Thursday, January 17, 2008

Nuclear Energy cannot replace oil, gas, say environmentalists

January 14, 2008

The British government's decision to build a new generation of nuclear plants will do little to replace the country's dependence on oil and gas, according to environmentalist group, Greenpeace.

"Nuclear power is an almost irrelevant response to our fuel dependency," said Greenpeace executive director John Sauven, pointing out that plants only supply electricity.

"Most of the gas we use is for heating and hot water, or for industrial purposes," Sauven said. "Almost all oil is used for transport - nuclear power can't take its place either," he said.

In a letter to the Guardian newspaper Monday, he said that as much as 86 per cent of Britain's oil and gas consumption is for purposes other than producing electricity.

The warning comes after the British government gave the go ahead for the building of up to 10 new nuclear plants, arguing that they were "intended to provide Britain with energy security by reducing dependence on imported gas and oil."
But Greenpeace, which is opposed to the plans on grounds of safety and the massive costs, warned that "nuclear power, which only supplies electricity, cannot replace that energy."
The environmentalist group said it was working instead for energy efficiency, cleaner and more efficient use of fossil fuels, renewables and decentralized energy.

"Together they can deliver reliable low-carbon energy quicker and cheaper. They are also safer and globally applicable, unlike nuclear," Sauven said.

The Green Party, which is also against the nuclear option, is arguing that the government's own figures show that there is the potential to save more than 30 per cent of all energy used in the UK solely through energy-efficiency measures.

"About two-thirds of the energy used in electricity generation from large, centralized power stations is wasted before it ever reaches our homes, and by itself accounts for a full 20 per cent of UK CO2 emissions," said the party's principal speaker Caroline Lucas.

Lucas, who is a member of the European parliament also told the Guardian that that "combined heat-and-power stations, which capture and use-waste heat, must have a crucial role to play, alongside investment in renewables."

France planned to give Saddam nukes

January 14, 2008§ionid=351020101

An Iranian commander has revealed that France had plans to equip Saddam Hussein with nuclear weapons during the Iraq-imposed war on Iran.

According to General Mir-Feisal Baqerzadeh, the now retired French general and former intelligence official, Philippe Rondot, had made the offer to the Iraqi Baathist regime during a visit to the country as an advisor to the French prime minister .

Baqerzadeh made the remark citing a document registered at the defense ministry of the former Iraqi Baathist regime dated April 20, 1987.

The document was prepared by the Iraqi General Adnan Khairallah reporting to Saddam about his meeting with the visiting Rondot, said the Iranian general.

During the meeting, Rondot expressed his delight with the measures taken by Saddam's regime against the Iranian forces.

In the meeting, Rondot also informed Khairallah about the meeting held earlier at the French military headquarters on ways to tackle potential moves by the Iranian forces and suggested the idea of using high-flexibility boats against them.

For his part, Khairallah briefed Rodot on the vast amount of satellite-based information on the Iranian military formations made available to the Iraqi side by the US.

Based on the document, the former French general emphasized the advisability of occupying Iranian cities, with particular reference to the southwestern city of Abadan.

Baqerzadeh says that Rondot also spoke of his 'effective' role in persuading the French authorities to provide Iraq with Mirage aircraft and Ronald missiles.

According to the document, the French had been looking at the possibility of giving Iraq 'a very small type' of nuclear weapon. It is underlined in the document that the matter must be kept confidential.

Rondot is reported in the document as having told Khairallah that possessing such a weapon, despite its being small, would be necessary and effective in helping Iraq impose its conditions on Iran.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Navajo Uranium Miners Fight for Compensation

This is to bring out in the open what has been happening on the Indian reservations for the last 60 years or more.

Navajo Uranium Miners Fight For Compensation

The following article is based on an interview conducted in the Navajo Nation in Shiprock with the director of the Office of Navajo Uranium Workers Timothy Benally Sr. - December 29, 1993. Interview by Nic Paget-Clarke.

To read personal stories by miners and their families go to: Memories Come To Us In the Rain and the Wind, Oral Histories and Photographs of Navajo Uranium Miners & Their Families

On the reservation back in the '40s and the '50s, jobs were pretty scarce. In 1958, I had just returned from the Armed Services. I couldn't find a job and I had the chance to get into the mines. The first time, after about 3 months, I complained about the safety of the mines. The boss didn't like it so he said at the end of the work week, "Don't come back Monday." So I didn't.

Then the mine ownership changed. Kerr-McGee took over, and I applied for a job and got work again. Again I complained, this time about the wages. I said the federal law requires that the workers be paid $1.25/hr. and these people are getting anywhere from 80 to 90 cents/hr. for their labor. Again I got fired.

