Monthly Archives: December 2011

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12/21/2011 NNHRC opposes groundwater use for artificial snowmaking on Dook’o’osliid

The council needs to reject this proposed legislation [No. 0420-11],” said Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission Chairperson Duane H. Yazzie. … “The central question of the issue is our argument that the Snowbowl Ski enterprise and the U.S. Forest Service are infringing on the religious freedom rights of 13 indigenous nations of Arizona. We continue to argue that position and that position must remain at the forefront and not take away from it by discussing what water should be used to make artificial snow.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 21, 2011: NNHRC opposes groundwater use for artificial snowmaking on Dook’o’osliid: ST. MICHAELS, Ariz.—The heart of the issue is the infringement of indigenous human rights in the matter of religious freedom stated a Navajo human rights official about the off- course legislation set for a vote by the Navajo Nation on Thursday, December 22, 2011, in Window Rock, Navajo Nation.

The Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission opposed Honorable Walter Phelps’ Legislation No. 0420-11, 3-0, on November 4, 2011, to send a responsible consistent message to the Navajo Nation to protect the integrity of Dook’o’osliid from irreversible adverse effects.

“The [Navajo Nation Human Rights] Commission hereby opposes Legislation No. 0420-11 which supports the use of groundwater to be used to produce artificial snow on the San Francisco Peaks for recreational and economic purposes,” according to NNHRCNOV-09-11 legislation. “The [Navajo Nation Human Rights] Commission further recommends that the Navajo Nation Council continue to support the Special Rapporteur report regarding the San Francisco Peaks and that true consultation – in the context of free, prior and informed consent—occur through procedures of dialogue aimed at a consensus on protecting the San Francisco Peaks from further desecration.”

Hon. Walter Phelps introduced the “groundwater legislation” on October 6, 2011, and it was assigned to the Resources and Development Committee where members narrowly opposed it on October 25, 2011, and to the Náabik’iyáti’ Committee of the 22ndNavajo Nation Council set to address it on Thursday, December 22, 2011.

The upcoming groundwater legislation, which has received written public scrutiny, states, “The Navajo Nation believes it is in the best interest of the Navajo People that groundwater rather than reclaimed or recovered-reclaimed water be used to make artificial snow thereby preventing Dook’o’osliid from being desecrated by reclaimed or recovered-reclaimed water.”

“The council needs to reject this proposed legislation [No. 0420-11],” said Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission Chairperson Duane H. Yazzie. “If it were to approve the legislation, it would send a mixed signal and demonstrate to the world that the Náabik’iyáti’ Committee is taking a position that is adverse to the established position of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, the Diné medicine groups, the Hopi Nation, the 10 other Arizona tribes and concerned citizen groups.”

Yazzie continued, “The central question of the issue is our argument that the Snowbowl Ski enterprise and the U.S. Forest Service are infringing on the religious freedom rights of 13 indigenous nations of Arizona. We continue to argue that position and that position must remain at the forefront and not take away from it by discussing what water should be used to make artificial snow.”

“It is also a basic premise that ‘making’ snow is not within the domain of human kind,” said Yazzie. “Instead that is a power reserved by the Creator and we, as Christians or traditional believers to infringe on that power or support it, is a desecration in itself of the highest order.”


Rachelle Todea, Public Information Officer

Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission

P.O. Box 1689

Window Rock, Navajo Nation (AZ)  86515

Phone: (928) 871-7436

Fax: (928) 871-7437

“Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development,” according to Article 3 of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, G.A. Res. 61/295, U.N. Doc A/RES/295 (Sept. 13, 2007), 46 I.L.M 1013 (2007).

12/12/2011 Indian Country Today: UN's Declaration One-Year Anniversary: Much to Celebrate, Much More to Be Done:

12/12/2011 Indian Country Today: UN’s Declaration One-Year Anniversary: Much to Celebrate, Much More to Be Done: One year ago this month, the United States formally reversed its opposition to the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). While some indigenous rights advocates say little has changed since then, others believe there is much to celebrate. That is because indigenous people are now working hard to make sure that declaration is implemented in all interactions with nation-states.

At the second White House Tribal Nations Conference, on December 16 of last year, President Barack Obama announced that the U.S. would “lend its support” to UNDRIP. “The aspirations it affirms, including the respect for the institutions and rich cultures of Native peoples, are ones we must always seek to fulfill,” Obama said. “I want to be clear: What matters far more than words, what matters far more than any resolution or declaration, are actions to match those words.”

