Thursday, September 10, 2009

Paul Zimmerman: The Cult of Nuclearists, Uranium Weapons and Fraudulent Science

Paul Zimmerman releases chapter of new book to Censored News to aid in the struggle of Indigenous Peoples fighting uranium mining and the nuclear industry

Photo: Rex Tilousi sings at the Havasupai Gathering to Halt Uranium Mining in the Grand Canyon 2009/Photo Brenda Norrell

From author Paul Zimmerman to Brenda Norrell:

"I recently read your article on about proposed uranium mining in the Grand Canyon. It got me thinking as to whether or not I could make some small contribution to the struggle, being played out yet again, between native peoples and what I call the Cult of Nuclearists. I decided to release a chapter that I'm very proud of from my newly published book. When you read the attached document, and if you find it of worth, I would be honored if you would share it with whatever groups and individuals you are aware of who may find it interesting and informative.

"A Primer in the Art of Deception The Cult of Nuclearists, Uranium Weapons and Fraudulent Science by Paul Zimmerman
Copies of this book can be ordered at or by contacting the author at either or P.O. Box 145, Lyndonville, NY 14098

"... Peoples of the Navajo Nation, Laguna Pueblo and Acoma Pueblo suffered the greatest impact from this invasion by the large energy companies. Their familiar pastoral economy was rapidly transformed into a mining-industrial economy,and they became a mining-dependent population (Kuletz). Recruited as a cheap source of labor for the mines, Native Americans were exploited economically, receiving two-thirds the salary of employees brought in from off the reservation (Churchill). During the uranium boom of the 1970s, the median salary for the Laguna Pueblo was 50 dollars per week(Kuletz). Maximum economic gain for the mining companies was the driving force for the abuses showered on Native American communities in the Four Corners region ... " -- Paul Zimmerman

Uranium mining in the Grand Canyon, CounterPunch

A Primer in the Art of Deception
The Cult of Nuclearists, Uranium Weapons and Fraudulent Science
by Paul Zimmerman
Bedtime stories are the love of every child. They are a bridge from harsh reality into
the comforting world of slumber. Fairy tales enliven the imagination, create an endearing
bond between child and storyteller and quell the fears of encroaching darkness.
Adults never quite lose their craving for hypnotic fables. The history books, penned
by the victors, are replete with brave accounts of daring, chivalry and laurels. The tale of
the development of the atomic bomb is a classic. The standard narrative begins with a portrait
of brilliant emigré physicists struggling to understand the ultimate secrets of the atom.
As recognition dawns that a chain reaction initiated by fissioning atoms is humanly producible,
the purity of their quest becomes tarnished. Then dread overwhelms their hearts
as they envision colleagues in Nazi Germany, armed with the same insight, applying nuclear
physics to a hellish conquest of the world. Stalwart as righteous knights ready to defend the
kingdom, they dispatch a communiqué to Roosevelt, warning of the impending peril and
volunteering their services to bring the hellions to their knees. In this story, the United
States government is the lumbering hero. It long procrastinates. Then, by fits and starts, it
rises to the call. The Manhattan Project is inaugurated, physicists are secretly recruited,
clandestine outposts spring up in the wilderness, and a fevered race against time ensues to
transform abstract theories into a deliverable weapon. What follows is a blinding accomplishment:
As the wafting wind over the New Mexico desert dissipates the radioactive cloud, the
setting of this tale switches to the corridors of power. There, a conscientious debate unfolds
as to the wisdom of incinerating a metropolis or two of the villainous Japanese. Reluctantly,
Nuclear Colonialism
This is an excerpt from the book A Primer in the Art of Deception
by Paul Zimmerman
to save a million brave boys from slaughter in an invasion of the evil enemy’s homeland, the
gallant decision is made to drop the bomb. This heroic sacrifice leads rapidly to the cessation
of hostilities, victory, and American supremacy in the postwar world.
In the uneasy peace that follows, the “Bomb” becomes the nation’s new hero, the
guardian of national security and the unrivaled instrument for containing Soviet expansionism.
When the Soviets achieve parity with the detonation of their own bomb, an
uncompromising duel breaks out between the “superpowers.” Mushroom clouds routinely
blot out the sun, and terror grips the hearts of all humankind. The puny atom bomb is
surpassed by the hydrogen bomb. Ballistic missiles, buried in their darkened silos, point
menacingly at the enemy. Submarines creep silently along the ocean depths. Armageddon
awaits but an instant away. Then a mighty warrior arises. Single-handedly, Ronald Reagan
defeats the evil empire. A new era of peace dawns. Diplomatic negotiations replace
nuclear terror as the nuclear haves bond together to prevent proliferation of WMDs into
the hands of the nuclear have-nots.
A fine story, indeed.
Such narrative constructions have power. They shape mental landscapes. They create
worldviews. They structure behavior. Some stories serve an important political purpose.
Those in power tell stories as a means of educating the rest of us to see the world as
they wish us to see it. If they are good storytellers, we accept their view of the world and
endorse their deeds even though we will not personally profit, and may in fact, ultimately
suffer from them.
Our perceptions are shackled by the stories we are told. If we wish to gain a fresh
perspective on the entire nuclear enterprise, we must tell stories other than those conjured
by the devotees to a culture built on nuclear weapons. One line of storytelling all but absent
from our proud history books is the chronicle of those vanquished by nuclear weapon development.
The path to the ascendancy of the nuclear powers is paved with exploited peoples,
ruined cultures, poisoned lands, disease and death. By compiling this tale, we pay
homage to the victimized and in the process, perhaps, catch a glimpse of the breed of man
who today rules the world.
Nuclear and radiological weapons did not magically appear one day upon the Earth.
They were an artifact, born of the culture in which they arose. The men who fathered
them embodied a worldview which had taken shape over centuries. In the process of conceiving
and creating these devices of merciless destruction, these men were expressing their
values, values forged by their economic outlook, political institutions, military posture, cul-
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tural traditions, religious beliefs, attitudes toward foreign cultures, and attitudes about the
environment. Producing the bomb was a bold move, for it was a naked expression of hidden
secrets lurking within some human hearts. Ruthless domination, brutality, terrorism,
uncompromising threat and the acceptability of mass casualties were some of the values
which found expression and embodiment in the Bomb. To endure, the weapons and the
mentality which wielded them required the complacency of those who acceded to be governed
by this mentality. Such was the inspiration for the vast body of lies and deceptions
exposed in this book.
Left to the social psychologists and the historians is the job of explaining the origins
of the mindset that felt perfectly justified in developing and deploying weapons of mass
destruction. Sufficient for purposes here is the observation that the seeds for this proclivity
had already taken root in the minds of the conquerors and conquistadors who set forth
from Europe during the period of colonial expansionism. What these men brought to their
endeavor serve as a mirror to what men of the twentieth century brought to their project
of developing the atomic bomb.
During the Middle Ages, the socio-economic framework of central and western
Europe was feudalism and manorialism. The land was the source of livelihood and the
economy was fundamentally agrarian. By the thirteenth century, this way of life was in
transition. The feudal order began giving way to the rise of national states ruled by royal
families. A class of merchants and artisans arose. The population had increased to the
point where manorial farming could no longer support it. People began flocking into towns
to seek new sources of livelihood. Increasingly, manufacturing and trade supplanted farming
as the driving forces of the economy and a money-based system of exchange for goods
and services gained acceptance. With a liquid form of wealth in ascendancy, numerous
opportunities arose for individuals to make their own niche in the market economy and
accumulate personal wealth. The doors were open for upward social mobility on a scale
that was unprecedented in feudal society. Accompanying this trend was a new ethic of private
property and the absolute right of ownership.
Manufacturing and trade, the buying and selling of goods, created the economic system
of mercantilism which arose among the major trading nations of Europe. These
nations recognized that their wealth and their power could best be enhanced by exporting
more goods than they imported, forcing their foreign trading partners to make up the difference
in gold and other precious metals. With bullion universally accepted as a medium
of exchange, the wealth of a nation became equated with the size of its bullion reserves.
Foreign policy was inextricably bound to foreign trade because this was the means for
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enrichment of the ruling elite and of the nation. Within this system, overseas traders came
to play an essential role in the burgeoning international economy. They transported manufactured
goods between trading partners, ferried home the raw materials needed by the
manufacturing base of their nation and introduced their people to spices and other exotic
commodities from far-off lands.
Within this economy, monarchs and traders sought riches over the horizon. With
advancements in cartography, navigation and shipbuilding, expeditions set sail upon
uncharted waters to seek out new routes, new trading partners, new commodities and new
sources of gold and silver. In their quest to expand their capitalistic enterprises, the seafaring
nations of Europe began extending their sovereignty to territories beyond their borders.
To administer distant lands and maintain exclusive rights to their resources, settler colonies
or administrative dependencies were established and the indigenous populations were
either displaced or subjugated.
In the process of colonizing the lands they “discovered” and confronting that which
was foreign to themselves, European colonists gave blatant expression to a number of attitudes
of mind that had long been nurtured by their culture. Most prominently, colonizers
carried within themselves a rigid ethnocentricity. They were convinced of the superiority
of European culture, of themselves being the crown of creation, and encounters with aboriginal
peoples only served to reenforce this belief. European behaviors, customs, values,
patterns of thought, interpretation of events and meaning were good, right and proper,
while those of foreigners were inferior and primitive. Coupled with this attitude, or perhaps
because of it, colonists believed themselves entitled to lay claim to the lands of others
in the name of king or queen and country. Although the right to private property was recognized
in Europe, property rights did not extend to native populations. Needless to say,
the superiority of European culture and the right to the expropriation of native lands and
resources was given teeth by steel sword, armor, gunpowder and cannon.
As adherents to Christianity, colonizers held the unwavering belief that they were in
possession of the only true religion. This attitude of spiritual and moral superiority alienated
them further from the indigenous peoples they encountered and blinded them to the
experience of the sacred which was woven into the lifestyles and observances of those they
judged to be heathens. An important aspect of this spiritual divide related to differing attitudes
toward the land and nature. By the time of colonial expansion, Europeans generally
were alienated from the land and scared of nature. The natural world was primarily a
backdrop to life. Its chief value lay in its utility. Land was lifeless, without spirit, and the
plants and animals were present in the world to be of service to mankind. Over the cenA
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turies, this attitude gave license to numerous environmental abuses in conquered territories
which included strip mining, clear-cutting forests, intensive mono-cropping, overhunting,
overfishing, and various types of pollution. The utilitarian value of nature, however, was
compromised by its unpredictability. Seen as capricious, nature was perceived as a frightening
adversary that required taming. No wonder that the scientific revolution of the seventeenth
century, focusing on the conquest, domination and control of nature, was of
European origin (Pattberg). In stark contrast, aboriginal people living off the land were so
alien to Europeans as to be incomprehensible. Their way of life was integrated with the
natural world. Their survival and livelihood depended on their knowledge of nature and
their ability to harmonize with the forces at play around them. The direct experience of
the interrelatedness of all aspects of the natural world provided for them a never-ending
source of spiritual inspiration. The land was sacred and valued for itself. It was the key to
divine mysteries, and it inspired reverence.
The subjugation of native peoples was followed by economic exploitation. Reaping
the rewards from colonized lands required cheap and abundant labor. The most readily
available work force was the native population. Pushed off their land and robbed of their
traditional lifestyles, members of native populations were forced into servitude or willingly
submitted to exchanging their labor for the bare necessities of subsistence. After the discovery
of the New World and the bounties which it promised, the colonizing powers were
forced to experiment with different labor practices. Some colonies modeled their economy
on feudalism, transforming native inhabitants into serfs. In other colonies, labor was provided
by indentured servants brought over from Europe. A successful resolution of the
labor problem in the Americas and the Caribbean colonies was finally resolved by the mass
importation of slaves from Africa.
In the process of intermixing with native cultures, European colonizers succeeded in
imposing their sociocultural traditions and values on their wards. The introduction of
European languages was an invasion of the mental landscape of the conquered, creating
new cognitive structures and meanings. Over time, native culture and native wisdom were
lost. Generations of people cut off from their roots, displaced and alienated from the culture
that overwhelmed them, sank into poverty, substance abuse, mental illness and suicide.
Alternatively, native peoples, clinging to remnants of the traditional life of their ancestors,
took up residence on marginal lands which remained pristine only because they lacked economic
There is no other term but racism that adequately describes the European attitude
toward colonized populations. The ethnocentricity, moral superiority, cultural arrogance,
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feeling of entitlement to others’ land and wealth, the exploitation, the imposed servitude
could not have been rationalized over and over again without the underlying conviction of
white Europeans that they and their culture were superior and deserved to dominate what
they perceived as inferior races. More the rule than the exception, when white Europeans
encountered peoples of color, what followed was bigotry, prejudice, oppression and violence.
The holocaust suffered by native populations throughout the Americas provides
clear testimony of the uncompromising ruthlessness of the European invaders.
