Archive for the ‘indigenous’ Category

70 years since Operation Hurricane: the shameful history of British nuclear tests in Australia

November 3, 2022

Red Flag, by Nick Everett, Sunday, 16 October 2022

At 9.30am on 3 October 1952, a mushroom cloud billowed up above the Monte Bello Islands, 130 kilometres off the coast of Western Australia. The next day, the West Australian reported: “At first deep pink, it quickly changed to mauve in the centre, with pink towards the outside and brilliantly white turbulent edges. Within two minutes the cloud, which was still like a giant cauliflower, was 10,000 feet [three kilometres] high”.

Derek Hickman, a royal engineer who witnessed the blast aboard guard ship HMS Zeebrugge, told the Mirror: “We had no protective clothing … They ordered us to muster on deck and turn our backs. We put our hands over our eyes and they counted down over the tannoy [loudspeaker]. There was a sharp flash, and I could see the bones in my hands like an X-ray. Then the sound and the wind, and they told us to turn and face it. The bomb was in the hull of a 1,450-ton warship and all that was left of her were a few fist-sized pieces of metal that fell like rain, and the shape of the frigate scorched on the seabed.” 

Operation Hurricane was, up until that moment, a closely guarded secret. ……………………….

Throughout 1946, negotiations took place between the British and Australian governments, culminating in an agreement to establish a 480-kilometre rocket range extending northwest from Mount Eba (later moved to Woomera) in outback South Australia. 

On 22 November 1946, Defence Minister John Dedman informed parliament of cabinet’s decision to establish the rocket range. Peter Morton, author of Fire Across the Desert: Woomera and the Anglo-Australian Joint Project 1946–1980, explains that Dedman reiterated claims made in a report by British army officer John Fullerton Evetts that related to the original proposed site at the more remote location of Mount Eba, not Woomera. Dedman told parliament that Australia was the only suitable landmass in the Commonwealth for such testing, the designated area was largely uninhabited and that impacts on the Aboriginal population in the Central Aboriginal Reserves would be negligible. According to Morton, there were approximately 1800 Aboriginal people living on the reserves at the time. The Committee on Guided Projectiles would immediately begin consultations with the director of Native Affairs and other authorities, Dedman told parliament.

Dedman’s announcement ignited fierce opposition. In her book Different White People: Radical Activism for Aboriginal Rights 1946-1972, Deborah Wilson describes the independent Labor member for Bourke, Doris Blackburn, spearheading a peace movement strongly supported by the Australian Communist Party. She published her speeches in the CPA newspaper, Tribune. Blackburn was the widow of lawyer and parliamentarian Maurice Blackburn, whose left-wing views resulted in his expulsion from the ALP. 

Blackburn insisted that the rocket range amounted to a grave injustice against a “voiceless minority”, Australia’s First Nations people. In March 1947, medical practitioner Charles Duguid told a 1300-strong Rocket Range Protest Committee meeting in Melbourne that he was appalled by the government’s blatant “disregard” for the rights of Aboriginal people. According to a Tribune report, he asked those present: “Shot and poisoned as they were in the early days, neglected and despised more lately, will most of our Aborigines [sic] now be finally sacrificed and hurried to extinction by sudden contact with the mad demands of twentieth century militarism?”

Dedman, supported by the Menzies-led opposition, dismissed concerns expressed by Duguid and anthropologist Donald Thompson that contact between military personnel and Aboriginal people living in the military zone would have devastating consequences for their traditional way of life. Deploying assimilation arguments, Dedman insisted that contact between military personnel and “natives” in the area would simply accelerate an inevitable process of detribalisation. 

Meanwhile, Liberal and Country Party politicians railed against Duguid and other opponents of the project, labelling them dupes of communism with a lax attitude to the nation’s security, according to Wilson. They called on the Chifley government to follow the example of the Canadian royal commission established to weed out alleged communist spies in public sector employment…………….

In June 1947, federal parliament rushed through the Approved Defence Projects Protection Bill, a gag tool preventing critical commentary about the government’s defence policy. Transgressors were threatened with fines of up to £5,000 or a 12-month prison sentence.

