1. Hazards of Low Level Radioactivity
2. Nuclear Power is Bad Business
3. The Petkau Effect
4. Health Damage from Radioactivity
Chapter 6. Depleted Uranium
7. Photos of Radiation Damage
8. Radioactive Waste
9. Toward Clean Energy
Email: NuclearReader at gmail.com
THIS CHAPTER DISCUSSES DEPLETED URANIUM (DU) AS A PART OF THE NUCLEAR ENERGY CYCLE WITH ATTENTION TO MILITARY USES.
Uranium is mined from the earths crust. It is separated from the rock at a nearby mill leaving behind radioactive sands called tailings which remain hazardous for hundreds of thousands of years. The uranium is then refined for use as fuel for nuclear reactors. A by-product of this process of enriching uranium is Depleted Uranium, or DU. Uranium producing countries are Kazakhstan, Canada, Australia, Namibia, Russia, Niger, Uzbekistan and the United States.
Because of its high density DU is used in armor piercing munitions. It has been employed in Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo, Lebanon, Gaza, in both Gulf Wars, Afghanistan, North Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and now, it seems, Libya, though there has been no official confirmation.
Assessing the true extent of its use is virtually impossible due to the refusal of the United States government to release the pertinent data. On March 19 and 20 2011, NATO forces fired over 112 U.S. Tomahawk missiles on Libya. Each missile typically contains about 360 kg of depleted uranium. By the end of May 2011 NATO warplanes had flown over 8000 combat missions against Libya. Bombs were dropped on major air bases and many key sites, including the President's enclave, killing family members. See the article The US and UK Governments Extend their Talons over Libya from March 23, 2011 on www.eyreinternational.com for more discussion of this global DU impact.
All weapons that contain DU are considered to be radioactive poison gas weapons and as such they violate the Geneva Conventions under the 1925 Geneva Poison Gas Control Protocol. DU weapons are a permanent terrain contaminant and have a half-life of 4.5 billion years. DU can cause DNA damage, as well as cancer, leukemia and tragic birth defects. It is a kidney, liver, and neuro-toxin. Multiple independent studies confirm this. There is a list of references documenting DU health damage on Wikipedia.
DU has been blamed for the effects of Gulf War Syndrome – typified by chronic pain, extreme fatigue and an array of diseases. Some studies of Gulf War veterans who had normal babies before the war found that 67% of babies born after the war have severe birth defects, including missing brains, eyes, organs, legs and arms, and blood diseases. (Various articles in the Nation magazine and “Depleted Uranium: A War Crime Within a War Crime” by William Bowles 3/2010). See photos of some of these children and Iraqi children in chapter 7.
In a three week period in 2003 during the genocidal attack on Iraq, estimates indicate that over 1000 tons of DU munitions were used. According to retired Colonel Asof Durakovic, the Pentagon used some 300 tons of DU during the 1991 Gulf War, and another 1700 tons has been used since then. Col. Durakovic retired from the military and became director of the Uranium Medical Research Center.
Apparently DU can travel in the global air stream, so it is not localized. The uranium gas and dust circulates in many directions depending on weather and air currents. Dangerous levels were measured in England that were determined to have come from Iraq.
The following four articles give you more information on depleted uranium. The first one calls the use of depleted uranium a crime against humanity. The next two articles describe the fact that depleted uranium from battle use can be carried by air currents and travel long distances. The fourth discusses uranium reserves on the land of Native Americans and how they were recklessly exploited.
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This article is by Victor Connor, a specialist in physics and computer science. It was reviewed and approved by Doug Rokke, the former head of the Pentagon's Depleted Uranium Project.
THE GREATEST CRIME OF HISTORIC TIME
by Victor Connor
“The greatest crime against humanity in all historic time has now been committed by the United States government. It dwarfs Joseph Stalin's killing of 7,000,000 Ukrainians in the 1930s and Adolph Hitler's killing of 6,000,000 Jewish people in the 1940s. This crime will cause the premature deaths of TENS of MILLIONS of people and will give a horribly debilitating disease to TENS of MILLIONS more. It is indiscriminate mass murder - genocide. My statements may be dramatic, but they are absolutely true.