Actions were precisely what Indigenous Peoples were looking for after Obama’s announcement. It took them more than 20 years to draft and negotiate the declaration, which provides a human rights framework for the world’s approximately 370 million Indigenous Peoples. The U.N. General Assembly adopted it on September 13, 2007, with 144 states in favor, four against (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the U.S.) and 11 abstaining.

Australia, New Zealand and Canada later endorsed the human rights declaration, leaving the U.S. as the last of the four to sign on. So when Obama made his historic announcement, Indian activists in North America shifted their focus from advocacy to implementation.

“There’s much to celebrate,” said Andrea Carmen, Pasqua Yaqui Tribe, executive director of the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC), “but much more to be done.”

Indeed, a query to the White House about how the declaration would be implemented was referred to the State Department. Spokeswoman Tiffany Miller responded by e-mail that there is no simple answer. “As you know, the declaration has implications for many agencies across the U.S. government,” she said. “However, I can tell you that the Obama administration is committed to making U.S. support of the declaration meaningful.”

Carmen played an important role in the international forums that developed the declaration. Over the past year, she has led and participated in dozens of workshops and presentations before tribal governments and organizations. Her goal has been to educate Indigenous Peoples about the declaration, the better to use it as a tool in every interaction with federal, state and local governments.

“The recognition of rights is the basis for peace,” Carmen said. “The denial of rights is the cause of conflict. The interactions of the past—we can’t forget them because there’s redress and restitution, which is also included in the declaration. But the discussion can start on a new level based on recognition, upholding and defending the rights of Indigenous Peoples in this declaration that the U.S. is now a party to. It’s an amazing step forward.”

The declaration is beginning to be applied in both international and domestic settings. A good example took place last January during the continuing negotiations involved in the drafting of the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which is being created under the auspices of the Organization of American States.

“When there was a challenge to the proposed language, the chair said, ‘We need to fall back on the language in the U.N. declaration on this issue,’ ” Carmen recalled. “That may not sound like much, but it was the first time that happened. And previously the U.S. and Canada always opposed using the declaration as the minimum standard for the discussion on the American level. But they didn’t say a word in opposition this time—they couldn’t, because they support the declaration now.”

The declaration was instrumental in the U.S. in another important issue this year—namely, the protection of a sacred shell mound at Sogorea Te/Glen Cove, California. “There was a 109-day spiritual encampment at the site, so it was huge and it was special because it was the first time the Bay Area Indian community rallied around the declaration,” said Mark Anquoe, Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma, IITC’s administrative and communications coordinator.

Not everyone working in the arena of indigenous rights has seen that kind of progress over the past year. Steven Newcomb, Shawnee/Lenape, a columnist for Indian Country Today Media Network and co-founder and co-director of the Indigenous Law Institute, believes the U.S. State Department distorted the declaration’s meaning of Indigenous Peoples’ right to self-determination and needs to rectify its error before progress can be made. He noted that Article 3 of the declaration reads, “Indigenous Peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”

But Newcomb said the State Department “did not tell the truth” about Article 3 in its 15-page white paper issued December 16, 2010. “In its statement, the State Department said it was ‘pleased to support the declaration’s call to promote the development of a new and distinct international concept of self-determination specific to Indigenous Peoples’ (emphasis added).

“The State Department expanded on this falsehood by saying that the ‘declaration’s call is to promote the development of a concept of self-determination for Indigenous Peoples that is different from the existing right of self-determination in international law.’ This is patently and blatantly false. This was never the understanding of the process that led to the adoption of Article 3 and its relationship to the international human right of self-determination found in the international human rights covenants. By its statements of bad faith—statements it has not disavowed in the past year—the United States destroyed the very basis for implementing the key provision in the U.N. declaration that Indigenous Peoples were working toward in their efforts to create positive reforms in the area of Indigenous Peoples’ human rights. This needs to be rectified as a first step in talking meaningfully about ‘implementing’ the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

In an interview with ICTMN, Michael Leroy Oberg, co-coordinator of Native American Studies at the State University of New York, Geneseo, and author of Native America: A History, is similarly concerned. He called Obama’s “lending of support” to the declaration a “nice gesture” but does not think it will turn out to be more than that. He feels there are still many problems associated with implementing UNDRIP, and they can be found in both the executive and judiciary branches.

“The meaning of ‘self-determination’ in the declaration, is much more literal than that which has developed in the United States over the past half century,” said Oberg, “and much less constrained by some of the long-standing and, I would argue, colonial assumptions built into American Indian policy.”

