Archive for the ‘indigenous’ Category

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

September 14, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parkinson was let go from the project.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 14, 2021

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

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

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

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

Investigating the health impacts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s what they found

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

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

Time to clean up Bikini Atoll,to right the nuclear wrongs done to the Pacific islands people.

April 5, 2021

After 75 years, it’s time to clean Bikini   https://thebulletin.org/2021/03/after-75-years-its-time-to-clean-bikini/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=ThursdayNewsletter03112021&utm_content=NuclearRisk_CleanBikini_03082021

By Hart RapaportIvana Nikolić Hughes | March 9, 2021,   Due to their remote location in the Northern Marshall Islands, the people of Bikini Atoll were spared the worst of the mid-Pacific fighting between the American and Japanese armies in the final years of World War II. Their millennia-old culture and sustainable way of life ended abruptly when, in early 1946, Commodore Ben Wyatt, a representative of the occupying United States Navy, informed King Juda and other Bikini residents that the US would begin to test nuclear weapons near their homes. Wyatt asked the Bikinians to move elsewhere, stating that the temporary move was for “the good of mankind and to end all wars.” Though Wyatt may have believed his words to be true, the show of might by the US that followed neither ended all conflict, nor was the exodus short-lived. Seventy-five years later, Bikinians have yet to return.

Nuclear testing in Bikini and other Marshall Islands, which lasted from 1946 to 1958, received international attention at the time. In those early Cold War days, America demonstrated its nuclear prowess through images of mushroom cloud blasts towering over the Pacific on the cover of Time magazine and other prominent publications. The word Bikini infiltrated popular culture via the name of a two-piece swimsuit (named by a French designer to be “explosive”) and SpongeBob’s home, without simultaneously suffusing our conscience with an awareness of the injustices and suffering those blasts caused the Marshallese people.

It is time, finally, to recognize and right the wrongs perpetrated by the US government in the Marshall Islands. The US forced a new and dangerous technology on the native lands and peoples, without fully comprehending the short- and long-term consequences. The Marshall Islands–and Bikini specifically–ended up the site of most of the tests of US hydrogen bombs, weapons up to a thousand times more powerful than atomic bombs used in attacks on Japan in 1945. Later, when the refugees were briefly returned to Bikini after testing ended, they were exposed to harmful radiation amounts with devastating health effects.

To be sure, the US government has taken steps to monitor and address the contamination that resulted from these nuclear detonations. However, the status quo—studies by the Energy Department for the sake of scientific publications and reports, while Bikinians continue to live on other islands—is not only inadequate, but morally repugnant. Bikini is a native land and water that, over thousands of years, was critical to the people’s sustenance and the bedrock of their culture. While some of those who survived the decades of relocations are still alive, their children and grandchildren, including the descendants of King Juda, have yet to resettle their ancestral home. Without an immediate US-government-funded plan to resettle the living refugees, the millennia-long culture and history tied to the atoll may be lost forever. Also, as one of the highest lying islands in the region, Bikini could be the solution to challenges the Marshallese face from global warming and corresponding rise of sea levels.

But it’s not as simple as saying: “Let’s move the Bikinians back.” A permanent return to the atoll by a multi-generational community would risk serious health effects unless sources of remaining radiological contamination in Bikini’s fruit, soil, and lagoon are addressed and removed, according to our research at Columbia University’s K=1 Project, Center for Nuclear Studies. We have found radioactive materials throughout Bikini Atoll, resulting in background gamma radiation above the limit agreed upon by the Republic of the Marshall Islands and US and levels of cesium-137 in various fruits that violate most relevant international and domestic safety standards. Even the waters surrounding Bikini, a formerly plentiful source of food, are riddled with radioisotopes from the detonations. The cleanup may require a novel scientific approach on par with that used after the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear accidents. That said, a modern nuclear testing cleanup protocol may prove useful in the event of future nuclear incidents in the United States or elsewhere.