“Since October of 2001, the United States military has used approximately 3,000 tons of depleted uranium munitions against people in Afghanistan and Iraq. This will soon cause serious health issues including respiratory disease, kidney problems, rashes, birth defects, and the number of cancers of these people will jump to over 500,000 each year. How do I know this? Because the United States military used 375 tons of depleted uranium munitions against Iraq in 1991, and the cancer rate in children measured in Iraqi hospitals rose from 32,000 per year in 1990 to 130,000 in 1997. According to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs official reports, U.S. casualties from Gulf War 1 now exceed 180,000 and already over 30,000 are now disabled from Gulf War 2. We've now used eight times what we did in 1991 and radiation has long been known to cause cancer. This is well known by our federal government.
“In a document dated October 30, 1943 and declassified June 5, 1974, three major scientists (Drs. James Conant, A. H. Compton, and H. C. Urey) wrote to Brigadier General Leslie R. Groves, who was the head of the atom bomb project, concerning 'Radioactive materials as a military weapon'. In that document they stated:
"As a gas warfare instrument the material would be ground into particles of microscopic size to form dust and smoke and distributed by a ground-fired projectile, land vehicles, or aerial bombs. In this form it would be inhaled by personnel. The amount necessary to cause death to a person inhaling the material is extremely small. It has been estimated that one millionth of a gram accumulating in a person's body would be fatal. There are no known methods of treatment for such a casualty."
“Proponents of depleted uranium weaponry will state that depleted uranium is only half as radioactive as normal uranium, which is true. This would mean that it would take TWO millionths of a gram accumulating in a person's body to be fatal, according to Conant, Compton and Urey. Unfortunately, it isn't known exactly how much uranium ore would be sufficient to cause death over a short period of time, but we do know it caused the cancer deaths of workers during the two years the Manhattan Project existed in making our first three atomic bombs. Since then, scientists have learned a lot more about the debilitating effects to animals exposed to higher-than-normal radiation levels.
“In fact, increased cancer rates downwind of American nuclear power plants are well documented, even though not well reported. Nuclear power plants in the United States release small amounts of radioactive gases on a daily or weekly basis. Compared to the depleted uranium usage in Iraq and Afghanistan, these are extremely small amounts, but the communities that live within fifty miles of the normal downwind area from these nuclear power plants have higher rates of cancer. One particularly telling fact is where nuclear reactors have been shut down for a few years and then restarted. The cancer rate among infants and young children who were born after the shutdown quickly fell to national averages, before rising again after the reactors were restarted.
“It takes about eight tons of regular uranium ore to make one ton of enriched uranium to be used in nuclear power plants. This leaves seven tons of depleted uranium. Depleted uranium is composed primarily of three isotopes of uranium; it is 99.8% U-238, 0.2% U-235 and 0.0008% U-234; collectively one microgram of it will constantly emit about 120 alpha particles every day for millions of years. One alpha particle has enough energy to disrupt the genetic information in the nucleus of a cell, but when this happens hundreds of local cells are affected by the instability of the zapped cell.
“We have already found depleted uranium in Iraq twenty five miles from an impact site. This It can be breathed in or ingested from food and drink. Particles on the order of 2.5 microns are perfect for implanting themselves in our lungs. A small number of these would be like smoking over ten packs of cigarettes every day forever, and children one, two and five years old are getting this into their lungs.
“If we used 375 tons of depleted uranium in the first Gulf War, think how the people of Iraq and Afghanistan will feel and be affected now that we have used 3,000 tons of DU against them. And its terrible effects will be there forever.
“What we are doing is indiscriminate genocide of the Muslim people in the Middle East. The wind blows in all directions and Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Pakistan, Syria and Turkmenistan are all Muslim countries on Iraq's and Afghanistan's borders. (Note by author: In fact, DU was detected by radiation monitors in England in 2003, and some say it is in the global air currents.)”
You can read the full article (5 pages) at:
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The following article by Leuren Moret, a geoscientist and whistle blower, discusses depleted uranium in global air currents.
