“The main problem is not the health damages, but the unacceptable conditions of work.”
Alain de Halleux shot the ARTE documentary “Nothing to report?” about the working conditions near French nuclear power plants. For the research, the movie maker spent two years with the staff of the nuclear power plant.
Why did you want to make a movie on this subject and what experiences did you have during your research?
Because the Swedish reactor Forsmark almost exploded in July 2006, I wanted to understand what exactly goes on in a nuclear power plant (NPP). So I decided to speak to the regular workers. After several months of research in many EU countries, I noticed that no one in this industry wanted to let me into the plants or answer my questions. I was, for example, at Sellafield. But the workers were not willing to speak to me. They were afraid of losing their jobs. The same in Sweden: They were all frightened. At a NPP, you belong to a community, living totally isolated from the rest of the world, close to the reactor. And if you “talk”, you are a “squealer”. The nuclear industry has been keeping a big secret for many years and nobody talks about it. And if you do, you lose your job and everybody thinks you are a traitor.
In what countries could you actually talk with the NPP staff?
The country where the people truly felt obliged to speak, was France. In this country that is leading the nuclear industry, things are going badly. The willingness of the workers to talk is proof enough. This country has 54 nuclear reactors and one of them, Fessenheim, is right next to the German border. The French are trying to prolong the permitted operating time, although it actually should close. Some workers even call it the “death-NPP”.
And the workers are talking now, because they are scared?
Yes, they fear to go to work, because the nuclear power plants are so unsafe. 50 years ago all the workers kept silent, because they wanted to protect their industry against the anti-nuclear movement. In France they are starting to talk now, because they dread the way the industry is being managed today will lead to a huge disaster. Therefore, they have taken the responsibility to speak in front of my camera. And that in turn is frightening.
How are the working conditions in a nuclear power plant?
Formerly, all activities were executed by the workers directly employed at the NPP. There was kind of a collective memory. Today the workers are no longer employed directly at the NPP or the energy corporation, but as a subcontractor of another company. They are not officially in the nuclear industry and the contractors must constantly move from one nuclear power station to the next, because the contracts expire on average every two years, due to European legislation. Thus, the collective memory is lost. Furthermore, the workers in the NPP come directly from university and have no experience, yet they give the commands. It is totally absurd. To be able to give instructions, you really have to know what you are doing.
Is it therefore more of a security problem?
There is a huge security problem. People from the nuclear industry say they have everything under control. That worries me, because such statements imply that they have no idea of the actual situation, or they deny it. Otherwise, they would say: “Yes, there is a problem, we must act immediately.” They are so damn sure, when they say that this is not the same technology as the Chernobyl nuclear power station. And that is true. But the worker is in the central to safety. And the worker, that is the subcontractor, is treated very badly there. Many of them commit suicide and the divorce rate among the employees is very high.
Because the pressure is so high?
They know their work is very important for security, but at the same time nobody lets them do their work well, due to financial pressure. If anything happens in the NPP now, it is no longer the chief executives who are responsible, but the workers, because they have signed papers saying they have done the work. This really is illogical, because they are poorly paid, but must bear all the responsibility. For me, that’s slavery.
That does not sound very democratic …
No. It is unacceptable that the people, who produce our energy, are treated like shit and nobody knows who they are. In former times, everybody used to know that coal came from the earth and that miners unearthed it. Nowadays, you switch on your computer and do not think for one second about the people who work in a nuclear power station. How can this be possible? If you say, I do not know that my steak comes from a cow, people would tell you, how stupid you are, but with energy, it is exactly the same. We do not know where our energy comes from and we do not know the people who produce it. That is unfair and also very dangerous.
What do you think, happens in the case of total meltdown?
When a nuclear power plant explodes, we need about 600.000 people who will sacrifice themselves to solve the problem. Chernobyl was not a giant accident. It was just a big one. The situation would have been ten times worse, if we didn’t have people who were willing to sacrifice themselves in the cleanup operation. In Europe, no one would volunteer, because no one is responsible. And we don’t live in a dictatorship anymore. Therefore we must stand up and say, that this is not the right way to act.
“The nuclear industry in Russia is as sacred as the cow in India.”
Olga Podosenova has already suffered the adverse effects of radiation herself. When she started to campaign for the end to Russian nuclear waste imports, she was dismissed.
Why have you begun to mobilise against nuclear power?
Because I understood that my family and my children have no future if I do not deal with the problems that the nuclear industry has created. In 1989 I was with other students working at the onion harvest in Kolkhoz in the Sverdlosvk region. We were working on a field next to supposedly empty warehouses. On the second day some of the students complained about severe pains in their joints. On the third day, half of us could not get up, and on the fifth day we were all taken to the hospital. The doctors refused to make a diagnosis which could be connected to radioactivity. They just told us not to have children in the next ten years. Later, we learned that in the “empty” warehouses tons of radioactive material had been stored for years.
“Scientists have split the atom. Now the atom splits us.”
And how has your community responded to your political involvement?
When I joined the anti-nuclear movement in 2001, they were about to enact a law that would allow the import and storage of nuclear waste in Russia. By then I was organising the first protest action in Ekaterinburg. The day after, I was summoned by my boss. He said that it was not possible to be involved in the anti-nuclear movement and to be a government servant. A day later, I was laid off.
Obviously, they couldn ́t frighten you off, because today you are head of a Russian environmental organisation. What does this mean in a country like Russia?
To be against nuclear power in our region is not easy. Local authorities depend on the nuclear industry as well as on the position of the government regarding nuclear energy.