The Biden administration has promised to lead in domestic and international spheres with morals and compassion. To do so, it must engage in a truthful, comprehensive accounting of past missteps in the Marshall Islands, regardless of whether the cost of reparations and resettlement exceeds its current pledge of roughly $110 million to Bikini. Commodore Wyatt’s allegedly “temporary” displacement of Bikinians from their native land has lasted 75 years and counting. Will the Biden administration act with morals to clean remaining radioactive material from US detonations? Will it act with compassion to help Bikinians find their way home?

French Nuclear tests: revelations about a cancer epidemic

April 5, 2021
Nuclear tests: revelations about a cancer epidemic   https://www.mediapart.fr/journal/international/090321/essais-nucleaires-revelations-sur-une-epidemie-de-cancers  MARCH 9, 2021 BY DISCLOSE In a confidential report, the Polynesian government acknowledges the existence of a “cluster of thyroid cancers” directly linked to French nuclear tests.

On July 2, 1966, in the greatest secrecy, France carried out its first nuclear test in the Polynesian sky. That day, at 5:34 am, Aldebaran, the name given to the bomb, was fired from a barge installed on an azure lagoon, near the Mururoa atoll. A few microseconds after the explosion, a fireball appears. This incandescent mass of several thousand degrees rises in the sky and forms, as it cools, a huge cloud of radioactive dust dispersed by the winds. No less than 46 “atmospheric” tests like this one have been carried out in the space of eight years.

Each time, the explosion generated fallout contaminating everything in their path. Starting with the inhabitants of the islands. In total, they were exposed 297 times to intense levels of radioactivity. The general staff have always held to the same line of defense. The atmospheric tests, presented as “clean”, would not have had “consequences for the health” of the Polynesians.

For years, the associations defending the victims of the trials have been convinced to the contrary. As for the scientific community, it has tried several times to verify this position through in-depth analyzes of official data, without success. Latest illustrations of this failure: the study published by the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm) on February 18.

At the end of this work commissioned by the Ministry of Defense eight years ago, Inserm considered that the “links between the fallout from atmospheric tests and the occurrence of radiation-induced pathologies” were difficult to establish, due to a lack of data. reliable on the contamination of the archipelagos.

” Cluster of cancers ” However, a confidential report submitted to the Polynesian government a year earlier, in February 2020, argues the opposite. Disclose has obtained a copy of this never-before-released document. Soberly titled “Health consequences of French nuclear tests in the Pacific”, this eight-page report was written by a French military doctor at the request of the Monitoring Medical Center, an administration created in 2007 by the French and Polynesian governments and responsible for screening radiation-induced diseases.

In other words, pathologies linked to repeated exposure to ionizing radiation. According to the author, some 10,000 Polynesians, including 600 children under the age of 15 living in the Gambier Islands, Tureia or even Tahiti have thus received a dose of radioactivity of 5 millisieverts (mSv), that is to say five times more than the minimum threshold (1 mSv) above which exposure is considered dangerous for human health.

But the most embarrassing information is on page 5 of the document. For the first time, an official report establishes a direct link between nuclear tests and the extent of the number of cancers in the population. “The presence of a ‘cluster’ of thyroid cancers focused on the islands subjected to fallout during aerial shots, and in particular in the Gambier Islands, leaves little doubt about the role of ionizing radiation, and in particular of thyroid exposure to radioactive iodine, in the occurrence of this excess of cancers, ”says the author.

The thyroid, an organ at the base of the neck, is particularly sensitive to ionizing radiation, especially in childhood, when the risk of developing thyroid cancer is greatest. The incidence of thyroid cancer and the link with the atmospheric gunfire campaign were precisely the subject of an Inserm analysis in 2010. According to this study, 153 thyroid cancers were diagnosed between 1985 and 1995 in the population born before 1976 and residing in French Polynesia.

As a result, the number of people with thyroid cancer was two to three times higher than in New Zealand and Hawaii. Without being able to establish a direct link with nuclear tests, the college of experts already deplored the lack of available data. Based on data from the time, Disclose and Interprt, in partnership with the Science and Global Security program at Princeton University (United States), reassessed the doses of radioactivity received in the thyroid by the inhabitants of the Gambier, of Tureia and Tahiti during six of the most contaminating nuclear tests. Our estimates show that the doses received would be between two and ten times higher than the estimates established by the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) in 2006.