U.S. WEAPONS POISON EUROPE
“A shocking new scientific study by British scientists Dr. Chris Busby and Saoirse Morgan asks: Did the use of uranium weapons in Gulf War II result in the contamination of Europe
“High levels of depleted uranium (DU) have been measured in the atmosphere in Britain, transported on air currents from the Middle East and Central Asia. “Scientists cited the U.S. bombing of Tora Bora, Afghanistan in 2001 and the 'Shock and Awe' bombing during Gulf War II in Iraq in 2003 as one of the main reasons.
“In the 1950s the British government had established an air monitoring facility at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) in Aldermaston to measure radioactive emissions from British nuclear power plants and atomic weapons facilities.
“Ironically, AWE was taken over three years ago by Halliburton, which at first refused to release key data as required by law to Busby.
“An international expert on low-level radiation, Busby serves as an official advisor on several British government committees. He recently co-authored an independent report on low-level radiation with 45 scientists with the European Committee on Radiation Risk (ECRR) for the European Parliament.
“Busby was eventually able to get Aldermaston's air monitoring data from Halliburton by filing a freedom of information request using a new British law that became effective Jan. 1, 2005. Critical data from 2003 was missing, however, so he had to obtain the information from the Defense Procurement Agency.
“Aldermaston is one of many nuclear facilities throughout Europe that regularly monitor atmospheric radiation levels transported by sand, dust storms and air currents from radiation sources in North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.
“After the 'Shock and Awe' campaign in Iraq in 2003, very fine particles of depleted uranium were captured along with larger sand and dust particles in filters in Britain. These particles traveled in seven to nine days from Iraqi battlefields as far away as 2,400 miles.
“The radiation measured in the atmosphere quadrupled within a few weeks after the beginning of the 2003 campaign, and at one of the five monitoring locations, the levels twice required an official alert to the British Environment Agency.
“In addition, according to Busby, the Aldermaston air monitoring data provided a continuous record of depleted uranium levels in Britain from other recent wars.
“Extensive video news footage of the 2003 Iraq war, including Fallujah in 2004, provided evidence that the United States has illegally used depleted uranium munitions on civilian populations. These military actions are in direct violation of not only international conventions but also violate U.S. military law because the United States is a signatory to The Hague and Geneva conventions and the 1925 Geneva Gas Protocol.
“Depleted uranium weaponry meets the definition of a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) in two out of three categories under U.S. Code Title 50, Chapter 40 Sec. 2302. 'After Action' mandates have also been violated such as U.S. Army Regulation AR 700-48 and TB 9-1300-278, which requires treatment of radiation poisoning for all casualties, including enemy soldiers and civilians.
“In the mainstream press, British officials have attempted to counter the study by blaming the elevated uranium levels on “local sources”. Anonymous statements by government scientists used by the media thus far, however, have been contradicted by evidence disclosed in the report.
“Naturally occurring uranium in the crust of the Earth is only 2.4 parts per million and could not become concentrated to the high levels measured in Britain. As far as nuclear power plants are concerned, the lowest levels of uranium measured at monitoring stations around Aldermaston were actually taken at the facility, which designs and tests nuclear weapons, meaning this could not possibly be a source.
“Atomic weapons facilities would be more likely to produce plutonium contamination, which was not reported as a contaminant.
“This wasn't the first time a noted scientist has discussed global pollution from the use of DU.
“Dr. Katsuma Yagasaki, a Japanese physicist at the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa, estimated that the atomic equivalent of at least 400,000 Nagasaki bombs has been released into the global atmosphere since 1991 from the use of DU munitions. He said it is mixed in the atmosphere in one year.
“Dr. Jay Gould revealed in his book The Enemy Within that the British royal family privately owns investments in uranium holdings worth over $6 billion through Rio Tinto Mines in Australia. The mining company was formed for the British royal family in the late 1950s by Walter “Tiny” Rowland, who was known as the Queen's banker and the master financial manipulator behind billionaire Robert Maxwell's fortune.
“The Rothschilds are also profiting enormously from their control of the price and supply of uranium globally.