In the Urals, officials talk of nuclear power as “Deadman” – either you speak good of it or you have to be silent about it! For us it is very difficult to perform even the simplest actions such as educating the public. The people who live near nuclear plants still have the habit from the Soviet era, to keep silent. This complicates work. People who first ask us for help, suddenly stop communicating with us.
You live in the Ural region, which is worldwide known as the most radioactively contaminated area. How does that affect the daily lives of people there?
The dangers of nuclear power are everywhere for us. My daughter knew from an early age that she should not drink the water from the tap and should not swim in many rivers and lakes. I know that my neighbor jumps up shocked every time, when he hears a loud noise, because he thinks that something has happened in the nuclear power plant. Those who split the atom, probably did not
think about people like us. Now, the atom splits us, whether we like it or not.
“Mayak is history. People have short memories.”
Nadezhda Kutepova is a lawyer and a grass roots activist campaigning for the rights of the victims of the famous Mayak nuclear accident.
You grew up in the closed city of Ozyorsk, where the Mayak nuclear plant was built. What was your life like there?
During my childhood I was surrounded by an eerie atmosphere of secrecy, everywhere there were guards with weapons behind barbed wire. My parents forbade me to say where I came from when I was outside of Mayak. Many workers in our nuclear power plants have become alcoholics. After work, they got drunk, because they believed that alcohol removes radionuclides. Gradually I got used to the fact that many of our friends died of cancer. We all lived in constant fear. But officially they always said: “Everything is fine.“
Many people suffered permanent damage from the nuclear accident at Mayak. You represent some of the victims in court. Can you freely practice your legal work?
No! The authorities persecute us regularly. They drag our reputations through the mud, complicate our work and insult us as spies. In 2008, the police arrived with a search warrant for our office. Even my child was visited by the security authorities in the kindergarten and the teachers were asked if I was a good mother and if I always pay my fees on time.
I do not feel safe and want my children away from this place. If the situation becomes too dangerous, I will need to seek political asylum.
2000 pregnant women were forced to clean up after the disaster. You represent many of them professionally. What happened to them and their children?
As liquidators, the women were doing all the (kinds of) work done in the nuclear industry until the eighth month of pregnancy – without protective clothing and masks. Many of the women died and many of their children never lived beyond childhood. Until 1991, it was forbidden for the mothers to talk with their children about the disaster. Therefore, many children who survived and whose mothers have died before 1991, do not know that their pregnant mothers were involved in the cleanup.
What is the situation today in your area?
In Ozyorsk, which has only existed for 60 years, the second cemetery is crowded. Every day ten people die, there are so many cancers and disabled children. But the people remain silent and bury their heads in the sand. They fear for their jobs and their incomes. Everybody wants to develop nuclear technology, but the people of our region suffer for this, but no one cares.
“Nobody knows how the people are coping, assuming they are even still alive …”
After the gulf war, environmental engineer Souad Al-Azzawi looked into the effects of nuclear weapons on human populations. When she published her results, she received death threats.In both Gulf Wars, American and British troops each used Depleted Uranium (DU) weapons. What were the consequences?
Huge areas in Nasria and Basra going all the way to the Kuwait border are totally contaminated. More than two million Iraqis and American troops have received high doses of radiation. A few years later, (after the major conflict), epidemiological studies in those regions showed a significant increase in children’s Leukaemia, congenital malformations, sterility, and other diseases among Iraqis. Similar trends among the American military veterans were recorded as well. This gives us a better understanding of the type of weapons we are dealing with!
What happened to the people who were affected by the use of these kinds of weapons and how are they now?
People’s immune systems were highly effected and weakened by these weapons. In 1991, attacking Iraq with DU weapons was accompanied with imposing comprehensive economical sanctions. People were short on basic supplies and therefore massively weakened and their bodies couldn’t fight against cancer or other related diseases. The deterioration of the health care system, lack of medicines, and proper treatment altogether caused the death of thousands of people. During the invasion of Iraq in 2003, DU weapons were also used against civilians in highly populated areas like Baghdad and Basra.
“DU weapons are not only still used, but also even more destructive weapons using DU are being developed.”
Are you or members of your family/friends affected by radiation as well?
Yes, my husband died ten months ago. He was 58 years old and suffered from Aplastic Anaemia. The doctors told us that this disease is a basic form of Leukaemia. They think he was exposed to radiation. Three of my relatives suffer from cancer. There were continuous miscarriages in the family, and even sterility. A veteran of the 1991 Gulf War was unable to have children.
How is the situation today in Iraq in regarding DU weapons?
As in any other occupied country, the situation in Iraq is deteriorating. With lack of services, environmental pollution, a general deterioration of health and six million refugees, it seems impossible to follow up on the DU contamination in Iraq. The United States intentionally prohibited any investigations related to this issue. They want to conceal the evidence related to this crime. International organisations should have conducted risk assessments such as those conducted in Kosovo, even though the DU contamination problem in Iraq is more serious than what happened in Kosovo. But 18 years after the first Gulf War and thousands of opportunities, nothing has been done.
Have you ever had to deal with being threatened because of your research?
Oh yes. During the 90s, I was told to keep away from this sensitive issue because my team of researchers and I would allegedly cause panic in the area of Basra, if we published our findings. I wasn’t allowed to present the results of my research publicly until 2001 – neither in Iraq nor abroad. After the occupation, the Bader Brigade militias kidnapped my son and my nephew. They were tortured for three days. Then they dumped them close to death on the roadside. I had to leave my hometown of Baghdad and live in Mosul after receiving death threats. Many of my colleagues and members of other research teams have been killed, imprisoned, or driven out of the country.
Indigenous owners appeal to Minister’s ‘human side’ to shelve proposed nuclear waste site
Opposition to the Federal Government’s proposed nuclear waste facility in the Flinders Ranges is heating up, with traditional owners travelling to meet with Federal Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg.