Under the cover of “national security”, federal bans were imposed on union officials visiting the Woomera rocket range site, now a no-go area for anyone other than sanctioned military personnel. Anti-communist fearmongering helped set the scene for the Chifley government’s establishment of a new and powerful security organisation, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), in 1949.

In mid-1947, 446 kilometres north of Adelaide, the Woomera township was swiftly constructed on the traditional lands of the Kokatha people. By mid-1950, its population had grown to 3,500 and, over the following decade, doubled to 7,000. Roads gouged through Aboriginal country. Electricity and telegraph lines soon followed, connecting the military base with centres of political power.  

The nature of the missile testing remained a top secret to all but those firmly ensconced within the upper echelons of the Department of Defence. However, rumours of a nuclear testing program abounded. The detonation of a 25-kiloton nuclear weapon off the Monte Bello Islands made Britain’s nuclear ambitions, and the Australian government’s complicity, visible for the world. 

In the film Australian Atomic Confessions, witness May Torres, a Gooniyandi woman living at Jubilee Downs in the Kimberley, described observing a cloudy haze that remained in the sky for four or five days. At the time she did not know that it carried radioactive particles that were to contribute to cancer and an early death for many of her community, including her husband, in the early 1960s.

Another witness, Royal Australian Air Force pilot Barry Neale, described aircraft operating out of Townsville identifying nuclear particles in the air three days after the detonation. Two days later, New Zealand Air Force aircraft similarly observed radioactive particles that had emanated from Operation Hurricane. Still today, signs on the Monte Bello islands warn visitors about the dangers of elevated radiation levels.

In October 1953, two nuclear tests (Operation Totem) took place at Emu Field, 500 kilometres northwest of Woomera. In May and June 1956, nuclear testing returned to the Monte Bello Islands. Operation Mosaic detonated the largest ever nuclear device in Australia: a 60-kiloton weapon four times as powerful as that which had destroyed Hiroshima. 

My aunt was among the children who witnessed the Monte Bello explosion from the jetty in the Pilbara town of Roebourne. The spectacle left her and her siblings covered in ash, oblivious to the toxicity of the fallout they were exposed to. 

Meanwhile, west of Woomera, Aboriginal people were being relocated from their traditional lands. In preparation for Operation Buffalo, a series of four nuclear tests at the Maralinga Testing Ground, an 1,100 square kilometre area was excised from the Laverton-Warburton reserve and declared a no-go area. 

Two patrol officers, William MacDougal and Robert (Bob) Macaulay, were given the nearly impossible task of keeping Aboriginal people out of the no-go area. The pair’s reports to the range superintendent were frequently censored, according to Morton. 

In December 1956, a Western Australian parliamentary select committee, led by Liberal MLA William Grayden, visited the Laverton-Warburton Ranges. The select committee’s report (the Grayden Report) identified that displaced Aboriginal people suffered from malnutrition, blindness, unsanitary conditions, inadequate food and water sources, and brutal exploitation by pastoral interests.

News reports in the Murdoch-owned Adelaide News dismissed the committee’s findings, insisting that the claims could not be substantiated. Responding to the Murdoch media whitewash, Tribune reported on 9 January 1957 that the committee had “ripped aside the screen that has veiled the cruel plight to which our [g]overnments condemn Australian Aborigines”.

Tribune asserted that “huge areas of the most favourable land are being taken from [Aboriginal] reserves and provided for mining interests, atomic and guided missile grounds, and other purposes”.

A subsequent Tribune article reported a week later on the observations of Pastor Doug Nicholls, who accompanied the West Australian minister for native welfare, John Brady, on a tour of the Warburton-Laverton district. According to Tribune:

“Pastor Nicholls said that at Giles weather station, deep in the heart of the best hunting grounds in the Warburton reserve—a region that the Government had stolen as part of the Woomera range—the white people lived like kings, and the Aboriginal people worse than paupers … The Commonwealth had spent a fortune on Woomera, but has not even supplied a well for the Aboriginals.”