“The ubiquitous Halliburton just recently finished construction of a 1,000 mile railway from the mining area to a port on the north coast of Australia to transport the ore.
“The Queen's favorite American buccaneers, Dick Cheney and the Bush family, are tied to her through uranium mining and the shared use of DU munitions in the Middle East, Central Asia and Kosovo.
“The role that such diverse groups and individuals as the Carlyle Group, George H.W. Bush, former Carlyle CEO Frank Carlucci, Los Alamos and Livermore labs, and U.S. and international pension fund investments have played in proliferating depleted uranium weapons is not well known. God save the queen from her complicity in turning planet Earth into a death star.
Leuren Moret is an international expert on the environmental effects of depleted uranium and has worked at two U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories.
American Free Press (Issue #10/11, March 6 & 13, 2006)
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The next article discusses the fact that depleted uranium is in global air currents. Chris Busby is a British scientist and author known for his work on the health effects of ionizing radiation. Saoirse Morgan is a conservation biologist and activist.
DID THE USE OF URANIUM WEAPONS IN GULF WAR 2 RESULT IN CONTAMINATION OF EUROPE?
Evidence from the measurements of the Atomic Weapons Establishment, Aldermaston, Berkshire, UK
Uranium weapons have been increasingly employed in battle action since their first use by the US and UK forces in the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Since then they have been used in the Balkans in the late 1990s, then Kosovo in 2000, probably in Afghanistan in 2002 and then also in the 2nd Gulf War (GW2) in March and April 2003. On impact, uranium penetrators burn fiercely to give an aerosol of sub micron diameter oxide particles which are largely insoluble and remain in the environment for many years. There is considerable public and scientific concern that these radioactive particles may remain suspended for long periods, or may become resuspended and are therefore available for inhalation by non combatants at some distance from the point of impact. Little research seems to have been carried out on the distance travelled by the uranium aerosols. The military maintains that the uranium remains near the point of impact, and the Royal Society report (2002) also states that the material does not travel more than some tens of metres. On the other hand, measurements of uranium in local populations in Kosovo some nine months after the use of uranium weapons all tested positive for depleted uranium in urine (Priest 2004) and The United Nations (UNEP) found uranium particles in air filters in Bosnia some years after its use. The question of the dispersion of uranium aerosols from the battlefield is of significant legal interest, since if a radioactive weapon resulted in the general contamination of the public in the country of deployment or elsewhere, the weapon would be classifiable as one of indiscriminate effect. There is now conceded to be no safe level of exposure to radiation. Further, there are major scientific questions over the risk models used to assess the health effects of uranium particle exposure from weapons use. In addition there is evidence of ill health in many of those exposed to uranium particles from Gulf veterans to the population of Iraq. In this paper we examine the trend in uranium shown by the measurements made on high volume air sampler filter systems deployed by the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) Aldermaston Berkshire UK. AWE have been routinely monitoring uranium in air since the early 1990s but since 2000 have carried out filter determinations from high volume air samplers (HVAS) every two weeks. They were required to set up these monitors in the late 1980s following the discovery of a child leukaemia cluster near the plant. There are monitors onsite but they also deploy them at various other sites some 15km distance from the plant. We have obtained their results using the Freedom of Information Act. Examination of the trends in uranium reported here show that there was a statistically significant increase in uranium in all the filters beginning at the start of GW2 and ending when it ended. Levels in the town of Reading exceeded the Environment Agency Reporting threshold of 1000nBq/m3 twice during the period. We report the weather conditions at the time and show that over the period there was a consistent flow of air from Iraq northwards and that the UK was in the centre of a anticyclone which drew air in from the south and from the south east. On the basis of the mean increase in uranium in air of about 500nBq/m3 we use respiration data on standard man to calculate that each person in the area inhaled some 23 million uranium particles of diameter 0.25 microns. We suggest that health data, particularly birth data be examined for possible effects from this exposure. As far as we know, this is the first evidence that uranium aerosols from battle use have been shown to travel so far.