How can we explain such a gap between our results and those of the CEA? The answer lies in the details of the calculation options chosen by the scientists at the Atomic Energy Commission. Take the example of Aldebaran, the first test in the open air. The CEA estimated that the population of the Gambier Islands, very exposed to toxic fallout, only drank river water, but no rainwater, which is much more loaded with radioactive particles. Many witnesses met in Polynesia question this assertion.

This is the case with Julie Lequesme, 12 years old at the time of the events. “We had only that, rainwater,” says the resident of Taku, a village northeast of Mangareva, the main island of the Gambier archipelago. The same goes for Rikitea, the capital of the island, where “the running water network was not completed until the end of the 1970s”, specifies Jerry Gooding, the former president of the association. , the main organization supporting civilian victims of nuclear tests. Rainwater consumption is also confirmed by at least four official documents we obtained. A study by the Office for Scientific and Technical Research Overseas (Orstom) published in August 1966, one month after the start of the tests, thus notes that some of the islanders only consumed rainwater, in particular in because of their isolation.

Same conclusion in a report from the Joint Biological Control Service (SMCB), an army service, dated April 24, 1968. By reintegrating the consumption of rainwater after Aldebaran, our estimates for the exposure of a child aged 1 to 2 at the time are 2.5 times higher than official calculations. Of the six tests we reconstructed, the consumption of rainwater was the main source of exposure to radioactivity for five of them. By choosing not to incorporate this data or by minimizing its importance, the state has therefore knowingly underestimated the extent of the contamination.

In the Gambiers, cancer as a legacy
According to the Ministry of the Armed Forces, the Gambier Islands have been affected by atmospheric fallout 31 times. In fact, the archipelago was struck by all the tests carried out between 1966 and 1974. Since then, cancer has spread everywhere. From Rikitea to Taku, to the shore of Taravai, the inhabitants are convinced: this plague is directly linked to atomic experiments. By investigating the field and meeting dozens of witnesses, Disclose was able to map the disease in Mangareva, the main Gambier island.

Although we have not been able to establish a direct link between the trials and the number of cancers on site, the result is instructive. Yves Salmon developed carcinoma, a radiation-induced cancer of the blood, in 2010. His wife contracted breast cancer. She was recognized as a victim of French nuclear tests. The same goes for his sister. Utinio, Yves Salmon’s neighbor, contracted thyroid cancer in 2001. The man, who still lives near the village of Taku, spent his childhood in the Gambiers. In 2010, the French state finally recognized him as a victim of nuclear tests. Monique, 69, is Utinio’s cousin. She was a thyroid cancer survivor after two years in hospital and received state compensation in August 2011. Monique has six children, four of whom have thyroid cancer. Her two daughters have sought compensation from the Nuclear Test Victims Compensation Committee (Civen) without having received any answers yet.

Sylvie (first name has been changed) and her older sister, born in 1972 and 1971, both suffered from breast cancer. “It was when our elders started dying that we really began to wonder,” said the eldest. Their mother died of the same disease in 2009. She was recognized as a victim of nuclear tests, just like Sylvie. This resident of Mangareva now fears for her daughter. Julie Lequesme’s father, an elder from Taku village, died of throat cancer in 1981 after working in Mururoa. “The island doctor told me that based on my father’s X-rays, he was a heavy smoker,” she says. However, my father never touched a cigarette. Her husband, a CEA alumnus, also died of cancer in 2010. In the family of Catherine Serda, a former resident of the small village of Taku, eight people suffered from cancer between the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1990s. Their common point: they all lived in Mangareva at the time. tests. If you have any information to give us, you can contact us at enquete@mediapart.fr. If you wish to send documents through a highly secure platform, you can connect to the frenchleaks.fr site

French report on the unfairness of France’s nuclear history in Algeria

April 5, 2021

French report grapples with nuclear fallout from Algerian War  https://thebulletin.org/2021/03/french-report-grapples-with-nuclear-fallout-from-algerian-war/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=ThursdayNewsletter03042021&utm_content=NuclearRisk_AlgerianWar_03042021&cf_chl_captcha_tk=32bfe924bf6171eab26d9deb08cd73459b5e69dc-1614896664-0-AWxxiguytXLkG_ERcOpFeDyCqmv7X1FYZmZBNGAnlwY6ZlI8PgWd2By Austin R. Cooper | March 4, 2021 n January, the French historian Benjamin Stora filed a report commissioned by the French President Emmanuel Macron aimed at “reconciliation of memories between France and Algeria,” which France ruled as the jewel of its colonial empire for more than 130 years.

