America’s Secret Fukushima Poisoning the Bread Basket of the World


Wednesday, 05 June 2013  By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese,
Truthout | News Analysis

United Nuclear's uranium mine and mill within the Navajo Nation in Church Rock, New Mexico.United Nuclear’s uranium mine and mill within the Navajo Nation in Church Rock, New Mexico. (Photo: EPA)Early in the morning of July 16, 1979, a 20-foot section of the earthen dam blocking the waste pool for the Church Rock Uranium Mill in New Mexico caved in and released 95 million gallons of highly acidic fluid containing 1,100 tons of radioactive material. The fluid and waste flowed into the nearby Puerco River, traveling 80 miles downstream, leaving toxic puddles and backing up local sewers along the way.

Although this release of radiation, thought to be the largest in US history, occurred less than four months after the Three Mile Island partial nuclear meltdown, the Church Rock spill received little media attention. In contrast, the Three Mile Island accident made the headlines. And when the residents of Church Rock asked their governor to declare their community a disaster area so they could get recovery assistance, he refused.

What was the difference between the Church Rock spill and the Three Mile Island partial meltdown? Church Rock is situated in the Navajo Nation, one of the areas in the US sacrificed to supply uranium for the Cold War and for nuclear power plants. That area and many others in the Navajo Nation are contaminated to this day. Another sacrifice area is the Great Sioux Nation, a region in the western part of the country comprising parts of 5 states, where thousands of open uranium mine pits continue to release radiation and heavy metals into the air, land and water.

This poisoning of the people in the Navajo and Great Sioux Nations has been going on for decades and has had serious effects on their health. Even today, it is unknown what the full effects are and what the impact is on the rest of the nation and world because the contaminated air and water are not limited by borders.

Most Americans are unaware of the story of uranium mining on tribal lands because it is a difficult story to accept. It is a story that includes the long history of human rights abuses by the United States against native indians and recognition of the full costs of nuclear energy – two stories the government and big energy have suppressed.

Many people think of nuclear power as a clean source of energy. It has been promoted as part of the transition from fossil fuels. But the reality is that nuclear power comes at a heavy price to the health of people and the planet. Like other forms of extractive energy such as coal, oil and gas, uranium needs to stay in the ground. Radiation and heavy metal poisonings are a hidden environmental catastrophe that is ongoing and must be addressed. But rather than studying the health effects and cleaning up the environment, private corporations are pushing once again to lift the ban on uranium mining.

Is Uranium Mining Poisoning the Bread Basket of America?

Thousands of open uranium mines first excavated in the 1950s continue to release radiation today.  There have been inadequate assessments of the extent of contamination, but limited measurements done to date show ongoing leaks many times larger than the leakage from Fukushima. How did we get here?

After WWII, the United States Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was created so that the United States could obtain uranium for weapons production domestically. The AEC guaranteed that it would purchase all uranium that was mined. A uranium boom ensued.

It is estimated that 60 to 80 percent of uranium in the United States is located on tribal land, particularly in the lands of the Navajo and Great Sioux Nations. Private corporations jumped in to mine these areas and, in parts of South Dakota, individuals started mining for uranium on their private lands unaware of the dangers.

Private corporations have set up thousands of underground and open pit uranium mines on tribal lands and hired local native Indians at low wages. Other than jobs, the uranium mines brought little benefit to these nations because the lands were given to non-Indian companies such as Kerr-McGee, Atlantic Richfield, Exxon and Mobil. Native Indians had little control over what took place.

Two Acts in the 19th century took the rights of self-determination away from the native population. The Indian Appropriations Act of 1851 allocated money to move Native Indians onto reservations, ostensibly to protect them from white settlers but more likely to give settlers access to natural resources. The reservations are also known as prisoner of war camps. In fact, the reservation in Pine Ridge, SD is registered as POW Camp 344.

A second Indian Appropriations Act in 1871 changed the legal status of Native Indians to wards of the Federal government, stripping them of recognition as sovereign nations and the right to make treaties. In order to make contracts for uranium mining on tribal lands, the Bureau of Indian Affairs created Tribal Councils to conduct negotiations. But the resulting contracts were not made in the best interests of the tribes.

The Native Indians who worked in these mines were not protected from exposure to radiation, nor were they adequately warned about the dangers. Though it was clear that radiation exposure was linked to cancer in the early 1950s, around the same time that the US Public Health Service also started studying the health of uranium miners, it was not until 1959 that lung cancer was mentioned as a risk in pamphlets given to the workers.  In an unpublished doctoral dissertation, A.B. Hungate writes that the reasons for this are: “The government had two interests. First, it needed a steady supply of domestic uranium, and it felt that warning the workers of the hazards would result in the loss of the workforce. Secondly, it wanted an epidemiological testing program to study the long-term health effects of radiation.”

