Archive for the ‘Opposition to nuclear’ Category

Anti-nuclear resistance in Russia: problems, protests, reprisals

June 17, 2021
Anti-nuclear resistance in Russia: problems protests, reprisals

Standing up to Rosatom

 https://beyondnuclearinternational.org/2020/06/21/standing-up-to-rosatom/      June 21, 2020 by beyondnuclearinternational  

Anti-nuclear resistance in Russia: problems protests, reprisals

The following is a report from the Russian Social Ecological Union (RSEU)/ Friends of the Earth Russia, slightly edited for length. You can read the report in full here. It is a vitally important document exposing the discrimination and fear tactics used against anti-nuclear organizers in Russia and details their courageous acts of defiance in order to bring the truth of Russia’s nuclear sector to light.

Rosatom is a Russian state-owned corporation which builds and operates nuclear power plants in Russia and globally. The state-run nuclear industry in Russia has a long history of nuclear crises, including the Kyshtym disaster in 1957 and Chernobyl in 1986. Yet Rosatom plans to build dozens of nuclear reactors in Russia, to export its deadly nuclear technologies to other countries, and then to import their hazardous nuclear waste.

This report is a collection of events and details about the resistance to Russian state nuclear corporation, Rosatom, and other activities that have led to the pollution of the environment and violation of human rights. Social and environmental conflicts created by Rosatom have been left unresolved for years, while at the same time, environmental defenders who have raised these issues, have consistently experienced reprisals.

Nuclear energy: failures and LiesIn the autumn of 2017, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) discovered a concentration of the technogenic radionuclide ruthenium–106 in the atmosphere of several European countries. A number of experts linked the ruthenium release to the Mayak plant in the Chelyabinsk Region2 3, but Rosatom continues to deny this.

On the 8th of August 2019, an explosion occurred during a test of a liquid rocket launcher at a marine training ground in Nenoksa Village of Arkhangelsk Region. The administration of the city of Severodvinsk, 30 km from the scene, reported an increase in radiation levels, but later denied the claim. The Ministry of Emergency registered an increase of 20 times (to2 μSv/h) around Severodvinsk, while the Ministry of Defense reported the radiation level as normal. Only two days later, Rosatom reported that five employees were killed and three were injured at the test site. According to media reports, two employees of the Ministry of Defense were also killed and three were injured, and medical personnel who helped the victims were not informed about the risk of radiation exposure.

Expired reactorsMore than 70% of Russian nuclear reactors are outdated. They were developed in the 1970s and were designed to operate for only 30 years. The lifetimes of such reactors have been extended by twice the design limit. Rosatom’s strategy also includes a dangerous increase of the reactor’s thermal power. Rostekhnadzor (Federal Environmental, Industrial and Nuclear Supervision Service) grants licenses for lifetime extensions without an environmental impact assessment and without public consultations.

Especially worrying are the lifetime extensions of reactor-types with design flaws. Chernobyl–type (RBMK) reactors in Leningrad, Smolensk and Kursk regions are still in operation after exceeding their lifetimes, as well as VVER–types, such as at the Kola nuclear power plant (NPP) in Murmansk region. Neither type has a sufficient protective shell to contain radioactivity in case of an accident or to protect the reactor from an external impact or influence.

For many years, Murmansk regional environmental groups have opposed the aging Kola NPP reactor’s lifetime extension. They have participated in public hearings, have organised many demonstrations, and appealed to and received support from the prosecutor’s office, but this was all ignored by Rosatom.

Activists also called on the governor to shut down the old NPP, but environmental organisations were shut down instead. One such organisation is Kola Environmental Center (KEC) – listed as a Foreign Agent in 2017 – and subject to two trials and fined 150,000 rubles. KEC was forced to close down as a legal entity in 2018, but has continued its environmental work as a public movement.

Decommissioning problemsMost of the Russian nuclear power plants, despite their lifetime extensions, are approaching inevitable closure. Over the next 15 years, the NPP decommissioning process will take place. Currently, 36 power units are in operation at 11 NPPs in Russia, and 7 units have been shut down. While the fuel was removed from 5 of these units, the NPPs have not yet been decommissioned. This process will lead to enormous amounts of nuclear waste. Moreover, sufficient funds for the decommissioning process have not yet been earmarked.

The public organisation, Green World, has worked for many years in Sosnovy Bor, Leningrad Region, a city dominated by the nuclear industry and closed to outsiders. Since 1988, activists of the organisation have opposed dangerous nuclear projects in the Baltic Sea region and have provided the public with independent information on the environmental situation.

Green World has consistently called for the decommissioning of Leningrad NPP and took an early lead in collecting and preparing information on how decommissioning should take place, studying the experience of other countries. They have paid particular attention to information transparency and to wide participation in decision–making, including, for example, former employees of the nuclear industry.

Rather than be met with cooperation, the organisation and its activists have, since the beginning, experienced pressure from the authorities and the dirty nuclear industry. Activists faced dismissal, lawsuits and even attempts on their lives.In 2015, Green World was listed as a Foreign Agent and forced to close. In its place, another organisation was opened – the Public Council of the South Coast of the Gulf of Finland. Activists have continued their work as before under this new name.

Uranium mining protest

In the Kurgan region, Rosatom’s subsidiary company, Dalur, has been mining uranium and the local communities fear an environmental disaster. In the summer of 2019, the state environmental appraisal revealed a discrepancy between Dalur’s documentation and the Russian legislation requirements, but the company started the deposit’s development anyway at the end of 2019.

  • The ‘Dobrovolnoe’ uranium deposit is located in a floodplain of the Tobol river basin. This means that all the water that flows into the river will pass through the aquifer, flushing out radioactive and toxic compounds into the surrounding environment.
  • Since 2017, Kurgan activists have been protesting against the development of the deposit. They have appealed to the authorities and begun protests. One of their videos, ‘Uranium is Death for Kurgan’, has already reached 50,000 views. Several times, activists have tried to start a referendum and demand an independent environmental review, but so far, have received only refusals from the local officials.
  • In February 2018, Natalia Shulyatieva, the spouse of activist Andrey Shulyatiev and mother of three children, died after falling into a coma. Activists believe this occurred in reaction to learning that Dalur had filed a lawsuit against her husband, accusing him of undermining the company’s reputation. The lawsuit was withdrawn following Shulyatieva’s death.

Rosatom Importing uranium waste

In the fall of 2019, environmentalists revealed that radioactive and toxic waste (uranium hexafluoride, UF6) were being imported from Germany through the port of Amsterdam into Russia. This is the waste from the uranium enrichment process which will be sent to the Urals or Siberia and stored in containers above the ground. Thus, under the auspices of a commercial transaction, the German uranium–enriching enterprise, Urenco, avoids its nuclear waste problem,

while Rosatom profits by taking the hazardous waste into Russia.In response to this transaction, the groups Russian Social–Ecological Union, Ecodefense and Greenpeace Russia called on Russian civil society to protest. More than 30 organisations and movements joined the common statement, and various demonstrations have taken place in Russia, as well as in Germany and the Netherlands.