The Stora Report addressed several scars from the Algerian War for Independence (1954–62), a bloody struggle for decolonization that met savage repression by French troops. One of these controversies stems from French use of the Algerian Sahara for nuclear weapons development.

France proved its bomb in the atmosphere above this desert, naming the inaugural blast , or Blue Jerboa, after the local rodent. Between 1960 and 1966, France detonated 17 nuclear devices in the Algerian Sahara: four atmospheric explosions during the Algerian War, and another 13 underground, most of these after Algerian Independence.

French nuclear ambitions became inextricable from the process of Algerian decolonization. The Saharan blasts drew international outrage, stalled ceasefire negotiations, and later threatened an uneasy peace across the Mediterranean.

The Stora Report signaled that radioactive fallout from the Algerian War has remained a thorn between the two nations. But the document comes up short of a clear path toward nuclear reconciliation.

A United Nations dispute. The French bomb collided with the Algerian War before the first mushroom cloud rose above the Sahara. In November 1959, Algerian allies representing independent states in Africa and Asia contested French plans for the desert in the First Committee on Disarmament at the United Nations.

Part of the French strategy at the United Nations was to drive a wedge between the nuclear issue and what French diplomats euphemistically termed the “Question of Algeria.” French obfuscation continued for decades.

France would not, until 1999, call the bloodshed a war, preferring the line that what happened in Algeria, as part of France, amounted to a domestic dispute, rather than UN business. Macron became, in 2018, the first French president to acknowledge “systemic torture” by French troops in Algeria.

The Afro-Asian challenge to Saharan explosions hurdled France’s diplomatic barricades at the United Nations. The French delegation tried to strike references to the Algerian War as irrelevant. But their African and Asian counterparts painted the desert blasts as a violation of African sovereignty.

The concern was not only for contested territory in Algeria, but also for independent states bordering the desert, whose leaders warned that nuclear fallout could cross their national borders. Radiation measurements taken in the wake of Gerboise bleue proved many of them right.

Nuclear weapons represented another piece of French imperialism on the continent.

Secret negotiations resumed in September 1961, with US Ambassador to Tunisia Walter N. Walmsley serving as France’s backchannel. The US State Department worried that French attachment to the test sites might thwart the decolonization process.

Lead Algerian negotiator Krim Belkacem asked Walmsley if prospects for a ceasefire still hinged on France retaining control of the test sites. Krim got his answer when Franco-Algerian talks resumed the following month, at the end of October 1961.

France did not abandon its goal to continue nuclear explosions in the Sahara. But the Algerian position appeared to have softened. So long as further blasts did not impinge on Algeria’s “eventual sovereignty” over the desert, as one archival document put it, a deal looked possible.

The Evian Accords marked a nuclear compromise. Finally signed in March 1962, the landmark treaty granted France a five-year lease to the Saharan test sites but did not specify terms of use.

Going underground. Advice from the French Foreign Ministry played a key role in pushing France’s weapons program beneath Saharan mountains. French diplomats suggested that underground explosions would present, according to one archival document, “significantly less serious” challenges than atmospheric ones for future relations with Algeria and its African neighbors.

This did not stop Algeria’s first president, Ahmed Ben Bella, from winning political capital with the nuclear issue. In public, Ben Bella cast Saharan blasts as an intolerable violation of Algerian sovereignty, as had his allies at the United Nations. In private, however, Ben Bella acquiesced to the Evian terms and reportedly tried to squeeze French financial aid out of the deal.

The Hoggar Massif shook 13 times before France handed over its two Saharan test sites to Algeria in 1967. An accident occurred during one of these underground blasts, dubbed Béryl, when containment measures failed. Several French soldiers and two high-ranking French officials suffered the highest radiation exposures, but roughly 240 members of “nomadic populations” in the region received lower doses.