Oh, if only we could comfort ourselves by relegating the crimes of colonial expansionism
to a bygone era, distancing ourselves and our supposed enlightenment from the
deeds of our backward ancestors. But to do so would be reprehensible. In truth, the same
ugly vector of attitude and behavior that facilitated colonialism has been an indispensable
element in the development of nuclear weapons and the current deployment of radiological
weapons. This fact is conveniently overlooked by the storytellers of our age. Their histories
are mute as to the fact that nuclear weapons and reactors would not exist without
human rights abuse, ill treatment of indigenous peoples, the expropriation of resources
from traditional landholders, environmental devastation and indifference to the safety and
well-being of just about everybody. To aptly characterize this phenomenon, activists have
coined the term “nuclear colonialism.” This expression denotes the appropriation of aboriginal
lands and the exploitation and oppression of aboriginal peoples for the purpose of
developing, testing and deploying nuclear and radiological weapons. Subsumed within this
term is an interrelated concept: “environmental racism.” Wikipedia provides a quite adequate
definition of this phenomenon: “Environmental racism is intentional or unintentional
racial discrimination in the enforcement of environmental rules and regulations, the
intentional or unintentional targeting of minority communities for the siting of polluting
industries such as toxic waste disposal, or the exclusion of people of color from public and
private boards, commissions, and regulatory bodies.” The bond between nuclear colonialism
and environmental racism is made bitingly clear in this observation by Anne Herbert
and Margaret M. Pavel:
Racism makes the continuing production of nuclear waste possible. If
the white people who make decisions about nuclear waste felt that the
people of color in poor areas are as valuable as the decision makers’
own mothers and fathers and sons and daughters, would they continue
to dump nuclear waste in those areas? If tailings from uranium
mining were located next to the homes of investment bankers instead
of the homes of indigenous people, would uranium mining continue?
The continuation of the nuclear fuel cycle depends, in effect, on the
practice of human sacrifice. It depends on affluent whites deciding to
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risk the health and lives of people who are not affluent or white. This
is what ‘acceptable risk’ often means in practice (Herbert and Pavel).
This portrait of those who today actively practice human sacrifice is not without
validity. People who control nuclear and radiological weapons are not stupid. Fully cognizant
of the lethality of radiation exposure, they strive their utmost to put as much distance
between themselves and the radioactive offal they unleash. They flex their subatomic
might far from their centers of power and, both by accident and design, decimate Third
World peoples, ancient cultures and devotees of non-Christian religions. To date, the testing
of nuclear weapons and the deployment of uranium weapons by the nuclear powers
evidence an ugly campaign of ethnic and religious discrimination and subjugation.
Ancestral homelands and food supplies are contaminated. Sacred grounds and holy shrines
are desecrated. Populations are uprooted at best or at worst left to suffer epidemics of radiation-
induced illnesses. Such open disdain for so-called “marginal” people by the lordly
possessors of infernal weapons is an indelible sign of their cold cruelty, cultural arrogance,
and will to supremacy. We who have yet to taste the bitterness of nuclear devastation and
radiological ruination, what guarantees do we have that we will not be the next victims?
With the coming of the first nuclear exchange between nations, all of us will be rendered
marginal people, victimized, dehumanized and incinerated by the machinations of the Cult
of Nuclearists. Lest we lose sight of the crimes foreshadowing Armageddon, it behooves us
to remember the ethnic cleansing made possible by the splitting of the atom.
Nuclear weapons are built upon nuclear colonialism and environmental racism.
This is a sad commentary on the type of people who embrace these weapons and the mentality
they harbor. In the process of developing nuclear weapons, bomb builders must fulfill
certain basic requirements. Three of these will be considered here because, historically,
they provoked a confrontation with indigenous populations and were resolved by actions
arising from a colonial and racist mentality. First, the development of nuclear weapons is
contingent upon a large supply of uranium. By some quirk of fate, the major uranium
deposits of the world are located beneath marginal lands occupied by aboriginal peoples.
As a consequence, native landholders have borne the brunt of uranium mining operations.
They have been forcibly removed from ancestral lands, suffered the destruction of sacred
sites, been exploited economically, witnessed environmental devastation and made ill from
radiogenic diseases. Second, a weapon once built requires a test ground. Bomb builders
are not stupid. Aware of the hazards of fallout, the contamination of local food chains and
water sources, the risk of radiation-induced cancers and birth defects, they select test sites
far from their own homes where families and friends will remain unharmed. That the lands
of marginal people will be hopelessly contaminated, that these people and their progeny
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will be the victims of radiation exposure, was never a deterrent to weapon testing. Third,
nuclear weaponeers require a repository to store waste generated by their enterprise. Since
radwaste will remain hazardous for hundreds of thousands of years and no one is able to
predict the long-term security of any storage method, the preferred solution of the nuclear
waste stockpilers is to bury their waste far from the centers of their own power.
Today, multinational mining and energy companies provide uranium to a world
market. At the beginning of nuclear age, however, the situation was different. Uranium
was in short supply and plentiful deposits had yet to be discovered. Those nations aspiring
to go nuclear were forced to seek out their own uranium reserves, and the places where they
prospected and mined were, more often than not, located in former colonies that had previously
been subjugated and exploited. Uranium for Soviet weapons was mined in East
Germany, Czechoslovakia, Estonia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Kirghizstan, Tadjikistan and
Uzbekistan. A windfall of major uranium reserves fell into the lap of the Chinese through
their conquest of Tibet. Morocco, Niger and Gabon were sources of uranium first
acquired by France. Great Britain’s supply came from Australia, Canada and Namibia (via
South Africa).
Uranium mining and milling are particularly dirty industries, devastating the local
environment. With uranium constituting only a small percentage of mined ore, mountains
of radioactive waste spring up on the landscape around uranium mills. Uranium and the
radionuclides from uranium decay are abundant in mill tailings and invariably end up contaminating
groundwater, rivers, lakes and aquifers. Mill wastes also emit radon gas. While
airborne, radionuclides from radon decay, principally lead-210 and polonium-210, settle
out of the air, contaminating local flora and fauna. A study in northern Saskatchewan of
radionuclides released into the environment from uranium mining confirmed the efficiency
of lichens in accumulating airborne radionuclides (Thomas and Gates). Contaminated
lichens then become a food source to grazing caribou which accumulate radionuclides in
their tissue. In turn, native peoples of the area hunt the caribou for their subsistence, thus
inadvertently overloading their bodies with internal emitters.
In addition to contaminating the countryside with radioactivity, uranium mining
releases other pollutants into the environment that gravely impact the local ecology. Heavy
metals increase water acidity. Chemicals from milling processes, notably ammonium and
nitrates, are also released in abundance into the surrounding environment. The uranium
mine at Elliot Lake in Ontario has been studied extensively and can be used as a model to
demonstrate the impact of uranium production on the environment. In 1971, the Ontario
Water Resources Commission reported that lakes in the vicinity of the mine were contaminated
with radium-226, emitting radioactivity at 50 times background levels. This repreA
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sented 15 times the maximum water quality level set by the government of three picocuries
per liter (Moody). Even after remedial efforts which included dilution, reduction in mining
and new treatment facilities were introduced in 1978, local drinking water levels of radium
remained two to four times greater than permitted by government limits (Moody). In The
Gulliver File: Mines, People and Land — A Global Battleground, Moody describes how government
stepped in to aid the mine in dealing with its radium pollution problem:
Alarmingly, barely two years later, a federal provincial committee recommended
that, instead of lowering radium levels to meet health criteria,
the standards themselves be lowered: this was in line with a recommendation
by the ICRP that maximum permissible radiation for
bone marrow could now be increased nine times. Sister Rosalie
Bertell, of the Jesuit Center in Toronto, and a world expert on radiation
(with special knowledge of Elliot Lake) called the decision ‘murder.’
In her opinion, ‘the blatant reason for the change is because the
radium is too expensive to clean up.’
A waste product of the milling process is sulphuric acid, which routinely contaminates
water sources. In this high acidity, radium, thorium and uranium dissolve more readily,
increasing the mobilization of these radionuclides from mill wastes into the environment.
In addition, the increased acidity of water in the vicinity of Elliot Lake was responsible
for the death of aquatic life. Mature freshwater fish are unable to survive when acidity/
alkalinity is outside the range of pH 5 to pH 9 (Moody). In 1980, the acidity of May
Lake was similar to that of vinegar, pH 3.1. According to Moody, the increasing acidity in
water has other repercussions:
Acidity levels are inversely linked to the dangers posed by heavy metals:
the higher the pH, the more gas given off by ammonium liquid.
At Quirke Lake, concentrations of ammonium have exceeded the
Ontario Drinking Water Quality Criteria, while high concentrations
of nitrogen compounds have been located some 40 km downstream
of the mine. Iron levels at May Lake, copper levels at Quirke and
Dunlop Lakes, have given cause for concern in recent years. Copper
is especially threatening to fish. (It kills young salmon at 0.1 ppm
[parts per million] — one tenth of the human drinking water limit —
and can prove poisonous to sheep at 0.5 ppm). Copper levels measured
downstream of the Quirke Lake facilities have reached 0.11
ppm, and at Dunlop Lake, 0.58 ppm.
Although the subject matter is vast, a few broad strokes can paint a picture of the
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impact that nuclear colonialism and environmental racism have had on communities of
indigenous peoples living atop uranium deposits. Prior to the uranium booms of the 1950s
and 1970s, two thirds of the uranium deposits in the United States were located in the Four
Corners region of the southwest, at the meeting of the borders of New Mexico, Arizona,
Utah and Colorado. This undeveloped desert landscape was the home to bands of Native
Americans and deposits of uranium were discovered mostly within the boundaries of their
reservations. Aided by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, mining companies leased millions of
acres of tribal land for uranium exploration, the digging of mines and the
construction/development of uranium mills. The native population profited little from this
activity, receiving on average 3.4 percent of the market value of the uranium extracted
from their lands (Kuletz). Peoples of the Navajo Nation, Laguna Pueblo and Acoma
Pueblo suffered the greatest impact from this invasion by the large energy companies.
Their familiar pastoral economy was rapidly transformed into a mining-industrial economy,
and they became a mining-dependent population (Kuletz). Recruited as a cheap source
of labor for the mines, Native Americans were exploited economically, receiving two-thirds
the salary of employees brought in from off the reservation (Churchill). During the uranium
boom of the 1970s, the median salary for the Laguna Pueblo was 50 dollars per week
(Kuletz). Maximum economic gain for the mining companies was the driving force for the
abuses showered on Native American communities in the Four Corners region:
Rather than cultivate invisibility for reasons of secrecy, the uranium
industry exploited the low visibility and lack of political power of the
semisovereign Indian nations (reservations) to bypass environmental
protection standards and job safety regulations, to bypass (for decades,
and with the cooperation of federal agencies) their responsibility to
inform uranium miners of the deadly hazards of their occupations, as
well as to ensure a high profit margin in the extraction, processing and
sale of uranium ore to the secret scientific-military complex (Kuletz).
During the initial uranium boom of the 1950s, working conditions in the 2,500
mines then in operation were abysmal. The Atomic Energy Commission ceded oversight
of mine safety to state agencies whose employees did not possess adequate knowledge of
radiation effects and who remained uninformed of the European experience that uranium
mining induced lung cancer. What resulted was a public health tragedy, largely borne by
the Native American miners, that could have been avoided if mining companies had been
required to invest in adequate ventilation equipment. After years of data collection and
epidemiological studies, it became obvious to state officials that an epidemic of lung cancers
was in progress, but by that time the damage to the health of miners had been done.
Numerous anecdotal reports gathered from Native American miners agree that mine operA
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ators never informed them of the possible hazards of uranium mining, that no one cautioned
them against drinking from the water trickling through the mines, that no one ever
discouraged them from eating their lunch with dust-covered hands.
Besides the miners, Native American communities located in proximity to uranium
mining operations also suffered increased incidence of disease. According to a 1981 study
by the Navajo Nation’s Division of Health Improvement Services, teenagers living near
mining operations in Shiprock, Farmington and Grants, New Mexico, suffered rates of
organ cancers 15 times higher than the national average (Taliman). Other studies are
described by Kuletz:
In seeking federal assistance to study the effect of low-level radiation
on the health of their children, Navajo health officials called attention
to at least two preliminary studies — one conducted by the March of
Dimes (principal investigator Dr. L. Shields) and the other by the
Navajo Health Authority (principal investigator Dr. D. Calloway).
Calloway’s study suggested that Navajo children may have a five times
greater rate of bone cancer and a 15 times greater rate of ovarian and
testicular cancer than the US average. However, despite these preliminary
findings, no funding was granted for extended epidemiological
studies of the impact on Navajos living near uranium tailings and
Many ‘preliminary studies’ suggested serious health risks to children
in communities near abandoned uranium districts. One ‘preliminary’
study showed ‘a twofold excess of miscarriages, infant deaths, congenital
or genetic abnormalities, and learning disabilities among uranium-
area families’ compared with Navajo families in non-uranium
areas. Even after being informed of these and other findings, no federal
or state agencies provided funding for further study. In fact, in
1983, one agency, the Indian Health Service (a division of the US
Department of Health and Social Services) had sent a report to
Congress (“Health Hazards Related to Nuclear Resources
Development on Indian Land,” 1983) stating that there was ‘no evidence
of adverse health effects in Indians in uranium development
areas and that there is no need for additional studies or funding for
such studies.’
In addition to adverse health effects, uranium mining brought environmental ruin to
tribal lands. Gaping scars blemish the landscape from the 1,000 or more abandoned and
unreclaimed open-pit and underground mines (Kuletz). Millions of gallons of water used
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for uranium extraction became hopelessly contaminated with radioactivity. As a byproduct
of the separation and concentration of uranium from ore, uranium mills created huge
mountains of radioactive mill tailings. Remaining uncovered, mill tailings remain a perpetual
source for pollution of the environment. Wind scatters the dust from these mountains
over the landscape, continually contaminating water, soil and crops and creating a perpetual
inhalation hazard to residents of the region.