As a result of protests, the question of importing radioactive waste was taken up by the Legislative Assembly of St. Petersburg and the transportation of the waste was delayed for three months.

However, in March 2020, when people in Russia were further restricted from protests during the COVID–19 virus quarantine, the import of radioactive waste was resumed through the port of the less populated town of Ust–Luga in Leningrad Region. Additional organisations and residents of the Leningrad region then decided to join the earlier anti–nuclear statement and protest.

Following these protests, a number of activists have faced persecution. Novouralsk is a nuclear industry–dominated and closed city of Sverdlovsk region, and is the end destination of the transported uranium hexafluoride. In response to a series of one–person protests, authorities initiated legal cases against three pensioners at the beginning of December 2019. Charges were later dismissed. 

Another example is Rashid Alimov, an expert from Greenpeace Russia, who protested in the center of Saint Petersburg. Later the same day, two police officers together with six other people without uniform detained Alimov in front of his house. He then faced charges and a substantial fine. Charges were later dropped.

Environmental organisations that had previously opposed the import of uranium waste were listed as Foreign Agents. Ecodefense was the first of such, listed in 2014. In 2019, the pressure continued and the organisation’s leader, Alexandra Korolyova, was targeted. Five criminal cases were initiated against her, which forced her to leave the country.

The Mayak plant: Rosatom’s dirty face

The Mayak plant in the Chelyabinsk region is a nuclear waste reprocessing facility, arguably one of the places most negatively affected by the Russian nuclear industry. Firstly, radioactive waste was dumped into the Techa river from 1949 to 2004, which has been admitted by the company. According to subsequent reports by the local organisation For Nature however, the dumping has since been ongoing. As a result, 35 villages around the river were evacuated and destroyed. Secondly, the explosion at the plant in 1957, known as the Kyshtym tragedy, is among the 20th century’s worst nuclear accidents.

One of the first organisations that raised the problem of radiation pollution in the Ural region was the Movement for Nuclear Safety, formed in 1989. During its work, the Movement was engaged in raising awareness, social protection of the affected population, and publishing dozens of reports. After unprecedented pressure and persecution, the organisation’s leader, Natalia Mironova, was forced to emigrate to the United States in 2013. Since 2000, another non–governmental organisation, Planet of Hope, has held thousands of consultations with affected citizens. Nadezhda Kutepova, a lawyer and head of the organisation, won more than 70 cases in defence of Mayak victims, including two cases in the European Court of Human Rights. However, some important cases have still not been resolved. These include 2nd generation victims, cases involving pregnant women who were affected during liquidation, as well as the many schoolchildren of Tatarskaya Karabolka village who were sent to harvest the contaminated crop after the accident.

The state and Rosatom have reacted against the actions of Nadezhda Kutepova, persecuting both her and Planet of Hope. The organisation survived arbitrary inspections in 2004 and 2009, but was labelled a Foreign Agent in 2015 and closed in 2018. After being accused of ‘industrial espionage’ under the threat of criminal prosecution, Nadezhda was forced to flee the country with her children. She nevertheless continues her struggle to bring justice for the victims of Mayak.

Since 2002, the public foundation For Nature has been disputing nuclear activity in the region. The organisation appealed to the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation on the import of spent nuclear fuel from the Paks nuclear power plant in Hungary. The court declared the Governmental Decree to be invalid, thus preventing the import of 370 tons of Hungarian radioactive waste.

In March 2015, For Nature was also listed as a Foreign Agent and fined. In 2016, the court shut down the organisation. In its place, a social movement of the same name was formed, and continues to help the South Ural communities.

Struggle against a nuclear repositoryIn the city of Krasnoyarsk, Rosatom plans to build a national repository for high–level radioactive waste. A site has been selected on the banks of Siberia’s largest river, the Yenisei, only 40 km from the city. Environmental activists consider this project, if implemented, to be a crime against future generations and violates numerous Russian laws. Activists are also concerned that waste from Ukraine, Hungary, Bulgaria (and in the future from Belarus, Turkey, Bangladesh, and other countries) could be transported there as well.

The community is understandably outraged, as no one wants to live in the world’s nuclear dump. Since 2013, for more than 7 years, the people of Krasnoyarsk have been protesting. To date, more than 146,000 people have signed the petition to the President of the Russian Federation protesting against the construction of this federal nuclear repository.

Most of the producing nuclear power plants are located in the European part of Russia, but the waste is going to be sent for ‘the rest of its lifetime’ to Siberia. Local activists refer to this, with good reason, as Rosatom’s “nuclear colonisation” of Siberia.

In 2016, Fedor Maryasov, an independent journalist and leader of the protest, was accused of inciting hatred against ‘nuclear industry workers’ as a social group. A criminal case was initiated under the article on extremism. The basis for this accusation was 125 publications on social networks and the press about nuclear topics. The activist’s apartment was searched and his computer seized, along with a printed report on Rosatom’s activities in the Krasnoyarsk region.

The federal security service also issued Maryasov an official warning for treason. Only wide publicity in the media and the active support of human rights lawyers has thus far prevented further criminal prosecution of the activist.

Conclusion: 

Nuclear power is a problem, not a solution.

Despite the nightmare described above, Rosatom is trying to convince us of the nuclear industry’s purity and purported carbon neutrality. In addition, Rosatom is building nuclear plants abroad using money from the Russian Federation’s budget. Nuclear not only won’t save our climate, but will continue to create even more insoluble problems of radioactive waste for thousands of years.

We demand that:

Russia must abandon all further development of nuclear energy. 

Current nuclear power plants should be closed and decommissioned as soon as possible.Current funds from the development of nuclear energy should be redirected to the development of local renewable energy sources, to the restoration of contaminated territories and as support for those affected by the activities of the nuclear industry.

The problem of nuclear waste should be discussed widely, openly and inclusively, with the participation of all interested parties, and decisions should be made democratically, taking into account the principles of environmental justice. 

Pressure on all activists, including environmental defenders and defenders of victims’ rights, should cease immediately.

And finally, Rosatom should be held responsible for environmental pollution and violation of human rights.

The Russian Social Ecological Union (RSEU)/ Friends of the Earth Russia is a non-governmental, non-profit and member based democratic organization, established in 1992. RSEU brings together environmental organizations and activists from across Russia. All RSEU activities are aimed at nature conservation, protection of health and the well-being of people in Russia and around the world. In 2014, RSEU became the Russian member of Friends of the Earth International. Read the full report.

Courts threaten freedom of Russian nature protector

February 18, 2021

Courts threaten freedom of Russian nature protector, 10 Jan 2021, 

An act of love — Beyond Nuclear International 

Lyubov Kudryashova loves nature. Now she may be jailed for defending it

By Jack Cohen-Joppa

In Russian, her name means love. And it’s true. Lyubov Kudryashova loves the broad valley of Russia’s Tobol River, where it meanders out of Kazakhstan into the Kurgan Oblast. Her grandfather is buried there, she was born there, and she’s raised three sons there. As far as she knows, her ancestors have always lived there.