The Grayden Report deeply shocked the public. A film documentary produced by Grayden and Nicholls, Their Darkest Hour, further exposed these crimes. Wilson describes scenes from the film:

“Images of malnourished, sick and poverty-stricken Aboriginal people bombard the viewer. A mother’s arm has rotted off with yaws. A blind man with one leg hobbles grotesquely on an artificial leg stuffed with furs and bandaged into an elephant-like stump. Malnourished children with huge swollen bellies stare blankly at the camera. A baby lies deathlike beside a mother too weak to walk. A sickening close-up of a toddler who fell into a fire reveals cooked flesh covered with flies. Skeletal remains of a man, dead from thirst, lie beside a dried-up waterhole. As the film concludes, his body is buried in an unmarked grave.”

The detrimental impact of British nuclear testing in Australia wasn’t limited to traditional Aboriginal people. It also exposed thousands of military personnel and their families to nuclear radiation, survivors still feeling the effects seven decades on, according to submissions received by the 1985 McClelland Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia

In 2001, a group of Melbourne scientists made a startling discovery: thousands of jars of ashed human bone that all contained strontium 90, a by-product of nuclear testing that can cause bone cancer and leukaemia. All had been collected from autopsies without the consent of family members, according to a 2002 report by the Australian Health Ethics Committee. This officially sanctioned “body-snatching” provided vital, and until then hidden, evidence of radioactive contamination with widespread effects on human health. 

In the mid-1950s, CSIRO scientist Hedley Marston was tasked by the Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee (AWTSC) with studying the radioactive iodine uptake in sheep and cattle as part of wider effort to monitor the biological effects of radiation caused by atomic-bomb testing in Australia. Marston argued that radioactive iodine found in the thyroids of animals indicated the presence of radioactive strontium in the food chain, which would endanger the health of humans, particularly children. Marston’s discovery put him in conflict with the AWTSC, who denied the tests resulted in significant radioactive contamination.

According to the Australian Health Ethics Committee, between 1957 and 1978, the AWTSC and its successor, the Australian Ionising Radiation Committee, covertly took samples of bones from 22,000 human remains during autopsy to test for the presence of strontium 90. The surviving samples located in 2001 suggested that radioactive contamination was far more widespread than previously admitted.

The winding down of the British nuclear testing program in Australia in 1953 did not bring an end to the Australian government’s role in the global nuclear industry. Since 1954, Australian uranium has supplied nuclear reactors around the world, including to the Fukushima reactor in Japan, which in 2011 was the site of the most severe nuclear disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown. Australia has also committed to acquiring nuclear-powered submarines to better pursue its imperial interests, and those of its allies, in the Asia-Pacific. And the nuclear industry is trying to promote itself as a viable alternative to polluting fossil fuel industries. 

Its shameful history, and the dire threat it poses to humanity, must not be forgotten. https://redflag.org.au/article/70-years-operation-hurricane-shameful-history-british-nuclear-tests-australia

Australia’s National Radioactive Waste Management Act is racist and the Act must be amended or repealed and replaced.

November 3, 2022

Submission to Legal & Constitutional Affairs References Committee
Inquiry into the application of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Australia Friends of the Earth Australia nuclear.foe.org.au/racism nuclear.foe.org.au/waste
June 2022

Article 29 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:

  1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the conservation and protection of the environment and the productive capacity of their lands or territories and resources. States shall establish and implement assistance programmes for indigenous peoples for such conservation and protection, without discrimination.
  2. States shall take effective measures to ensure that no storage or disposal of hazardous materials shall take place in the lands or territories of indigenous peoples without their free, prior and informed consent.
  3. States shall also take effective measures to ensure, as needed, that programmes for monitoring, maintaining and restoring the health of indigenous peoples, as developed and implemented by the peoples affected by such materials, are duly implemented.
    https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/wp-
  1. SUMMARY SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATIONS
  2. Friends of the Earth Australia welcomes the opportunity to provide a submission to this inquiry and would be happy to appear at a public hearing.
  3. This submission argues that successive Australian federal governments have repeatedly breached the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in relation to nuclear waste management plans, and that the National Radioactive Waste Management Act contains multiple indefensible clauses designed to disempower Aboriginal Traditional Owners

The recommendations are as follows:

  1. The Committee should recommend revocation of the Morrison Coalition Government’s declaration of a site near Kimba in SA for a national nuclear waste dump. The opposition of Barngarla Traditional Owners is unanimous. It would be unconscionable for the Labor Government to do anything other than to revoke the declaration and abandon the former government’s plan for a nuclear dump on Barngarla Country.
  2. The Committee should recommend that the federal Albanese Labor Government adopt South Australian Labor policy whereby traditional owners have a right of veto over any nuclear waste sites.
  3. The National Radioactive Waste Management Act is racist through and through, it breaches the UNDRIP on multiple counts, and the Act must be amended or repealed and replaced.
  1. THE PROPOSED NATIONAL NUCLEAR WASTE DUMP ON BARNGARLA COUNTRY IN SA
    The Morrison Coalition Government’s plan to establish a national nuclear waste dump on Barngarla Country on SA’s Eyre Peninsula ‒ despite the unanimous opposition of Barngarla Traditional Owners ‒ clearly violates Article 29 of the UNDRIP:
    “States shall take effective measures to ensure that no storage or disposal of hazardous materials shall take place in the lands or territories of indigenous peoples without their free, prior and informed consent”.

In a 2018 submission to the UN OHCHR United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Morrison Coalition Government claimed that “the [radioactive waste] facility will not be forced on an unwilling community, in line with Article 29(2) of the Declaration [on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples].”
Article 29(2) of the UN Declaration stresses free, prior and informed consent:
“States shall take effective measures to ensure that no storage or disposal of hazardous materials shall take place in the lands or territories of indigenous peoples without their free, prior and informed consent.”

The proposed Kimba dump does not have the “free, prior and informed consent” of Barngarla Traditional Owners. They are unanimous in their opposition. There is no consent.
The Morrison Government excluded Barngarla Traditional Owners from a sham ‘community ballot’. So the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation (BDAC) engaged the Australian Election Company to conduct an independent ballot which revealed unanimous opposition among Traditional Owners. The ballot was ignored by the federal government.
Jason Bilney, Chair of BDAC, noted:
“It is a simple truth that had we, as the first people for the area, been included in the Kimba community ballot rather than unfairly denied the right to vote, then the community ballot would never have returned a yes vote.”

In April 2020, federal parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights Committee concluded that the Morrison government was violating the human rights of Barngarla people. The Committee noted the unanimous opposition of the Barngarla Traditional Owners to the proposed nuclear dump and it concluded that the National Radioactive Waste Management Amendment Bill did not sufficiently protect the rights and interests of Traditional Owners and that “there is a significant risk that the specification of this site will not fully protect the right to culture and self-determination.”

Importantly, the Human Rights Committee’s report was unanimous and was endorsed by Liberal and National Party members as well as Labor members. However the Morrison Coalition Government ignored the Human Rights Committee’s report and continued in its efforts to dispossess and disempower Barngarla Traditional Owners.

The National Radioactive Waste Management Amendment Bill was the Morrison Government’s attempt to amend federal legislation to prevent Barngarla Traditional Owners from launching a legal challenge against the nomination of the dump site. Thankfully, the attempt to prevent a legal challenge failed due to opposition from Labor and cross-bench Senators.

Barngarla Traditional Owners have launched a legal challenge in the Federal Court against the Morrison Government’s declaration of the Napandee site, near Kimba, for a national nuclear waste dump. It would be unconscionable for the incoming Labor Government to engage in a legal fight in order to allow the government to ignore and override the unanimous opposition of Barngarla Traditional Owners to the proposed nuclear dump.

The Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation states:
“It remains shocking and saddening that in the 21st Century, First Nations people would have to fight for the right to vote in Australia and that the Federal Government would deliberately remove judicial oversight of its actions in circumstances where the Human Rights Committee, a bipartisan committee no less, has considered the process to locate the NRWMF flawed.”