The most severe radiation accident in US history occurred at Church Rock, New
Mexico, on July 16, 1979. A dam at a uranium mill owned by United Nuclear Corporation
broke and released into the Rio Puerco 1,100 tons of mill wastes and 100 million gallons of
radioactive water. This waste contaminated the river for at least 60 miles downstream. The
Navajo people living along this watercourse were never adequately informed that their single
source of water had been rendered a health hazard. Unaware of the danger, families
continued to draw drinking water from the river. They continued to give their livestock
unrestricted access. Children continued to swim in the waters. Kuletz provides additional
The Rio Puerco was not a clean river prior to this accident. As noted
by one groundwater protection researcher: “Between 1969 and
February of 1986, the Puerco flowed year-round, fed by millions of
gallons of contaminant-laden water that poured daily into one of its
tributaries (called the North Fork) from three underground uranium
mines. No one bothered to tell the Navajos that the water that poured
from the mines during the uranium boom years of 1952-1964 and
1969-1981 was not safe for man or beast.”
The Church Rock disaster was not an isolated incident. Between 1955 and 1977,
15 dams holding back mill tailing wastes broke. In a region of scarce water resources, these
accidents had a disastrous ecological impact.
For the purposes of creating weapons of mass destruction, nuclear colonialism
exploits marginal people living away from the centers of power. Invariably, this process has
led to a ruination of the environment in which these people dwelt. Hidden within the heart
of this ugly phenomenon is racism practiced by the white, elite members of society against
disadvantaged Native Americans. Again, Kuletz pulls back the veil:
Today — seemingly as invisible as the Rio Puerco accident — the uranium
mines and tailings are, for the most part, left unreclaimed.
Although a 1983 Environmental Protection Study confirmed that the
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Navajo Reservation alone had approximately 1,000 significant
nuclear waste sites, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
deemed them all ‘too remote’ to be of ‘significant national concern.’
A 1978 study by Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) concerning
rehabilitation of land and water contaminated by uranium mining
and milling offered one solution: to zone such areas as forbidden
to human habitation. A report in 1972 by the National Academy of
Science suggested that the Four Corners area be designated a ‘national
sacrifice area.’ Other scientific accounts were completely contrary
to these findings and denied that any significant pollution problems
existed or that adverse health effects could be associated with living in
the region. Though seemingly different in content, all these reports
belie the same prejudice: The land, and by implication the people living
on the land, were better left ignored. That is, neither was worth
The desecration of sacred lands by uranium mining interests is neverending. A particularly
appalling example became public knowledge in 2008 when newspapers reported
that VANE Minerals, a UK mining company, was petitioning the US government for mining
rights in the Grand Canyon. Granted exploration permits by the US Forest Service, the
company planned to drill at 39 spots located on seven sites within the Kaibab National
Forest between the north and south rims of the canyon (Ayres). Due to expectations that
high grade uranium ore is located in the area, other mining companies are scrambling for
a piece of the action with as many as a thousand claims pending. In an attempt to head off
an ecological catastrophe, environmentalists and Native American tribal leaders challenged
the permits granted to VANE Minerals in the US District Court. The federal judge issued
a temporary restraining order. A full hearing was expected sometime during the second
half of 2008. Opponents to uranium mining in the area cited numerous objections.
Besides irreparably marring one of the natural wonders of the world, the threat to local
widelife was a primary concern. In addition, the Colorado River is the source for agricultural
irrigation for much of the southwest and a major source of drinking water for the city
of Los Angeles and other metropolitan areas in southern California. Contamination of the
river would produce incalcuable harm.
Nuclear colonialism and environmental racism are not unique to the United States.
They are embedded in the mentality that assesses nuclear weapons as appropriate technology
and a reasonable instrument of national defense. All of the major nuclear powers
share a history of ruining the homeland of indigenous populations and exploiting the
inhabitants while questing for the means of nuclear mass destruction. What they have done
while in pursuit of the technology is what they plan to do to their enemies at a moment of
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national crisis.
The homelands of indigenous peoples in Australia, Africa, Asia and North and
South America sit atop 70 percent of the world’s uranium reserves. The hunger of large
mining and energy companies to capitalize on this resource repeatedly has taken precedence
over the interests of traditional landholders. In experiences mirroring those suffered
by Native Americans, mining companies bequeathed to aboriginal societies unreclaimed
mines, mountains of uranium mill tailings, contaminated waterways and an increased incidence
of disease. In the process, native cultures were systematically dismantled as people
were herded off their lands, dispossessed of their sacred sites and forced to abandon their
traditional lifestyles.
What occurred in Australia is a mirror image of the holocaust visited on Native
Americans. When the British claimed sovereignty over Australia, they commenced a 200-
year campaign of dispossession, oppression, subjugation and genocide of Aboriginal peoples.
Describing Australia’s treatment of indigenous people, two judges of the High Court
of Australia once summed the experience as “a national legacy of unutterable shame”
(Muurlink and Sweeney). The colonial mentality that justified the colossal abuse throughout
settlement of Australia was carried into the nuclear age when native rights came into
conflict with the British need for uranium and a remote region to conduct weapon testing.
Thirty-three percent of the world’s economically recoverable uranium reserves are located
in some 50 deposits throughout Australia. Mining companies in Australia, with tacit
approval of the federal government, have aggressively pushed aboriginal peoples off their
lands. In the wake of their operations, they ruined the environment at El Sharana, Moline
and Rum Jungle. Repeatedly, the rights and interests of such groups as the Kokatha,
Martu, Adnyamathanha and Mirarr peoples have been ignored. To quote the Western
Desert people:
The mining companies continue to move over our land destroying our
sacred sites and vegetation as well as disrupting animal life without
consultation with the very people that this affects the most. We have
lived in this land for thousands of years, yet legally we are not permitted
to build permanent structures for housing and by law can be
removed from the land we occupy (Muurlink and Sweeney.)
Mining companies and government officials have repeatedly coerced the
Adnyamathanha people to accept mining operations on their lands. Richard Salvador of
the Pacific Islands Association of Non-Governmental Organizations has painted a stunning
portrait of the types of abuse showered upon these native Australians by those seeking minA
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ing concessions:
Over recent years the process of these mines becoming operational
has seen repeated attacks on the Adnyamathanha people. Women
and men are being physically assaulted in Native Title meetings, in the
presence of lawyers employed under Commonwealth funding grants
to administer Native Title. Children as young as 9 years old are being
sprayed in the eyes with capsicum spray by police at a site of protest,
whilst adults are being confined in police vehicles for up to 7 hours in
40 degree Celsius heat, without water. Public meetings are being held
by mining companies accompanied by armed police and chaired by
the current local member of Parliament. At the request of members
of Parliament, Adnyamathanha people are ‘escorted’ from the meeting
by armed police for demanding an independent Chair. These
experiences are far from peaceful, and do not empower
Adnyamathanha in relation to managing their heritage in a culturally
appropriate manner. Bullying, bribery, emotional and physical abuse,
racism and prejudice are the terms of reference used by the Australian
government, the mining industry, and the legal system. Those
Adnyamathanha who openly challenge the legal system and the government
policies as an inadequate and inappropriate framework for
consultation are punished, marginalized and reputed as “radical” and
“unreasonable” (Salvador, 2002).
The Ranger mine is located in the Northern Territory of Australia within the world
heritage-listed Kakadu National Park. Since 1981, there have been 120 releases and leaks
of contaminated water into the local watershed. Not surprisingly, the health of Aboriginal
people living in proximity of the mine was never assessed. Then in 2006, a paper was published
by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies which
reported that the incidence of cancer was nearly double the expected rate among people
living in proximity to the mine. In this study, the number of Aboriginal people living in the
Kakadu region diagnosed with cancer were compared to the number of cancers of all
Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory from 1994 to 2003. Among those dwelling
near the Ranger mine, 27 cases of cancer were reported which represented a rate 90 percent
higher than expected (Minchin and Murdoch).
Twenty percent of the world’s uranium is mined in Canada. Some of the uranium
for the Manhattan Project was mined at the government-owned Eldorado Mining and
Refining Company at Port Radium in the Northwest Territories. For three dollars a day,
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men of the Dene community were employed to haul 45 kilogram sacks of uranium ore out
of the wilderness to Fort McMurray. Typically, they carried their burdens 12 hours a day,
six days a week, four months a year (Nikiforuk). “Highway of the Atom” is the name now
given to the 2,100 km trek across the tundra, barge trips down rivers and portages around
rapids. The Dene dwelling near the mine ate fish caught in contaminated dredging ponds.
Their children played in the dust and ore at river docks and portage landings. Women
sewed tents from the sacks used to haul the ore (Nikiforuk). While sailing downstream,
boatmen slept atop the ore. A 1994 federal study on radioactive waste identified an area of
“elevated gamma radiation, due to spillage of uranium ore” which had been routinely used
by a dozen families for hunting, fishing and camping (Nikiforuk). The Dene paid a heavy
price for their service. An aboriginal health survey conducted in 1991 by the government
of Canada found that the community reported twice as much illness as any other Canadian
aboriginal community. Elevated rates of cancer are reported among the male uranium workers.
As outlined by Andrew Nikiforuk, an apparent crime lay at the heart of this tragedy.
Declassified documents from the atomic weapons and energy program in the United States
confirm that official secret talks on the health hazards of uranium mining were discussed
both in Washington and Ottawa. In 1932, even before the Manhattan Project, the
Department of Mines in Canada published studies of the mine at Port Radium, warning
of the hazard of radon inhalation and “the dangers from inhalation of radioactive dust.”
Blood studies of miners confirmed that breathing air with even small amounts of radon was
detrimental to health. Most disturbingly, the ill health which was to befall aboriginal miners
in the US and Canada was predicted in 1942 by Wilhelm C. Hueper, the founding
director of the environmental cancer section of the US National Cancer Institute. After
reviewing 300 years of data collected from uranium and cobalt mining operations in
Europe, he concluded that “radon gas in cobalt mines routinely produced lung cancers that
systematically killed more than half of all miners 10 to 20 years after their employment”
(Nikiforuk). Referring to radium miners at Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories
and in the Belgian Congo, Hueper made this dire prediction:
In case the Belgian and Canadian operations should be conducted
without the essential and comprehensive protective measures for the
workers, the prospects for an epidemic-like appearance of lung carcinomas
among their employees can be anticipated in the not-too-distant
According to documents declassified in the US, the Atomic Energy Commission
intervened in Hueper’s work, informing him that talk of the occupational hazards of uranium
mining was “not in the public interest” and “represented mere conjecture.” Nikiforuk
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continues, relating an incident that occurred in the mid-1950s after cancers began being
diagnosed at Port Radium. A government study was conducted which found elevated levels
of radon in the mine and in a second mine at Lake Athabasca. When printed and ready
for release, the authors were ordered by Canadian government officials not to circulate their
document. The follow-up? In 1959, the Canadian Minister of Energy, Gordon Churchill,
made the sickening public statement “that there are no special hazards attached to the mining
of uranium that differ from other mining activities.” In a written history of the
Canadian government’s Eldorado mining company by Robert Bothwell of the University
of Toronto, this revealing statement can be found: “The profound and deliberate falsification
of nuclear hazards began at the top.”
In northern Saskatchewan near Lake Athabasca, rich deposits of uranium have
been mined since the 1940s on land inhabited by the Dene and Cree peoples. The native
populations rely on the land for subsistence hunting. At the Indigenous World Uranium
Summit in 2006, Jamie Kneen of Minewatch Canada reported how uranium companies
during the 40s and 50s routinely dumped uranium mill tailings directly into lakes and rivers.
When dams were later installed to hold back the tailings, contaminated runoff continued
to pollute the environment (Norrell). Investigations have confirmed radionuclide contamination
of the food chain in the area of uranium mining operations and a transfer of this
contamination to native populations as a result of the consumption of wild caribou
(Thomas and Gates).
In the area of Elliot Lake in northern Ontario, the Anishinaabe people have been
adversely affected. The Serpent River watershed, including 80 kilometers of the river and
10 lakes, is highly contaminated as the result of mine operations. In addition to uranium
mining operations, this environmental degradation was created by the rupturing of 30
dams holding back uranium mill tailings and contaminated water. Further environmental
catastrophes at Elliot Lake are related by Moody:
This environmental “bill of account” would not be complete without
some discussion of “accidents” resulting from mine operations at
Elliot Lake. These include unexpected seepages, unintended movement
of solid wastes, dam and dike failures, re-solution, or erosion, of
barium-radium precipitates, waste pipeline breaks, pump failures, a
decant tower collapse, the accidental release of a large volume of sulphuric
acid and release of fine sands in the decant effluents. In 1964,
some 82,000 tonnes of waste drained into Quirke Lake, due to “overtopping”
of the dam. And, in 1979, within a month of the Panel
mine and mill being modernized, a tailings line broke, leading to liqNucl
e a r C o l o n i a l i s m
uid and solid contamination of Quirke.
In underground mines in Canada, no regulatory upper limit to radiation exposure
was initiated until 1968 (Brooks and Seth). A study of 50,201 Canadian miners working
between 1955 and 1986 disclosed an excess of 120 lung cancer deaths over the 171.8
expected in the nonexposed population (Brooks and Seth).