There, below the southern Urals, frigid continental winters give way to spring floods that inundate a landscape of oxbow lakes, wetlands, forests and fields. The waters sustain a large aquifer that Russia recognizes as a strategic reserve of fresh water.

“We, native people of the land, are against a barbaric attitude towards nature,” she says. “But our voices are too low.”

Which is why the passion of this campaigning environmentalist and entrepreneur has been met with fabricated charges of encouraging terrorism via the internet. She’s now on trial in a military court in Yekaterinburg, six hours away from her small town.

But Lyubov Kudryashova will not be spurned. “My ecological activity is going to continue. Well, I guess till the day the unjust court could takes away my freedom.”

In 2017, the government awarded an operating license for borehole leeching of uranium to Dalur, a uranium mining subsidiary of the Russian state nuclear agency Rosatom. The license to tap the Dobrovolnoye deposit around the village of Zverinogolovskoye condemned the very farmland Kudryashova’s father managed when she would accompany him as a child.

Dalur has two other leaky in-situ uranium projects in the Kurgan.

Many Tobol Valley residents feared environmental disaster when they learned that hundreds of exploratory wells would be drilled through the aquifer into the mineral deposit lying beneath it, without any public environmental review. Borehole leeching would eventually involve drilling thousands of wells and the injection of a million tons of sulfuric acid over 20-30 years, then withdrawing the dissolved minerals and chemically extracting the uranium.

Several times, activists tried to start a referendum and demand an independent environmental review, but met only refusals from the local officials.

Last fall, environmentalists surveyed some of Dalur’s other boreholes in Kurgan and documented much higher radiation levels than permitted. Despite the concerns, construction began on an in-situ leaching pilot plant and the huge clay-lined “mud pits” needed to receive the massive volume of toxic, acidified sludge produced in the process.

Beginning in 2017, Kudryashova was involved in the legal case against the Russian Federation over its refusal to conduct an environmental impact assessment before awarding the license to develop the mine.

That year, she also co-founded the Public Monitoring Fund for the Environmental Condition and the Population Welfare with the regional branch of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. One month later, a judge of the Kurgan Regional Court issued an order giving the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) authority to wiretap her telephone.

The Fund publishes information on the environmental impact of Dalur’s mining activity. Kudryashova writes, “Shortly after the completion of the case in the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation and the registration of the environmental fund, a hidden judgment of another court was rendered that allowed the FSB to begin wiretapping my phone and, I believe, begin to look for fictitious crimes in order to stop my work.

“I guess money is more important than the radioactive contamination of land,” she observed.

So it was that on January 29, 2019, armed men led by an FSB captain broke into her family’s home and spent the day searching it. That summer the FSB got a local court to involuntarily commit Kudryashova to the Kurgan District Psychiatric Hospital for most of the month of July. She was kept from speaking with family or others outside without permission of the agency.

Then in March 2020, the FSB charged Kudryashova with 12 counts of “public justification of terrorism using the Internet” based on a specious forensic analysis of posts on the social network VKontakte, which, according to Kudryashova, never belonged to her page. The actual source of those posts remains unknown because the protocol and the DVD-R capturing those posts show evidence of fabrication and forgery.  And at the most recent session of her trial in late December, a CD-R the defense had presented to the court for evidence was found to have been erased by an FSB operative.

Prosecutors say she advocated for violent overthrow of the constitutional order by re-posting memes with such seditious phrases as, “The fate of Russia is determined by each of us, what you personally or I do, then Russia will. A correct position can only be revolutionary” and “If the nation is convinced that the ruling power in the state is directed not at the development of its cultural, economic and other needs, but, on the contrary, at trampling them, then it is not only the right, but also the duty of the nation to overthrow that power and establish one corresponding to the national interests of the people.”

Kudryashova writes, “Nonviolent ecological activism, in the understanding of the rulers of my country, is a crime. That’s why prisons are full of people who wanted to protect nature, but those who harmed it are free… Ecological crimes against present and future generations are not subject to the judgement of a military court.

“I’m 55 years old and my life is not as important as the preservation of nature. My duty and responsibility are to make a small contribution in a great cause — to stop violence against nature and people. The price of atomic energy is the life of future generations.”

Her trial is in the Central District Military Court of Yekaterinburg, where the next hearing is scheduled for 28-29 January, 2021. Agora International Human Rights Group and the Memorial civil rights society in Russia have provided an attorney and other support for Kudryashova.

Letters in support of Lyubov Kudryashova and seeking dismissal of the charges against her should be addressed to the chair of the court collegium examining the case, Judge Sergei Gladkih, st. Bazhova 85, Yekaterinburg, Russia 62005, or by email to opo.covs.svd@sudrf.ru. Refer to Case №: 2-42/2020, Lyubov Kudryashova.

Jack Cohen-Joppa is the co-editor of The Nuclear Resister, the co-founder of the eponymous organization and co-winner with Felice Cohen-Joppa of the 2020 Nuclear Free Future Award in the category of Education.

 

 

Dr Helen Caldicott as mentor for anti-nuclear activists

February 18, 2021

My Six Mentors,  “…….Helen Caldicott, MD,  by Mary Olson, Gender and Radiation Impact Project, 1 January 20121

Helen Caldicott deserves a much greater place in our histories of the Cold War and ending the USA / USSR arms race than she generally gets. This is, perhaps, because she is powerful and a woman. A pediatrician, who in the 1970’s would not tolerate the radioactive fallout she and her patients were suffering from nuclear weapons tests in Australia, Helen and her family came to the USA. She and another physician named Ira Helfand revived what had been a local Boston organization of physicians and created a Nobel Prize winning organization called Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), which later participated in the creation of another Nobel Prize winning group, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). These two along with hundreds of other organizations committed to peace and nuclear disarmament formed the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) which has helped to create the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (see http://icanw.org/the-treaty ) and also won the Nobel Prize (2017).

Helen herself is a powerful communicator and will move audiences at a level that can change the course of someone’s life and work. She followed her own destiny to winning meetings with Mikhail Gorbachev, President of the Soviet Union, where she educated him about Nuclear Winter and the fact that nuclear is not a war that anyone can win. She also met with President Reagan in the era and diagnosing early-stage dementia… Her ability to bring the reality of the world to these men, and reality of these men to the world set her aside, in a class by herself—and was an enormous contribution to us all.

I first met Helen in the body of her Cold War block-buster book “Nuclear Madness.” I was in the midst of an existential crisis that could have become an even bigger health crisis.  After college I needed a job (not yet a career) because I was broke, broken up from my first “true” love, and far from home. I got a job as a research assistant in a lab at a prestigious medical school; it was 1984.