Yeelirrie – Place of Death
A short film about Yeelirrie and the campaign against plans by Cameco to mine uranium there. In September 2015 Cameco released the Public Environment Review for the proposed uranium mine. Find out more at http://ccwa.org.au/yeelirrie
The bigger picture: Why your voice on nuclear matters
People speaking out this year are part of decades of community effort uniting people for a nuclear free future.
Thanks so much to all of the people speaking out for a nuclear free future.
And welcome to many thousands of new people joining the Australian Conservation Foundation community through this campaign. The public response means it is harder for risky new nuclear plans to get up, but the threat remains.
I just wanted to take a moment to share how your active support of our nuclear free campaign fits in the bigger picture.
Our work is part of decades of community effort uniting people for a nuclear free future.
Uranium mining and radioactive waste pollute air, soil and water. Radiation can damage the genetic and reproductive systems of plants, animals and people. All of Australia’s operating uranium mines have a history of leaks, spills and accidents – and none have been properly rehabilitated.
This is part of the bigger story of pollution and extinction which threatens life on Earth.
We are living with the impacts of bad decisions, discredited ideas and short-term thinking – with very long term consequences.
A small handful of companies profit from pollution and leave the mess for other people, in other places, for other generations.
We can make different choices.
We’ve achieved a lot together already.
Because people like you spoke out, plans for domestic nuclear power have been put on ice.
Because people like you acted, we’ve got anti-uranium mining policies and laws along the eastern seaboard. And we are urging the new WA Labor government to adopt this protection in the West.
And because people like you stood with the Indigenous leaders, as one remote Aboriginal community after another was targeted for uranium mines and radioactive waste dumps, they were not alone.
We stood with the Elders and communities who united and won:
- The community at Muckaty who successfully stopped a radioactive waste dump on their country near Tennant Creek.
- Jeffrey Lee, the Koongarra Traditional owner who said no to uranium mining and won World Heritage protection for the area of Kakadu threatened by mining plans.
- The Mirarr who halted plans for a new uranium mine at Jabiluka in Kakadu
- Tens of thousands of South Australians spoke out against plans to ship, store and bury much of the world’s radioactive waste in South Australia.
And we continue to stand beside those who face nuclear challenges:
- Communities in South Australia’s Flinders Ranges and Eyre Peninsula regions who are now under active consideration as a national radioactive waste site.
- The Martu of WA’s Western Desert where Canadian company Cameco want to dig the Kintyre uranium mine.
- Other Aboriginal peoples facing uranium mining or exploration threats or those seeking to have damaged lands restored.
Decisions made by the Australian government on nuclear issues can influence the world. Around one-third of the world’s uranium reserves are found in Australia. We can make the choice to literally stop fuelling and facilitating this risky, radioactive and under-performing sector and to never allow our nation to become a forgotten dumping ground for forever wastes.
Just like with coal, the nuclear era is over and the age of clean, renewable energy is here.
The sun is the only nuclear reactor that planet Earth needs and polling shows that a clear majority of Australians prefer clean energy. Burning dirty fuels like uranium, coal, oil, and gas belongs to the old world. Sun, wind and waves are the new world. We love a sun-powered country.
We can act to keep the web of life intact. Imagine a world where we power our lives with clean energy – and wildlife, rivers, people, forests and oceans thrive.
This is the world we can see. This is the world we are creating.
Thanks for your part in making the change.
from Dave Sweeney, 03 May 2017, acf.org.au
“And then it started to snow on Rongelap …”
In 1954 the atomic bomb “Bravo” was detonated at Bikini Atoll. As a child, Lijon Eknilang played in the fallout.
Do you still remember when the bomb was detonated near your island, Rongelap?
I was eight years old then and it was my birthday, the 1st of March. A huge ray of light covered the whole sky. Shortly afterwards we heard a deafening noise and the ground began to waver. From the loud noise our ears hurt. We were very scared because we did not know what it all meant. The elders said that a new world war had begun. I remember that we were crying. The radioactive fallout descended on Rongelap. Two days later, the entire island was evacuated and you were allowed to return after three years.
What was this like for you?
On our return in 1957 a lot had changed. Some of our food crops were completely gone. Others had no more fruit. What we ate, was causing blisters on our lips and mouth and we were suffering from severe stomach pains and nausea. We reported to the doctors about these problems. They just told us we were not cooking our food properly. We knew that could not be true, because our food had been prepared for centuries in this way.
“We had heard from the missionaries of “snow”, but this was the first time that we saw white particles falling from the sky …”
How are the people doing today?
Many people suffer from thyroid tumors, stillbirths, eye diseases, liver and stomach cancer and leukemia. Even people who were not living on Rongelap in 1954, but arrived after 1957, began to suffer from the same diseases as we were. Foreign doctors called these people the “control group” and they told us that the cases of illness among them would prove that our illnesses were not caused by the nuclear fall-out. We did not believe them and later learned that the islands from which this so-called “control group” came from, had also been contaminated during the nuclear tests.
And how are you personally?
For me, one of the worst outcomes was, that I could not have anymore children. I had seven miscarriages. During one miscarriage, after four months, I gave birth to a fetus with severe abnormalities, he had only one eye. Sometimes I had the feeling that I was carrying a child in me. Then I was very happy, because I was looking forward to the child, but then I got scared, which kind of a baby would it be? Does this happen to many women in your nation? Many women have cancers of the female organs and malformed foetuses . In our culture, reproduction difficulties are a sign that women were unfaithful to their husbands. So many of my friends keep silent about the strange births that they have experienced.