Don Yellowman, president of the Forgotten Navajo People, described the extent of exposure to radiation and toxic metals. Native Indian miners would drink radioactive water that contained heavy metals dripping off of the walls deep in the mines. Some of the miners had to travel long distances to the mines, so their families would come with them. Children would play in the area around the mine, and family members would prepare and eat meals there. Other reports state that workers, primarily nonwhites, were ordered into the mines shortly after explosions were set off to gather up rocks and bring them out for processing. Also, miners would go home at night covered in toxic radioactive dust, exposing their families to health risks.

Uranium mining started in South Dakota on land included in the original treaties with the Great Sioux Nation in the 1960 and ’70s. The Sioux were not included in negotiations for the mining and are still refusing to settle with the US government over land in the Black Hills that was mined. During the boom, the land was mined without regard for contamination as “large mining companies [were literally] pushing off the tops of bluffs and buttes.”

A few decades after uranium mining began in the Navajo Nation, increased numbers of cancer cases, lung cancer in particular, began to show up in the miners. A 2008 literature review  in New Mexico found that the “Risk of lung cancer among male Navajo uranium miners was 28 times higher than in Navajo men who never mined, and two-thirds of all new lung cancer cases in Navajo men between 1969 and 1993 was attributable to a single exposure – underground uranium mining. Through 1990, death rates among Navajo uranium miners were 3.3 times greater than the US average for lung cancer and 2.5 times greater for pneumoconioses and silicosis.”

Though the health effects of radiation exposure were known, it took decades before steps were taken to protect workers. The mines were operated under lax laws established in the 1872 Mining Act. Health and safety regulations for the mines, such as requirements for ventilation, were not passed in Congress until the late 1960s. But even once they were law, the regulations were not enforced.

Beginning in the 1970s, miners and their families began to pursue legal solutions through the courts and Congress so they could be compensated for the effects of their radiation exposure. Many court cases failed, and Native Indians were excluded from hearings in Congress on miner safety. Finally, the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) passed Congress in 1990.

RECA is desperately inadequate and restrictive. Until 2000, RECA only covered miners, not mill workers, and it does not cover families and others who lived near the mines. It also requires a very strict application process that is impossible for some to complete. A summary of RECA by academics Brugge and Goble states: “We believe that it is not possible to simultaneously apologize, set highly stringent criteria and place the burden of proof on the victims, as did the 1990 RECA.”

Uranium Mine Pits Continue to Leak Radiation Today

Radiation and heavy metals from uranium mines continue to pollute the land, air and water today and very little action is being taken to stop it.

In the upper great plain states of Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas, there are 2,885 abandoned uranium mines that are all open pits within territory that is supposed to be for the absolute use of the Great Sioux Nation under the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty with the United States. These open mines continue to emit radiation and pollutants that are poisoning the local communities.

According to a report by Earthworks, “Mining not only exposes uranium to the atmosphere, where it becomes reactive, but releases other radioactive elements such as thorium and radium and toxic heavy metals including arsenic, selenium, mercury and cadmium. Exposure to these radioactive elements can cause lung cancer, skin cancer, bone cancer, leukemia, kidney damage and birth defects.”

There are currently 1200 abandoned uranium mines in the Navajo Nation and 500 of them require reclamation. The greatest amount of radioactive contamination on Navajo land comes from solid waste called “tailings,” which sits in large open piles, some as tall as 70 feet high, and was incorporated into materials used to build homes. Dust from these piles of waste blows throughout the land causing widespread contamination.

2008 study found that “mills and tailings disposal sites caused extensive groundwater contamination by radium, uranium, various trace metals and dissolved solids. One estimate is that 1.2 million acre-feet of groundwater (or enough to fill Elephant Butte Reservoir more than twice) have been contaminated in the Ambrosia Lake-Milan area from historic mine and mill discharges, and less than two-tenths of 1 percent has been treated to reduce contaminant levels.” It is estimated that 30 percent of people living in the Navajo Nation lack access to uncontaminated water.

Charmaine White Face of Defenders of the Black Hills describes the situation in the Great Sioux Nation as “America’s Chernobyl.” She says,  “A private abandoned, open-pit uranium mine about 200 meters from an elementary school in Ludlow, SD, emits 1170 microRems per hour, more than 4 times as much as is being emitted from the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan. ” In addition, “Studies by the USFS show that one mine alone has 1,400 millirems per hour (mR/hr) of exposed radiation, a level of radiation that is 120,000 times higher than normal background of 100 millirems per year (mR/yr)!” Cancer rates in Pine Ridge, SD, are the highest in the nation.

This contamination escapes into the air which blows to the East and South and seeps into the water, reaching the Cheyenne and Missouri Rivers. It poisons grain grown in these areas that is fed to cattle that provide milk and beef for the rest of the nation. As White Face explains, “In an area of the USA that has been called ‘the Bread Basket of the World,’ more than 40 years of mining have released radioactive polluted dust and water runoff from the hundreds of abandoned open pit uranium mines, processing sites, underground nuclear power stations and waste dumps. Our grain supplies and our livestock production in this area have used the water and have been exposed to the remainders of this mining. We may be seeing global affects, not just localized affects, to the years of uranium mining.”