China’s annexation of Tibet has given it access to major uranium deposits. Rich
deposits are mined in Damshung, north of Lhasa, Qaidam, north of Golmud, Yamdrok
Tso, and Tewe (Dekhang). At Tewe, inhabitants report increased incidence of illness and
deaths caused by polluted streams below the mine (WISE 1993). Tibetan refugees escaping
to India have confirmed these reports, adding stories of mysterious die-offs of domestic
animals and the unexplained withering of trees and grasses (Dekhang). Sun Xiaodi, a
whistleblower from northern China, was under house arrest at the time of the Indigenous
World Uranium Summit in 2006. But his message was smuggled out of China and delivered
to the attendees by Feng Congde of Human Rights China (Norrell). Xiaodi reported
massive uranium contamination from Chinese mines operated in Tibet. At one time,
Xiaodi worked in Uranium Mine number 792. Originally run by the Chinese military from
1967 to 2002, it was transferred into the hands of Longjiang Nuclear Ltd., whose shareholders
were politicians and members of the nuclear ministry. Xiaodi’s written statement
described how the mines routinely released under cover of night untreated, irradiated water
into the Bailong River, a tributary of the Yangtze. Said Xiaodi:
Today, large sweeps of Ansu Province — dotted with sacred sites —
appear to have succumbed to an overdose of chemotherapy. The
Chinese have taken no preventive measures to protect local human
and animal life from uranium contamination.
At present, in our region there are an unusually high number of miscarriages
and birth defects, with many children born blind or malformed.
According to Xiaodi, Tibetan workers have reported that nearly half the deaths in
the region are produced by cancer and immune system disorders. Patients’ medical histories
are routinely falsified by authorities to protect state secrecy.
The uranium first used in French nuclear weapons was acquired from the
Shinkolobwe deposit in the Belgian Congo. As of 1980, 70 percent of France’s uranium
came from Niger and Gabon in West Africa (Kuletz). Other European countries and Japan
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also acquire uranium from these nations for their commercial nuclear power industry. The
mines are run by the French company Cogéma (parent company Areva), but they are not
operated under the same health and environmental regulations enforced within France
(Brooks and Seth). In 2005, Somair and Cominak, the subsidiaries of Cogéma that run the
Niger mines received a rather poor corporate responsibility rating of Level 2 in the environmental
area (on a 4-level scale with 4 being the best rating) from the rating agency
Vigeo. Level 2 stands for Prudent: “The company is dealing with the risks at a minimal
level.” The issues of waste management and rehabilitation of the environment were
important contributors to the earning of this rating. In 2003, representatives of the independent
French monitoring laboratory CHIIRAD made a field trip to Niger to observe the
conditions of the uranium mines at Arlit and Akouta. Members noted the nearly total
absence of any form of waste management. Deposits of waste rock and uranium mill tailings
remained exposed, representing a source of radioactive dust that might migrate
through the environment. Further, they noted the lack of effective restrictions on local residents
scavenging contaminated metal scrap. This became an issue in 2006. The BBC
(BBC News, May 30) reported people living near Arlit were ill as a result of exposure to
radioactive scrap metal. In 2007, in the town of Akokan near the Akouta uranium mine,
radioactive waste rock was being reused for local road construction.
Great Britain’s nuclear weapons program was partly fueled by uranium mined in
Namibia. In the 1970s, Namibia was illegally occupied by South African armed forces. In
1976, the British-Australian mining company Rio Tinto Zinc (RTZ) began illegally mining
uranium at Rössing in violation of a 1974 UN decree that no Namibian natural resources
could be extracted without the consent of the UN Council for Namibia. The decree specifically
included these words:
No person or entity, whether a body corporate or unincorporated,
may search for, prospect for, explore for, take, extract, mine, process,
refine, use, sell, export of distribute any natural resource, whether animal
or mineral, situated or found to be situated within the territorial
limits of Namibia (Edwards 1983).
This decree was totally ineffectual in stopping RTZ’s mining operations. The veil,
behind which the company attempted to hide its operations, was pulled aside in The Plunder
of Namibian Uranium, a United Nations booklet published in 1982:
Mined by virtual slave labor under brutal and unsafe working conditions,
transported in secrecy to foreign countries, processed in unpublicized
locations, marked with false labels and shipping orders, owned
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by a tangle of multinational corporations whose activities are only
partially disclosed, and used in part to build the nuclear power of an
outlaw nation (Edwards 1983).
RTZ’s Rössing mine was notorious for human rights abuses:
Rössing has become synonymous with neocolonialism, the perpetuation
of apartheid, flagrant disregard of international law, and the
symbiotic relationship between civil and military nuclear fuel supplies.
To the United Nations Council on Namibia (UNCN), the mine has
epitomized the illegal seizure of vital resources from a territory until
recently cheated of its independence. To Namibia’s government, led
by SWAPO (South West Africa Peoples’ Organization), Rössing was
the single greatest bulwark of apartheid in the country for over a
decade. To its workforce it is a danger for years to come (Moody).
In the article “Rio Tinto: Founded on Blood,” Sue Boland had this to say:
In every continent where Rio Tinto operates, the story is the same:
land taken from indigenous people without compensation; workers
prevented from freely organizing in trade unions; destruction of the
environment; and cozy relations with politicians, government officials
and dictators.
At its Rössing mine, Rio Tinto maintains racial segregation in company
housing. Black employees are paid rock-bottom wages while their
white counterparts are paid above the maximum of the common
scale, in what is called an inducement band.
In dealing with indigenous peoples’ opposition, Rio Tinto usually
begins negotiations with several indigenous groups. Once it establishes
which group can be bought off, it ceases negotiations with all the
others and claims that it has indigenous support for its project.
As a player in the uranium supply chain, Canada ignored both the UN decree and
the flagrant human rights violations and refined the uranium mined in Namibian at Port
Hope. This little-known fact came to light in the article “Canada’s Nuclear Industry and
the Myth of the Peaceful Atom:”
The practice of refining Namibian uranium at Eldorado’s federally
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owned facility in Port Hope, Ontario, was already well established by
1974, and continued uninterrupted into the 1980s. RTZ’s Canadian
subsidiary, Rio Algom, actually owned 10 per cent of the Rössing
mine, and Falconbridge Nickel — a Canadian subsidiary of Superior
Oil of Texas — had been exploring for uranium in Namibia since the
mid-1970s. The Canadian government did not consider itself legally
or morally bound to obey the UN Council’s decree, or the UN
General Assembly’s 1981 resolution, which specifically requested that
Canada and the other countries involved in the [uranium] cartel “take
measures to prohibit their state-owned corporations, together with
their subsidiaries, from all dealings in Namibian uranium” (Edwards 1983).
The assault on the environment and the lives of indigenous people by uranium mining
pales in comparison to the crimes which accompanied aboveground weapon testing. To
test their weapons, the United States, the Soviet Union, France, Great Britain and China
secured isolated areas, oblivious to the ruin they would produce in aboriginal cultures and
the ecological fabric of the region. The archetypal, most perfect embodiment of environmental
racism, which set the pattern for all subsequent weapon testing was carried out by
the United States in the Marshall Islands. The Marshalls consist of 29 low-lying coral atolls
and five islands in an area of 357,000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean. In 1944, the US
wrested the islands from the Japanese and occupied them for the remainder of World War
II. In 1947, the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands was established by the United Nations
which designated the United States as the administrator. The islands included in the
trusteeship consisted of the Marshall Islands, the Caroline Islands (which include the
islands of Kosrae, Pohnpei, Truck/Chuuk, Yap and Belau), and the Marianas Islands
(which include Guam, Saipan and Tinian) (Salvador 1999). Article six of the Trust
Agreement reads as follows:
The administering authority shall:
1. foster the development of such political institutions as are suited
to the trust territory and shall promote the development of the inhabitants
of the trust territory toward self-government or independence
as may be appropriate to the particular circumstances of the trust territory
and its peoples and the freely expressed wishes of the peoples
concerned; and to this end shall give to the inhabitants of the trust territory
a progressively increasing share in the administrative services in
the territory; shall develop their participation in government; and give
due recognition to the customs of the inhabitants in providing a system
of law for the territory; and shall take other appropriate measures
Nucl e a r C o l o n i a l i s m
toward these ends;
2. promote the economic advancement and self-sufficiency of the
inhabitants, and to this end shall regulate the use of natural resources;
encourage the development of fisheries, agriculture, and industries;
protect the inhabitants against the loss of their lands and resources;
and improve the means of transportation and communication;
3. promote the social advancement of the inhabitants and to this
end shall protect the rights and fundamental freedoms of all elements
of the population without discrimination; protect the health of the
inhabitants; control the traffic in arms and ammunition, opium and
other dangerous drugs, and alcoholic and other spirituous beverages;
and institute such other regulations as may be necessary to protect the
inhabitants against social abuses; and
4. promote the educational advancement of the inhabitants, and to
this end shall take steps toward the establishment of a general system
of elementary education; facilitate the vocational and cultural
advancement of the population; and shall encourage qualified students
to pursue higher education, including training on the professional
level (Trusteeship).
Before the ink had dried, the US was forsaking all pretense of trusteeship. The
tragedy commenced in February 1946. Commodore Ben Wyatt, US Military Governor of
the Marshall Islands, approached King Juda and the 167 residents of the Bikini Atoll and
asked if they would be willing to vacate their island temporarily for the “good of mankind
and to end all world wars” (Guyer). Upon agreeing, the entire population was relocated to
Rongerik Atoll, 125 miles away. Soon after, the US conducted Operation Crossroads in
the Atoll. To test the effectiveness of atomic bombs against naval armadas, two bombs were
detonated in proximity to a fleet of decommissioned vessels. Shot Able was detonated in
the atmosphere above the vessels. Shot Baker was the first atomic bomb set off underwater.
It produced an environmental catastrophe. The explosion jettisoned into the atmosphere
the atomized coral reef and millions of gallons of water vapor, both now made
radioactive by neutron activation, which contaminated the entire lagoon, the islands of
Bikini Atoll and beyond. (In subsequent years, field teams from the University of
Washington studied the web of life at Bikini, documenting the uptake of radionuclides by
plants and animals and the increased concentration of radionuclides in feeders at the top
of the various food chains.)
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While their home was being decimated, the people of Bikini suffered. The US navy
relocated them to Rongerik Atoll. Rongerik was one-sixth the size of Bikini and was uninhabited
due to a lack of water. The food supply was poor. And to top it all off, a native
tradition held that evil spirits roamed the island (Fretwell). Within months of arriving at
their “temporary” home, the Bikinians were starving and begging to go home. Unaware at
that time of the depth of their victimization, they had no idea that their idyllic home had
been irretrievably despoiled. After Crossroads, between 1946 and 1958, the US used Bikini
to test an additional 21 atomic and hydrogen bombs. The infamous Shot Bravo, a 15 megaton
thermonuclear weapon, was detonated at Bikini on March 1, 1954.
In 1948, recognizing the inadequacy of Rongerik for sustaining life, the US temporarily
relocated the Bikinians to Kwajalein Atoll. Six months later, in November, the
entire community was resettled on their permanent home, Kili, in the southern Marshalls.
The adversities they were forced to endure on Kili were many, including typhoons, forest
fires, hunger, isolation and loss of their traditional diet and culture (Fretwell).
At the beginning of the 1970s, the US conducted “cleanup” operations on Bikini.
In what can only be considered a human radiation experiment, the US permitted three
extended families, consisting of just over 100 individuals, to resettle on Bikini in 1973. By
1975, regular radiological surveys revealed that newly planted crops were absorbing and
concentrating radionuclides and that this contamination was being transferred to the
inhabitants. When this information became public knowledge, the Bikinians filed a legal
suit against the US to force a complete radiological survey of Bikini. The US consented to
this investigation, but it procrastinated for three years before starting. All the while, the people
of Bikini were accumulating internal exposure. When alarming levels of cesium-137
were detected in their bodies in 1978, the people of Bikini were evacuated from their homeland.
The people of Bikini were not the only people in the Marshall Islands victimized by
nuclear testing. In addition to the 23 tests at Bikini, 44 tests were conducted at Eniwetok
Atoll. Eniwetok was initially selected as a test site in 1947. In September of following year,
authorization was given by the US government to pay the Eniwetokees $515,360 for their
islands. However, the Atomic Energy Agency refused to make payments without the native
population providing legal proof of ownership (Fretwell). (How do traditional landholders
provide legal proof of ownership?) Although nuclear testing began at Eniwetok in 1948
and the native population was relocated to Ujelang, no payment had been made through
August 1951. Finally, in November 1956, US officials gave the Eniwetok people $25,000
cash and a $150,00 trust fund (Fretwell). Unlike the people of Bikini and Eniwetok, the
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native populations of Rongelap, Ailingnae and Utirik were not permanently resettled.
They were temporarily relocated as fallout from Shot Bravo was passing over their islands
but were then allowed to return.
Many disturbing events surround the Bravo test shot on Bikini. Prior to the test, the
weather was miserable and the possibility existed that the test would have to be cancelled.
At the last minute, the weather improved, but the winds were blowing in the direction of
inhabited islands. Nevertheless, the test took place as scheduled. The fallout from this
hydrogen bomb was horrific, and test personnel were rapidly evacuated from nearby
islands. As the radioactive cloud drifted away from Bikini, it passed over Rongelap, 100
miles away. A radioactive snow of contaminated sand and coral fell to a depth of one and
a half inches on the island. Utirik, 300 miles away, also was heavily contaminated. The
people of these islands were not evacuated for three days. This incident was aptly characterized
with these words: “These (and other) Pacific people were used as human guinea pigs
in an obscene racist experiment — a particularly sharp snapshot of colonialism and the
horrors wrought by the arrogant mindset which goes with it” (Peace Movement Aotearoa).
This is not hyperbole. A report by the Brookhaven National Laboratory had this to say
about Rongelap:
Even though the radioactive contamination of Rongelap Island is
considered perfectly safe for human habitation, the levels of activity
are higher than those found in other inhabited locations in the world.
The habitation of these people on the island will afford most valuable
ecological radiation data on human beings (Fretwell).
