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DANGERS OF NUCLEAR POWER

With respect to nuclear pollution, it cannot be overemphasized: what counts biologically is the sum of all the injuries over time from all the combined sources and events which release persistent poisons (radioactive or other) into the biosphere... Each contribution to the sum matters.

Nuclear production releases poisonous radioactivity into the air, soil and water as part of normal operations. Radioactive substances give off alpha and beta particles and gamma rays which can harm living cells. A high dose of radiation can lead to death within days or weeks, and low doses of radiation are now known to be much more damaging to health than previously thought. Ongoing exposure to so-called low-level radiation can cause severe, enduring human health problems, both to those exposed and to their descendants. There is no safe level of radiation exposure.

Nuclear workers, their children and those who live near nuclear facilities all over the world suffer from cancers, birth defects and immune system dysfunction at rates much higher than the general population. New studies researching the causes of a global increase in breast cancers in women show that breast tissue is especially likely to develop cancer from exposure to radiation. Radiation exposure has also been recognized as a cause of prostate and lung cancer.

Tragically, genetic damage caused by radiation can be passed on from generation to generation -- potentially affecting the offspring of all species.

URANIUM MINING

First Link of the Nuclear Chain

The stories told by the indigenous delegates to the World Uranium Hearing in Salzburg (1992) constitute an appalling indictment of nuclear colonialism. It is their homelands, their bodies, and their ancient cultures that are most immediately victimized by nuclear power... On their lands, which they hold sacred, 70% of the world's uranium is mined, most of the testing takes place, and radioactive wastes are dumped.

The risks of radioactive contamination are not equally shared by all people. Generally those with the least economic power, particularly indigenous peoples, bear the greatest burden of exposure to radiation.

Uranium mining on indigenous and tribal peoples' lands has devastated local communities and environments in North America, Australia, Africa and Asia. Uranium ore, mined from large open pits and underground mines, is processed so it can be used as fuel in nuclear reactors. For every ton of uranium oxide produced, thousands of tons of wastes, or tailings, are left behind. Often the tailings are simply dumped on the land near the mine and left to the effects of the elements. Wind carries radon gas and radioactive dust from these tailings for many miles. Contaminated rainwater enters the soil, the watershed and, eventually, the food chain, endangering health. Indigenous peoples' lands have also been used to dump radioactive wastes and to test (explode) nuclear bombs both above-ground and below-ground, resulting in massive radioactive contamination.

ENVIRONMENTAL INJUSTICE WORLDWIDE

* In Northern Saskatchewan, Canada, where the world's largest and most concentrated known uranium reserves are located, routine releases and accidental spills of contaminated water from mining and milling operations have poisoned major fisheries and threatened the health and livelihood of indigenous communities.

* In Niger and Namibia, uranium tailings are simply dumped on the desert sand, contaminating the air, food and drinking water of nomadic tribes.

* In the Southwestern U.S., mining wastes abandoned on indigenous peoples' land have damaged the health of their communities. It is little known that the second worst nuclear disaster in U.S. history was the spilling of uranium mine tailings in the Rio Puerco River in New Mexico in the 1980s.

* Dineh (Navajo) and other uranium miners in the U.S. have contracted cancers at a much higher rate than the general population (including a lung cancer incidence forty times greater than normally expected). They were not told about the dangers of radioactivity.

* Tibetan people have been, without their knowledge, radiation-tolerance test victims at sites of Chinese-operated uranium mines and waste dumps.

CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE --> Written by: Toward a Plutonium Free Future


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