Uranium also contaminates coal that is mined in Wyoming for power plants in the East. Defenders of the Black Hills report that “Radioactive dust and particles are released into the air at the coal fired power plants and often set off the warning systems at nuclear power plants.”

People in the Navajo and Great Sioux Nations have been fighting for decades for the US government to perform studies on the extent of contamination and to clean up both current contamination and prevent future contamination. As wards of the federal government, the United States is responsible for the health and safety of native Indians.

The Forgotten Navajo People have put forth a resolution that states “that all people have the inalienable right to clean air, clean water and the preservation of sacred lands and that immediate action must be taken to fund the ongoing need for remediation of radioactive contamination in our air, water, and homelands to ensure our survival and that the named parties will support the People’s Uranium Radiation Activity Data Collection Network.” The resolution also asks that the United States uphold the ban on further uranium mines. The resolution also seeks equipment that would allow residents to measure radiation on their reservations as people in Japan are able to do, a simple request that has not been acted on.

Defenders of the Black Hills have written legislation, the Uranium Exploration and Mining Accountability Act, calling for study and remediation, but according to White Face, no members of Congress are yet willing to sponsor the bill. She explains that state and federal legislators want to hide the fact that this ongoing contamination exists because it will hurt the states economically. Just 40 miles south of Mount Rushmore, there are 169 abandoned open mines.  And there are mines in the areas of national parks such as Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. These mines likely contaminate water and air in those areas visited by thousands of tourists.

The Chain of Environmental Damage from Nuclear Energy Begins with Excavation

During the energy crisis of the 1970s, President Nixon called for the US to become more energy independent and to pursue renewable sources of energy through Project Independence 1980. This included increasing the use of nuclear power and resulted in the building of nuclear power plants throughout the nation. Some of those power plants, 23 currently in operation, were built using the same flawed plan as Reactor One (designed by General Electric) which failed at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. And many of them are reaching their 40-year lifespans and are applying for renewed permits to continue operation.

In addition, because of the reduced availability of fossil fuels and the climate crisis, nuclear power is back on the table as part of President Obama’s “All of the Above” energy strategy. Obama has been well-funded throughout his career by Exelon Energy, owner of the largest number of nuclear reactors in the United States and third largest in the world. Earthworks reports that “According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, there are currently 26 proposals to start, expand or restart in situ projects in the states regulated by the commission (Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota, New Mexico). Of these, nine will be new operations.”

In situ uranium mining is being promoted as a safer method of extracting uranium. In this type of mining process, deep holes are drilled into the Earth’s surface and fluids are injected into them to dissolve the uranium so that it can be collected. This method of mining is certainly less destructive to the surface of the Earth than open pit mining, but the report also states that “Any in situ operation risks spreading uranium and its hazardous byproducts outside the mine, potentially contaminating nearby aquifers and drinking water sources. This has been a major problem with almost all in situ projects in the US.”

Current uranium mines have a history of noncompliance with regulations. There continue to be spills. Mining corporations do not clean up areas that they are required to clean up. They do not pay fines. And they influence local governments to loosen requirements once they receive a mining permit.

In addition to contamination of land, air and water, uranium mining, particularly in situ mining, requires large amounts of water. In the current environment, with extended droughts and reduced aquifers, in situ mining places a greater strain on the water crisis.

Nuclear power is another form of extractive energy that is not only extremely unsafe, but is also more expensive than safer forms of energy. Beyond the human and environmental costs, the cost of building new nuclear reactors has quadrupled since 2000 to an average of $13 to 15 billion each. Physicians for Social Responsibility report that “new reactors are estimated to cost homeowners and businesses between 12 cents and 20 cents per kilowatt hour on electric bills – more than cleaner, safer alternatives.”

The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War passed a resolution in 2010 calling for a ban on all uranium mining worldwide, which states that, “As well as the direct health effects from contamination of the water, the immense water consumption in mining regions is environmentally and economically damaging – and in turn detrimental for human health. The extraction of water leads to a reduction of the groundwater table and thereby to desertification; plants and animals die, the traditional subsistence of the inhabitants is eliminated, the existence of whole cultures are threatened.”

Expose the Truth and Create a Carbon Free Nuclear Free Energy Economy

Uranium mining in the United States and worldwide is a hidden environmental catastrophe that must be exposed. It is not acceptable to ignore the ongoing poisoning of communities, particularly of indigenous communities. Three-fourths of all uranium mining worldwide is on indigenous land.

Yellowman speaks of the practice of uranium mining as a form of structural violence. Structural violence occurs when a social structure or institution harms people by preventing them from meeting their basic needs. There is no doubt that widespread contamination of the air, land and water from 70 years of uranium mining has violated the basic rights of indigenous peoples to clean air and water and to live healthy lives.