A 22 June 2021 joint statement by Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation and No Radioactive Waste on Agricultural Land in Kimba or SA group states:2

“The Government has completely and utterly miscarried the site selection process. There are many examples of this. No proper heritage assessment of the site was ever undertaken, and they have marginalised the voices of the farming community throughout the entire process. However, the most obvious and appalling example of this failed process was when the Government allowed the gerrymandering of the Kimba “community ballot”, in order to manipulate the vote. The simple fact remains that even though the Barngarla hold native title land closer to the proposed facility than the town of Kimba, the First Peoples for the area were not allowed to vote. They prevented Barngarla persons from voting, because native title land is not rateable. Further, they did not allow many farmers to vote, even

though they were within 50km of the proposed facility, because they were not in the Council area. They targeted us, because they knew that if they had a fair vote which included us, then the vote would return a “no” from the community.”
BDAC has written to Prime Minister Albanese calling on the Labor government to scrap Morrison’s plans for a nuclear waste dump in SA.3 The letter states:
“Although we appreciate all that Labor have done in opposition, the Barngarla people unequivocally make it clear that we request that the new Labor minister revoke the declaration or consent to the orders quashing the declaration. We call for this to occur at the earliest opportunity possible.”

The BDAC letter further states:
“Sadly, the former Government at every turn tried to silence us in this process, as the Government did not allow us access to the land to undertake a proper heritage survey, tried to remove our right to judicial review, sought to legislate the location directly, abandoned their commitment to ensure that the facility had broad community support, altered the proposal to include military waste inconsistently with the treaty and tried, through various affiliated organisations, to interfere with our ability to bring judicial review including having parties costs orders against us as a means to blocking the Barngarla people from going to Court.

“Despite this, we stood tall, and we have brought these legal proceedings. They were brought against Minister Pitt, but because you have won the election, the matter now becomes your Governments to deal with.

“Although we appreciate the right to bring these proceedings and all that Labor have done in Opposition, the Barngarla people unequivocally make it clear that we request that the new Labor Minister revoke the declaration or consent to the orders quashing the declaration. We call for this to occur at the earliest opportunity possible in the new Labor Government, because we do not want to fight against your Government in Court which would not only take a number of years, but result in spending our vulnerable community’s resources protecting our people against the contemptuous behaviour of the last Government; nor do we want your Government to be tarnished by these horrible failures of the former Government. …
“The Uluru Statement from the Heart makes clear that our “sovereignty is a spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or ‘mother nature’, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were born therefrom, remain attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors. This link is the basis of the ownership of the soil, or better, of sovereignty. It has never been ceded or extinguished, and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown”. Again, as we said to the new Minister, our spiritual sovereignty has been violated by the former Government, and we hope and believe in your Government that you will not violate it further.”

Right of Veto
The Albanese Labor Government should adopt South Australian Labor’s policy whereby traditional owners have a right of veto over any nuclear waste sites. This is of course consistent with UNDRIP principles regarding free, prior and informed consent.
Susan Close, now Deputy Premier of South Australia, noted in a September 2020 media statement:
“This was a dreadful process from start to finish, resulting in fractures within the local community over the dump. The SA ALP has committed to traditional owners having a right of veto over any nuclear waste sites, yet the federal government has shown no respect to the local Aboriginal people.”
Likewise, in October 2021 SA Labor supported a parliamentary motion stating that in light of the opposition of the Barngarla Traditional Owners, the (since defeated) Marshall Government should oppose the federal government’s attempt to impose a national nuclear waste dump in SA and stands condemned for its failure to do so.4


Labor’s Kyam Maher spoke in favour of the parliamentary motion:5
“We have had since before the last election, and maintained the view since the election, that for a nuclear radioactive storage facility it is fundamental that traditional owners’ views are taken into account. Since Jay Weatherill was Premier we have taken the view ‒ and that has continued in this term while we are in opposition ‒ that for a nuclear radioactive dump or storage facility the traditional owners should have a right of veto, a right of refusal of such a thing on their land. That has not changed and that is why we support this motion, from that one very simple principle which we have had and which remains unchanged.”
The Albanese Labor Government should respect SA legislation banning the import, transport, storage and disposal of nuclear wastes ‒ the SA Nuclear Waste Storage (Prohibition) Act 2000. The Act states:
“The Objects of this Act are to protect the health, safety and welfare of the people of South Australia and to protect the environment in which they live by prohibiting the establishment of certain nuclear waste storage facilities in this State.”