Within 2 weeks, I was inadvertently contaminated with radioactivity (without my knowledge) by carelessness of a lab-mate. The radioactive material, Phosphorus-32 is used in research to trace biochemical activity in living organisms. This type of radioactivity is not deeply penetrating, so there was some reason not to panic, however the I was exposed continuously for over a week, and I also found radioactivity at home– my toothbrush was “hot”—so I had also had some level of internal exposure. I was terrified. The lab used concentrations of the tracer thousands of times higher than is typical.

The institution told me there was no danger, but because I was upset, they helped me transfer to a different job. No accident report was filed, and in the midst of transition, my radiation detection badge was never processed. It is not possible to know the dimensions of my exposure—I began having symptoms that were not normal for me. Many people, including some family members told me I was imagining things. No one in my circle understood how terrified I was.

I was fortunate that Helen had already written “Nuclear Madness”—the first edition came out in 1978, just before the March 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear meltdown in Harrisburg PA—an event that propelled the book into multiple printings including a Bantam Paperback edition that I found. It turned out that 7 years later I helped Helen to revise and update the same text for the 1994 WW Norton edition. It was Helen’s deep commitment to truth, to speaking and writing that truth, to empowering people to take action for good. Helen’s words accurately described radiation and its potential for harm, and in my panic about the unknown, this calmed me.

Every other authority I had encountered was trying to tell me there was no problem—when I knew they had no right to dismiss what had happened to me.  I am quite certain that had I remained alone with my fear, despair, and confusion my panic would have resulted in behaviors that would have compounded any harm bodily from that radioactive contamination. Reading Helen’s work let me know there was at least one woman walking the Earth who did know what I was going through… it made it possible for me to choose recovery and walk away from a legal battle that would have forced me to maintain, hold and prove a myself a victim. Instead, following in Helen’s wake, I chose Peaceful Warrior. Thank you Helen! : ……….. https://www.genderandradiation.org/blog/2020/12/31/my-six-mentors

 

Mary Olson pays tribute to Rosalie Bertell, the great explainer of radiation impacts on health

February 18, 2021

My Six Mentors,   by Mary Olson, Gender and Radiation Impact Project, 1 January 20121 

“……………. Rosalie Bertell, PhD

It was Rosalie who most let me know that I am able to contribute original work towards the day that People, to decide not to split atoms any more. Human beings began splitting atoms in Chicago, in 1942. Rosalie, a PhD in mathematics and member of the Order of Gray Nuns, knew more than anyone else I have worked with, that all of it—every last nuclear license, and radioactive emission, all the waste and all the bombs and all the money congress gives to nuclear activities are choices. People made, and continue to make these decisions…and we can change our mind.

Rosalie studied radiation impacts and was committed to service on behalf of future generations. She won the Right Livelihood award for her work with communities impacted by nuclear industry. Often called the “alternative Peace Prize” – she was one of the first women to be honored. As a laureate, she was encouraged to find and mentor students. Rosalie hoped that I, and my coworker Diane D’Arrigo would go to graduate school and she could be our mentor. We decided since we were already in our 50’s to simply study with her, informally. We traveled, 5 or 6 times to the Mother House where she resided and she generously met with us in the last two years of her life. She was always small in stature, but at that point her back was bent and she barely came up to my chest, but still had the intensity of a wolverine!

It was Rosalie Bertell who helped me tackle one of the biggest challenges I have faced. After a public talk on radioactive waste policy that I gave during this time, a woman asked me if radiation was more harmful to women, to her, compared to a man. Even though I had studied and known many of the top independent radiation researchers, including Bertell, I had never heard that biological sex could be a factor for harm—other than in reproduction (pregnancy)—but that is more about the embryo and fetus than the woman. I told her that I was sorry, I did not know and would get back to her. In fact, I forgot.

Two years later, when nuclear reactors exploded in Japan at a site called Fukushima Daiichi, I remembered that question and knew it urgently needed an answer. I was unaware that Dr Arjun Makhijani and a team had written on sex differences in radiation harm in 2006 (see www.ieer.org ) and also did not turn that up as I searched for any information on differences between males and females. My findings, five years later are an independent confirmation of the IEER work.

Since I found nothing on a basic google dive, I called Rosalie, who was at that point nearing the end of her life, to ask if she had studied biological sex. She had not, and the one report she pointed me to was out of print. It was my second call, a week later, that prompted her to tell me that I would have to look at the data myself.

I had no idea that the National Academy of Science (NAS) had published tables with 60 years of data on cancers and cancer deaths among the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Rosalie told me to find out for myself. I was shocked. I had stopped any formal study of math in the 6th grade…she was a mathematician—I asked her to do it, and she reminded me that she was dying. I protested again. It was her next words that pushed me. Rosalie said, “The data is divided by males and females so you can look at this question—and if there is a difference, it will be a simple pattern. It is good you do not have more math because if there is a difference, you will find it and not make it more complicated than it is.” She said to get a few pencils, a sharpener, an eraser and lots of paper, and go to it. I did.

The result was my first paper on the topic, “Atomic Radiation is More Harmful to Women,” (October 2011) published to the web in time for Rosalie to congratulate me. Three years later the paper was the basis for my invitation to speak at the global Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons. Three years later as the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was in the work, I founded the Gender and Radiation Impact Project. Rosalie is the one who put rocket fuel in my determination to help. If the world decides to base radiation protection on Refence Little Girl—make every regulation in terms of protecting females who are infants—five years old, future generations have a chance. Rosalie is the one who modeled for me that it is possible to reach for the best possible outcome, and, indeed, we have an obligation to do so………..……  https://www.genderandradiation.org/blog/2020/12/31/my-six-mentors

 

Mary Olson on 4 mentors about radiation -Diana Bellamy, Sharon Barry, Judith Johnsrud, Joanna Macy

February 18, 2021

My Six Mentors,   by Mary Olson, Gender and Radiation Impact Project, 1 January 20121 

…in these atomic times…

[September, 2020] I was born in 1958—full-on Cold War… my family lived upwind of the Nevada nuclear weapons test site in California and even there air quality was the reason my parents gave when they moved our family back to the Midwest… I was in kindergarten in a tiny town in Illinois during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when a bomb drill caused me to become aware of nuclear annihilation at that age. I opted out: that very night I got sick and stayed chronically ill dropping out of kindergarten and was mostly homeschooled for the next 12 years. I am fortunate that my brilliant parents were my teachers and I learned a lot on that journey. When I emerged well enough to go college and work, I learned even more from amazing women. These six, my MENTORS:

Diana Bellamy, MFA

At Reed College I majored in Biology—focused on evolution, and History of Science. As a Junior I fulfilled an arts requirement by taking a theater course, for the first time. Professor Diana Bellamy was a working actor, and in her Introduction to Acting class I discovered that embodiment of an experience is something that others can see and recognize, and at times, experience with the actor. My ability was spotted by Bellamy. She invited—urged me–to change my major and come to the Theater Department, even so late in my coursework. I was shocked into an evaluation of my own priorities and goals.