It is not known at present to what extent the ongoing contamination is affecting the health of our nation. Despite the obvious need, there have not been, to date, any comprehensive studies of radiation and heavy metal contamination in the United States. Uranium that is ingested by cattle and other livestock through water and feed concentrates in muscle. We do not know how safe our air, water and food are. And it is likely that the government and the nuclear industry do not want us to know.

It is becoming clearer that nuclear power is another dirty extractive source of energy that has high costs to human and environmental health. We must see through the energy industry propaganda and realize that there are clean and safer alternatives that are less costly.

It is time to move quickly to a carbon and nuclear-free energy economy. First steps would be to end massive energy waste through investment in energy efficiency and conservation. Other steps are to end the secret Fukushima by cleaning up the mines, providing testing equipment to Native Indians and conducting studies on the extent of contamination and effects of radiation and other toxins on the soil, air and water.

Then, it is time to move quickly to a carbon and nuclear free energy economy, which includes changing the American way of life by putting in place land use planning, 21st century mass transit and dispersed energy, so every home and business can become an energy producer. The call of native Indians to restore the Earth, for the right to clean water and air, should be a rally cry taken on by all of us.

You can find “The Toxic Effects of Uranium Mining on Tribal Lands with Don Yellowman and Charmaine White Face” on Clearing the FOG.

 

#India – Uranium waste contaminates water in Jharkhand


Saturday, Jun 8, 2013, 8:21 IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: DNA

Reckless dumping of radioactive waste in Jharkhand is contaminating surface and ground water, putting thousands of locals at risk of developing cancer, according to a report by independent researchers.

The Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL), a subsidiary of the Department of Atomic Energy, supplies uranium (yellow cake) to nuclear power plants in the country. It mines and processes uranium at seven mines in Jharkhand’s Jaduguda area. According to atomic experts, sludge and waste from uranium mines has to be scientifically disposed of as it contains around 85% radioactive substances.

Scientific disposal means creating pits that are covered, protected, cordoned off and made flood-proof. A tailing pond over an area of 30-40 acres must be created for disposal of sludge. These ponds too have to be cordoned off, made flood-proof and ensure that it prevents overflow. The waste decays to produce radium-226, which in turn produces Radon gas, a very powerful cancer-causing agent. For its three new mines i.e. Turamdih, Banduhurang and Mohuldih Uranium Mine, UCIL has one tailing pond at Talsa village, which fails to prevent sludge overflow and is not even fenced.

PT George, director of research institute Intercultural Resources, and independent writer Tarun Kanti Bose, spent six months studying the effects of uranium mining in the areas around the mines. Their report, Paradise Lost, released recently, states that UCIL’s irresponsible dumping in the vicinity of Jaduguda village (in Purbi Singhbhum district) is extremely worrisome as continued exposure to radiation will lead to increased cases of leukaemia and other blood diseases.

Heaps of uranium mining wastes have been abandoned in Dhodanga, Kerwadungri villages and those around Banduhurang open cast mine, according to the report. “The dumping has been going on for the last five years,” said Ghanshyam Birulee, a 45-year-old resident of Jaduguda village. “Despite complaints to UCIL, it has failed to take any action.”

Danger zone

Their report, Paradise Lost,  states that UCIL’s irresponsible dumping in the vicinity of Jaduguda village (in Purbi Singhbhum district) is extremely worrisome as continued exposure to radiation will lead to increased cases of leukaemia and other blood diseases

However, the nuclear regulator Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) said that it has not received any complaint so far on water contamination due to careless dumping of wastes by UCIL.

“AERB periodically inspects UCIL facilities to ensure that the waste management practices are followed and only treated effluent is discharged in Jhuria nallah which eventually meets the Gara River. Sludge generated in the effluent treatment plant is also disposed securely at the tailings pond. According to the site sample collected and analyzed the concentrations of uranium and radium observed in surface and ground water around Jaduguda are well within the specified drinking water limits.”

 

#India – Uranium mining posing danger to people, habitat


KADAPA, June 5, 2013

Special Correspondent, the Hindu

Memorandum submitted to in-charge Collector

Uranium mining at Thummalapalle in Pulivendula and Kadiri in Anantapur district is leading to radiation and causing water pollution, thus endangering the health of people, Rayalaseema Rashtra Samithi president K. Venkatasubba Reddy alleged on Tuesday.

People were perturbed at reports that uranium purification plant would be set up at P. Kothapalli in Nambulapoolakunta mandal in Anantapur district, he said in a press release here. The effects of radiation were evident in Somavandlapalle, Velagalabailu and other villages in Thalupula mandal in Anantapur district and RIMS doctors were collecting blood samples of the people and enquiring about their health as the radiation was said to have been causing cancer, he said.

Uranium Corporation of India Limited and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre officials have inspected lands in P. Kothapalle panchayat in accordance with the plans to set up the uranium purification plant. The UCIL plant at Thummalapalle has an installed capacity to produce 3,000 tonnes of uranium. A 140 km. tunnel was being dug for excavating uranium and it caused steep depletion of groundwater, he said. Drinking water was being contaminated and water was not available for irrigation, he alleged.