The Nuclear Waste Storage (Prohibition) Act is supported by South Australians; the proposed nuclear waste dump is not. A 2018 poll found that 55% agreed that SA should stop the federal government from building a national nuclear dump in SA while 35% disagreed. A 2016 Sunday Mail-commissioned poll found that support in SA for a national dump (39.8%) was well short of a 50% majority and even further short of the Morrison Coalition Government’s own benchmark of 65% to demonstrate ‘broad community support’. A 2015 Advertiser-commissioned poll found just 15.7% support for a nuclear waste dump in SA.
SA Unions, the peak body representing trade unionists in South Australia, unanimously passed a resolution in March 2022 supporting Barngarla Traditional Owners in their struggle

against the Morrison government’s proposed nuclear dump.6 SA Unions Secretary Dale Beasley said the that South Australian labour movement stood shoulder to shoulder with the Barngarla Traditional Owners:
“South Australian unions are completely united in their support of the Barngarla Traditional Owners and their opposition to the proposed nuclear waste site at Kimba. … We have in South Australia a shameful legacy of imposing the impact of nuclear technology on aboriginal communities. Decades after the end of British nuclear tests around Maralinga, radioactive particles containing plutonium and uranium still contaminate the landscape. Given that history, we would have expected Steven Marshall to stand up for the Barngarla Traditional Owners. … South Australian unions join with the Traditional Owners and the South Australian Community in complete opposition to the dangerous proposal.”

Recommendations:

  1. The Committee should recommend revocation of the Morrison Coalition Government’s declaration of a site near Kimba in SA for a national nuclear waste dump. The opposition of Barngarla Traditional Owners is unanimous. It would be unconscionable for the Labor Government to do anything other than to revoke the declaration and abandon the former government’s plan for a nuclear dump on Barngarla Country.
  2. The Committee should recommend that the federal Albanese Labor Government adopt South Australian Labor policy whereby traditional owners have a right of veto over any nuclear waste sites.
  1. THE NATIONAL RADIOACTIVE WASTE MANAGEMENT ACT
    The National Radioactive Waste Management Act (NRWMA) is wildly inconsistent with UNDRIP principles.
    The NRWMA gives the federal government the power to extinguish rights and interests in land targeted for a radioactive waste facility.7 In so doing the relevant Minister must “take into account any relevant comments by persons with a right or interest in the land” but there is no requirement to secure consent ‒ or to back off if consent is not forthcoming.
    Aboriginal Traditional Owners, local communities, pastoralists, business owners, local councils and State/Territory Governments are all disadvantaged and disempowered by the NRWMA.
    The NRWMA goes to particular lengths to disempower Traditional Owners. The nomination of a site for a radioactive waste facility is valid even if Aboriginal owners were not consulted and did not give consent. The NRWMA states that consultation should be conducted with

Traditional Owners and consent should be secured ‒ but that the nomination of a site for a radioactive waste facility is valid even in the absence of consultation or consent.
Needless to say, that is in no way, shape or form compliant with UNDRIP clauses regarding free, prior and informed consent.
The NRWMA has sections which nullify State or Territory laws that protect the archaeological or heritage values of land or objects, including those which relate to Indigenous traditions.
The Act curtails the application of Commonwealth laws including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 and the Native Title Act 1993 in the important site-selection stage. The Native Title Act 1993 is expressly overridden in relation to land acquisition for a radioactive waste facility.

The NRWMA has been criticised in both Senate Inquiries and a Federal Court challenge to an earlier federal government attempt to impose a national radioactive waste facility at Muckaty in the Northern Territory.
The NRWMA needs to be radically amended or replaced with legislation that gives local communities and Traditional Owners the right to say ‘no’ to nuclear waste dumps.
Sadly, the only recent attempt to amend the NRWMA was the Morrison Coalition Government’s attempt to strip ever more rights from Traditional Owners, by removing the right for judicial review. Thankfully, that attempt to further weaken the legislation failed.
Recommendation:

  1. The National Radioactive Waste Management Act is racist through and through, it breaches the UNDRIP on multiple counts, and the Act must be amended or repealed and replaced.

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.