Merril Eisenbud, then an official with the Atomic Energy Commission, offered this
racist quip regarding Shot Bravo and the unique opportunity it created for studying radiation
effects in the Rongelap people: “While it is true that these people do not live the way
civilized people do, it is nevertheless true that they are more like us than the mice”
While recalling memorable proclamations of environmental racism, the following
famous quotation needs to be enshrined. During the 1970s, when Micronesians began
demanding independence, Walter J. Hickel, US Secretary of the Interior, asked Henry
Kissinger his opinion on the subject. Kissinger replied: “There are only 90,000 people out
there. Who gives a damn?” (Katosang).
Rosalie Bertell conducted research on the Rongelap people and provided this telling
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The medical examination of the Rongelap people included many
reports of “monster” and molar births. According to the people, they
actually began to photograph these abnormalities, which at first they
had hidden thinking it was their own fault to have such abnormal
pregnancies. When the photographs were shown to American
researchers, the pictures were seized. They burned them in front of
the people saying: “This is what we think of your evidence.” We
heard this story from many different people on the Atoll (Bertell,
February 1998).
Although buried in the scientific journals, evidence remains of the terrible toll of
death and disease bequeathed to Marshall Islanders from nuclear testing. In exchange for
their innocence, trust and powerlessness, these people received payment in the form of
chronic illnesses, congenital diseases and malformations, miscarriages and stillbirths,
thyroid problems, tumors and cysts, heart problems, reproductive problems, mental and
neurological abnormalities, and adult onset diabetes (Bertell. February 1998).
In the last two decades of the twentieth century, the people of the island nation of
Belau in the Caroline Islands worked to create a nuclear-free zone in Micronesia. Their
sovereignty movement represented decolonization, demilitarization and denuclearization
and was an affront to US interests in the Pacific. Richard Salvador of the Nuclear Age
Peace Foundation wrote these insightful words of how nuclear colonialism is an enemy of
The crucial issues to consider here, or in similar nation-building
efforts, are those of democratic principles and military imperatives.
Between 1983 and 1993, Belau peoples exercised their democratic
right to freely express their common wishes in founding a nuclear-free
island nation. In all of these democratic exercises, we said No each
time. US military imperatives overrode all of those No’s and undermined
democratic practice; but this is not something new. Cultures of
militarism and nuclearism are, by nature, cultures of secrecy. They
erode openness and democracy and make indispensable a culture of
death and terror which legitimizes militarism and production and use
of weapons of mass destruction. The theory and practice of nuclear
deterrence have been extremely hostile to democratic practice.
National military strategies have often required the absence of free
democratic thought while, on the other hand, a commitment to
nuclear disarmament and demilitarization will allow communities to
participate more fully in both the political sphere and civil society, in
Nucl e a r C o l o n i a l i s m
working to ensure a world free of the nuclear dangers that confront us
(Salvador 1999).
A contributing factor to the erosion of democracy in America during the second half
of the 20th century was government deception regarding atmospheric weapon testing in
Nevada. Many of the lies referenced in this book took root and blossomed during the 1950s
as a hedge against Americans discovering the extent of radioactive contamination spreading
across their nation. While environmental studies in the Pacific were documenting the
contamination of food chains at Bikini, nonstop detonations were illuminating the sky over
Nevada. Even after strontium-90 was detected in dairy products and in the teeth of children,
the government dodged accountability. Weapon testing took priority over the welfare
of citizens of the homeland, and nuclear colonialism and environmental racism shredded
democratic principles and ideals.
In the early 1950s, the government of the United States seized land belonging to the
Western Shoshone and Southern Paiute peoples to create the Nevada Test Site. The story
of this land grab is succinctly told by Kuletz:
The Western Shoshone land base included the Nevada Test Site,
Yucca Mountain, and beyond (actually 24 million acres). The ‘legal’
claim to the Nevada Test Site area stems from the 1863 Treaty of
Ruby Valley, which is a peace and friendship treaty allowing settlers to
travel through Shoshone territory; not to withdraw it from the Indian
use. The treaty identifies the territory but does not cede the territory
to any US political entity. In the 1970s the US government initially
offered the Western Shoshone a sum of $26,145,189 to buy the land,
but the money still sits in the bank. The Shoshone refuse to accept
money for something they refuse to sell. Not taking ‘no’ for an answer,
the US government, under the auspices of the Indian Claims
Commission, proceeded to accept the money on behalf of the
Western Shoshone so that it (the US government) could proceed with
establishing title to the land. The Western Shoshone see this ruse as
US usurpation of their land, an infringement on their sovereignty that
threatens a fragile cultural identity and survival.
At the Nevada Test Site between 1951 and 1992, a total of 928 nuclear tests were
conducted. Of these, approximately 100 were atmospheric detonations. According to
Chief Raymond Yowell of the Western Shoshone: “We are now the most bombed nation
in the world. The radiation has caused Shoshone, Ute, Navajo, Hopi Paiute, Havasupai,
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Hualapai and other downwind communities to suffer from cancer, thyroid disease and birth
defects” (Taliman). In retrospect, it is apparent that precautions at the Nevada Test Site
were inadequate for protecting these populations. Native Americans living off the land
were not adequately informed that traditional sources of fresh water were contaminated
and that grazing livestock were vulnerable to uptake of hazardous levels of radionuclides.
In the late 1980s, the Department of Energy attempted to calculate radiation exposures
from the Nevada Test Site. Doses were calculated for nine different lifestyle models (George
and Russ). Invisible to this study were the unique lifestyles of the indigenous inhabitants
and the additional routes of exposure to which they were vulnerable (Frohmberg et al.). For
instance, Native Americans of the region routinely hunted and consumed small game such
as wild rabbits. This vector concentrated iodine-131 in the thyroid glands of people in
native communities and was passed on to nursing infants through breast milk (Russ et al.).
It is difficult to find the right word to characterize the raining down of radioactivity
on Americans living downwind of the Nevada Test Site. For that matter, radioactivity was
detected in the Midwest after the Trinity Test in 1944 and students at Rensselaer
Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, measured fallout radiation after Shot Simon in
1953. Unbeknownst to the entire population of the United States, everyone was transformed
into a downwinder, vulnerable to greater risks of radiogenic diseases. Clearly, to
use the term “racism” to describe this type of victimization is inappropriate. Perhaps
expressions such as “nuclear despotism” or “nuclear tyranny,” or better yet “nuclear fascism”,
would be more apt for describing the contamination of a people by their own government
or by government subsidized industries. The BIG question is who is profiting
from all this oppression, disease and ruination of the environment. Certainly not the common
man and woman. Then who and for what? Could the answer be so crass as for the
ruthless power of those sworn to an ideology of domination and the greed of a handful of
industrialists, armament makers and energy company czars?
In lockstep with the environmental racism practiced by the United States, Britain
conducted its nuclear testing in its former colony of Australia on the homeland of the
Pitjantjatjara, the Tjarutja and the Kokatha peoples. Between 1952 and 1963, 12 atomic
blasts were detonated and hundreds of minor tests involving radioactive material were conducted.
Seven atomic bombs were set off at Maralinga and two others at Emu Field, both
sites located in the Great Victoria Desert in South Australia. Three additional tests were
conducted on the Monte Bello Islands off the coast of Western Australia. While developing
the means of decimating cities, the British, with full support of the Australian government,
helped decimate Aboriginal culture. Jim Green in his article “Radioactive Racism
in Australia” documents the plight of the indigenous people at the time of British testing.
According to Green:
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The general attitude of white settlers towards Aborigines was profoundly
racist; Aboriginal society was considered one of the lowest
forms of civilization and doomed to extinction. Their land was considered
empty and available for exploitation — ‘terra nullius.’
In his book Fallout – Hedley Marston and the British Bomb Tests in Australia, author Roger
Cross succinctly describes the racism that underlied the British nuclear tests:
Little mention was made of course about the effects the bomb tests
might have on the Indigenous Australian inhabitants of the
Maralinga area, a community that had experienced little contact with
white Australia. In 1985 the McClelland Royal Commission would
report how Alan Butement, Chief Scientist for the Department of
Supply wrote to the native patrol officer for the area, rebuking him for
the concerns he had expressed about the situation and chastising him
for “apparently placing the affairs of a handful of natives above those
of the British Commonwealth of Nations.” When a member of staff
at Hedley Marston’s division queried the British scientist Scott Russell
on the fate of the Aborigines at Maralinga, the response was that they
were a dying race and therefore dispensable.
In harmony with the maltreatment of native populations that started during the
early colonization of Australia, the British subjected native peoples to human rights abuse
and racism, drove them from their tribal lands, incarcerated them in settlements and
demonstrated indifference to their safety and welfare (Varney). In planning and executing
the tests, lands were seized from people who traditionally occupied them. At no time were
these people, who had the most to lose from nuclear testing, consulted. The test sites themselves
and vast tracts around them were permanently damaged, contaminated for millennia,
and no compensation was ever provided. Rehabilitation efforts of the lands were a
sham. What was once homeland was rendered radioactive wasteland.
These acts of environmental racism devastated Aboriginal culture and religion
because of the wrenching disruption they produced between the people and their land.
One can sense the depth of the impact from this observation by Robert Varney:
To Aborigines the land is a spirit entity — a parchment on which their
history is indelibly engraved and where special living places — sacred
sites, have acquired significance as reminders of their past, a past also
relived in the rituals of the Corroboree, the Dreamtime ceremonies,
story telling and initiation. The deep Aboriginal belief that is cenA
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tered on love and honor for the land that has nurtured them, is surely
as profound and as worthy of respect as any other religion.
Varney adds to our understanding of the traditional lifestyle of the Aborigines:
For thousands of years many Aboriginal tribes had lived and evolved
in parts of Australia which, like the Great Victoria Desert that encompassed
Emu Field and Maralinga, were areas that were amongst the
harshest and most unforgiving territories on Earth. But they had
learned to survive by adaptation, having developed a formidable
knowledge of hunting, tracking, food gathering and ability to find
water, and many whites that became lost and without resources owed
their lives to Aborigines who befriended them. Aboriginal tribes lived
a nomadic existence lest one place became over-exploited and its fragile
environment irreparably damaged, their travels following wellworn
routes chosen for their water holes, availability of game and
“bush tucker.”
Profound indifference to the distinctive lifestyles of the Aboriginal people was a root
cause for the crimes that accompanied nuclear weapon testing. Those authorities overseeing
the tests didn’t bother to do their homework and were ignorant of Aboriginal culture,
customs, numbers and distribution (Varney). Although the Monte Bello Islands were uninhabited,
the tests there produced fallout that was blown east over Western Australia. Far
more native people than assumed occupied the great swaths of this land. The fallout contaminated
food and water sources and was responsible for producing radiation sickness and
On October 15, 1953, the Totem I test was detonated at Emu Field. It sent a
radioactive cloud 250 miles northwest over Wallatinna and Melbourne Hill. A report
penned in Britain in 1985 by the Royal Commission reviewing the British Atomic Tests in
Australia concluded that wind conditions at the time of the test were unfavorable and a previous
study had shown that such conditions would produce unacceptable levels of fallout.
Further, the criteria established for carrying out tests failed to take into account possible
contamination to aboriginal people living downwind (Green). The aftermath of this test
was sudden outbreaks of sickness and death in downwind communities. Subsequent to the
Totem I shot, 45 members of the Yankunyathjara were found to be dwelling a mere 170
kilometers from the blast. They reported being enveloped in a black mist soon after the
explosion that rocked their land. As reported in a 1982 issue of Cultural Survival Quarterly,
two days after the test the Yankunyathjara began to experience weakness and skin rashes,
vomiting and diarrhea. By the third day, healthy children became blind. One person of
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the tribe died five days after the blast and more died within the next year. Within 15 years
of the tests, aboriginals and white settlers who were exposed to fallout began suffering and
dying from cancer (Rÿser).
In addition to being ill-informed of Aboriginal numbers, the test authorities failed
miserably to control access by aboriginal groups to the test sites prior to the blasts or preventing
them from entering contaminated areas after the tests. Barristers representing the
Aborigines at the Royal Commission in 1985 characterized security prior to the tests as “an
absolute farce, a total shambles” (Varney). Those who planned the tests at Maralinga were
oblivious to the fact that the detonations were performed on tracts of land crisscrossed by
ancestral migration routes. People routinely traveled over contaminated countryside after
the tests. The slightest appreciation of the distinctive, traditional lifestyles of the Aborigines
would have warned authorities that testing would put these people at risk. The people of
the desert wore minimal clothing and no shoes. They lived off the land, dwelling in the
open or in makeshift shelters. They hunted and gathered wild foods. Blanketing the area
with radionuclides was guaranteed to be an act of genocide.
Measures to insure the safety of indigenous peoples were woefully inadequate. An
insufficient number of native patrol officers were assigned the hopeless task of overseeing
thousands of square kilometers. Signs warning of impending danger were erected at strategic
locations, but these were written in English, a language that few Aboriginal people could
read. Groups found living or migrating through areas likely to be contaminated were
forcibly relocated. Prior to the tests at Maralinga in 1956-57, native groups were relocated
at Yalata, several hundred miles from their tribal lands, where they remained until 1984.