Then you all left Rongelap again, because life on the island was too dangerous. How was it for your people to leave their home behind?
It was very difficult for us, especially for old people. Three of them disappeared with grief into their huts and never came out again, until they died. It is our homeland. Where we belong to. It is our memory of our dead, the souls of our ancestors live there. Our land is everything to us, and it has been destroyed by the U.S. government. But we had to think about the future for our children. We would not want them to get all the diseases we are suffering from now.
Uranium pervades homes on and near Navajo Nation
Angie Hood grew up in a remote valley tucked along the edge of the Navajo Nation. On hot summer days, Hood and her three siblings would tend to the family’s sheep, play football in a steep-banked arroyo and explore the piñon-studded mesas. Then, to cool off, they would splash in a pool of water that streamed from a pipe.
At the time, the Hood children had no idea they were playing in radioactive waste
Miners Confronted at Grand Canyon Uranium Mine
Indigenous & environmental advocates confronted workers at the Canyon Mine on March 12, 2017.
Energy Fuel’s Canyon Mine is located just miles from the Grand Canyon and is desecrating Red Butte, a site sacred to Havasupai, Diné, & Hopi Nations.
„It was like a war zone.“
Right next to the village in which Carletta Garcia grew up, was once located the world’s largest open-pit uranium mine. The mining has not only destroyed most of her family, but also the whole culture and economy of her tribe.
What was it like to live that close to a uranium mine?
I grew up in Paguate Village, near the Jackpile Mine, located in the Pueblo of Laguna in New Mexico. It was in a beautiful valley. We had gardens and we would picnic there on Sundays. At that time nobody knew the potential danger of uranium. The mine opened in 1953, when there was a boom in uranium mining. It was in operation 24/7. As I grew up, all I remember is the dynamite blastings. It was like a war zone: Every day around 12 o’clock they would sound off a siren and blast this massive amount of dynamite.
It shook our whole Mesa. We were sitting at lunch and sometimes the wind was just right and the dust would settle on our dinner and we would eat that along with our food. The ladies at that time would dry food and deer meat outside and all of that would be contaminated and we ate that. When people built their homes, they would bring in the rocks and soil from the mining area, because it was free. They plastered their homes, they built ovens (to cook traditional breads and corn) and it was all contaminated.
“We did all these things we couldn ́t do before, but we didn ́t know that we were being contaminated.”
But mining was the big thing, it brought in a lot of money. We went to town, to Pizza Hut, we did all these things we couldn ́t do before because of the money. But the only thing they didn’t tell us was, that we were being contaminated.
In the 70’s women were employed in the mines, so you and your mother started working there?
Yes. When my mother started she operated a dump truck, with which she transported highgrade uranium ore. In 1979, when I was 19, I also started to work in the mine. All this time we were inhaling and ingesting uranium particles and at lunch we would sit and eat on top of the stockpiles of uranium ore. We were never told that it was dangerous. My mother was a single mother, so she needed the job. It was a high paying job at that time, it helped us to become affluent. People bought vehicles and nice things for their homes during the „boom“.
Did you know about the danger of radiation?
They never told us about radiation and we never had dosimeter badges. They paid us very well, $15 an hour. For someone who was 19 in 1979, that was a lot of money. I was young and impressionable. When you are young, you don ́t think of the future, you think about the immediate, about going down to the shops, buying some nice things. But around 1993 my mother discovered 2 lumps under her arm. She had cancer. Then she went through six years of intense chemotherapy. My husband died 4 years ago from pancreatic cancer. He didn ́t work in the mine, but his brothers did. They brought home their laundry and it was being washed with the family’s wash. Also his house was less than 100 feet away from the train tracks that carried the uranium ore from the mine to the crusher site. Along that route, if you take a Geiger counter, you can still read the traces of the ore there. The train was open, they never covered it, so it is all contaminated there.
What people don’t realise is, if their parents worked in the mines, they were bringing the contamination into their homes. Now we are still fighting the effects of what the mine has left for us. There are a lot of people who are sick, a lot of people dying. I myself have thyroid disease. I am 50, still beautiful, but I am a widow. I am not going to live my golden years with my husband. In 1981 the mines shut down due to a sudden price drop for uranium.
What has changed since then for your tribe?
Everybody who was employed at the mine was out of a job. So we went into a big recession. In our village, people were losing things that they had bought on credit. We had a high suicide rate and lots of divorces because of financial problems. And along with that we started getting sick. It changed our culture.
We no longer follow the different rituals by the solstices and equinoxes. We decided to do this at other times when it is convenient for us. We are losing our own language. A lot of our children do not speak our language anymore. The mine basically changed our health, our economy, our social status and our culture. It was a big disruption in our lives. We went from being agriculturalists to working at dead-end jobs.
In 1999, shortly before she died, your mother, Dorothy Purley, won the International Nuclear Free Future Award due to her campaigning against uranium mining on Native American lands and territories. Has her life inspired you to keep going forward?
Yes. We live in this beautiful vessel, which we call earth. Whatever we do, remains, it does not leave. Nothing leaves our area. So we have to be careful in what we do and how we maintain things, because it is going to come back to haunt us. I fear for the generations that follow. I fear for my people, because they will continue to be plagued with different ailments like cancer, kidney diseases and diabetes …
Have Native Americans been treated differently by the mining company compared to white Americans?
We call it Environmental Racism. Every time some trash is dumped or some radioactive waste site is set up, it is always near people of color. I don’t know if it is a deliberate attempt by the government or not. It is just always like that. Probably 98% of my colleagues in the mine were Native Americans. This means a lot.
The beginning of the end
Right at the beginning of uranium process, the most far-reaching environmental impacts are caused.