Meanwhile, United Forum Against Uranium Project, leaders L. Nagasubba Reddy, P. Siva Reddy, K. Jayasri, R. Shamir Basha, M. Bhaskar and K. Srinivasulu Reddy submitted a memorandum to in-charge District Collector K. Nirmala complaining against the UCIL Executive Director. The UCIL laid tailing pipeline through two acres of land belonging to L. Damodar Reddy in Mabbuchinthalapalle in Vemula mandal, they alleged.

The pipeline leakage on April 22 led to the death of goats due to internal chemical injuries and skin burns when they entered the sludge pond. The UCIL officials tried to hush up the matter by getting the sick livestock treated by veterinary doctors and issuing compensation cheques to farmers for the death of the livestock, they said.

PRESS RELEASE- Jharkhandi Organisation against Radiation , Jadugoda


 Press release – JOAR (Jharkhandi Organisation against Radiation, Jadugoda) 

“ A person standing on tailing dam for a period of one year would still not be affected by any radiation” (Translated from hindi)

 Mr. S. K. Malhotra (Head of Public awareness, Department of Atomic Energy (13th April, 2013, Dainik Bhaskar)

This remark came on the concluding day of the much hyped International seminar, first of its kind hosted by UCIL in its long history of its operation in Jadugoda and surrounding areas.

In  Collaboration with International Atomic Energy Agency **(1), UCIL held a  hyped five day Seminar cum Training so called “ Uranium Exploration Strategy, Mining and Processing Techniques in India ” in a Posh hotel in Jamshedpur between 8-12 April. According to Media coverage, this Seminar saw attendance of close to 50 delegates from 25 countries and also 9 scientists from India. 

This Seminar was quite contrary to the way it was promoted as it turned out to be a covert event conducted under high security and no one was allowed to enter the premises without the pass. When students and members of the JOAR tried to attend the seminar, they were prohibited and even became target of threat by the Intelligence Officials. This raises question on choosing a posh hotel in Jamshedpur, when this could have been conducted in their own compound in Jadugoda. This programme actually turned nothing but just a propaganda to counter JOAR’s claim of severe health and environment catastrophe due to uranium mining in the region based on community experience, supported by studies conducted by reputed International organization and Universities** (2). U.C.I.L reiterated the old rhetoric that Jadugoda had low radiation, it had low grade ore here, no harmful impact of radiation, and radiation level was similar in Jaduoda and Jamshedpur…! U.C.I.L once again came aggressively that myths regarding radiation were part of an International conspiracy which was creating those misconceptions among the local People through their agents working in this region. These agents lifestyle has suddenly improved during the last few years and they even go for a foreign trip once a year. In fact CMD of U.C.I.L even said that PMO was aware of the protest happening here and other parts of country and it was keeping a close eye on it. UCIL believes unemployment is one of the main reasons for the protest and not impact of uranium mining on culture and environment.

This high voltage drama took place for five days.  On one of the days, all the delegates were taken for a visit to the Jadugoda Mines. A Foreign delegate was so overwhelmed by the visit to the mines that he later spoke to the media that this was the first time any country had given such open access to the mines. This raises a big question when the UCIL didn’t allow even media enter the public hearing in Bhatin (May 26, 2011), forget about  members and activists of JOAR and others.

.  Why this kindness and whole heartedness of the government has come up after 40 years?  On one hand, UCIL uses crores of taxpayers money to host this lavish seminar inviting foreign delegates whose credibility is unknown, but had it announced an independent study done by independent experts who have good acceptance among the all,  this would have gained  trust of the people and it could have washed some of its old sins.

What seems bizarre is UCIL blowing the same tune regarding health in this  so called International seminar which It has been doing for the last few years. It once again rejected any claim of health hazard prevalent in the region and  said that it had done health check up of 3000 people during the last one year and still no cases of female sterility or cancer was detected in anyone and there were few  cases only related to malnutrition and Malaria ( Weekly test are done and sent to environment ministry), on the other hand  IDPD studies have clearly shown that these health hazards have increased in the area compared to distant villages. (ippnw.org/pdf/jadugoda-health-survey.pdf)   U.C.I.L claimed that there is increase in the number of children in schools every year, that Jadugoda had one of the lowest drop out rate of students and that U.C.I.L has even built four marriage halls in the past one year.

In the seminar, a statement by a UCIL official which has raised alarm bell is that there are plans to not have a separate tailing pond and looking for solution to store the radioactive waste in the mines itself. They will be cautious about the amount of acid leaching and alkali leaching being used, proper care would be taken to  ensure that the rocks beneath don’t melt. With no current remedy for the three tailing dams which will have radioactive waste for thousands of years, this plan may be disastrous for the  entire ecology as the dangerous toxic chemicals may  pollute the underground aquifers, affecting ground water which will impact the entire region. In fact in newspapers(Prabhat Khabar and Hindustan dated 12th April , 2013 ), It has been reported by one of the  Expert who participated in the conference that they are ready with a technology where the uranium tailings can be mixed with sand and chemicals which would be ready for cultivation of diverse plants  and  also an already mentioned remark that even if a person stood on tailing dam for a period of one year,  one would still be not  affected by radiation, on the other hand  the research by Kyoto university professor Koide (http://www.jca.apc.org/~misatoya/jadugoda/english/koide.html ) says that the bank of tailing pond contains 10 to 100 times higher amount of  gamma radiation above normal  permissible levels.