The trauma of dislocation and the loss of their traditional lifestyle resulted in the highest
rate of alcohol-related illnesses and deaths of any Australian community (Barton). The
experience at Yalata for the Aborigines can easily be pictured in this anecdote:
Speaking at a South Australian select parliamentary hearing in 1983,
Hans Gaden who worked at the Yalata Mission in 1952 when he was
responsible for moving the Maralinga Aborigines there, described the
deterioration of living conditions during their stay. He claimed they
should never have been moved South into territory which was so
unlike their tribal lands, and lamented that 31 years later (they were
still there in 1982) it was too late. He told how lack of an employment
incentive (most wanted to work when moved there) made them lazy
and how after 1967 when they could consume alcohol legally, they
were ruined by drink, saying “Full-blooded Aborigines go to pieces
after drinking alcohol.” He talked of their taxi driver supplier saying
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“If I could have found that white man I would probably have shot
him.” Gaden summed up his feelings of Yalata when he said “That
is what had become of the Aborigines from Maralinga. It almost
makes me cry when I see them today. They are not the same people”
Despite forced relocation, evacuation for the tests was later discovered to have been
incomplete. On numerous occasions, native people were found roaming in contaminated
areas, foraging for survival. In one well known incident, a family trekking through the
desert was found camped inside a crater dug out by a nuclear blast. These “unplanned”
exposures destroyed the health and lives of countless Aborigines.
Toward the end of the 1990s, a halfhearted display of cleaning up Maralinga was
carried out, which according to a government document, was “aimed at reducing
Commonwealth liability arising from residual contamination” (Green). Alan Parkinson, a
nuclear engineer and whistleblower, had this to say about the Maralinga cleanup on ABC
radio on August 5, 2002: “What was done at Maralinga was a cheap and nasty solution
that wouldn’t be adopted on white-fellas land” (Green).
In 2007, Green Audit published a health study of descendants of members of the
British Nuclear Test Veterans’ Association (Busby and de Messieres). The study looked at
the veterans’ children and grandchildren and investigated the rates for miscarriages, stillbirths,
infant mortality, congenital illnesses and cancer. These rates were then compared
with national statistics and with the descendants of unexposed controls. Richard Bramhall
of the Low Level Radiation Campaign summarized the results of this study as follows:
The findings are a challenge to conventional estimates of the health
impact of radiation, because high levels of miscarriages, stillbirths
and congenital conditions were found, though cancer was not greatly
• Miscarriages were 2.75 times higher than expected,
• Stillbirths were 2.7 times higher than expected,
• The rates for congenital conditions are shocking. In the veterans’
children they are 10 times higher than expected. The grandchildren
have almost as much — an 8.35-fold excess, indicating that
genetic damage is being passed down the generations at an unexpected
rate. Conventional genetic theory would suggest that damage
would be diluted in later generations. The study’s results for congenital
damage are in line with post-Chernobyl animal research that
shows such effects persisting for up to 22 generations. The outlook for
Nucl e a r C o l o n i a l i s m
the future of the veterans’ families is grim.
None of the results correlates with “doses” recorded by the radiation
film badge monitors that some of the servicemen were given to wear
during the tests. Neither do the findings correlate with attendance at
actual explosions, as the genetic damage is present in the descendants
of men who served on test sites only between tests. These men were
nevertheless exposed to fallout inhalation hazards. These two considerations
strongly suggest that the cause of the health problems is
chronic internal radiation, rather than acute external irradiation from
the explosions themselves (Bramhall 2007).
Obviously, the findings of this study have implications for participants of weapon
testing throughout the world and for all people who dwell on lands in proximity to the
world’s test sites. As this study suggests, the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons or limited
nuclear war will produce horrific genetic effects in future generations. The noting of
this consequence is absent from the Hiroshima Life Span Study.
Following the entrenched pattern established by other nuclear powers, France elected
to detonate nuclear weapons in its colonies. As the Algerian War of Independence
raged, France began testing atomic weapons in the Sahara desert at Reganne Oasis, 430
miles south of Colomb-Béchar. During 1960-1961, four atmospheric tests were conducted.
Protests by surrounding African nations, and the fact that radioactivity from the tests
had drifted north into France, forced continued testing underground. Radioactivity is still
a hazard on land around the test site. The Algerian daily paper, Liberté, reported in June
2001 that early mortality of livestock is an ongoing problem (Schmid). At the cessation of
testing, the French buried contaminated equipment and vehicles in the sand. Oblivious to
the hazard, local inhabitants later uncovered the cache and sold it (Schmid). It has been
reported that the health of Berbers, the indigenous people of North Africa, was adversely
affected by the testing (Rÿser). The French have persistently denied any adverse effects to
people or the environment as a result of their testing program. Journalists allowed to study
army archives in 1998, however, retrieved evidence that the tests created a major hazard to
people downwind. According to an article that appeared in Le Nouvel Observateur, fallout
from the 65 kiloton shot Blue Jerboise, the first Algerian test in February 1960, spread to
the atmosphere above the former Fort-Lamy, what is now N’Djamena, the capital of Chad.
A secret report written on July 15, 1960 stated that the air above the city immediately after
the test was 100,000 times more radioactive than normal (WISE 1998). During the last test,
French soldiers participated in maneuvers “under the cloud,” marching to within 100
meters to ground zero 35 minutes after the blast. The purpose was to test protective mateA
P r i m e r i n t h e A r t o f D e c e p t i o n
rials and study the psychological response of the troops. The fear that gripped the soldiers
was summarized in a report: “The psychological behavior of the soldier seems to be dominated
by a psychose of fear, susceptible to become an obsession” (WISE 1998). Health
studies of the thousands of participants in the operation were never undertaken. After the
four atmospheric tests, French testing in Algeria moved underground. Between 1961 and
1966, 13 tests were conducted at In Ecker in the Hoggar mountains. Plutonium air dispersion
tests were also conducted in the area.
When France began developing thermonuclear weapons, testing was relocated to
economically dependent, French-occupied Polynesia. French Polynesia is comprised of 118
islands in the South Pacific, covering an area the size of Europe. Between 1966 to 1974, at
the atolls of Moruroa and Fangataufa, 41 atmospheric tests were conducted. This was followed
by 152 underground tests, the last of which was detonated in 1996. As in Algeria, a
ruthless silence has been maintained by the French government regarding the effects of testing
on downwind populations. Official pronouncements persistently portrayed French
nuclear testing as “clean” and radioactive fallout had no effects on the health of the population
of Polynesia (Braddock). This stance was part of a campaign of lies which became
unraveled in a 478-page report presented to the French Polynesia Assembly on February 9,
2006. According to that report, the French suppressed for 40 years “damning proof ” that
each of the 41 atmospheric tests conducted between 1966 and 1974 dumped radioactive
fallout on the populated island of Tahiti, 1,200 miles downwind of the test sites (Braddock).
As reported by World Information Service on Energy (WISE) in “French Nuclear
Tests: 30 Years of Lies,” contamination of unsuspecting innocents commenced with the
first test:
The first French Pacific nuclear test-explosion took place on Moruroa
on July 2, 1966. Sixteen hours later, alarmist messages reached Vice-
Admiral Lorain on the cruiser De Grasse: The cloud was more
radioactive than had been thought, and stayed lower. The wind blew
it towards Mangareva. A day later, a safety official from Mangareva
sent a telegram: “Radioactivity not neglectable. Soil contaminated.
Instructions asked for decontamination and food.” Lorain only sent
the scientific vessel la Coquille, and forbade the dissemination of
information to the population, or to start safety directives. The doctor
on board la Coquille, Millon, wrote a secret report, of which only
two copies exist. The vessel arrived at Mangareva three days after the
test. The first positive results (of measurement of radioactivity) are in
fish and plankton. The fourth day the vessel reaches Rikitea, the
Nucl e a r C o l o n i a l i s m
largest village. Local products were already severely contaminated.
Unwashed salads: 18,000 picocuries per gram, same level as at
Chernobyl on the first day. After heavy rain, soil samples showed levels
of 1,400 picocuries per gram, a still heavy contamination.
Nothing was forbidden (except to disseminate information), nobody
was warned. Millon wrote: “The population [was] completely
unaware, carefree and show[ed] no curiosity” (WISE 1998).
Other damning revelations surfaced about French conduct in the aftermath of the
the first test in the Pacific. A French government minister was observing the detonation
from a nearby island in the Gambier group. An unexpected shift in the wind forced his
immediate evacuation by plane. The inhabitants of the island were left behind and not
informed of the hazard (Kleiner). As the fallout cloud approached the island of
Mangareva, soldiers watched children playing in the sand at the beach. Fully aware that
radioactivity was approaching the island, the soldiers gave no warning to the people. As
characterized in “French Nuclear Tests: 30 Years of Lies:” “To warn the parents would
mean warning the world France was going to poison an inhabited island. So they kept their
mouth shut” (WISE 1998). A report presented to the French Polynesia Assembly in
February 2006 contained invaluable insights into how France attempted to hide the incident.
Research by the non-government Commission of Independent Research and
Information on Radioactivity proved that external exposure to radioactive fallout in the
Gambier Islands was twice the official levels later published (Braddock).
The same pattern of contaminating indigenous inhabitants and keeping silent continued
during further tests in September 1966. Heavy rains contaminated the islands of
Tureia and Mangareva. Measurements of the radioactivity in rainwater sampled from
Mangareva reached 100,000 Becquerels per liter (WISE 1998). The military took no action
to protect the exposed population. According to one officer, the fall of radioactive rain
“necessitates a strengthening of the secrecy” (WISE 1998). The special vulnerability of the
native Polynesians, and their potential for serving as a damning study group further down
the road, were known to test authorities:
Four islands with 1,200 inhabitants were threatened with radioactive
fallout: Reao, Tureia, Pukarua and especially Mangareva with 600
persons. What to do? It became an obsession for the atomic patrons.
To evacuate them would be the best, they were advised by the
Radiological Safety Service (SMSR). But then the media would
know: for political and psychological motives this was out of the question.
The SMSR experts knew the Polynesians were extremely vulA
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nerable to radiation effects. As they wrote: “This population has special
characteristics: isolated, an important fraction is less than 15 years
old, pregnant women, elderly people.” “Higher genetic risks than an
average European population” (WISE 1998).
Between 1962 and 1997, the French employed 15,000 Polynesians to work for the
atomic testing program. Most jobs were menial such as working in kitchens or doing construction.
But other jobs were hazardous, necessitating work that resulted in substantial
radiation exposure. Native Polynesians had no framework for understanding such concepts
as “radiation” and “contamination” (Kleiner). Consequently, they had no way of assessing
the danger in which they were placed. As related in the documentary Moruroa and Us, two
Dutch social scientists, Pieter de Vries and Hans Seur, interviewed 737 former test workers
(Kleiner). When hired, 73 percent were unaware where they would be working. Ten percent
of the work force was 17 years old or younger when they were first hired. Forty-one
percent reported that at some point in their employment they had worked in contaminated
zones. Of these, 14 percent reported that handling contaminated equipment was part of
their job. At times no protective clothing was available. At other times, they were forced
to remove the clothing due to the sweltering heat. Often they conducted their work wearing
nothing more than t-shirts and shorts. Fifty percent of workers reported either being
unfamiliar with personal radiation detection dosimeters or were never issued them
(Kleiner). As a consequence, there is no record of exposures to this population of workers
and no basis for financial compensation for work-related radiation-induced illnesses or for
help in paying for medical treatment. The survey did reveal that 7.4 percent of people
employed at the test site had physically disabled children and 2.4 percent had mentally disabled
children. Being unfamiliar with risks possessed by environmental contamination, the
native work force unknowingly injured itself. For instance, Kleiner describes the following:
The practice of frequently altering the boundaries of contaminated
zones contributed over the course of time to the prohibited area not
being taken seriously. In line with their cultural traditions, Tahitians
often did not observe the restrictive rules. For example, fishing in the
Moruroa lagoons was prohibited, but 55 percent of those interviewed
stated they ate fish caught there. Fishing and the consumption of fish
are an important part of Polynesian culture, and no fresh fish was
available from the canteens.
Until 1998, native workers who became ill while working at the nuclear sites were
treated at military hospitals. As a consequence, patients were prevented from later acquiring
their medical records. Evidence exists that the rate of cancer in Polynesia increased
Nucl e a r C o l o n i a l i s m
subsequent to French weapon testing (Kleiner). By one account, the normal incidence of
cancer in Polynesia is 17 percent. Among former Moruroa workers at the test site, 34 percent
have cancer (Kleiner). In Moruroa and Us, the statistic was presented that 25.7 out of
100,000 Polynesian women contract thyroid cancer while the ratio is only 4.8 per 100,000
in France. Unusually high incidence of leukemia is beginning to appear in the population
as well (Kleiner). Racial discrimination is reported as being a factor in the recognition of
test site-related illnesses. Dr. Gilles Soubiran, an intern at Territorial Central Hospital in
Tahiti relates the following:
I know of one case dealing with a civilian inspector who contracted
cancer and was acknowledged as a cancer victim. His driver, with a
lesser social status, received over many years perhaps the same dose of
radiation and likewise contracted cancer. He was, however, refused
recognition as a cancer victim (Kleiner).
There is no end to the environmental catastrophe created at nuclear test sites. A perfect
example occurred in March 1982. The cyclone William ripped up a layer of asphalt,
under which was buried plutonium. The storm scattered 10 kilograms of the radionuclide
over Moruroa. At the time 2,000 workers at the test site were stationed there. A decontamination
project took five years to complete (Kleiner). What decontamination means
under the circumstances is a debatable question.
The pillaging of the lands and lives of indigenous peoples by nuclear colonialism
and environmental racism is perfectly caught in this observation by Kleiner:
Prior to the commencement of atomic testing, Tahiti was a sleepy paradise
whose people on the whole lived in harmony with nature and in
accord with the laws of its thousand-year-old culture. Within 40
years, Tahiti was catapulted into the modern era through changes
brought on by the atomic tests. Cultural identity was lost; young people
do not even speak the language of their fathers and grandfathers
and no longer understand the old culture. But neither do they have
any prospects in the modern era. With the end of the tests, the largest
employer has left, and France will end its massive financial support in
2006. Future social conflicts can already be foreseen in the slums of
Tahiti’s capital, Papeete, and its neighboring city of Faaa.