Like other metals uranium is found as ore mineral in rock. However, the actual uranium content in the ore amounts to only 0.5%. Historically, uranium has primarily been mined underground or in open pit mines.
More recently, however, solution-based “leaching” of uranium has gained importance. In the “liquid” process, sulphuric acid or sodium hydroxide is directly channelled into underground reservoirs and the uranium containing solution is pumped to the surface. The most economically important uranium mines are located in Australia, Canada, Kazakhstan, Brazil, India and more recently in Africa. For years, the quantities produced have not always covered the amount of uranium needed worlwide. This shortfall in the uranium market is primarily met through existing stockpiles, old nuclearweapons and reprocessed fuel elements.
The production of the yellow uranium concentrate, or “yellowcake”, is done in processing plants near the mines. Sulphuric acid or alkali and large amounts of water are used to dissolve the uranium from the rock. The separation process leaves ever accumulating quantities of remainder rock and rubble – also known as tailings. These tailings are pumped into reservoirs in spite of containing many health damaging substances such as thorium, radium and heavy metals (including arsenic). The tailings continue to release 85% of their original radioactivity, only decreasing to a less dangerous level over a few hundred thousand years.
Contamination of humans and nature
Radioactive dust is released in both the mining and milling of uranium. If this dust reaches a human body, radioactive material attacks the cells. Uranium miners are therefore exposed to a highly increased risk of cancer. Additionally, in the areas surrounding the mines, cancer rates in the local populations are higher-than-average. Numerous leaks and crevasses in the mine can cause radioactive waste from the tailing basin to enter the water cycle and contaminate ground and drinking water, lakes, rivers and even the air we breathe. The wind blows radioactive dust from the dried tailings all over the landscape. Radon gas will also escape and if it is inhaled, it can cause lung cancer. Animals in the vicinity of Australian mines exhibit significantly increased sterility and mutation rates. Since most uranium mines are located in arid regions, the high water consumption used in the mining also promotes the desertification of these regions.
At the expense of indigenous peoples
The people who are most affected by uranium mining are indigenous peoples including the Native Americans (Navajo, Laguna, Acoma, and other tribes) in North America, the Tuareg in Niger, the Adivasi in India, and the Aboriginal people in Australia. About 70% of the uranium development areas are on indigenous peoples’ lands. Since their way of life is strongly rooted in local ecosystems, the radioactive contamination essentially means the annihilation of their livelihoods and cultures. Again and again ancestral populations have had to move, established communities have been destroyed and traditions have been disrupted. Often, the development of new uranium mines is accomplished through undemocratic processes. For example, the Australian Government has overridden their environmental laws, including their Water Act, along with the law supporting the cultural heritage of indigenous peoples, in order to support the Olympic Dam mining company.
The husband of the 80 year old Navajo lady, Bettie Yazzie, died in 1974 from lung cancer after more than 10 years of working in the Union Carbide Corporation uranium mine in Colorado. Years later the U.S. government finally admitted and apologised for not having told them how dangerous uranium mining is.
Atomic in India
India is one of the few countries in the post-Fukushima world to have massive nuclear expansion plans. Official claims say this is based on the country’s growing energy requirements and the need to provide electricity to India’s poor population who continue to live in dark. This has also been offered in the country’s pledge submitted to the UNFCC ahead of the COP21, as a justification for the planned expansion of total installed nuclear capacity to 63 Gigawatts by the year 2032.
Dubbing nuclear energy as a solution to climate change has been a key strategy of the Indian government for selling the nuclear projects to the public as well as justifying the spree of nuclear agreements with other countries. However, there are three reasons why this is not feasible, desirable and cost-effective.
Firstly, India’s current installed nuclear capacity is just 6780 MWe, based on the assumption that the two VVER reactors recently installed in Koodankulam are actually functioning, when the plants have had unprecedented incidents of trippings. Producing 63GWs by 2032 is simply not feasible, because of the terminal crisis facing the global nuclear industry as well as the insurmountable problems associated with Fast Breeder Reactors on which this projection is based. The DAE itself has drastically lowered its projection and is aiming at generating 14,500 MWe by 2024. This target seems more feasible given the pace of projects underway.
Secondly, the poor’s access to energy has been a complete farce, to provide moral justification for what is essentially an eco-destructive and anti-poor nuclear expansion. While India has the largest section of population in the world which is still unelectrified – 20% of all households, much larger in terms of population share – even the claimed electrification is of poor quality. Merely after connecting a single house or office in a village to electric wire, official announcement of electrification is made ceremoniously. Therefore, the enormous expansion of capacity in the past 3 decades has been confined to power-guzzling urban and neoliberal sector, while rural and poor India has received little more than ornamental facade.
Thirdly, all the major reactor purchase promises that India has made are actually in exchange for the legitimisation of India’s nuclear weapons status under the Indo-US nuclear deal, which summarily ended India’s international isolation since its nuclear tests despite being a non-signatory to the NPT and CTBT. Nuclear growth in the country has been far from being a result of any prudent assessment of India’s power requirements and a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis. The power from imported reactors being set up is estimated to be as much as 4 times the tariff from conventional sources and even indigenous reactors. Independent studies have shown that despite massive power production in general, it will hardly reach the rural poor as they simply cannot afford electricity. Hence, providing electricity to the Indian poor is much more than just an engineering and management problem. It has to do with the larger questions of addressing inequity, socio-economic marginalisation and the burgeoning disenfranchisement due to the obsession with neo-liberal economic growth.