Meanwhile, France began construction on its Pacific test range in French Polynesia, the site of nearly 200 nuclear explosions between 1966 and 1996. Most took place underground, but France also conducted atmospheric detonations in Polynesia, and these continued into the 1970s. Even though the Limited Test Ban Treaty had gone into effect in 1963—prohibiting nuclear blasts in the atmosphere, underwater, and in outer space—France refused to sign it.

Contamination and compensation. As part of its reconciliation proposal, the Stora Report encouraged Franco-Algerian cooperation on environmental remediation of the Saharan test sites. An expert report from the International Atomic Energy Agency, however, concluded in 2005 that environmental interventions were “not required” unless human traffic near the sites should increase.

The Stora Report briefly mentioned compensation linked to radiation exposure from French nuclear weapons development, but this deserves a closer look. In 2010, the French Parliament passed a law recognizing these victims and establishing funds and procedures to provide compensation for illness and injury. So far, France has earmarked 26 million euros for this purpose, but almost none of that has gone to Algerians.

Decades earlier, France’s nuclear allies turned to compensation programs in an attempt to reconcile with marginalized groups affected by weapons development without disclosure or consent. In 1993, for example, the United Kingdom settled with Australia as redress for indigenous people and personnel involved in UK explosions conducted in the former colony.

Facing similar lawsuits, the United States provided monetary compensation and health benefits to the indigenous people of the Marshall Islands, where US nuclear planners “offshored” their most powerful blasts during the Cold War arms race. Other US programs have made compensation available to communities “downwind” of the Nevada Test Site and surrounded by the uranium mines fueling the US nuclear arsenal, including Tribal Nations in the Four Corners region.

Compensation programs map a global history of colonial empire, racial discrimination, and dispossession of indigenous land, but postcolonial inequalities look particularly stark from the Sahara. Including appeals, France has granted 545 of 1,739 total requests filed by French soldiers and civilian participants in the nuclear detonations, as well as exposed populations in Algeria and Polynesia. Only 1 of 52 Algerian dossiers has proven successful.

French officials responsible for evaluating these files report that the ones from Algeria often arrive incomplete or in a shoddy state, and pin the blame on the Algerian government’s inability or unwillingness to provide the geographical, historical, and biomedical evidence that French assessment procedures demand. Claims must demonstrate that an individual worked or lived in a fixed area surrounding one of the two Saharan test sites, between February 1960 and December 1967, and suffered at least one of 21 types of cancer recognized as radiation-linked by French statute.

A step toward reconciliation. If Macron really wants to tackle France’s nuclear history in Algeria—and its aftermath—his government should start here. The French Parliament opened the door to Algerian compensation in 2010, and important revisions to the evaluation procedures took place in 2017, but there has never been a level playing field. Macron could, for example, require that French diplomats posted in Algeria help Algerians build their cases and locate supporting documents.

Another option: Macron could declassify archival materials documenting the intensity and scope of radioactive fallout generated by French nuclear blasts. Draconian interpretations of French statutes on the reach of military secrecy continue to block access to the vast majority of military, civil, and diplomatic collections on France’s nuclear weapons program—including radiation effects. Foreign archives have provided useful information, but official documentation from the French government would help exposed populations—like those in the Sahara—understand what happened, evaluate the risks, bolster their claims, and likely find these more successful.

The Stora Report did well to acknowledge nuclear fallout from the Algerian War. Giving Algerians a fair shot at compensation should mark France’s first step toward reconciliation.

“Ecomodernists” – Ben Heard, Oscar Archer, Barry Brook, Geoff Russell, – Australia’s pro-nuclear fake environmentalists

February 18, 2021
even in Heard’s scenario, only a tiny fraction of the imported spent fuel would be converted to fuel for imaginary Generation IV reactors (in one of his configurations, 60,000 tonnes would be imported but only 4,000 tonnes converted to fuel). Most of it would be stored indefinitely, or dumped on the land of unwilling Aboriginal communities.
Russell’s description of Aboriginal spiritual beliefs as “mumbo-jumbo” is beyond offensive.
Silence from the ecomodernists about the National Radioactive Waste Management Act (NRWMA), which dispossesses and disempowers Traditional Owners in every way imaginable:
Now, Traditional Owners have to fight industry, government, and the ecomodernists as well.