Depleted Uranium weapons have been employed in battlefields at least since the first Persian Gulf War in 1991. Since then, and since their further use in the Balkans in the late 1990s and possibly Afghanistan in 2002, there have been arguments about the health effects of exposure to the uranium oxide aerosols which are produced when the uranium burns in air upon impact. On the one hand, conventional assessments based on the radiological arguments of the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) have led to most official agencies and government departments to state that uranium exposure at the levels likely to occur after its use in battle is too low for any significant or measurable health effect. But further, it is argued that populations are not even exposed: contamination of the environment is localised to the positions where the strikes occurred.
“On the basis of these two arguments, the many reports of widespread ill health in areas where Depleted Uranium weapons have been used have been discounted by such authorities and thus the military has been absolved thereby of having used a weapon of indiscriminate effect. This is an important ethical, if not legal point since such use is similar to the use of chemical or biological weapons and is banned by the Geneva Convention. Regarding the radiological issue, the European Committee on Radiation Risk (ECRR), an independent radiation risk agency based in Brussels, has published a risk model which draws attention to the inadequacy of the ICRP radiation risk models for dealing with the health consequences on internal radionuclides (ECRR 2003). The concerns of ECRR have recently been echoed by the French IRSN agency who have agreed that the ECRR questions over the adequacy of the ICRP model for internal exposures to uranium are valid. (IRSN 2005). The errors in the ICRP model, which is based on external irradiation following an acute large dose, are particularly important when considering internal radioactive particles and DNA seeking isotopes. The uranium weapons aerosols are in both these categories since the particles have mean diameters below 1 micrometer and are respirable and when translocated to the tissue from the lungs via the lymphatic circulation can cause high uranium ion concentrations in cells. Uranium as uranyl ion UO2++ has enormous affinity for DNA phosphate. The affinity constant is about 1010, (Nielsen 1992) and uranium stains have been used for DNA imaging in electron microscopy since the 1960s (Zobel et al 1961, Huxley and Zubay 1961). Recently, one of us has pointed out that the uranium may focus external natural background radiation on the DNA and enhance its radiological effect (Busby 2005, Busby 2005b).
“There is considerable evidence that uranium is genotoxic and carcinogenic and is associated with a whole range of harmful health effects. However, this brings us to the second main point made about uranium weapons, that of the particle dispersion and possible exposure of those who are at some distance from the impact point, including non-combatants. The environmental dispersion of uranium particles after any battlefield use is a matter of considerable interest. However, little attempt has been made by any official agencies to determine this dispersion of uranium aerosols; rather it has merely been stated that the material remains near the site of impact and cannot contaminate those who are further than some tens of metres from this point.
“Since the 1990s, measurements of uranium in high volume air sampling filters have been routinely made by the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston in Berkshire, UK. The requirement to measure uranium and plutonium followed a public enquiry in the early 1990s into releases of these substances to the local environment and the concerns of local people following the discovery of significant excess childhood leukaemia in the area around the plant (for a discussion and the main papers see Beral et al 1990). AWE made environmental measurements of radioactive contamination both on and offsite at various intervals. By 2000 they were routinely (generally at two week intervals) measuring alpha and beta activity in cloths (passive airshades) and also uranium and plutonium in high volume air samplers. These measurements were made onsite and offsite at various locations shown on the map in Fig. 1 and were intended to monitor the releases of uranium from the AWE site. The offsite control locations were some considerable distance from the plant. Thus comparison of levels of radiation at these various sites enables the detection of discharges from the AWE sites.
“The annual publication of the results of these measurements was discontinued in 1999 but the monitoring was continued, the results apparently being reported to the UK Environment Agency. It occurred to us to examine these data for any evidence of uranium from the Gulf War 2 which began in March 2003. The question we wish to address is whether uranium aerosols from the bombing of Iraq in March 2003 became sufficiently environmentally dispersed to reach Europe. In 2004 we applied to AWE for access to these data but the data were not released to us. In January 2005, the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) became UK law. A formal application under the FOI to AWE for results from 2000 to 2004 resulted in the release of the data on paper but curiously the period covering Gulf War 2, that is, early 2003 was the only section missing.