Predictably, this anachronistic and imprudent nuclear dream has met with massive peaceful protests on the ground by the affected communities as well as strong objections from independent experts and even former top policy makers. Besides Jaitapur where six French-imported EPRs are being installed to set up the world’s largest nuclear power park, massive and intense anti-nuclear protests have arisen in Koodankulam, Mithi Virdi and Kovvada, where Russian and US corporations are setting up nuclear power plants. Local communities in other places like Chutka, Fatehabad and Mahi Banswara have also been agitating against the nuclear projects. The government has resorted to brutal crackdowns and repression against these consistently peaceful protests. More than 8,000 people in Koodankulam are facing fabricated police cases under colonial-era sedition laws and charges of waging war against the Indian state. The police have killed, arrested and harassed villagers indiscriminately, including women and children. They surrounded the Idinthakarai village in 2012 and disrupted its vital supply lines that deliver goods, including food and milk for children and medicines, to force the village to surrender. One of the first steps that the new government under Modi took in 2015 was to come up with a “confidential” report by the Intelligence Bureau, naming Greenpeace, the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace, and other anti-nuclear and environmentalist organizations, “anti-national”.
Nuclear issues and climate in India are issues central to lives, livelihoods and safety of hundreds of thousands of Indian and their democracy that they cherish.
Indien ist eines der wenigen Länder auf der Welt nach Fukushima, das massive atomare Expansionspläne hat. Nach offiziellen Behauptungen beruhen diese auf dem wachsenden Energiebedarf und der Notwendigkeit, der armen Bevölkerung, die weiterhin im Dunklen lebt, Strom zur Verfügung zu stellen. Genau das wurde auch als indischer Beitrag zu den CO²-Zielen angeboten, die vor dem COP21-Gipfel beim UN-Klimaschutzrat (UNFCC) eingereicht wurden, um damit die geplante Erweiterung der installierten atomaren Kapazität auf 63 Gigawatt bis zum Jahr 2032 zu rechtfertigen.
Die Atomenergie zur Bekämpfung des Klimawandel anzupreisen war eine entscheidende Strategie der indischen Regierung, um der Öffentlichkeit ihre atomaren Projekte zu verkaufen und die zahlreichen Atomabkommen mit anderen Ländern zu rechtfertigen. Es gibt jedoch drei Gründe, warum die geplante Erweiterung weder machbar, noch wünschenswert, noch kosteneffektiv ist.
Erstens beträgt die gegenwärtig installierte atomare Gesamtkapazität Indiens nur 6,78 Gigawatt – und das auch nur unter der Annahme, dass die beiden kürzlich in Kudankulam installierten russischen WWER-Reaktoren tatsächlich funktionieren, eine wenig plausible Annahme angesichts der häufigen Zwischenfälle mit Notabschaltungen. Die Erzeugung von 63 Gigawatt bis 2032 ist einfach nicht machbar: wegen der tiefen Krise der globalen Atomindustrie, aber auch wegen der unüberwindbaren Probleme mit den Schnellen Brütern, auf denen diese Planung beruht. Das Energieministerium selbst hat seine Prognose drastisch gesenkt und strebt nun an, die Erzeugung von 14,5 Gigawatt bis 2024 zu erreichen. Dieser Zielwert scheint eher möglich, wenn man sich das Tempo der begonnenen Projekte anschaut.
Zweitens ist das Argument, die Armen mit Strom versorgen zu wollen, eine komplette Farce, um eine moralische Rechtfertigung zu liefern für etwas, was im Wesentlichen eine ökologisch zerstörerische und gegen die Armen gerichtete atomare Expansion ist. Indien hat weltweit den höchsten Bevölkerungsanteil ohne Stromversorgung: 20% aller Haushalte, aber ein deutlich höherer Anteil der Gesamtbevölkerung, haben keinen Zugang zu Strom. Doch selbst die offiziellen Angaben zur Elektrifizierung haben wenig Aussagekraft: Selbst wenn nur ein einziges Haus oder Büro in einem Dorf an die elektrische Leitung angeschlossen wird, gibt es eine offizielle feierliche Verkündung der Elektrifizierung des Dorfes. Deshalb blieb die enorme Kapazitätserweiterung der vergangenen drei Jahrzehnte beschränkt auf die stromfressenden städtischen und neoliberalen Bereiche, während das ländliche und arme Indien nicht viel mehr als eine verzierte Fassade erhielt.
Drittens erfolgten alle wichtigen AKW-Kaufzusagen, die Indien eingegangen ist, im Gegenzug für die Legitimierung von Indiens Status als Atomwaffenstaat. Diese Zusagen erfolgten im Rahmen des indisch-amerikanischen Nuklearvertrages, der schließlich Indiens internationale Isolation als Folge seiner Atomwaffentests beendete, obwohl das Land kein Unterzeichnerstaat der Abkommen zur Nichtverbreitung und zum Atomwaffen-Teststopp (NPT und CTBT) ist. Der Ausbau der Atomkraft in Indien ist mitnichten das Ergebnis einer vernünftigen Abschätzung des Strombedarfs und einer umfassenden Kosten-Nutzen-Analyse. Die Kosten für den Strom aus importierten Reaktoren werden auf bis zu viermal so hoch geschätzt, wie die für Strom aus konventionellen Quellen und sogar aus einheimischen Reaktoren. Unabhängige Studien haben gezeigt, dass auch eine generell sehr hohe Stromproduktion die ländlichen Armen nicht erreichen würde, da diese sich Elektrizität einfach nicht leisten können. Deshalb ist die Stromversorgung der Armen Indiens viel mehr als nur ein Technik- und Organisationsproblem. Es geht um die viel größeren Fragen der Überwindung der Ungleichheit, der sozioökonomischen Marginalisierung und der zunehmenden Entrechtung infolge der aberwitzigen Fixierung auf neoliberales Wirtschaftswachstums.