 

315 nuclear bombs and ongoing suffering: the shameful history of nuclear testing in Australia and the Pacific

February 18, 2021

Now climate change, rising seas, swamping Kiribati and the Marshall Islands, victims of nuclear racism

November 28, 2020

Losing paradise,  Atomic racism decimated Kiribati and the Marshall Islands; now climate change is sinking them, Beyond Nuclear   https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/72759838/posts/29981415891 Nov 20, This is an extract from the Don’t Bank on the Bomb Scotland report “Nuclear Weapons, the Climate and Our Environment”.

Kiribati.  In 1954, the government of Winston Churchill decided that the UK needed to develop a hydrogen bomb (a more sophisticated and destructive type of nuclear weapon). The US and Russia had already developed an H-bomb and Churchill argued that the UK “could not expect to maintain our influence as a world power unless we possessed the most up-to-date nuclear weapons”.

The governments of Australia and New Zealand refused to allow a hydrogen bomb test to be conducted on their territories so the British government searched for an alternative site. Kiritimati Island and Malden Island in the British Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony in the central Pacific Ocean (now the Republic of Kiribati) were chosen. Nine nuclear weapons tests – including the first hydrogen bomb tests – were carried out there as part of “Operation Grapple” between 1957 and 1958.

Military personnel from the UK, New Zealand and Fiji (then a British colony) and Gilbertese labourers were brought in to work on the operation. Many of the service personnel were ordered to witness the tests in the open, on beaches or on the decks of ships, and were simply told to turn their backs and shut their eyes when the bombs were detonated. There is evidence that Fijian forces were given more dangerous tasks than their British counterparts, putting them at greater risk from radiation exposure. The local Gilbertese were relocated and evacuated to British naval vessels during some of the tests but many were exposed to fallout, along with naval personnel and soldiers.

After Grapple X, the UK’s first megaton hydrogen bomb test in November 1957, dead fish washed ashore and “birds were observed to have their feathers burnt off, to the extent that they could not fly”. The larger Grapple Y test in 1958 spread fallout over Kiritimati Island and destroyed large areas of vegetation.

Despite evidence that military personnel and local people suffered serious health problems as a result of the tests, including blindness, cancers, leukaemia and reproductive difficulties, the British government has consistently denied that they were exposed to dangerous levels of radiation and has resisted claims for compensation.

Like the Marshall Islands, the low-lying Republic of Kiribati is now bearing the brunt of the effects of climate change. Salt water washed in on king tides has contaminated the islands’ scarce freshwater resources. Pits that are used to grow taro plants have been ruined and the healthy subsistence lifestyle of local people is under threat.

It is predicted that rising sea levels will further impact freshwater resources and reduce the amount of agricultural land, while storm damage and erosion will increase. Much of the land will ultimately be submerged. In anticipation of the need to relocate its entire population, the government of Kiribati bought 20km2 of land on Fiji in 2014.

The UK is set to spend £3.4 billion a year on Trident nuclear weapons system between 2019 and 2070. If Trident were scrapped, a portion of the savings could be provide to the Republic of Kiribati in the form of climate finance (see section 1.2.1). Scrapping Trident would also allow money and skills to be redirected towards measures aimed at drastically cutting the UK’s carbon emissions (see section 1.2.2) – action that Pacific island nations are urgently demanding.

The Marshall Islands.  The most devasting incident of radioactive contamination took place 8,000 km from the US mainland during the Castle Bravo test in 1954. The US detonated the largest nuclear weapon in its history at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, causing fallout to spread over an area of more than 11,000km. Residents of nearby atolls, Rongelap and Utirik, were exposed to high levels of radiation, suffering burns, radiation sickness, skin lesions and hair loss as a result.