Mining the Navajo Nation

Mining here started as early as 1918 around the Carrizo Mountain area, which is just about 30 miles west of Shiprock. They first mined vanadium and then they discovered uranium, more by accident.

At that time, uranium was not the ore that was mined. They did'nt know what it was so they just kept a lot of the stuff around in those mines. One of my constituents says that they had uranium in gunny sacks stacked in the trading post at Beclahito. It had been there for a number of years before they found out what it was.

Right after World War II, when the government found out what uranium can do, they decided to mine some of those areas and a lot of it was found on the reservation. People just went crazy looking for uranium, prospecting all over the reservation.

The Vanadium Corporation of America and Kerr-McGee were the principal owners of these mines and they have taken advantage of the Navajo workers. Not only with paying low wages, but by not informing the workers about the hazardous effects that uranium has on their lives.

Here they probably thought we were expendable so they just said go ahead and put them to work and not worry about them, their health or the effects of the radiation. We were just used in that manner. And not only us, in Utah one of the former miners said he lost one side of his lung. The radiation is working on the other side now. He said he felt that the miners were used as guinea pigs, and that's what I think actually happened.

Uranium Radiation Victims Committee

They never bothered telling anybody about it, and people just worked there. By early 1960, people who worked there the longest began to get sick. Eventually many of them died, and the people, the family members, the widows and the children got real concerned.

People talked about it and finally they organized themselves into a union. They started having regular meetings and after some time they consulted with some legal services and worked with them. In that process they got involved with more and more people. The group, the Uranium Radiation Victims Committee, provided education to people of how uranium was hazardous, but often people wouldn't listen to them because of the work situation -- there was no other employment.

The end result has been this group pursued compensation for their loss. "We went to the Arizona State Court then to the Supreme Court level, and lost all the way. We started again in the federal court and lost again all the way to the Supreme Court. At that time we turned to Congress and Congress heard our complaint and thought it was legitimate," they said. In 1978 they floated a bill in the Senate. Pete Domenici from New Mexico sponsored the bill and it was defeated. Pete Domenici said we had to go after it again. We made it a partisan bill and we incorporated other states - Colorado, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico. The representatives from some of these states made some compromises on their original bill and we introduced a bill for radiation compensation that was passed in 1990.

Navajo Uranium Workers

The Navajo Tribal Council had been aware of all these goings on, so in April 1990 they established this Office of Navajo Uranium Workers. They wanted the statistics on the number of miners that we've had. So that's our job, to register Navajo uranium workers. Also we provide comprehensive medical care for living miners and keep the Navajo public informed about the development of the program.

We have today registered 2,450 eligible Navajo uranium workers. Eligible meaning that they worked between January 1, 1947 and December 31, 1971. Also we had 412 deceased miners from way back, those that began the mining process. Every month one or two more die.

There are other tribes that had some mines during this period who are also eligible for the compensation.

The Navajo Nation president has put a moratorium on the uranium mining.


These mine operators, these mill operators, they were not held responsible because they said we just did the mining for the government, and the government is the one that's responsible for it. But the Navajo people that live on the reservation, complained about the damages that were done by the mining.

As well as the harm to the miners, the Navajo people say the operators went up into the mountains and pushed a lot of the dirt that contained some radiation or uranium off the side of the mountains and they were just scattered down below. When it rains and when it thaws in the springtime, a lot of the water washes into the riverbed and flows down into the stream and eventually comes out on the farms and does other damage. It's like a chain reaction. The food you raise may have some radiation, and you eat it. They feel that a lot of this is taking place right now because of the way they handled the initial mining.

Human Radiation Experiments

Currently, Office of Navajo Uranium Workers staff has been working on an amendment of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) legislation so it will be easier for miners to qualify. We testified before the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments, and the committee will make a recommendation to the president to liberalize RECA legislation.

Several conferences have been held on Navajo Nation with the miners, relatives, and others in this change request in RECA. It looks very good.

Also read:

* Memories Come To Us In the Rain and the Wind,
Oral Histories and Photographs of Navajo Uranium Miners & Their Families (Extracts)
Navajo Nation
Arizona and New Mexico

* Leetso: the Powerful Yellow Monster
A Navajo Cultural Interpretation of Uranium Mining
by Esther Yazzie and Jim Zion
Albuquerque, New Mexico

* Interview with Wahleah Johns and Lilian Hill
of Black Mesa Water Coalition
“We don’t have to be the battery for America” / Sustainable Development: It’s Old But It’s New
Kykotsmovi, Hopi Nation

* Interview with Tom Goldtooth
of the Indigenous Environmental Network
“First and foremost is our right to exist and to make our own decisions ...”
Johannesburg, South Africa

U.S. Nuclear Waste Repository Foes Speak Out

January 11, 2008

TAKOMA PARK, Maryland, January 11, 2008 (ENS) - A dozen national organizations, joined by 68 state and local grassroots groups from across the country, filed comments with the U.S. Department of Energy Thursday in opposition to the high-level radioactive waste repository planned for Yucca Mountain, Nevada.