Wie nicht anders zu erwarten, stießen diese anachronistischen und unausgegorenen Atomträume auf massive friedliche Proteste von den betroffenen Gemeinden vor Ort sowie auf starke Einwände seitens unabhängiger Experten und selbst früherer Spitzenpolitiker. Neben Jaitapur, wo mit sechs EPR-Druckwasserreaktoren aus Frankreich der weltgrößte Kraftwerkspark gebaut werden soll, entstanden massive und intensive Anti-Atom-Proteste in Kudankulam, Mithi Virdi und Kovvada, wo Konzerne aus Russland und den USA Atomreaktoren errichten (wollen). Lokale Gemeinschaften in Chutka, Fatehabad und Mahi Banswara haben sich ebenfalls gegen die dortigen atomaren Projekte organisiert. Die Regierung bekämpfte diese durchgängig friedlichen Proteste mit brutalen Polizeieinsätzen, Ausgangssperren und Repressionen. Über 8000 Menschen in Kudankulam sind mit fabrizierten Anzeigen der Polizei wegen Verstößen gegen Aufruhrgesetze aus der Kolonialzeit konfrontiert und mit Anschuldigungen wie „Kriegführung gegen den indischen Staat“. Die Polizei hat Dorfbewohner getötet, verhaftet und schikaniert, auch Frauen und Kinder blieben nicht verschont. So wurde 2012 das Dorf Idinthakarai eingekesselt; lebenswichtige Lieferwege für Güter wie Nahrung, Milch für die Kinder oder Medikamente wurden gesperrt, um die Bewohner zur Aufgabe zu zwingen. Einer der ersten Schritte, mit dem die neue Regierung unter Premierminister Modi 2015 in Erscheinung trat, war ein „vertraulicher“ Geheimdienstbericht, der Greenpeace, die Koalition für Nukleare Abrüstung und Frieden (CNDP) sowie andere Anti-Atom- und Umweltschutz-Organisationen als „gegen die Nation gerichtet“ bzw. „staatsfeindlich“ denunzierte.
Atomkraft und Klimawandel sind in Indien Themen, die für das Leben, die Lebensgrundlage und die Sicherheit von Hunderttausenden von Inderinnen und Indern sowie für ihre demokratischen Rechte von zentraler Bedeutung sind.
Unbedingt sehenswert ist der Film über den erfolgreichen Widerstand gegen das AKW in Haripur/Westbengalen „Haripur Says No to Nuclear Power“ https://vimeo.com/13811551
August 2017: Massive protest against world’s largest nuclear plant under construction
In Jaitapur, 6 EPR-design nuclear reactors imported from France, are being set up in brazen violation of safety, environmental and seismic regulatory norms besides being undemocratically imposed on the local communities whose lives and livelihoods depend on the fragile ecology that is threatened to be destroyed. The local communities, including farmers, fisherfolk, agro-traders, women and children have been opposing what would be world’s biggest nuclear power park – with a total capacity of 9,900MWs – if it comes through. Apart from grassroots opposition, negotiations on the cost of the reactors, liability in case of potential accidents and terminal crisis of French nuclear industry itself has slowed down the project which has been in offing since 2008.
This Sunday, people in the area are going to stage massive ‘jail bharo’ protest against the nuclear project in their area. Speaking to DiaNuke.org, local activist Fakir Mohammad Solkar said that between 1500 to 2000 people are expected to participate in the protest and their primary demand is that the nuclear project must be entirely scrapped. Sachin Chavan, another key activist, added that this project threatens the entire Konkan region which is demarcated as ecologically fragile and a biodiversity hotspot. While France itself is scaling back its nuclear production and its nuclear industry is facing bankruptcy, the lives of common Indian people are put at stake for this dangerous reactor as if they are guinea pigs.
Answering to why did the farmers gave away their land for the project, Sachin Chavan quipped – “see, the land was forcibly acquired from the farmers they did not give it willingly. They put up a strong fight for years but eventually the govt’s stick and carrot policy worked. One young person from Sakhri Nate was even killed during protests in 2011 by indiscriminate police firing. The farmers continue to protest and last year 13 village panchayats – elected local governance bodies – passed unanimous statements against the project.” The reports of National Oceanography of India says that the project would irreversibly harm the entire coast from Maharashtra until Goa, he added.
Satyajit Chavan, leader of the Janhit Seva Samiti which is the key local organisation, asserts – “Modi govt has canceled Westinghouse project in Gujarat and recognised the environmental and safety risks it posed. Now our demand is that it must cancel the Jaitapur project as well, at the earliest. Until that happens, we will keep protesting and our agitation will only grow stronger. This week, the French regulator ASN made fresh revelations about the vulnerabilities of components used in EDF. A detailed report on the unacceptable risks of this project can be read here.
text: dianuke.org, August 19, 2017
Statement: National Policies Corner Victims – Six Years after the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster
On March 11, 2011, the Great Tohoku Earthquake led to the disastrous meltdowns in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants owned by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). Six years later, the accident remains unresolved and we continue to face the consequences of a prolonged and unprecedented nuclear disaster.
The consequences are complicated and diverse. Due to the wide spread radiation contamination, the lives of those who once lived with blessings of nature were lost and in many areas, dramatically altered. The countless consequences include: loss of livelihood and purposes of life, living in cramped temporary evacuation shelters, dividing families and communities, health risks and growing anxieties, bullying and prejudice in the evacuation destinations… and the list goes on.
In such a situation, national policy which encourages the evacuees to return to their home under the name of “reconstruction” corners victims of the nuclear disaster.