“Re-application resulted in a long wait, and then eventually we received these data from the Defense Procurement Agency in Bristol, and not from AWE. We report here the trend in uranium in high volume air samples on site and near the AWE Aldermaston as shown by these data.
“It is not the intention of this paper to spend much time addressing the health effects of uranium particles and other internal exposures. One of us has dealt with this in various places elsewhere (see Busby 2002, 2003, Committee Examining Radiation Risks from Internal Emitters CERRIE 2004) and there is a considerable literature drawing attention to anomalous mutagenicity associated with exposure to the uranium particles from weapons use (Craft et al 2004, Kuepker and Kraft 2004). The arguments about the health effects pivot upon the scientific validity of using radiation risk models obtained from studies of external acute high dose irradiation (mainly the Japanese A-Bomb studies) for chronic internal exposures to radioactive substances which produce anisotropic i.e. local doses. In addition, one of us has pointed out elsewhere that uranium will amplify natural background gamma radiation owing to its high atomic number and its ability to convert the gamma radiation into local photoelectrons (Busby 2005, 2005b). Uranium has a very high affinity for DNA (Nielsen et al 1992, Zobel et al 1961, Huxley and Zubay 1961, Constantinescu 1974) and in cells which have internalized a submicron uranium particle, the equilibrium ionic concentration of uranium will be high enough to have saturated the DNA in the cell by binding to phosphate. This focusing of the radiation on the DNA may be the cause of many anomalous mutagenic effects which show themselves in cell cultures (Miller et al 2002, 2004) in laboratory animals ( Paquet 2005, IRSN 2005) and in the many reports of ill health associated with exposure to uranium (Craft et al 2005, Zaire et al 1997).
The use of battlefield uranium weapons has been classed by some as weapons of indiscriminate effect; as such they would be implicitly illegal under various conventions of war. Those who defend or justify their use do so by arguing that the uranium is localized at the point of impact or nearby and that exposure of large populations does not occur. The history of the disclosures of the data in this case supports the idea that AWE were aware that their filters provided evidence of the long range movement of uranium. They were at first reluctant to release any data; it required a Freedom of Information Act request to force them to release the results of the monitoring. But significantly they did not send initially the block of data relating to the Gulf War period, and a second request was necessary. The long wait between this second request, and the appearance of the data, and the fact that the missing data came from a different organization, the Defense Procurement Agency in Bristol, suggests that there was significant attention being paid to the interpretation of the results, and decisions had to be made about what the data would show and its political implications for the military.
“Despite many pieces of evidence that the uranium aerosols are long lived in the environment and are able to travel considerable distances, this is the first evidence as far as we know, that they are able to travel thousands of miles. The distance traveled from Baghdad to Reading following the wind patterns implicit in the pressure systems at the time is about 2500 miles. Although this transport may be hard to believe at first, the regular desert sand events which occur in the UK should teach us that the planet is not such a large place, and that with regard to certain long lived atmospheric pollutants, no man is an island. This was a lesson first shown graphically and alarmingly by the atmospheric nuclear tests of the 1960s and the subsequent Strontium-90 in milk, and more recently by the Chernobyl accident. However, like the atmospheric tests, the use of battlefield uranium weapons, especially the new bunker busting bombs which are alleged to have more than 1 ton of uranium in the warhead, are events which are controlled by man: they are not accidents. The results from the AWE filters should teach us that the consequences are not restricted to the areas where they are used. Indeed, on the basis of the results reported here, there would have been a significant exposure to the public in many countries. Uranium is a powerful genotoxic stressor. Although the air concentrations are small in mass terms, the evidence suggests that the excess in the UK represents evidence of dispersion of a new type of uranium, the ceramic sub micron oxide particle. It seems likely that air concentrations in European countries closer to Iraq would have been exposed to higher levels than those found at near Aldermaston. In view of the many reports of heritable genetic effects in areas where uranium has been used and these particles generated, and in the illnesses reported in Gulf veterans, time series analysis of infant mortality and congenital malformation rates in European databases assuming exposures to the foetus or the pre-conception parents in mid March 2003 might be worth carrying out. We have applied to ONS in the UK for monthly data but apparently they are not ready yet.”