Castle Bravo was just one of 67 nuclear weapons tests conducted by the US in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958. Forty years after the tests, the cervical cancer mortality rate for women of the Marshall Islands was found to be 60 times greater than the rate for women in the US mainland, while breast and lung cancer rates were five and three times greater respectively. High rates of infant mortality have also been found in the Marshall Islands and a legacy of birth defects and infertility has been documented. Many Marshallese were relocated by the US to make way for the testing.

Some were moved to Rongelap Atoll and relocated yet again after the fallout from Castle Bravo left the area uninhabitable.

Rongelap Atoll was resettled in 1957 after the US government declared that the area was safe. However, many of those who returned developed serious health conditions and the entire population was evacuated by Greenpeace in 1984. An attempt to resettle Bikini Atoll was similarly abandoned in 1978 after it became clear that the area was still unsafe for human habitation.

A 2019 peer-reviewed study found levels of the radioactive isotope caesium-137 in fruits taken from some parts of Bikini and Rongelap to be significantly higher than levels recorded at the sites of the world’s worst nuclear accidents, Chernobyl and Fukushima.

Compounding the injustice of nuclear weapons testing, the Republic of the Marshall Islands is now on the frontline of the climate emergency. The government declared a national climate crisis in 2019, citing the nation’s extreme vulnerability to rising sea levels and the “implications for the security, human rights and wellbeing of the Marshallese people”.

At Runit Island, one of 40 islands in the Enewetak Atoll, rising sea levels are threatening to release radioactive materials into an already contaminated lagoon. In the late 1970s, the US army dumped 90,000 cubic metres of radioactive waste, including plutonium, into a nuclear blast crater and covered it with a concrete cap. Radioactive materials are leaking out of the crater and cracks have appeared on the concrete cap. Encroaching salt water caused by rising sea levels could collapse the structure altogether. The Marshallese government has asked the US for help to prevent an environmental catastrophe but the US maintains that the dome is the Marshall Islands’ responsibility. Hilda Heine, then President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, said of the dome in 2019: “We don’t want it. We didn’t build it. The garbage inside is not ours. It’s theirs.”

The Runit Island dome offers a stark illustration of the ways in which the injustices of nuclear weapons testing and climate change overlap. Marshall Islanders were left with the toxic legacy of nuclear weapons testing conducted on their territory by another state. The country is now being forced to deal with the effects of a climate crisis that they did not create, including the erosion of the Runit dome.

The nations that contributed most to the crisis are failing to cut their emissions quickly enough to limit further global heating, leaving the Marshallese at the mercy of droughts, cyclones and rising seas. A recent study found that if current rates of greenhouse gas emissions are maintained, the Marshall Islands will be flooded with sea water annually from 2050. The resulting damage to infrastructure and contamination of freshwater supplies will render the islands uninhabitable.

If the US scrapped its nuclear weapons programme, it could give a portion of the billions of dollars that would be saved to the Republic of the Marshall Islands to help the country mitigate and adapt to climate disruption (see section 1.2.1 on international climate finance). The US could also use the freed-up funds to invest in its own Just Transition away from a fossil-fuel powered economy.   Read the full report.

 

Nuclear colonialism. ICAN says that France must clean up its nuclear test wastelands in Algeria

November 28, 2020

France must clean up Algerian nuclear test sites: group,  https://www.france24.com/en/20200826-france-must-clean-up-algerian-nuclear-test-sites-group  28 Aug 20, France must clean up nuclear test sites in Algeria where radioactive waste remains from testing in the former colony during the 1960s, a Nobel Peace Prize-winning group said Wednesday.

France carried out 17 nuclear explosions in the Algerian part of the Sahara Desert between 1960 and 1966.

Eleven of the tests came after the 1962 Evian Accords ended the six-year war of independence and 132 years of colonial rule.
“France must give the Algerian authorities the full list of where the contaminated toxic waste was buried,” the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) said in a new 60-page report.

“The ‘nuclear past’ must no longer remain deeply buried under the sand,” ICAN said, citing the concerned areas as the western Reggane region and a zone close to the In Ekker village.

The campaign group identified contaminated, radioactive elements that have either been buried, or are easily accessible.

“The majority of the waste is in the open air, without any security, and accessible by the population, creating a high level of sanitary and environmental insecurity,” ICAN said.The 2017 Nobel Peace Prize laureate group added that almost nothing has been done to clean the sites, inform the populations and evaluate the risks.