The following summer was a deep-dive into determining whether to stay the course in my original science major, or jump. The process of discernment, largely via discussions with my father, brought me to a deep understanding of WHY I was studying science: I knew that society’s decisions and actions would be, more and more, made in the worlds of research and technology, and I also knew that ordinary people do not speak those languages. I wanted to become fluent enough in that world to be able to help translate for those who are affected, but outside that bubble. Eventually, ten years out, I attained that role…and have stayed with it.

Diana’s recognition of my ability to project experience challenged me to find the reason I would stay in Biology besides a more stable work-life. It was an empowerment for me to find how to use my gift as a communicator.  I bow to her every time I take the stage to speak to 10’s or to 1000’s of people, and help them experience the vital importance of what I am there to say. …………

Sharon Barry, CPA

As I left research behind at age 25, I needed stability, clean air and water, and a different kind of stress as I rebuilt my health. In 1986 I got a job running the retreat, conference center, and camp in Michigan where my parents had been summer staff when I was a toddler—and I had attended camp. Circle Pines Center is both legendary, and unknown. I created, and served on a Management Team for five years and built a strong tool-box of non-profit organizational skills. That portfolio includes business management and administration. It was my dear friend and mentor, Sharon who helped me learn. Our relationship was not easy—but Sharon stood by me as she taught me the craft, and helped with the art by serving on the Finance Committee of the Board. We rebuilt the Center which had been in tough shape…to its strongest financial footing in decades. Sharon went on to win her own CPA and has been part of my financial life ever since as my accountant. I am not wealthy, but I am also deeply committed to accountability. Sharon taught me, and continues to support me in this. It is her strength I pull on to get through my own tough times. THANK YOU!

Judith Johnsrud, PhD

I met Judy in 1990 at the Backyard Eco Conference in Michigan. I left my submersion job at Circle Pines and drove to the gathering, expressly to hear Johnsrud speak about radioactivity in the environment. I had been recovering from my radiation exposure, and learning about new proposals from the federal government to deregulate a large share of the radioactive waste generated in the processing of uranium for nuclear fuel, and the operation of nuclear reactors for energy and nuclear weapons materials production. The Below Regulatory Concern Policy would put metals, building materials, soil and many other materials that were measurably radioactive into unregulated county landfills and also allow recycle into consumer products, with no warning or label. The deregulation is what I wanted to talk to her about. It seemed to me that what happened in the lab with a tiny plastic petri dish might happen in a Walmart to someone who never knew what had happened since radioactivity is invisible, has no smell or taste…

When I got to the conference, event organizers were looking for a volunteer to drive Judy across the state to the airport near Detroit. I immediately volunteered—it was a 5 hour drive and that gave us plenty of time to get to know each other. Judy remained my friend, my confidant and my teacher for the next 20 years as I moved into working at the national and global level for the peaceful end of the nuclear era—ending the production of more nuclear waste and better protection for our living systems from the waste we already have made. Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) was founded by a small group, including Judy Johnsrud. I was hired in 1991 as Staff Biologist and Radioactive Waste Specialist, and Judy was always there—and in the first decade, we were often the only women in the room. Judy died in 2014; I retired from NIRS, five years later, in 2019.

 

Joanna Macy

The paths of Joanna Macy and I have crossed and re-crossed—I first met her work in her first book, ‘Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age,’ published in 1983, before my radiation accident…I actually met her in-person, briefly at that time because of her leadership in the Buddhist Peace Fellowship… and our paths crossed again, briefly, when she and her husband Fran introduced me to their concept of Nuclear Guardianship. It was not until a younger friend and protégé of mine convinced me to attend a short-course at Schumacher College in Devon England (1998) led by both Fran and Joanna that I got to know her…a little. It was a two-week session rooted in community work that formed the later book, ‘Coming Back to Life’ (1998). I include Joanna here, as a Mentor, even though we have spent little time together, because when I open my mouth to speak, it is most often her influence I hear. The basic insight that we are all one is a foundation for me—and she brings that insight to the nuclear work. I honor her, and in doing so, I hear echoes of her in me……  https://www.genderandradiation.org/blog/2020/12/31/my-six-mentors

 

Non violent anti-nuclear action – the Clamshell Alliance model for success

February 18, 2021

Know Your Nonviolent History: In 1976 Clamshell Alliance Launches Mass Demonstrations https://www.riverasun.com/know-your-nonviolent-history-in-1976-clamshell-alliance-launches-mass-demonstrations/August 18, 2016, by Rivera Sun  On August 1st, 1976, the first nonviolent mass demonstration of the Clamshell Alliance took place at the proposed site of the Seabrook Nuclear Energy Facility in New Hampshire. The Clamshell Alliance was a group of anti-nuclear activists who worked to stop nuclear power plant construction at a time when President Nixon’s “Project Independence” had proposed the construction of over 1,000 nuclear power plants throughout the nation. Although the Clamshell Alliance was only partially successful in halting the Seabrook facility, their mass mobilizations deterred the plans for other plants and changed the landscape of nuclear energy forever. If not for the Clamshell Alliance, it is possible that we would be living in the nuclear nightmare of President Nixon’s vision of a thousand plants by the year 2000.

Anti–nuclear resistance in Russia: problems, protests, reprisals

June 20, 2020
Anti–nuclear resistance in Russia: problems, protests, reprisals [Full Report 2020]  

Produced by RSEU’s program “Against nuclear and radioaсtive threats”

Report “Anti–nuclear resistance in Russia: problems, protests, reprisals” Produced by RSEU’s program “Against nuclear and radioaсtive threats”

Published: Saint Petersburg, Russia, 2020
Authors: RSEU experts edited by Tatyana Pautova
Editor and translator: Vitaly Servetnik
English editor: Anna WhiteCover
illustration: Anastasia Semenova
Layout: Sergey Fedulov
The Russian Social Ecological Union (RSEU)/ Friends of the Earth Russia is a non-governmental, non-profit and member based democratic organization,established in 1992. RSEU brings together environmental organizations and activistsfrom across Russia. All RSEU activities are aimed at nature conservation, protection ofhealth and the well-being of people in Russia and around the world.In 2014, RSEU became the Russian member of Friends of the Earth International.http://rusecounion.ru/eng
Saitnt Petersburg 2020
Table of Contents
Introduction…………………………………4
Nuclear energy: failures and lies…….5
Expired reactors……………………………6
Decommissioning problems…………..7
Uranium mining protest………………..8
Rosatom Importing uranium waste..9
The Mayak plant: Rosatom’s dirty face………10
Struggle against nuclear repository……………11
Rosatom’s ‘death plants’…………………………..12
A road through a radioactive graveyard……..14
Conclusion: nuclear power is a problem, not a solution….14
References……15
Introduction
Rosatom
is a Russian state-owned corporation which builds and operates nuclear power plants in Russia and globally. The state-run nuclear industry in Russia has a long history of nuclear crises, including the Kyshtym disaster in 1957 and Chernobyl in 1986. Yet Rosatom plans to build dozens of nuclear reactors in Russia, to export its deadly nuclear technologies to other countries, and then to import their hazardous nuclear waste.This report is a collection of events and details about the resistance to Russian state nuclear corporation, Rosatom, and other activities that have led to the pollution of the environment and violation of human rights. Social and environmental conflicts created by Rosatom have been left unresolved for years, while at the same time, environmental defenders who have raised these issues, have consistently experienced reprisals.