1. Discontinuation of Evacuation Housing for Evacuees Coming from outside of Official Evacuation Zones
The government denies health risks from radiation exposure and as such has issued evacuation orders to certain areas based on the radiation exposure limit of 20 mSv per year. Evacuees outside the specified evacuation zones were forced to evacuate without compensation. Due to the fact that their evacuation remains socially unrecognized, many evacuees suffer from lack of public understanding labeling them as “people who selfishly ran away” even in the evacuation destinations. Housing provisions based on the Disaster Relief Act, which can be said to be the only public support for these people, will be terminated at the end of March this year. Very few have been able to find a new residence for April and beyond.
There are local government bodies that extended the tenancy, created special blocks, provided rent assistance, etc. to public housing from a humanitarian standpoint, but there are inequalities in responses depending on the evacuation destination. For evacuees who have rented homes from private owners, their fates remain unknown but there have been cases in which management companies have enforced high hurdles and pressured them to move out. Despite the numerous compelling appeals of many evacuees, both the national and Fukushima prefectural government have not withdrawn the policy discontinuing evacuation housing stating that the matter has been “already decided”.
According to the Nuclear Power Plant Disaster Children and Victims Support Act, the government is supposed to provide the necessary assistance so that the victims have the choice between staying, evacuating, and returning home. They are also responsible for securing housing in the evacuation destination. Nonetheless, the Japanese government has failed to fulfill these responsibilities.
2. Evacuee Return Promotion Policies are not “Reconstruction”
Under the name of “acceleration of reconstruction”, the Japan government has lifted the evacuation order from previously specified evacuation zones one after another and has been promoting an evacuee return policy. Already, the evacuation order has been lifted in Tamura City Miyakoji District, Minami Soma Odaka District, Kawauchi Village, Naraha Town, and Katsurao Village (excluding areas where it is designated as ‘difficult-to-return zone’). In addition, the evacuation order will be lifted from Namie Town, Iitate Village, and Kawamata Town from March 31 and from April 1, the order will be also lifted from the evacuation order cancellation preparation zone and restricted residence zone of Tomioka Town.
However, the termination of the evacuation order is not a reflection of the evacuee’s views. As such, there are not many returnees in areas where the evacuation order has already been terminated.
At the briefing meetings held in various areas concerning the termination of the evacuation order, many evacuees have expressed their sentiments that “the termination is too premature” or “the evacuation order should not be lifted”. Meanwhile, there are elderly people who have lost their purposes of life and stay all day in their cramped temporary housing.
It is true that there are many who feel that another relocation is beyond their limit. This tells us that the system of long-term evacuation in response to the prolonged nuclear power plant disaster was not appropriately constructed.
According to surveys on intentions of evacuees on returning to their previous residents conducted by the Reconstruction Agency and related municipalities, many evacuees responded they will “not return” or “still cannot decide” whether to return. Those who responded that they plan “to return” are largely elderly households of 1 or 2 people which means the younger generation will not be returning. Even if the evacuation order is terminated, the areas will have many vacant homes with scattered elderly residents.
If we are to assume that “reconstruction” means to restore people’s original ways of living happily, the hasty return policy currently put underway by the government is far from “reconstruction”.
3. “Radiation Exposure” “Health Risk”
In current Fukushima, it is considered taboo to utter the words “radiation exposure” or “health risk” and it is publicized that feeling anxious about such things is even rather worse for health.
On the other hand, prefectural health surveys have revealed that there are 184 children under the age of 18 diagnosed with malignant or suspected case of thyroid cancer. Of those 184 cases, 145 of them have been confirmed as cancer after biopsy surgery.
“311 Thyroid Cancer Children’s Fund” which FoE Japan helped establishing, provides financial support to children suffering from thyroid cancer in fifteen of the eastern Japan prefectures. Even outside of Fukushima prefecture, there are many cases where lung metastasis and other diseases become rapidly severe, due to insufficient screening systems that delay discovery of the diseases.
Instead of denying the relationship between the incident and health problems, The government should take precautionary principle and take on its responsibility to establish an adequate medical or health system for people.
Reconstruction for people
Currently, a large amount of the government budget is allocated to reducing the volume of contaminated waste and constructing facilities for such. Among these projects, some seem to have serious environmental effects, or to have unclear purpose therefore needs to investigate if these projects are really needed. On the other hand, counter measures aiming to prevent radiation exposures are rarely conducted by the government, only some CSOs have recapitulation camps for children in Fukushima.
Victims and evacuees of the nuclear disaster are cornered by the policies that only reduce the number of evacuees on statistics and denial for the relationship between the radiation exposure and health problems done under the name of “reconstruction”. The government must not underestimate the loss caused by the nuclear disaster, make clear the responsibility, and take firm action for dignity of victims.
International Environmental NGO
Friend of the Earth Japan
1-21-9 Komone, Itabashi, Tokyo
Japan: thyroid cancer after Fukushima
Factsheet: Pediatric thyroid cancer cases in Fukushima Prefecture – Out of the 137 cases of suspected or diagnosed with malignant thyroid cancers, 23 out of the 25 people who were retested had been told that they were clear of thyroid cancer in the first round screening.
On August 31,2015, the newest reports on pediatric thyroid cancer cases in Fukushima were made public at the 20th Oversight Committee for the Fukushima Health Management Survey. According to those reports, the number of children who were suspected of having thyroid cancer or were diagnosed with malignant cases of thyroid cancer totaled 137. Out of the 137 children, 25 of them were either suspected to have or diagnosed with thyroid cancer in the second round of checkups, which started in 2014. Within this group of 25 children, 23 had been told that they were clear of thyroid cancer in their first round screening.
- read more: http://www.foejapan.org/en/news/150904.html