Occasional Paper 2006/1To read the full copy of this 18 page article, including two pages of references:
Aberystwyth: Green Audit
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This last article, by Bruce Johansen, Professor of Native American Studies, and author of 13 books, discusses the exploitation of the Navajo Native Americans by the nuclear industry.
THE HIGH COST OF URANIUM IN NAVAJOLAND
by Bruce E. Johansen
“When Native Americans in the Western United States were assigned reservations in the late nineteenth century, many were sent to land thought nearly worthless for mining or agriculture. The year 1871, when treaty-making stopped, was a time before sophisticated irrigation, and before dryland farming techniques had been developed. Industrialization was only beginning to transform the cities of the Eastern Seaboard and the demand for oil, gas and even coal was trivial by present-day standards. And, in 1871 Madame Curie had not yet isolated radium. Before 1900, there was little interest in locating or mining uranium, which later became the driving energy force of the nuclear age.
“In a century and a quarter, the circumstances of industrialization and technical change have made many of these treaty-guaranteed lands very valuable, not least because under their often barren surface lies a significant share of North America's remaining fossil fuel and uranium resources. Nationwide, the Indians' greatest mineral wealth is probably in uranium. According to a Federal Trade Commission Report of October 1975, an estimated 16 percent of the United States' uranium reserves that were recoverable at market prices were on reservation lands; this was about two-thirds of the uranium on land under the legal jurisdiction of the United States Government. There were almost 400 uranium leases on these lands, according to the F.T.C., and between 1 million and 2 million tons of uranium ore a year, about 20 percent of the national total, was being mined on reservation land.
“Moreover, if the uranium reserves on reservation land are added to those estimated on land guaranteed to Indian nations by treaty, the Indians' share of uranium reserves within the United States rises to nearly 60 percent; the Council of Energy Resource Tribes places the figure at 75 percent to 80 percent. About two-thirds of the 150 million acres guaranteed to Indians by treaty has been alienated from them -- by allotment, other means of sale, or by seizure without compensation. Some of these areas, notably the Black Hills of South Dakota, underwent a uranium mining boom during the 1970s, even though legal title to the land is still clouded. Sioux leaders have refused to settle with the United States for the land, despite a price tag that had grown to $351 million principal and interest by 1993.
URANIUM MINING IN NAVAJOLAND
“About half the recoverable uranium within the United States lies within New Mexico -- and about half of that is beneath the Navajo Nation. As in South Dakota, many Navajos have come to oppose the mining, joining forces with non-Indians who regard nuclear power plants and arms proliferation as a twofold menace.
“Uranium has been mined on Navajo land since the late 1940s; the Indians dug the ore that started the United States' stockpile of nuclear weapons. For thirty years after the first atomic explosions in New Mexico, uranium was mined much like any other mineral. More than 99 percent of the product of the mines was waste, cast aside as tailings near mine sites after the uranium had been extracted. One of the mesa-like waste piles grew to be a mile long and 70 feet high. On windy days, dust from the tailings blew into local communities, filling the air and settling on the water supplies. The Atomic Energy Commission assured worried local residents that the dust was harmless.
“In February 1978, however, the Department of Energy released a Nuclear Waste Management Task Force report that said that people living near the tailings ran twice the risk of lung cancer of the general population. The Navajo Times carried reports of a Public Health Service study asserting that one in six uranium miners had died, or would die prematurely, of lung cancer. For some, the news came too late. Esther Keeswood, a member of the Coalition for Navajo Liberation from Shiprock, N.M., a reservation city near tailings piles, said in 1978 that the Coalition for Navajo Liberation had documented the deaths of at least fifty residents (including uranium miners) from lung cancer and related diseases.