Nuclear energy: failures and lies

Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear corporation, is heir to the Soviet atomic industry, despite all attempts to appear otherwise. Nuclear disasters still affect us and many of their long-term problems have been left unresolved. Upon review of the recent accidents that have occured at nuclear facilities in Russia,it is clear that few improvements have been made. We see this again and again in the examples mentioned in this report.
• In the autumn of 2017, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) discovered a concentration of the technogenic radionuclide ruthenium–106 in the atmosphere of several European countries.
(1) A number of experts linked the ruthenium release to the Mayaplant in the Chelyabinsk Region (2-3), but Rosatom continues to deny this.• On the 8th of August 2019, an explosion occurred during a test of a liquid rocket launcher at a marine train-ing ground in Nenoksa Village of Arkhangelsk Region. The administration of the city of Severodvinsk, 30 km from the scene, reported an increase in radiation levels, but later denied the claim. The Ministry of Emergency registered an increase of 20 times (to2 µSv/h) around Severodvinsk (4), while the Ministry of Defense reported the radiation level as normal. Only two days later,
Rosatom reported that five employees were killed and three were injured at the test site. According to media reports, two employees of the Ministry of Defense were also killed and three were injured, and medical personnel who helped the victims were not informed about the riskof radiation exposure (5).
Expired reactors
More than 70% of Russian nuclear reactors are outdated. They were developed in the 1970 s and were designed to operate for only 30 years. The lifetimes of such reactors have been extended by twice the design limit (6).
Rosatom’s strategy also includes a dangerous increase of the reactor’s thermal power.
Rostekhnadzor (Federal Environmental, Industrial and Nuclear Supervision Service)
grants licenses for lifetime extensions without an environmental impact assessment and without public consultations.
Especially worrying are the lifetime extensions of reactor-types with design flaws. Chernobyl–type (RBMK)reactors in Leningrad, Smolensk and Kursk regions are still in operation after exceeding their lifetimes, as well as VVER–types, such as at the Kola nuclear power plant (NPP) in Murmansk region. Neither type has a sufficient protective shell to contain radioactivity in case of an accident or to protect the reactor from an external impact or influence. (7)……
References
7 https://www.dw.com/en/every-type-of-reactor-poses-a-threat/a-1974231 (Eng.)
8 https://www.tol.org/client/article/23174-nucle-ar-strength-kola.html
9 https://barentsobserver.com/en/sections/nature/ kola-reactor-3-runs-overtime (Eng.)
10 https://barentsobserver.com/en/nature/ ice-cold-swimming-nuclear-protest (Eng.)
11 http://pim.org.ru/old/2005–04–28–answer–mur-manproc.pdf (Rus.)
12 https://profile.ru/society/ekolog–znachit–vrag–13271/
13 https://kec.org.ru/organisation/histrory/
14 http://rusecounion.ru/eng/nuclearstatusre-port2019 (Eng.)
15 http://rusecounion.ru/eng/node/2994 (Eng.),http://rusecounion.ru/eng/node/2991 (Eng.)
16 https://www.rbc.ru/spb_sz/29/12/2018/ 5c2633749a7947f8833fc99817 http://decommission.ru/2019/06/14/laes_sos-nobyl/
18 http://decommission.ru/2017/12/21/yad-news_1_201217/
19 http://rusecounion.ru/eng/node/2993 (Eng.)
20 http://rusecounion.ru/eng/node/2992 (Eng.)
21 http://greenworld.org.ru/?q=human_right_21111622 https://shtab.navalny.com/hq/kurgan/3687/
23 https://novayagazeta.ru/arti-cles/2019/11/08/82647–strana–uraniya
24 https://youtu.be/irqY75jSnA8
25 https://vk.com/wall–141292704_3351
26 https://45.ru/text/gorod/53533571/
27 https://ovdinfo.org/express–news/2020/04/15/v–kurgane–fsb–vozbudilo–ugolovnoe–delo–protiv–ekoaktivistki
28 http://chng.it/xHgMmwkPq5
29 http://rusecounion.ru/ru/no–uf6
30 http://activatica.org/blogs/view/id/8619/title/ pochemu–nuzhno–ostanovit–uranovyy poezd
31 https://www.zaks.ru/new/archive/view/195957
32 http://rusecounion.ru/ru/decomatom_19320
33 https://66.ru/news/society/226814/
34 https://greenpeace.ru/blogs/2019/12/17/peter-burg–ne–hochet–radioaktivnyh–podarkov/
35 https://foeasiapacific.org/2019/07/01/ russia-must-stop-criminal-persecu-tion-of-ecodefense-director-alexandra-koroly-ova-repeal-the-foreign-agent-law-and-promote-envi-ronmental-justice/ (Eng.)
36 https://ecodefense.ru/2019/12/30/alexandra–koroleva–political–refuge/
37 http://rusecounion.ru/ru/decom_mayak_2018
38 http://nuclear.tatar.mtss.ru/fa230907.htm
39 http://chelportal.ru/enc/dvizhenie_za_yader-nuyu_bezopasnost
40 http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng?i=001-103084(Eng.), http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng?i=001-158136(Eng.)
41 https://www.vesti.ru/doc.html?id=949087
42 https://theins.ru/confession/81445
43 https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/941081
44 https://www.rbc.ru/poli-tics/18/03/2015/550812909a79475f79d367cc
45 https://novayagazeta.ru/ news/2016/12/13/127413–sud–v–chelyabinske–likvid-iroval–priznannyy–inostrannyym–agentom–fond–za–prirodu
46 https://zaprirodu.ru/page/ekspansija–neve-zhestva
47 http://babr24.com/kras/?IDE=198678
48 http://www.change.org/mogilnik
49 https://youtu.be/WTKfCnXt58Q?t=1729
50 https://meduza.io/news/2016/08/25/krasnoyarsk-ogo–aktivista–obvinili–v–razzhiganii–nenavisti–k–at-omschikam
51 http://greenworld.org.ru/sites/default/greenfiles/ Mariasov_doklad_int.pdf
52 https://vk.com/@pitsunova–filkina–gramota–ros-rao
53 https://news.sarbc.ru/main/2019/07/25/235566.html
54 https://regnum.ru/news/polit/2867802.html
55 http://chng.it/5RsJDQfkxq
56 https://ovdinfo.org/express–news/2020/03/11/ kirovskie–vlasti–ne–soglasovali–miting–ni–na–odnoy–iz–31–ploshchadok–no
57 http://rusecounion.ru/ru/horda_msk
58 https://youtu.be/R9_9phYaWBE
59 https://youtu.be/bMKfYD1SLdc
60 https://youtu.be/l5K8agywCNw
61 https://youtu.be/iXOyT0qPUi0
62 http://activatica.org/blogs/view/id/9759/title/ na–sklon–v–moskvoreche–vernulsya–simvol–obo-rony–sob

https://www.facebook.com/notes/rna-international/antinuclear-resistance-in-russia-problems-protests-reprisals-full-report-2020/3498100043537008/