Exposure to radioactive material can cause cancer.

“This case study shows once more an asymmetry of power and an injustice that we find all through nuclear history,” Giorgio Franceschini, director of the Heinrich Boll Foundation which published the report, said in his forward.

“It is not a coincidence that France tested its first nuclear weapon in Algeria, that was still a French colony in 1960,” he added.

France refused to sign up the UN’s 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, whereas Algeria signed and is in the process of ratifying the legally binding agreement.

Since Algeria’s independence, Franco-Algerian relations have been tumultuous.

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune in July called on France to fully apologise for its colonial past.

An apology could “make it possible to cool tensions and create a calmer atmosphere for economic and cultural relations”, especially for the more than six million Algerians who live in France, he said.

Racism in nuclear bomb testing, bombing of Japanese people, and nuclear waste dumping

November 28, 2020

Langston Hughes voiced the opinion that until racial injustice on home ground in the United States ceases, “it is going to be very hard for some Americans not to think the easiest way to settle the problems of Asia is simply dropping an atom bomb on colored heads there.”[25] While his statement was made in 1953, near the eighth anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, it remains equally relevant today, as we approach the 75th anniversary

Memorial Days: the racial underpinnings of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings  , Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Elaine Scarry, Elaine Scarry is the author of Thermonuclear Monarchy: Choosing between Democracy and Doom and The Body in Pain: the Making and Unmaking of the World. She is Cabot Profess…   By Elaine Scarry, August 3, 2020

This past Memorial Day, a Minneapolis police officer knelt on the throat of an African-American, George Floyd, for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Seventy-five years ago, an American pilot dropped an atomic bomb on the civilian population of Hiroshima. Worlds apart in time, space, and scale, the two events share three key features. Each was an act of state violence. Each was an act carried out against a defenseless opponent. Each was an act of naked racism. ……….

Self-defense was not an option for any one of the 300,000 civilian inhabitants of the city of Hiroshima, nor for any one of the 250,000 civilians in Nagasaki three days later. We know from John Hersey’s classic Hiroshima that as day dawned on that August morning, the city was full of courageous undertakings meant to increase the town’s collective capacity for self-defense against conventional warfare, such as the clearing of fire lanes by hundreds of young school girls, many of whom would instantly vanish in the 6,000° C temperature of the initial flash, and others of whom, more distant from the center, would retain their lives but lose their faces.[2] The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki initiated an era in which—for the first time on Earth and now continuing for seven and a half decades—humankind collectively and summarily lost the right self-defense. No one on Earth—or almost no one on Earth[3]has the means to outlive a blast that is four times the heat of the sun or withstand the hurricane winds and raging fires that follow………

Centuries of political philosophers have asked, “What kind of political arrangements will create a noble and generous people?” Surely such arrangements cannot be ones where a handful of men control the means for destroying at will everyone on Earth from whom the means of self-defense have been eliminated……..

When Americans first learned that the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been collectively vaporized in less time than it takes for the heart to beat, many cheered. But not all. Black poet Langston Hughes at once recognized the moral depravity of executing 100,000 people and discerned racism as the phenomenon that had licensed the depravity: “How come we did not try them [atomic bombs] on Germany…  . They just did not want to use them on white folks.”[4] Although the building of the weapon was completed only after Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945, Japan had been designated the target on September 18, 1944, and training for the mission had already been initiated in that same month.[5] Black journalist George Schuyler wrote: “The atom bomb puts the Anglo-Saxons definitely on top where they will remain for decades”; the country, in its “racial arrogance,” has “achieved the supreme triumph of being able to slaughter whole cities at a time.”[6]

Still within the first year (and still before John Hersey had begun to awaken Americans to the horrible aversiveness of the injuries), novelist and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston denounced the US president as a “butcher” and scorned the public’s silent compliance, asking, “Is it that we are so devoted to a ‘good Massa’ that we feel we ought not to even protest such crimes?”[7] Silence—whether practiced by whites or people of color—was, she saw, a cowardly act of moral enslavement to a white supremacist. (more…)