIRS, helped the team effort to stop the planned “Divine Strake” bunker buster blast at the Nevada Test Site, located on Western Shoshone land in violation of the Treaty of Ruby Valley. The blast would have blown radioactive dirt and dust (leftover contamination from previous atomic tests) thousands of feet into the sky, high enough to be carried long distances downwind.
An attempt to create a ground-level dump on the Skull Valley Goshute Reservation
in Utah was defeated after a collaborative effort among Native and environmental activists and elected officials including members of the Beyond Nuclear team.
Kevin Kamps, while with NIRS, forced the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to admit in an Environmental Impact Statement that the Palisades
Nuclear power plant in Michigan had never conducted a site survey for Native archeological sites on the property, including burials. This has led the NRC to require more careful procedures from the nuclear utility, in order to prevent the bulldozing of sacred Native sites.