The Mayak nuclear reprocessing plant: Rosatom’s dirty face- and the courageous opposition

June 20, 2020
Anti–nuclear resistance in Russia: problems, protests, reprisals [Full Report 2020]    Report “Anti–nuclear resistance in Russia: problems, protests, reprisals” Produced by RSEU’s program “Against nuclear and radioaсtive threats”
Published: Saint Petersburg, Russia, 2020
“………The Mayak plant: Rosatom’s dirty face
The Mayak plant in the Chelyabinsk region is a nuclear waste reprocessing facility, arguably one of the places most negatively affected by the Russian nuclear industry. Firstly, radioactive waste was dumped into the Techa river from 1949 to 2004, which has been admitted by the company. According to subsequent reports by the local organisation For Nature however, the dumping has since been ongoing. (37)
 As a result, 35 villages around the river were evacuated and destroyed. Secondly, the explosion at the plant in 1957, known as the Kyshtym tragedy, is among the 20th century’s worst nuclear accidents. (38)
• One of the first organisations that raised the problem of radiation pollution in the Ural region was the Movement for Nuclear Safety , formed in 1989. During its work, the Movement was engaged in raising awareness, social protection of the affected population, and publishing dozens of reports. (39)
After unprecedented pressure and persecution, the organisation’s leader, Natalia Mironova, was forced to emigrate to the United States in 2013.
• Since 2000, another non–governmental organisation, Planet of Hope, has held thousands of consultations with affected citizens. Nadezhda Kutepova, a lawyer and head of the organisation, won more than 70 cases in defence of Mayak victims, including 2 cases in the European Court of Human Rights (40). However, some important cases have still not been resolved. These include 2nd generation victims, cases involving pregnant women who were affected during liquidation, as well as the many schoolchildren of Tatarskaya Karabolka village who were sent to harvest the contaminated crop after the accident. (41)
The state and Rosatom have reacted against the actions of Nadezhda Kutepova, persecuting both her and Planet of Hope. The organisation survived arbitrary inspections in 2004 and 2009, but was labelled a Foreign Agent in 2015 and closed in 2018. /42)
After being accused of ‘industrial espionage’ under the threat of criminal prosecution, Nadezhda was forced to flee the country with her children. She nevertheless continues her struggle to bring justice for the victims of Mayak
.• Since 2002, the public foundation For Nature has been disputing nuclear activity in the region. The organisation appealed to the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation on the import of spent nuclear fuel from the Paks nuclear power plant in Hungary. The court declared the Governmental Decree to be invalid, thus preventing the import of 370 tons of Hungarian radioactive waste. (43)
In March 2015, For Nature was also listed as a Foreign Agent and fined. (44)
In 2016, the court shut down the organisation. (45)
In its place, a social movement of the same name was formed, and continues to help the South Ural communities. (46)
11Struggle against nuclear repository

In the city of Krasnoyarsk, Rosatom plans to build a national repository for high–level radioactive waste. A site has been selected on the banks of Siberia’s largest river, the Yenisei, only 40 km from the city. Environmental activists consider this project, if implemented,to be a crime against future generations and violates numerous Russian laws. Activists are also concerned that waste from Ukraine,Hungary, Bulgaria (and in the future from Belarus, Turkey, Bangladesh, and other countries) could be transported there as well. (47)

The community is understandably outraged, as no one wants to live in the world’s nuclear dump.Since 2013, for more than 7 years, the people of Krasnoyarsk have been protesting. To date, more than 146,000 people have signed the petition tothe President of the Russian Federation protesting against the construction of this federal nuclear repository. (48)
Most of the producing nuclear power plants are located in the European part of Russia, but the waste is going to be sent for ‘the rest of its lifetime’to Siberia. Local activists refer to this, with good reason, as Rosatom’s “nuclear colonisation” of Siberia. (49)
• In 2016, Fedor Maryasov, an independent journalist and leader of the protest, was accused of inciting hatred against ‘nuclear industry workers’as a social group. A criminal case was initiated under the article on extremism. (50)
The basis for thisaccusation was 125 publications on social networksand the press about nuclear topics. The activist’s apartment was searched and his computer seized,along with a printed report on Rosatom’s activities in the Krasnoyarsk region. (51)
The federal security service also issued Maryasovan official warning for treason. Only wide publicity in the media and the active support of human rights lawyers has thus far prevented further criminal prosecution of the activist. ……….”   https://www.facebook.com/notes/rna-international/antinuclear-resistance-in-russia-problems-protests-reprisals-full-report-2020/3498100043537008/

Activists, despite government oppression, campaign for decommissioning of Russia’s aging nuclear reactors

June 20, 2020

Anti–nuclear resistance in Russia: problems, protests, reprisals [Full Report 2020]    Report “Anti–nuclear resistance in Russia: problems, protests, reprisals” Produced by RSEU’s program “Against nuclear and radioaсtive threats”
Published: Saint Petersburg, Russia, 2020

“………..For many years, Murmansk regional environmental groups have opposed the ageing Kola NPP reactor’s lifetime extension. They have participated in public hearings, have organised many demonstrations (8-9-10), appealed to and received support from the prosecutor’s office(11), but this was all ignored by Rosatom. Activists also called on the governor to shut down the old NPP, but environmental organisations were shutdown instead. One such organisation is Kola Environmental Center (KEC) – listed as a Foreign Agent in 2017– and was subject to two trials and fined 150,000 rubles (12). KEC was forced to close down as a legal entity in2018, but has continued its environmental work as a public movement(13). Another organisation in the region –Nature and Youth – made the decision to close down in order to avoid prosecution, but continues its work as an unregistered initiative

Decommissioning problems
Most of the Russian nuclear power plants, despite their lifetime extensions, are approaching inevitable closure. Over the next 15 years, the NPP decommissioning process will take place. Currently, 36 power units are in operation at 11 NPPs in Russia, and 7 units have been shut down. While the fuel was removed from 5 of these units, the NPPs have not yet been decommissioned(14). This process will lead to enormous amounts of nuclear waste. Moreover, sufficient funds for the decommissioning process have not yet been earmarked. (15)
• In 2018, after 45 years of operation, the first power unit of the Leningrad NPP was finally shut down.The second one scheduled for shutdown is in 2020, the third in 2025 and the fourth in 2026. However,decommissioning projects have not yet been clearly developed for the reactors.