All throughout  the seminar when U.C.I.L repeatedly said that Uranium mining is safe and there is no harm due to radiation, why couldn’t it proceed with mining in Nalgonda ( Andhra Pradesh ) in the recent past  . Why couldn’t they convince the educated people of Hyderabad who have immense pride for the nation compared to Jaduogoda ? These well- off people may not have any vested interest in going for foreign trip once a year. U.C.I.L would not have to invest on building public schools or four marriage halls in the region.

 In a democratic country like ours, U.C.I.L and DAE can’t just ignore the long suppressed voices calling them anti-national, backward etc. The children in Jadugoda will one day raise these questions and the nation have to answer those queries and it can’t  just pull things under the carpet as it did in the just concluded so called international seminar. We want to say that truth can’t be hidden for long especially during these times when people can access information from any part of the world  and know  the truth. U.C.I.L can do a concrete programme showing concern and being  accountable to the people rather than wasting common man’s tax to do these kind of event which is just to boast about its achievements

 JOAR has the following demands :

1. UCIL should follow the international safety standards like  other countries like USA (Like Church Rock clean up –( health, soil and water), Wismut Uranium mine clean up ( Former East Germany Uranium mine)

2. Stop  Uranium mining in new regions and in the existing mines. Follow the latest regulations and safety standards of health and environment.

3. A new law should be passed in the Indian parliament to compensate the workers and community members affected by uranium mining (similar to one like RECA of USA.) Form a high level constitutional committee to investigate the death/sickness of the people in the region.

4. Do base line studies in the recently opened uranium mine sites and comprehensive health and environment study by independent groups of specialist.

5. Give justice to the demands all displaced people by UCIL mining in East Singbhum and West Singhbhum

6. UCIL should declare the future plans, as after few years when mining will cease, People would be left to face the hazardous radioactive waste.  How does it  plan to clean up the waste and reclaim it to same condition as it existed before mining. What about the Plans regarding economy as prior to mines there was an agrarian economy where people were dependent on land, water for survival. Will it abandon the mines? In that situation people would be left with no choice of livelihood .

Ghanshaym Birulee,

Dumka Murmu,

Tikaram Soren

JOAR

Tilai Tand, Jadugoda Jharkhand (India)

 

 

Radiating Lies- A Report on Jadugoda


 

Although the company claims radiation stories as ” myths “, Headlines Today documents the evidence where the entire environment, community and the future generation has been put to risk by the sheer negligence of the company.

 

#Karnataka -MoEF closes Gogi mines file


By Ramkrishna Badseshi & Bhimashankar Kakalwara | ENS – GULBARGA

15th February 2013

The Ministry of Environment & Forests has closed the project file relating to uranium mining plant at Gogi village in Shahpur taluk and has delisted it from the pending list of projects.

A letter by Director of Ministry of Environment & Forests Dr Saroj to the Uranium Corporation of India Ltd on December 28, 2012,   was made available to Express on Thursday. According to the letter, the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) has noted that the public hearing panel going into the setting up a mining extraction plant at Gogi was chaired by Yadgir Assistant Commissioner though he was not the competent authority. Under Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2006, the deputy commissioner should chair the panel. Hence the hearing is not valid and has to be conducted afresh according to procedures prescribed in EIA Notification, 2006, it stated.

The letter further stated that since the public hearing was postponed without following procedures, the ministry has decided to close the project file. Yadgir deptuy commissioner F R Jamdar said that as far as the district was concerned, the “uranium mining chapter is closed”.

CNDP Appeals To The Australian PM Against Uranium Export to India


 

Dear Prime Minister,

We urge you to reconsider the decision to supply uranium to India. This uranium will fuel the massive expansion of nuclear power programme that the Indian government is undemocratically pushing on poor people of India, criminally overlooking the concerns of safety, environment, livelihoods of surrounding populations and the financial implications.

Supplying uranium to India also amounts to legitimizing its status as a nuclear weapons state. At a time when people’s aspirations for comprehensive nuclear disarmament have heightened globally, any such dilution of disarmament norms would be unfortunate.

As the struggles of common people, farmers, fisherfolk, women and children in places like Koodankulam, Jaitapur(Maharashtra), Mithivirdi (Gujaratat), Fatehabad (Haryana), Chutka (Madhya Pradesh), Kovvada (Andhra Pradesh) etc have highlighted, the nuclear expansion is in no way helping the poor, as it was claimed by you while reversing the Australian Labour Party’s policy of not supplying uranium to India. In fact, under the Indo-US nuclear deal, the Indian elite offered the lives and livelihoods of its poor people, India’s huge consumer market and rehabilitating global nuclear corporates in return for an elusive seat on the nuclear high table.