“The Kerr-McGee Company, the first corporation to mine uranium on Navajo Nation lands (beginning in 1948) found the reservation location extremely lucrative. There were no taxes at the time, no health, safety or pollution regulations, and few other jobs for the many Navajos recently home from service in World War II. Labor was cheap. The first uranium miners in the area, almost all of them Navajos, remember being sent into shallow tunnels within minutes after blasting. They loaded the radioactive ore into wheelbarrows and emerged from the mines spitting black mucus from the dust, and coughing so hard it gave many of them headaches, according to Tom Barry, energy writer for The Navajo Times, who interviewed the miners. Such mining practices exposed the Navajos who worked for Kerr-McGee to between 100 and 1000 times the limit later considered safe for exposure to radon gas. Officials for the Public Health Service have estimated these levels of exposure; no one was monitoring the Navajo miners' health in the late 1940s.
“Thirty years after mining began, an increasing number of deaths from lung cancer made evident the fact that Kerr-McGee had held miners' lives as cheaply as their labor. As Navajo miners continued to die, children who played in water that had flowed over or through abandoned mines and tailing piles came home with burning sores.
“Even if the tailings were to be buried -- a staggering task -- radioactive pollution could leak into the surrounding water table. A 1976 Environmental Protection Agency report found radioactive contamination of drinking water on the Navajo reservation in the Grants, N.M., area, near a uranium mining and milling facility. Doris Bunting of Citizens Against Nuclear Threats, a predominantly white group that joined with C.N.L. and the National Indian Youth Council to oppose uranium mining, supplied data indicating that radium-bearing sediments had spread into the Colorado River basin, from which water is drawn for much of the Southwest. Through the opposition to uranium mining in the area, among Indians and non-Indians alike, runs a deep concern for the long-term poisoning of land, air and water by low-level radiation.
“The threat of death which haunted the Navajos came at what company public-relations specialists might have deemed an inappropriate time; the same rush for uranium that had filled the Black Hills with speculators was coming to the Southwest as arms stockpiling and the anticipated needs of nuclear power plants drove up demand, and the price, for the mineral. By late 1978, more than 700,000 acres of Indian land were under lease for uranium exploration and development in an area centering on Shiprock and Crownpoint, both on the Navajo Nation. Atlantic Richfield, Continental Oil, Exxon, Humble Oil, Homestake, Kerr-McCiee, Mobil Oil, Pioneer Nuclear and United Nuclear were among the companies exploring, planning to mine, or already extracting ore.
“As a result of mining for uranium and other materials, the United States Geological Survey predicted that the water table at Crownpoint would drop 1,000 feet, and that it would return to present levels thirty to fifty years after the mining ceased. Much of what water remained could be polluted by uranium residue, the report indicated.
“Local residents rose in anger, and found themselves neatly ambushed by the white man's law. The Indians owned the surface rights; the mineral rights in the area are owned by private companies such as the Santa Fe Railroad. "If the water supply is depleted, then this [Crownpoint] will become a ghost town," said Joe Gmusea, a Navajo attorney. "The only people left will be the ones who come to work in the mines." John Redhouse, associate director of the Albuquerque-based National Indian Youth Council, said that the uranium boom is "an issue of spiritual and physical genocide." "We are not isolated in our struggle against uranium development," Redhouse said. "Many Indian people are now supporting the struggles of the Australian aborigines and the Black indigenous peoples of Namibia [South West Africa] against similar uranium developments. We have recognized that we are facing the same international beast."
You can download the full article at: http://ratical.org/radiation/UraniumInNavLand.html
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It is critical to consider the collective harm we and our descendants will suffer from the global spread of radioactivity. We must work to stop uranium mining, to stop the use of nuclear energy and to prohibit the use of depleted uranium weapons.
MORE RESOURCES ON THE SUBJECT OF DEPLETED URANIUM:
For health effects of DU from the Low Level Radiation
The International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons:
A nonprofit network challenging military environmental
See: “The US & UK governments extend their talons
over Libya” P Eyre, March 23, 2011
Interview with Leuren Moret
“Veterans and civilians in these wars were exposed to DU, and this inhaled DU represents a seriously enhanced risk of damaged immune systems and fatal cancers”
“The concentration of the depleted uranium particles in the atmosphere all around the globe is increasing.”