Rosenergoatom, Rosatom’s subsidiary, will develop them in the years following the shutdowns. (16)
• The public organisation, Green World, has worked for many years in Sosnovy Bor, Leningrad Region, a city dominated by the nuclear industry and closed to outsiders. Since 1988, activists of the organisation have opposed dangerous nuclear projects in the Baltic Sea region(17) and have provided the public with independent information on the environmental situation. (18)
Green World has consistently called for the decommissioning of Leningrad NPP and took an early lead in collecting and preparing information on how decommissioning should take place, studying the experience of other countries. (19)

They have paid particular attention to information transparency and to wide participation indecision–making, including, for example, former employees of the nuclear industry. (20)
Rather than be met with cooperation, the organisation and its activists have, since the beginning, experienced pressure from the authorities and the dirty nuclear industry. Activists faced dismissal, lawsuits and even attempts on their lives.In 2015,

Green World was listed as a Foreign Agent and forced to close. (21)
In its place, another organisation was opened – the Public Council of the South Coast of the Gulf of Finland. Activists have continued their work as before under this new name…….”

How the Mirrar Aboriginal people, helped by environmentalists stopped uranium mining at Jabiluka

August 18, 2019

Leave it in the ground: stopping the Jabiluka mine, Red Flag Fleur Taylor, 15 July 2019  “…… The election of John Howard in March 1996 marked the end of 13 years of ALP government…..

Australia’s giant mining companies – major backers of the Coalition – got their wish list. Howard immediately abolished Labor’s three mines policy, and the business pages crowed that “25 new uranium mines” were likely and possible. And in October 1997, then environment minister Robert Hill blew the dust off an environmental impact statement from 1979 that said mining at Jabiluka was safe. Approval of the mine quickly followed.

The Jabiluka uranium deposit, just 20 kilometres from the Ranger uranium mine, is one of the richest in the world. The proposal was to build a massively bigger mine than that at Ranger, which would be underground and therefore more dangerous for the workers. It was projected to produce 19 million tonnes of ore over its lifetime, which would be trucked 22 kilometres through World Heritage listed wetlands.

The Liberals hoped to make a point. After all, if you could put a uranium mine in the middle of a national park in the face of Aboriginal opposition, what couldn’t you do?

The fight immediately began. The traditional owners of the area, the Mirarr, were led by senior traditional owner Yvonne Margarula and the CEO of the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, Jacqui Katona. They were supported by anti-nuclear campaigners around the country, most notably Dave Sweeney of the Australian Conservation Foundation, as well as a network of activist groups.

The most important objective was to delay construction of the mine, scheduled to begin in 1998. To do this, the Mirarr called on activists to travel to Jabiluka in order to take part in a blockade of the proposed mine site until the onset of the wet season would make construction impossible.

The blockade was immensely successful. Beginning on 23 March 1998, it continued for eight months, attracted 5,000 protesters and led to 600 arrests at various associated direct actions. Yvonne Margarula was one: she was arrested in May for trespass on her own land after she and two other Aboriginal women entered the Ranger mine site.

The blockade also attracted high-profile environmental and anti-nuclear activists such as Peter Garrett and Bob Brown. This helped signal to activists that this was a serious fight. The sheer length of time the blockade lasted created a fantastic opportunity for the campaign in the cities. Activists were constantly returning from Jabiluka with a renewed determination to fight.

The Jabiluka Action Group was key to building an ongoing city-based campaign in Melbourne, and the campaign was strongest there of any city. It held large – often more than 100-strong – weekly meetings, organised endless relays of buses to the blockade and  took the fight to the bosses and corporations that stood to profit from the mine.

We were determined to map the networks of corporate ownership and power behind the mine. But in the late 1990s, when the internet barely existed, this wasn’t as simple as just looking up a company’s corporate structure on its glossy website. It took serious, time consuming research.

A careful tracing of the linkages of the North Ltd board members showed that they were very well connected – and not one but two of them were members and past chairmen of the Business Council of Australia (BCA) – one of Australia’s leading bosses’ organisations. So our June 1998 protest naturally headed to the Business Council of Australia. We occupied their office, and the two groups of anti-uranium protesters, 3,800 kilometres apart, exchanged messages of solidarity, courtesy of the office phones of the BCA.

We were also staggered to learn that the chairman of a company that owned two uranium mines and was Australia’s biggest exporter of hardwood woodchips was also a member of the Parks Victoria board, the national president of Greening Australia and the Victorian Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) board president!

The EPA, and corporate greenwashing in general, thereby became a target for the campaign. Another target was the Royal Society of Victoria, which made the mistake of inviting Sir Gus Nossal, a famous scientist and longstanding booster for the nuclear industry, to give a dinner address. We surrounded its building, and the organisers, somewhat mystified, cancelled the dinner. This action once again made headline news, helping to keep the issue of the Jabiluka mine in people’s minds.

We held regular protests at the headquarters of North Ltd on Melbourne’s St Kilda Road. On the day that Yvonne Margarula was facing court on her trespass charge, a vigil was held overnight. When we heard she had been found guilty, the protest erupted in fury. Cans of red paint – not water-based – materialised, and the corporate facade of North Ltd received an unscheduled refurbishment. The Herald-Sun went berserk.

The leadership of the Mirarr people gave this campaign a different focus from other environmental campaigns of the time. It was fundamentally about land rights, sovereignty and the right of Aboriginal communities to veto destructive developments on their land. In Melbourne, the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation appointed long-time Aboriginal militant and historian Gary Foley as their representative. Gary worked tirelessly to provoke and educate the many activists who turned up wanting to “support” or “do something” for Aboriginal people.

At a time when “reconciliation” was strongly supported by liberals and much of the left, Foley told us that reconciliation was bullshit. He argued native title (supposedly a key achievement of Keating) was “the most inferior form of land title under British law”, and that the ALP was every bit as racist as One Nation – if not worse. He insisted activists must educate themselves about sovereignty and the struggles happening right here, not just those happening 3,800 kilometres away. The way the Jabiluka Action Group activists approached this challenge was an example of how people’s ideas change. Many came into the campaign primarily as environmental activists, but almost all left as committed fighters for Aboriginal rights.

**********

When the blockade wound down at the onset of the wet season, it was an opportunity to fight on some other fronts. Representatives of the UN World Heritage Committee visited Kakadu in late 1998 and issued a declaration that the World Heritage values of the area were in danger. They called on the government to stop the mine. Yvonne Margarula and Jacqui Katona travelled to Paris to speak to the European Commission about the mine.

John Howard, at the time mired in ministerial scandals and resignations, had called an election for September 1998, and there was hope in some quarters that Labor might win and stop the mine. But Howard scraped back in on only 48.3 percent of the vote, and it was clear that the fight on the ground would have to continue.

In the meantime, an important legal loophole had been identified. North Ltd had failed to secure agreement for the Jabiluka ore to be trucked to the Ranger mine for processing. It turned out the Mirarr did have the right to refuse this, and by exercising this right they would increase the cost of the project by $200 million (the cost of building a new processing plant at Jabiluka). This, combined with the ongoing protests, became a huge problem for the company.

Something we enjoyed doing at the time was monitoring North Ltd’s share price. It start