Beyond Nuclear International

Leave uranium in the ground

Thirty years ago, those who feel strongly it should stay there, started a movement.

By Günter Wippel

Just over 30 years ago — on April 10, 1988 — seven indigenous activists from different parts of the world set out on a three-week public awareness tour through Germany. They called their tour “Leave Uranium in the Ground.” Its purpose was to bring the detrimental impacts of uranium mining and nuclear weapons tests on health, environment and indigenous peoples, to the awareness of German people and decision-makers in provincial and federal parliaments.

Why Germany? Because West German companies were directly involved in uranium extraction in countries around the world. And often, these operations were carried out on indigenous lands. (In the former East Germany, the Wismut uranium mines that supplied the Soviet Union operated until after reunification, closing in 1991.)

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Joan Wingfield and Arlo Guthrie at the World Uranium Hearing, 1992. Photo: Dick Bancroft

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Bikini was just the beginning

Update! Please also see the extraordinary video poem, Anointed, by Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, posted here about the Marshall Islands atomic legacy.

John Pilger visits the Marshall Islands and its bomb survivors, still blighted by US nuclear weapons. (Article courtesy of New Internationalist)

By John Pilger

I was recently in the Marshall Islands, which lie in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, north of Australia and south of Hawaii. Whenever I tell people where I have been, they ask, ‘Where is that?’

When I mention Bikini, their reference is the swimsuit. Few seem aware that the bikini was named after the nuclear explosions that destroyed life on Bikini atoll; its Paris designer hoped his ‘unique creation’ would ‘cause an explosion right round the world’. Sixty-seven nuclear bombs – each of them massive – were exploded in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958: the equivalent of more than one Hiroshima every day for 12 years.

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The Bikini atomic test

As my aircraft banked low over Bikini lagoon, the emerald water beneath me disappeared into a vast black hole, a deathly void. This is the crater left by the 1954 Hydrogen bomb known as Bravo. When I stepped out of the plane, my shoes registered ‘unsafe’ on a Geiger counter. Palm trees stood in unworldly formations. There were no birds.

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Why divestment works

We can all refuse to do business with nuclear weapons companies

By Lydia Wood

One of the key strategies behind the campaign to get the US to sign on to the Nuclear Ban Treaty is divestment. Divestment, simply put, means the opposite of investment, and occurs when individuals, institutions, businesses, and governments get rid of all their financial ties to particular corporations, institutions, or entities that are involved in unethical or morally reprehensible activities.

Divestment has quickly become a key strategy for activists and social movements working to put pressure on powerful corporations and reluctant governments to address various social or environmental justice issues. As citizens living in a global capitalist system where money equates to power, determining with whom and how we spend money is an important tool for creating change.

In the 1980s, widespread divestment campaigns were credited with helping end apartheid in South Africa, by raising awareness and eventually pressuring the US and other states to impose sanctions on South Africa. Major cities, universities, and corporations like IBM and General Motors divested from South Africa – in the process educating people on the brutality of apartheid and highlighting the US’s relative apathy on the issue.


Students at Tufts University march for divestment from fossil fuels during actions organized by the Power Shift network. Photo: James Ennis

While the economic impacts of divestment campaigns are often minimal– for instance, in South Africa divestiture did not significantly impact the country’s economy – they are nonetheless important tools in the social movement arsenal that help educate and stigmatize particular activities of corporations, institutions, and governments that would otherwise go unnoticed.

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Cutting Japan’s nuclear artery

It’s up to Wales. The rest of us can help

Breaking update, May 3, 2018. FoE Japan and PAWB today issued a FoEJapan-PAWB press release denouncing Hitachi’s Chairman, Hirokai Nakanishi’s visit today with British Prime Minister Theresa May. As we posited in the article below, it is probable that Hitachi will ask not only that the UK government take a direct stake in the Wylfa Newydd nuclear power project in Anglesey, Wales but that Hitachi will indeed seek assurance for a power purchase agreement similar to the ratepayer fleecing granted EdF for the Hinkley C nuclear project in Somerset.

By Linda Pentz Gunter

New nuclear build in the US is pretty much dead. If the two AP1000 reactors under construction by the bankrupt Westinghouse in Georgia are ever completed it will be a miracle — and not of the good kind.

Even in Japan, despite the nuclear promoting ardor of its misguided prime minister, Shinzo Abe, nuclear power is struggling to recover. Nuclear power plants will never be back in any kind of meaningful numbers in a post-Fukushima Japan. But of course one is too many.

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Naoto Kan visited with a Welsh farming family who oppose Wylfa B. Kan spoke out against nuclear power during a 2015 visit. Photo: Julian Wynne

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The myth of nuclear deterrence

Why the arguments that promote it just don’t work

By Linda Pentz Gunter

In trying to argue the myth of deterrence, it is easy to feel as if one has landed in the middle of this brilliantly inspired January 9, 1986 segment of the British television comedy, Yes, Prime Minister. In it, Sir Humphrey tries to persuade the British Prime Minister that purchasing Trident missiles will provide Britain with a nuclear deterrent. But the argument quickly unravels.

But many a truth spoken in jest, as they say. The uncertainty over what the enemy probably does or does not believe is at the very heart of why deterrence remains deeply flawed and arguably a myth.

Nevertheless, deterrence is the cornerstone of nuclear weapons policy, perpetuating their possession by nine nations. If we are serious about moving the nuclear ban agenda forward, we cannot shy away from the deterrence argument.

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The little piggies that won’t go to market

Wild boars remain too radioactive to eat, 32 years after Chernobyl

By Linda Pentz Gunter

Wild board in Europe, parts of the former Soviet Union and Japan are too radioactive to be safe for human consumption. That sounds like good news for the boars. But only partly so.

The boars are radioactively contaminated due to fallout from the April 26, 1986 Chernobyl, Ukraine nuclear power plant explosion. They were vulnerable because they love mushrooms and truffles. These fungi absorbed the cesium-137 fallout released by the Chernobyl nuclear explosion.

Because they lack stems and roots, mushrooms and other fungi use absorption to obtain nutrition from the atmosphere through their surface cells. As a result, they are prone to absorbing radioactive substances such as cesium-137 and other radionuclides.

When the boars eat the mushrooms and truffles, that radioactive contamination moves up the food chain. The mushrooms are also too radioactive for human consumption.

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Wild boar in Germany. Photo: Frank Vincentz

Between 2014 and 2016, nearly half of the 614 wild boar inspected in the Czech Republic were too radioactive to eat. In Germany, more than one in three boars killed by hunters were also radioactive.

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