By Krishna Shree and Rajesh Serupally, First Post
Gangotri was 10 when the first boil appeared on her leg — an itchy pustule that soon led to others. Two years later today, both her legs are covered in scabby blisters that continue to spread. Doctors haven’t been able to diagnose her condition or cure it.
Gangotri is a chirpy, carefree child — she unselfconsciously showed us the skin disease (pictured above the headline) that has so changed her life. However, the mood in her village — Kottala in Kadapa district, Andhra Pradesh — is one of anger. Gangotri isn’t the only one to suffer from the mysterious ailment, other cases abound, as do other conditions: unheard-of diseases, death of livestock, loss of crops. Bad news is in plenty, and residents point to one culprit: the neighbouring Tummalapalle uranium mine.
The mine started its operation in 2012 after getting the requisite environmental clearance in 2006; the uranium ore in the Kadapa Basin is the largest reserve in the country. The neighbouring villages of Tummalapalle, Mabbuchintalapalle, Bumayigaripalle and Rachakuntapalle of Velpula and Medipentla Mandals and 60 hectares in Kottala village of Vemula Mandal were acquired by Uranium Corporation of India Limited (a government enterprise) for ‘tailing disposal’ — these are the areas where waterborne refuse material is pumped into a body known as a tailing pond. This is where the radioactive mining waste has been dumped for the past six years.
By Linda Pentz Gunter
Karipbek Kuyukov, who will receive the 2018 Nuclear-Free Future Award for Education in October, likes to say: “I have no arms, but I join you in waving goodbye to nuclear weapons.”
Kuyukov was born in the small Kazakhstan village of Yegyndybulak, without arms, a result of his parents’ exposure to the Soviet atomic bomb tests. There were 456 of these in all, conducted between August 1949 and November 1989 at the Semipalatinsk test site — also known as The Polygon — just 60 miles (100 kilometers) from Kuyukov’s family home.
Today, Kuyukov is his country’s foremost campaigner against any resumption of nuclear testing and also for justice for those afflicted by atomic tests, not only in Kazakhstan, but around the world. And he is also one of his country’s most well known contemporary artists.
“I think my mission on earth is to fight to become one of the last victims in the history of nuclear testing,” Kuyukov says in Andre Singer’s compelling film — Where the Wind Blew — about the tests in Kazakhstan and also in Nevada in the US. (The film is due to be available in the US via iTunes in the fall. You can view the trailer below.)
Karipbek, now 50, wants “to ensure that this nuclear madness never happens again. So we can look with pride in the eyes of a new generation, the children who will live after us.” And he communicates that message through his painting.
By Johnny Magdaleno
Ahmed el-Hadj Hamadi was huddled into a building with the rest of his community by French soldiers early in the morning. They were instructed to lie down, close their eyes and cover their ears. He then remembers a sound like “the world coming to an end” and the windows turning white. A cord above their prone bodies swung erratically until the light bulb it held shattered.
“I thought it was the apocalypse. We all did,” he said. “We all thought we might die.” Later, the French military began tasking out labor to residents in the isolated desert region of Algeria. “They had built a kind of village at the explosion area, and even put animals in it,” Hamadi added. “After the blast we were sent out to gather all the rubbish. The ground was all burned, white, liquid.”
To nomadic communities around the town of Reggane, they’re known more than half a century later as “leopard skins” — stretches of sand across Algeria’s southern Sahara that are peppered with small black clumps. People used to collect scrap metal from the charred warplanes and trucks that emerge, fossil-like, and then smelt them into jewelry and kitchen utensils.
By Linda Pentz Gunter
On October 10, the Welsh Assembly had the opportunity to cast a vote that would have protected the health, wellbeing and livelihoods of the people of Wales. But instead, on that day, the Welsh Assembly members of the UK Labour Party marched into the Senedd with blinkers around their eyes and plugs in their ears.
They could have halted the colonialist and medically dangerous dumping of 320,000 tonnes of radioactive mud dredged from the English Hinkley C nuclear construction site that has been delivered daily (and sometimes by night; see headline photo) to the “Cardiff Grounds” disposal site less than two miles from the Welsh coast. (The first round of dumping has now ended but it is due to resume in January 2019.)
That mud has been inadequately tested for radioactive isotopes. Fishermen work those waters. The seas move mud back to land and into rivers and streams. The winds blow spray onto shore. It is beyond essential to have 100% certainty about what is in that mud. Everything is at stake here: health, jobs, wildlife, the marine environment.
By David Krieger
Nuclear weapons, unique in their power and capacity for destruction, pose an existential threat to humanity. Their inability to discriminate between soldiers and civilians, diversion of resources from social necessities, and concentration of power within a small number of leaders in a small number of countries make them incompatible with a just and sustainable world.
Fortunately, the number of nuclear weapons that exist today (nearly 15,000 across nine nuclear-armed countries) is far fewer than the Cold War peak of 70,000. But it is still enough to destroy civilization several times over. The vast majority of these weapons are in the arsenals of the US and Russia, the two countries that have always led the nuclear arms race.
It is clear that the status quo is not working. The paradigms of arms control and non-proliferation that dominate international diplomacy assume the continued existence of nuclear weapons. However, the dangers inherent in nuclear weapons will remain whether there are tens of thousands or only a few. As long as they exist, they can be used, whether by malicious intent, miscalculation or careless accident.
A Brief History of the Nuclear Age
In 1945, the US shocked the world by becoming the first country to use the atomic bomb in war, killing tens of thousands of people in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The immense power of this most deadly of weapons set off an arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union, the emergent superpowers of the postwar era. The threat of mutually assured destruction kept the use of these weapons in check. But in 1962, restraint was nearly abandoned. In a thirteen-day confrontation between the US and the Soviet Union after the Soviet placement of nuclear missiles in Cuba—known as the Cuban Missile Crisis—the outbreak of a World War III, now with nuclear weapons, became a very real possibility.
By Linda Pentz Gunter
The first time I met Norbert Suchanek I thought he must be a little bit bonkers. Maybe it was just that infectious positivity he’d picked up after transplanting himself from his native Germany to Brazil. With boundless enthusiasm and a completely straight face he told me he had started an annual uranium film festival that would feature only films on the topic of nuclear power — everything from uranium mining to radioactive waste — and on nuclear war. And maybe not just annual, Norbert said, but a festival that would travel around the world and even play in more than one city a year.
After he’d shown Dr. Strangelove and Godzilla a few times, I thought, he would surely run out of material. Plus how many films could there be on such a dry and arcane subject as nuclear power? Who would choose to attend a festival replete with depressing films about nuclear war?
But Norbert wasn’t planning to show Dr. Strangelove or Godzilla. These would be mostly new films, or undiscovered earlier pieces. This seemed to me like a very short-lived idea.
Sometimes it just feels so wonderful to be wrong.