The Soviet Union, like the United States, tested nuclear weapons within its own borders
and rained down radioactive fallout on its own people. Of 715 nuclear tests, 467 were
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conducted at the Semipalatinsk Test Site in northeast Kazakhstan. Of these, approximately
116 were atmospheric tests of atomic and hydrogen bombs. Another 224 tests were conducted
on the islands of Novaya Zemlya, an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean north of
Russia. The remaining 24 tests were located at other sites in Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine,
Uzbekistan and Turkmenia. Semipalatinsk Polygon, or Semipalatinsk-21, was constructed
in the late 1940s by slave laborers transported from the Gulag. According to James
Lernager in his article “Second Sunset - Victims of Soviet Nuclear Testing,” the test site
was ringed by farms and ranches and hundreds of thousands of people lived within a 50
mile radius. Says Lernager: “The residents of eastern Kazakhstan may have received
more radiation, over a longer period of time, than any other people on Earth.” He then
Occasionally, some of the largest towns directly bordering the Polygon
would be hurriedly evacuated by military personnel before a test.
Even then, however, 30 to 40 young adults would be ordered to
remain behind and take cover in houses and barns. Those who were
evacuated returned weeks later to an apocalyptic landscape strewn
with damaged homes and dead animals; those who had been forced
to stay were dazed, weak, and feverish, and soon exhibited signs of
acute radiation sickness. Most have since died.
A health crisis plagues the area. As many as 400,000 adults and children were made
sick by radiation (Thompson). Birth defect rates are 10 times those of Europe, America and
Japan (Thompson). Babies are routinely born with severe neurological and physical defects.
Rates of death and disease are staggering, with inordinate occurrences of immune system
disorders, leukemia, anemia and cancer. With water and food sources contaminated, the
death rate from disease is triple that in other parts of the former Soviet Union (Thompson).
Many people are afflicted simultaneously with a number of rare diseases (Lernager). From
the time of testing, third-generation newborns have been found to have higher rates of
chromosome abnormalities than those found in the first two generations (Lernager). As
after Chernobyl, civilian doctors were forbidden to enter into the medical records of their
patients any illnesses caused by radiation exposure. Officially, the Semipalatinsk region has
the lowest rate of cancer in Kazakhstan (Lernager). But the director of the Oncology
Hospital in the area estimates that at least 60,000 people died from radiation-induced cancer
(Lernager). In the village of Seriqkaisha, 20 miles from Semipalatinsk, almost every
family is afflicted with some type of radiation-induced illness (Chance). Various types of
deformities are common. The suicide rate in the region is one of the highest in the world
(Chance). In the village of Dolon, radiation produced a high incidence of cancer, birth
defects, nervous system disorders and immunological deficiencies (Makhijani 1999).
Nucl e a r C o l o n i a l i s m
Between 1955 and 1990, the USSR tested nuclear weapons in the Arctic at Novaya
Zemlya. In addition to typical atmospheric and underground tests, they conducted three
underwater tests. Other so-called “peaceful nuclear explosions” were detonated in the
1980s for seismic studies, mining, experiments in diverting rivers and attempts to extinguish
oil-field fires. This testing contaminated vast tracts with radioactive fallout. The impact to
health of indigenous people from nuclear testing is not known. However, an association is
expected between testing and diseases typical of radiation exposure at Chukotka, northern
Yakutiya, Kolguyev Island and the Kola Peninsula (Dallmann). The indigenous people
affected include the Nenets, Avars, Sami, Vepsians, Karelians and Komi.
Both inside and outside Russia, the Arctic is home to some four million inhabitants.
Indigenous peoples form approximately one-third of this population. Fallout from nuclear
testing contaminated the lichen-caribou-man food chain, making subsistence hunting a
hazard to health. The risk borne by circumpolar peoples of increased incidence of radiogenic
diseases was compounded by contamination from Chernobyl and radioactive pollution
from nuclear reprocessing facilities in Europe. This was revealed in a 1998 study by
the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program located in Oslo, Norway (WISE 1999).
Four hundred scientists and administrators assessed the health and environmental impact
of nuclear pollution in the eight countries that rim the Arctic: Canada, Denmark, Finland,
Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States. The study established that,
between contamination of reindeer and “unique features of Arctic terrestrial and freshwater
ecosystems,” indigenous peoples were particularly at risk for radiation-induced illnesses.
Among this population, some groups are among the most exposed people in the world. For
instance, in Norway, reindeer meat was found to contain 500 - 2,500 becquerels of cesium-
137 per kilogram. This was the primary reason why indigenous people of the area had levels
of internal contamination 50 times above the norm (WISE 1999). To serve as a basis of
comparison, the Japanese government has established as a standard that the maximum concentration
of cesium in food cannot exceed 370 Bq per kg (WISE 1999).
Since 1964, the People’s Republic of China has conducted 45 nuclear tests at Lop
Nur, located in western China in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. This densely
populated area is the ancient cultural center of eastern Turkestan and is the homeland of
the Uighur people. To these local inhabitants, nuclear testing created a nightmare from
which they have yet to emerge. The successive radioactive fallouts from the tests contaminated
drinking water and food supplies and are thought by local observers responsible for
the deaths of millions of animals and more than 200,000 people (SOTA). Official government
figures are not available to substantiate this claim, but the Chinese government has
conceded that deaths did occur (SOTA). Local people claim that since 1975, the incidence
A P r i m e r i n t h e A r t o f D e c e p t i o n
of leukemia has increased sevenfold and the incidence of cancer of the esophagus between
seven- and eight-fold. Pregnancy and birthing problems have increased by similar rates
(SOTA). In 1988, allegations were made that 20,000 deformed children lived in areas near
Lop Nur (SOTA). Fallout from Chinese nuclear tests drifted over Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan
and Tajikistan, but the human and ecological impact has not been systematically assessed.
In addition to uranium mining, China has constructed in Tibet facilities for producing
nuclear weapons. The environmental impact from these activities has been horrendous.
Gonpo Thondup addressed this issue at the World Uranium Hearing in Salzburg,
Germany, on September 14, 1992. Thondup, who escaped from Tibet to India in 1987,
visited two nuclear weapons production departments code numbered 405 in Kyangtsa and
792 in Thewo, Amdo region (Central). In his statement, he offered the following observations:
The effects of experiments and waste from 792 and 405 have been
devastating. Before 1960, in this region of Amdo, harvests were plentiful
and domestic animals healthy. Now the crop yield has shrunk
and people and animals are dying mysteriously, and in increasing
numbers. Since 1987 there has been a sharp rise in the number of
deaths of domestic animals and fish have all but vanished. In the
years of 1989 and 1990, 50 people died in the region, all from mysterious
causes. Twelve women gave birth in the summer of 1990, and
every child was dead before or died during birth. One Tibetan
woman, Tsering Dolma (aged 30), has given birth seven times and not
a single child has survived.
The people living near departments 405 and 792 have experienced
strange diseases they have never seen before. Many local people’s skin
turned yellowish and their eyesight has been affected seriously. The
local populace reported strange memory losses and many babies are
born deformed. The people of the area are desperate and can only
turn to religion and local doctors who have no knowledge of the uranium
mines or of the nuclear plants nearby (Dekhang).
Little is known of the human and environmental costs produced by the weapon testing
of other countries. India was detonated five or six underground tests at Pokhran.
Pakistan detonated between three and six weapons at Chagai Hills. North Korea detonated
one weapon, deemed a failure by the CIA, at Hwadae-ri in October 2006. Either Israel
or South Africa, or perhaps the two countries working jointly, are likely responsible for detonating
a nuclear weapon in the Indian Ocean on September 22, 1979 in what is now
Nucl e a r C o l o n i a l i s m
referred to as the Vela Incident.
The destruction of indigenous cultures forever silences ancient wisdom. This might
serve to explain the senseless radioactive contamination of the Earth that we are witnessing
today. Perhaps the New World Order can only take root on desecrated lands. In this vein,
deep insight may be garnered from this aboriginal voice:
The Great Spirit has instructed us that we have a sacred bond with
our Mother Earth and an obligation to the creatures who live upon it.
This is why it is disturbing that the federal government and the
nuclear power industry seem determined to ruin forever some of the
few lands we have left (Thorpe).
The intractable problem of the disposal of radioactive waste completes the tragedy
of humankind’s nuclear odyssey. For the selfish, short-term gain of a few, the Earth and all
life has been yoked with a burden that will take millennia to dispel. When the nuclear age
was in its infancy, the problem of caching radioactive waste was recognized. Rather than
solving the problem before creating millions of tons of the stuff, the nuclear powers raced
to exploit the atom in the belief that technology would catch up and solve the problem. A
half-century later, radioisotopes never before present on the Earth are aloft upon the winds
and floating in the waters. The terrible mentality that grips the earth finds this state of
affairs acceptable and makes every effort to perpetuate it.
To date, this terrible mentality has only conceived of one storage solution: to permanently
annex lands once belonging to aboriginal peoples and cordon off forever these
regions as zones of permanent sacrifice. Witness here the logical end of every act of
nuclear colonialism: the transformation of homelands into wastelands. The argument is
often made that humankind must accept the tradeoff, that to reap the benefits of nuclear
power or political security we all need accept the burden posed by radioactive waste. This
argument is fallacious. Who is really profiting from this state of affairs? In the long run,
who benefits from a contaminated Earth littered with poisoned water, poisoned air and poisoned
creatures? Some amongst us either must be plagued by a primitive mentality that
cannot realistically assess the damage already done or they somehow stand to benefit from
the state of affairs they created. Such pondering, as this whole book intends, points to
hearts of darkness, hearts working, both intentionally and unintentionally, to consume us all.
In the United States, transuranic waste from the nuclear weapons program began
arriving in 1999 at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, New Mexico.
Radioactive waste from commercial nuclear power plants is tentatively scheduled to start
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arriving at Yucca Mountain, inside the Nevada Test Site, in 2017. This despite heated controversy
that the facility is ill-conceived and located in an geologically unsuitable area. [The
Bow Ridge fault runs directly beneath the site, and since 1976 there have been 621 seismic
events within a 50-mile radius of magnitude 2.5 or greater on the Richter scale (Attewill)].
As an interim measure, “temporary” storage sites have been sought on lands belonging to
Native Americans. In 1987, the Office of Nuclear Waste Negotiator was created by
Congress for the purpose of opening a federally monitored retrievable storage site for highlevel
nuclear waste. As related by Kevin Kamps in “Environmental Racism, Tribal
Sovereignty and Nuclear Waste,” the nuclear negotiator proceeded to contact every federally
recognized tribe in the country, offering huge sums of money to first consider and then
ultimately host a dump. Of the hundreds of tribes contacted, only about two dozen were
eventually “courted” by the negotiator (Kamps). During the process the nuclear negotiator,
David Leroy, suggested that Native Americans would be excellent stewards of the
nation’s radioactive waste due to their reverence for the environment and long tradition of
valuing the land:
The heritage which reveres the environment often can perceive, in
very subtle and very significant ways, how necessary and how appropriate,
and how environmental the call for the safe storage of spent
fuel is for many generations of Americans yet unborn — native and
non-natives. That environmental sensitivity is a great asset because
we are asking to create an environmentally sensitive facility for an
environmentally sensitive mission (Erlich).
The ploy to use Native American impoverishment as a lever to acquire a dump site
did not fool anyone. Grace Thorpe in “Radioactive Racism? Native Americans and the
Nuclear Waste Legacy” had this to say:
The US government targeted American Indians (for nuclear waste
disposal) for several reasons: their lands are some of the most isolated
in North America, they are some of the most impoverished and, consequently,
most politically vulnerable and, perhaps most important,
tribal sovereignty can be used to bypass state environmental laws.
How ironic that, after centuries of attempting to destroy it, the US
government is suddenly interested in promoting American Indian sovereignty
— just so it can dump its lethal garbage! All Indian treaties
and agreements with the US government have been broken. Today’s
Indians remember yesterday’s broken promises. The Indians cannot
trust the federal government and certainly cannot trust the nuclear
industry whose driving force is monetary profit.
Nucl e a r C o l o n i a l i s m
Due to fierce community resistance within the targeted tribes, the nuclear negotiator
failed in his mandate to acquire land for a dump. As a consequence, the Office of
Nuclear Waste Negotiator lost its funding and was dissolved by Congress in 1994. The
hope of exploiting Native Americans’ economic vulnerability, however, did not end there.
A consortium of 33 nuclear power utilities began exerting pressure on the Mescalero
Apache Tribe in New Mexico. When this came to naught, a coalition of eight utilities
under the name of Private Fuel Storage began working on the Skull Valley Goshutes in
Utah. Over the years, the nuclear power establishment had targeted 60 Native American
communities as possible sites for a waste repository. Fifty-nine of these had successfully
rebuffed their overture (Kamps 2006). But the Skull Valley Goshutes became the one
exception. The small tribe of approximately 125 individuals was economically depressed
and already encircled by toxic polluters. Kevin Kamps paints a clear picture of the tribe’s
The reservation is already surrounded by toxic industries.