In Koodankulam 2 fishermen have died recently in a brutal police repression while large numbers of protesters are languishing in jail. Charges of sedition and ‘war against the Indian state’ have been leveled against thousands of non-violent protesters in past few months. In the pursuit of this nuclear insanity, the government has brushed aside the voices of its own secretaries, the Chief Information Commissioner, members of the National Advisory Council and voices of independent experts and eminent citizens. We reiterate our demand to drop all fictitious charges against the Koodankulam protesters and initiate a broad-based public consultation on nuclear energy.

Parliamentarians from UK and Australia, human rights organizations like Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, and citizens groups from more than 165 countries have condemned the police brutalities on the anti-nuclear protesters in India. We urge you to take a principled stand and reconsider supplying fuel to the Indian government’s nuclear insanity.

For CNDP,

Achin Vanaik
Admiral L. Ramdas
Amarjeet Kaur
N D Jayaprakash
Praful Bidwai
Sukla Sen
Anil Chaudhary
Lalita Ramdas

 

It is one of India’s best kept secrets-A Nightmare Called Jaduguda #Mustread


Disclaimer: this article contains some disturbing pictures.

Anuj Wankhede

The Dark Underbelly of Uranium Mining in India

It is one of India’s best kept secrets. This is the story of genocide.

After over 50 years of Independence, there is another India which nobody talks about.

Why?

Because nobody knows about Jaduguda.

I spoke to hundreds of people in Mumbai and not one person has ever heard of Jaduguda or its sad legacy.

What is happening in the name of National Pride and Self-Sufficiency is a NATIONAL SHAME. A CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY.

Next time you charge your mobile phone, switch on the AC or your TV, think about the enormous and horrifying cost being extracted. Jaduguda in Jharkhand is one such cursed place. Cursed, because it has India’s largest uranium mines. A curse called uranium has poisoned generations and will continue to haunt all future generations too.

This is a story which a few people have tried to tell. Many times over.
Yet, no solution is in sight to this living horror.
But then, probably nobody has found an answer because nobody WANTS to find an answer?

SUMMARY:
The power that is fed into homes using nuclear energy has its genesis in Jharkhand, from where the raw material – Uranium – to power the reactors is extracted.

India has sufficient uranium deposits to build a few hundred nuclear bombs but it does not have the required amount of uranium to fuel its Atomic Power Plants. The largest deposits were found in the 1960s at Jaduguda and the nuclear lobby in India rushed in to exploit the ore there. Since 1967, the Jaduguda region of Bihar has been exploited for its uranium and so have its people.

The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) formed the Uranium Corporation of India Ltd. (UCIL) with a mandate to explore and mine this precious ore. UCIL started the exploitation of man and nature the very next year in 1968.

Forty four years later it has created a tragic legacy which includes loss of health, disease, deaths, ruining of social fabric and professions, environmental destruction and irreparable damage to the ecology.

The only ones who have profitted from this deprivation are those associated with the Nuclear Club – those who need uranium for dubious power and atomic weapons.

THE FACTS:
The Jaduguda mines (and to a small extent, the uranium mines in Meghalaya and Andhra Pradesh) supply the bulk of the uranium needed as fuel to the ever increasing reactors in India. Currently, India has one Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC) at Hyderabad in Southern India which is over a thousand kilometers from Jaduguda and even further from the North Eastern mines in Meghalaya.

The original mines at Jaduguda have since been expanded and now include the Narwapahar mines a few kilometres away. Together, they make it possible to extract thousands of tonnes of earth each day using a mix of techniques.

IN THE BEGINNING:

As it usually happens, the land where the uranium was discovered belonged to the tribals (adivasis), who had lived there for hundreds of years and co-existed with nature. Elders recall that the tribals were strong and rarely (if ever) fell ill. The ecology was self-sufficient with man and nature providing and caring for each other.

Enter UCIL.

As usual with any nuclear project, there was complete secrecy. This was easy in India of the 1960s and remains so even today. Anything nuclear is considered top secret and classified information and the DAE has to be brought kicking and screaming into courts before they divulge any information – at times even misinformation.

UCIL’s job was of course made easier because of the remoteness of the mines and the lack of education among the tribals. Moreover, the tribals were a trusting lot – as they would later discover to their peril.

Ergo, when UCIL commenced operations there, they acquired tribal land and made no mention about the kind of material that would be mined. Nor did they inform the locals about the hazardous nature of radiation.

As long as uranium remains in nature, buried deep within the earth, it is not dangerous. But the mining process brings it out in concentrated quantities, which is further ground into dust, and it is this phase where radiation starts taking its toll by entering the body and the ecology.

To understand this better look at the uranium cycle below –

At Jaduguda, the ore is mined, milled, refined into Yellow Cake and despatched to the Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC), Hyderabad by road and then by trains.