The groups also oppose shipping thousands of tons of nuclear waste through 45 states to Yucca Mountain located 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

This marks the latest effort by Yucca Mountain opponents, some of whom have been active against the planned facility for nearly three decades.

Yucca Mountain is located in a desert on federal land adjacent to the Nevada Nuclear Test Site in Nye County, Nevada. It is about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada, the fastest growing metropolitan area in the United States.

DOE began studying Yucca Mountain in 1978 to determine whether it would be suitable for the nation's first long-term geologic repository for over 72,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste now stored at 126 sites around the nation.

In October 2007, the DOE announced it was seeking to double the size of the Yucca Mountain repository to a capacity of 135,000 metric tons.

The Department of Energy, DOE, has pledged to file its long-delayed construction and operating license application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission by June 30.

"The Bush administration’s rash rush to begin the Yucca licensing proceeding is a blatant attempt to make the dump a done deal before the next, potentially anti-dump, president enters the White House," said Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear, a national watchdog on nuclear power and radioactive waste issues.

"Shipping tens of thousands of high-level radioactive waste trucks, trains, and barges through 45 states and the District of Columbia risks severe accidents and terrorist attacks," said Kamps.

"This could release catastrophic amounts of deadly radioactivity in major population centers, representing potential Mobile Chernobyls and dirty bombs on wheels rolling past the homes of millions of Americans," Kamps warned.

The coalition urged DOE to thoroughly analyze the negative impact on property values along all road, rail, and waterway routes across the continental United States that would be used to ship wastes to Yucca.

Its submission states, "Courts, juries, and socio-economic studies have found that property values decrease significantly near declared radioactive waste transport routes. DOE must identify in detail all routes it plans to use for shipping wastes to Yucca…and should hold hearings in every state thus impacted."

Besides transport risks, the coalition exposed geological and environmental justice "show stoppers" at the Yucca Mountain Project.

The national groups filing comments include - Beyond Nuclear, Clean Water Action, Environment America, Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, Greenpeace, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Peace Action, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Public Citizen, SUN DAY Campaign, and Women’s Action for New Directions.

The 68 regional and local groups hail from 27 states.

The groups object that Yucca Mountain is located above an earthquake fault line and that rainwater moves through the site even though it is located in an arid part of the country.

"DOE has known for over a decade that rainwater percolates relatively quickly through the proposed burial site, risking fast corrosion of the waste burial containers and release of catastrophic amounts of deadly radioactivity into the drinking and agricultural irrigation water supply below," said Kamps.

The coalition says the location of the facility is within the treaty lands of the Western Shoshone Indian Nation, as affirmed by the "Peace and Friendship" Treaty of Ruby Valley, signed by the U.S. government in 1863.

The groups say Yucca Mountain "violates environmental justice principles," an allegation supported by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

In 2002, the Yucca Mountain site was approved by the Congress and President George W. Bush as the location for the nation's first permanent spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste geologic repository.

In 2006 the DOE agreed upon March 31, 2017 as the date to open the facility and begin accepting waste.

But in the 2006 mid-term elections, the Senate majority was won by the Democratic Party and Nevada Senator Harry Reid, a long time Yucca Mountain opponent, became Senate majority leader. Reid has said that he will continue to work to block completion of the project, which is opposed by the entire Nevada congressional delegation, and most Nevada state politicians.

Reid has said, "Yucca Mountain is dead. It'll never happen."

In the 2008 Omnibus Spending Bill, the Yucca Mountain Project's budget was reduced to $390 million.

Lacking a repository, however, the federal government will owe to the utilities that operate nuclear power plants somewhere between $300 and $500 million per year in compensation for failing to comply with the contract it signed to take the spent nuclear fuel by 1998. This cost is paid by U.S. taxpayers.

The DOE is moving ahead with preparations to license Yucca Mountain. On December 13, 2007 Ward Sproat, director of the DOE Director of the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, released two independent assessments of the Yucca Mountain repository program. Sproat says both reports concluded that the program's current quality assurance and engineering processes and procedures "are consistent with standard nuclear industry practices."