Magnesium Corporation is the nation’s worst air polluter, belching
voluminous chlorine gas and hydrochloric acid clouds; hazardous
waste landfills and incinerators dot the map; with a name straight out
of Orwell’s 1984, Envirocare dumps “low level” nuclear waste in the
next valley and is applying to accept atomic trash hundreds of times
more radioactive than its present license allows. Dugway Proving
Ground has tested VX nerve gas, leading in 1968 to the “accidental”
killing of 6,400 sheep grazing in Skull Valley, whose toxic carcasses
were then buried on the reservation without the tribe’s knowledge, let
alone approval. The US Army stores half its chemical weapon stockpile
nearby, and is burning it in an incinerator prone to leaks; jets from
Hill Air Force Base drop bombs on Wendover Bombing Range, and
fighter crashes and misfired missiles have struck nearby. Tribal members’
health is undoubtedly adversely impacted by this alphabet soup
of toxins. Now PFS wants to add high-level nuclear waste to the mix
(Kamps 2001).
Tribal Chairman, Leon Bear, had this to say of the tribe’s plight:
We can’t do anything here that’s green or environmental. Would you
buy a tomato from us if you knew what’s out here? Of course not. In
order to attract any kind of development, we have to be consistent
with what surrounds us (Kamps 2001).
In 1996, without approval by the tribal council, Bear signed a lease agreement with
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Private Fuel Storage. The agreement opened the door for the “temporary” storage of
40,000 tons of commercial high-level radioactive waste. This amount represented approximately
80% of the commercial irradiated fuel in the US up to the end of 2004 (Kamps
2005). Aside from the three-member executive committee of the tribe, no one else was
informed as to the amount of money involved in the transaction. Says Kamps: “Estimates
of the secretive payoff to the tribal council range from 60 to 200 million dollars.” The
Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which licensed the dump, ruled that the dump did not
violate principles of environmental justice because the tribe was being well rewarded financially
and the dump represented “no disproportionately high and adverse impacts on low
income or minority populations” (Kamps, 2001). Eventually, the scheme of Private Fuel
Storage came to naught. On September 7, 2006, the US Bureau of Land Management
rejected the proposed plans to ship commercial radioactive waste across the country to Skull
Valley. The US Bureau of Indian Affairs also interceded, rejecting the lease agreement
signed privately by Leon Bear. With Skull Valley kaput, the last remaining hope for a permanent
repository for the nation’s commercial radioactive waste is Yucca Mountain, sacred
land of the Western Shoshones and legitimate owners of the land as outlined in the Treaty
of Ruby Ridge.
The nuclear behemoth’s radioactive waste is subjugating the entire globe under
nuclear colonialism and marginalizing all of humankind. With the Earth our shared home,
all acts which contaminate the Earth are acts of environmental racism, perpetrated by the
nuclear policymakers against everyone else. In the 16 countries where uranium is mined,
millions of tons of radioactive mill tailings remain uncovered, allowing radionuclides to be
swept into the air or washed into waterways. British Nuclear Fuel’s Sellafield reprocessing
facility dumps radioactive waste directly into the Irish Sea. Cogéma’s reprocessing facility
at La Hague in France dumps one million liters of liquid radioactive waste, the equivalent
of 50 waste barrels, into the ocean every day (Greenpeace 2000). Russia has scuttled
decommissioned naval vessels, sending loaded nuclear reactors to the ocean floor. Between
1949 and 1956, the nuclear weapons complex at Chelyabinsk in the former Soviet Union
dumped 96 million cubic meters of radioactive liquid into the Techa River (WISE 1990).
The facility also pumped 120 million curies of radioactivity into Lake Karachay. Standing
on the shoreline, a person would receive a lethal dose of 600 roentgens in one hour (WISE
1990). Water levels at the lake have been steadily dropping for years and parts have dried
out completely. Winds have lofted radioactivity into the air, spreading contamination
around the planet. At the Hanford Reservation in Washington state, one third of the 177
tanks holding 54 million gallons of high-level waste are leaking. Nearby underground
aquifers contain an estimated 270 billion gallons of contaminated water (Wolman). Also at
Hanford, 40 billions gallons of contaminated water was dumped directly into the soil and
Nucl e a r C o l o n i a l i s m
storage ponds are leaking. As a result, radioactive waste is migrating into the Columbia
River. At the former West Valley reprocessing facility 50 miles south of Buffalo, New York,
radioactive and chemical wastes continually leach into Cattaraugus Creek. For 18 miles,
the creek flows along the Cattaraugus Reservation of the Seneca Nations of Indians before
emptying into Lake Erie (Concerned Citizens). Cesium-137 and strontium-90 contaminate
soil and groundwater in and around the 3,345 acre site. The Department of Energy is
attempting to change its regulations to declassify high-level radioactive waste into “waste
incidental to reprocessing.” Under this new classification, environmental contamination
would be allowed to remain in the ground (NIRS 2004). DOE favors covering up contaminated
areas with concrete and walking away (Coalition). This despite the fact that a 1996
study by DOE calculated that within 500 years radionuclides from West Valley would begin
migrating into the Great Lakes Watershed (Coalition).
An entire book on the subject could be written, but the point need not be belabored.
A profound disconnect exists between those people knowledgeable about the hazards of
radiation and those responsible for making day-to-day decisions on nuclear waste management.
As a result, radioactivity is being flushed into ecosystems around the world with total
abandon as to the consequences. This is a doomsday scenario produced by profit-seekers
and government bureaucrats unwilling or unable to appreciate the environmental consequences
of their actions and their ignorance.
If and when the Yucca Mountain repository opens, large sectors of the United
States will come under the dominion of nuclear colonialism. By 2010, 63,000 metric tons
of commercial irradiated fuel will be in temporary storage at nuclear power plants around
the country. To reach Nevada, this material will require transport across 44 states. This
scenario sets the stage for “mobile Chernobyls.” A single transport accident could be catastrophic.
An alternative scenario, admittedly of low probability, is even more disturbing.
In the event of major social upheaval due to war or natural catastrophe, services may be
severely interrupted. Such unforeseen circumstances might force the abandonment of the
spent nuclear fuel currently stored at the nation’s nuclear power plants. One hundred and
three zones of sacrifice would be created, remaining lethal to all life for hundreds of thousands
of years. With the passage of time, this neglected waste would leach from storage
and migrate into the environment. With nuclear reactors located near large volumes of
water, radioactivity will be widely dispersed around the globe. This is a not an unreasonable
epitaph for the nuclear age.
When hearing of the plight of indigenous people overwhelmed by nuclear coloA
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nialism and environmental racism, uninformed or indifferent Americans may blithely carry
on their lives, failing to recognize their kinship to these marginalized people. Take as an
example the nuclear weapon hydrodynamic testing, conducted at Lawrence Livermore
Nuclear Laboratory (LLNL) 50 miles east of San Francisco. Since 1961, weapon engineers
have performed these open-air tests to gauge the reliability of the metal pit primaries within
nuclear weapons. These cores consist of a sphere of fissionable material surrounded by
a jacket of high explosives. When detonated, the shaped charge compresses the highly
enriched uranium or plutonium sphere in such a geometry as to initiate a chain reaction.
At, the design of the devices being tested are described in this way:
Hydroshot tests are conducted to test the hydrodynamic performance
of the shaped explosives used in the ordnance. The explosive device
used in the hydroshot testing comprised an explosive charge shaped as
a hemisphere, about half the size of a basketball and weighing from
1-3 kg (2.2 to 6.6 lb). The explosive charge was surrounded by a DU
ring about 1-2 inches in height and weighing about 22 kg (48.5 lb).
The purpose of the DU ring was to simulate the hydrodynamic conditions
in a fully spherical weapon (,
As to the purpose of hydrodynamic testing, this is summarized as follows:
In these types of experiments, test assemblies that mock the conditions
of an actual nuclear weapon are detonated using high explosives. In
hydrodynamic testing, non-fissile isotopes, such as uranium-238 and
plutonium-242, are subjected to enough pressure and shock that they
start to behave like liquids (hence the ‘hydro’ in hydrodynamic).
Radiographs (x-ray photographs) can be used to obtain information
on the resulting implosion; computer calculations based on these test
results are used to predict how a nuclear weapon would perform.
Multiple view hydrodynamic testing (experiments to look at the flow
of adjacent materials as they are driven by high explosives) and
dynamic testing (experiments to study other effects of high explosives),
combined with computer modeling, provide the only means of
obtaining design data in the absence of nuclear testing.
Hydrodynamic tests and dynamic experiments have been an historical
requirement to assist in the understanding and evaluation of
nuclear weapons performance. Dynamic experiments are used to
gain information on the physical properties and dynamic behavior of
Nucl e a r C o l o n i a l i s m
materials used in nuclear weapons, including changes due to aging.
Hydrodynamic tests are used to obtain diagnostic information on the
behavior of a nuclear weapons primary (using simulant materials for
the fissile materials in an actual weapon) and to evaluate the effects of
aging on the nuclear weapons remaining in the greatly reduced stockpile.
The information that comes from these types of tests and experiments
cannot be obtained in any other way (
These tests, conducted at Site 300, 15 miles southeast of LLNL, have produced one
of the most contaminated areas in the United States. In 1990, the Environmental
Protection Agency designated Site 300 as a federal “Superfund” site requiring remediation.
The soil and groundwater are polluted with a mixture of chemical and radioactive wastes
comprised of solvents, tritium, depleted uranium, heavy metals and high explosive residue
(Tri-Valley). In the past, LLNL has been limited to exploding 1,000 pounds of uranium
annually. In April 2007, an application to increase this amount to 8,000 pounds was submitted
to the San Joaquin County Pollution Control Board and subsequently approved.
Relevant to the thesis of this book is the fact that during hydrodynamic testing, the
depleted uranium metal in the test assemblies is aerosolized in the explosions into ultrafine
spheres of insoluble ceramic uranium oxide. This material is identical to that released on
the battlefield by uranium munitions. Thrust airborne, this material is ferried by the winds
into the Bay Area and Central Valley. Seven million people live within a 50-mile radius of
Site 300, and 5,500 new homes are to be built within a mile of the testing range (Tri-Valley).
Given the demographics, there is a “coincidence” that needs pondering. Marin County,
just north of San Francisco, has one of the highest incidences of breast cancer in the world!
A study published in Breast Cancer Research had this to say:
From the inception of the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End
Results (SEER) national cancer registry network in 1973, Marin
County, California, a small county near San Francisco, has consistently
reported higher than average annual incidence rates of breast cancer.
Averaged from 1973 to 1999, Marin County reported the highest
overall breast cancer incidence rate of the 199 counties included
in the SEER database (based on the SEER 9 November 2001 submission
released April 2004). In recent years, reports of rapidly increasing
breast cancer rates in Marin County attracted public and media
attention. These reports suggested that overall age-adjusted incidence
rates of invasive breast cancer in non-Hispanic white (nHW) women
living in Marin County had increased approximately 60% between
1990 and 1999, as compared to 5% in surrounding regions. These
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trends have resulted in Marin County having one of the highest incidence
rates reported in the world and have prompted public and scientific
concern (Phipps et al.).
In conclusion, our ears need to open to the story of the Nuclear Age as recounted
by displaced and exploited aboriginal people around the globe. Their narrative gives new
perspective to current events, for it unabashedly reveals that the testing and deployment of
uranium weapons in the Middle East is just another incarnation of nuclear colonialism. In
the quest to appropriate oil reserves rightfully belonging to others and to remake the region
into one friendly to the New World Order, the United States is experimenting with the subjugation
of populations by blanketing their homeland with radioactivity and depopulating
the region through radiogenic sickness and genetic deformities. That this method of warfare
is directed primarily against Afghani and Arab Muslims makes this campaign a blatant
expression of environmental racism. Conventional weapons could easily have accomplished
all the goals so far achieved by DU weaponry. But uranium weapons produce
heightened effects. They significantly enhance the kill ratio per weapon both in space and
in time. They produce terror in the population. And they render the environment inhospitable
to its native inhabitants.
If we are not heedful, nuclear colonialism may ultimately culminate in the subjugation
of all of mankind. Nuclear weapons may be the instrument of choice for herding terrified
humanity, terrified by limited nuclear wars or terrorist threat, into embracing the new
order of a world government. The creators and sustainers of the infernal weapons will posture
as the deliverers of eternal peace. In exchange for enduring safety and security, the
small price demanded will be the surrender of our liberty.
No different from the devotees of Baal in antiquity, the devotees of nuclear and radiological
weapons will be memorialized as nothing other than worshippers of false gods,
dutifully and joyfully throwing human unfortunates into blazing fires to serve as sacrificial
offerings. The religion of the Cult of Nuclearists will be reconstructed as one in which
aggrandizement over God was repeatedly asserted through the dark and sacred rite of
unleashing over the surface of the Earth the Creator’s secret energy bound within matter.
By their deeds, the members of this brotherhood will be known: how they walked upon the
Earth in arrogance, intoxicated with their own power; how living things seemed paltry in
their eyes so as not to sway them from sickening whole populations with their radioactive
poisons and degrading the life-sustaining capacity of nature; how they did not flinch from
cataclysmic warfare that decimated civilizations, corrupted the gene pool of their species
and made the surface of the Earth a habitat of pestilence and decay.
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Censored News is published by censored journalist Brenda Norrell. A journalist for 27 years, Brenda lived on the Navajo Nation for 18 years, writing for Navajo Times, AP, USA Today, Lakota Times and other American Indian publications. After being censored and then terminated by Indian Country Today in 2006, she began the Censored Blog to document the most censored issues. She currently serves as human rights editor for the U.N. OBSERVER & International Report at the Hague and contributor to Sri Lanka Guardian, Narco News and CounterPunch. She was cohost of the 5-month Longest Walk Talk Radio across America, with Earthcycles Producer Govinda Dalton in 2008:
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