As can be seen, uranium ore goes through a number of processing phases and at each stage it pollutes the environment in more ways than one.

It is important to note that unlike this diagram above, it is alleged that the depleted (or spent) uranium waste is brought back to Jaduguda for “disposal,” i.e. thrown away as debris!

When UCIL started operations, locals were promised firm jobs, medical facilities, schools, roads, better opportunities and some say even bribe money. There are stories of locals being taken to far off nuclear facilities so as to impress them about the high technology, cleanliness and safety of the project.

The tribals trusted the government and were trapped.

For UCIL, there was a need for people to go down into the bowels of the earth and come up with the uranium ore for which it deployed the tribals. They needed labour because even the best of mining technology still needs physical labour. The open pit mining requires people to physically go deep down into the mines to dig further and load the ore for transportation to the surface. From there on, the other processes are also labour intensive.

What this means is that ALL these people working in the mines were subjected to radiation for prolonged periods of time. They inhaled the uranium, worked with no protective clothing and ate contaminated food. When they finished work, they returned home and their contaminated uniforms were handled and washed by the other people at homes who started getting affected by the secondary contamination.

This, however, was only one form of the uranium poisoning.

The process used for uranium extraction involves conversion into a slurry from which the precious metal is extracted. The rest of the sludge is sent into to the “tailing ponds” which are supposed to hold the highly radioactive slurry.

In reality what happens is that the tailing ponds are unable to hold all the slurry and frequently overflow, especially during the monsoons. More radioactive uranium seeps into the ground and contaminates the groundwater and rivers.

The locals are forced to use the downstream river waters for everything ranging from washing, bathing, sowing and irrigation.

It is from here that the whole uranium contamination/ poisoning cycle takes a massive leap into the food chain spreading far and wide via crops, fruits, and animals. The grass growing here is highly radioactive and when animals graze, it enters their bodies and contaminates the milk and meat.

In short, uranium enters every part of the ecosystem and continues to spread further and further via the rivers, fish, the vegetables and fruits grown there and thus, what starts as a local mine affects a vast region within no time at all.

It was the legal, moral and ethical duty of UCIL to warn the locals about what was about to hit them. But that would obviously have not suited the government.

Ideally, the whole land which was acquired for mining, blasting, processing should have been out of bounds for people and the tailing ponds made in such a manner that there is no seepage into the ground. Warning boards put up to indicate high radiation and danger zones, limit the access to site only message workers and decontaminate all material worn and handled by the workers at the site itself. The processed ore should have been safely transported in well covered vehicles to the nearest railway yard for its thousand kilometer journey to NFC Hyderabad.

All this is not a utopian dream. It is common sense.

But then, I forgot that we are talking about the DAE and UCIL. Agencies for which only the ends matter – not the means to achieve these nefarious ends.

Here are the stark realities at Jaduguda and Narwapahar –

The river, which runs past Jaduguda, is met by the murky outflow from the mine workings. Here, people wash vegetables, sow and bathe in this extremely poisonous water.

Nowhere in the region does one see warning boards. It is an open invitation to use the resources here and get poisoned.

Trucks which carry the processed material from the mines are open dumpers with just a piece of plastic thrown over the top – most often, even this is missing. The dumpers spill the material on the roads all the way from the mines to the rail yards. Radiation level meters (Geiger counters) frequently go berserk as the radiation count exceeds the maximum limit which can be displayed on these meters.

Scientists designing these counters probably never imagined that any civilian region would possibly have this amount of radiation.

School buildings have been made of stone which was extracted during blasting of the mines. Placing the radiation meters on their walls makes the counters beep furiously.

Probably military grade instrumentation with higher limits needs to be used in these “civilian” areas.

Transport

The transport from the mines to Hyderabad is another horror story. Look at the picture of this open topped dumper truck below. Often, not even a plastic sheet is thrown over it. The trucks spill the ore along the way on the road sides. The hazardous material is loaded casually on goods trains which carry this material along with rakes filled with edible items.

Look at the handling of the drums in advanced countries and how the handling happens in the developing world.

A technical committee advising the government, comprising representatives of pollution control board, industries wing and a retired atomic energy expert, noted that radioactive radiations were less than the permissible limits in Jaduguda.

The Director of UCIL’s technical department Diwakar Acharya said this in defense – “They are all retired employees. Mining methods have changed a lot in the past two decades. Earlier, the workers’ health was in grave danger due to the lack of protective clothing and modern machinery. The technology we have today keeps them, as well as the local population, completely out of harm’s way,” he says.

The sad truth is that NOTHING has changed over the years here.

What has changed is the increased greed of UCIL, NPCIL, DAE and Government of India for more and more yellow cake…….

 

Anuj Wankhede

Anuj is a Microbiologist and has a Masters in Management. A keen observer and commentator, he is an avid environmentalist who believes that ‘bigger the problem, bigger the opportunity.’He can be reached at benchmark.anuj (at) gmail.com and 9757475875.

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