The courts, Oberg feels, have more power to enforce UNDRIP than does the White House. “The Supreme Court especially—and especially with regards to Indians in New York state—has placed significant limitations on tribal sovereignty and the rights of Native nations,” Oberg said. “Only an optimist of the most sunny sort would expect the declaration, I am afraid, to have any significant impact on the conduct of the judicial branch of the government.”

Read more:

12/21/2011 Sierra Club Applauds President Obama for Landmark Mercury Protection

Sierra Club Applauds President Obama for Landmark Mercury Protection – Measure will protect families, women and children from toxic brain poison: Washington, D.C. — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rolled out landmark nationwide protections for toxic mercury from dirty power plants. Mercury is a dangerous brain poison that taints the fish we eat and poses a particular threat to prenatal babies and young children. Exposure in the bloodstreams of pregnant and nursing women can result in birth defects such as learning disabilities, lowered IQ, deafness, blindness and cerebral palsy. Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of mercury pollution in the United States, pumping more than 33 tons of this dangerous toxin into our air and water each year.

The new protection, which replaces a weak, court-rejected standard from the Bush Administration, will slash mercury pollution from power plants by more than 90 percent and improve air quality for millions of Americans.

In response, Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, issued the following statement:

“Today’s announcement from President Obama and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson marks a milestone for parents and families across the country. It means that, after decades of delay, we now have strong nationwide protections against toxic mercury, and most of all, it means peace of mind for the parents of more than 300,000 American babies born every year that have been exposed to dangerous levels of mercury.

“The Sierra Club applauds the President and his Administration for their courage and resolve in protecting American families – particularly women and children – from this dangerous toxin and for standing up to polluters’ attempts to weaken this life-saving protection.

“More than 800,000 public comments – a record – were filed in support of the protection, and we are pleased that the President heard the concerns of the American people.”


For more information, visit

For mercury B-roll footage, click here.

Great news! Please spread the word.

1. National Sierra Club statement below — English —

2. National Sierra Club statement — Spanish —

3. State by state benefits of the mercury protection (click on your state) —

4. Blog post from Mary Anne Hitt. Please retweet and share.
5. Email thank you take action to President Obama — English —

6. Email thank you take action to President Obama — Spanish —

Oliver Bernstein, National Communications Strategist

Sierra Club
Phone: 512.477.2152 x102
Cell:  512.289.8618

12/21/2011 Washington Post: Will the EPA’s mercury rule cause a wave of blackouts?

Will the EPA’s mercury rule cause a wave of blackouts? No.Posted by  at 08:45 AM ET, 12/21/2011: Later this afternoon, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson is expected to roll out the agency’s new regulations on mercury and toxic pollution from coal-fired power plants. That raises some questions: Just how many plants will end up getting shuttered as a result of all of the EPA’s new air-pollution rules? And how much of a pain will this be?The main plant facility at the Navajo Generating Station in Page, Ariz., which could be at risk of closure. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

It’s a hotly debated topic these days, with industry groups (and plenty of Republicans)predicting possible blackouts and economic havoc, while environmentalists have mostly been rolling their eyes. So, to help settle this debate, the AP’s Dina Cappiello recently surveyed 55 power-plant operators across the country. She found that as many as 68 coal-fired plants — up to 8 percent of the nation’s coal generation capacity — will shut down in the years ahead. (The Edison Electric Institute has estimated that up to 14 percent of coal capacity could be retired by 2022.) That’s no easy task. But, from the available evidence, it also won’t likely prove apocalyptic.

Cappiello’s survey found that the coal plants set to be mothballed are mostly ancient — the average age was 51 — and largely run without modern-day pollution controls, as many of them were grandfathered in under the Clean Air Act. What’s more, many of these plants were slated for retirement in the coming years regardless of what the EPA did, thanks to state air-quality rules, rising coal prices, and the influx of cheap natural gas. “In the AP’s survey,” she writes, “not a single plant operator said the EPA rules were solely to blame for a closure, although some said it left them with no other choice.”

Crucially, none of the operators contacted by the AP seemed to think that huge swaths of America were on the verge of losing power, as Jon Huntsman claimed. An official from the North American Reliability Corporation put it this way: “We know there will be some challenges. But we don’t think the lights are going to turn off because of this issue.” This jibes with an Edison Electric Institute study, as well as a Department of Energy study(which focused on worst-case scenarios), a study from M.J. Bradley & Associates, and the EPA’s own modeling (PDF). Utilities will manage to keep the power running, in part by switching to natural gas, as plenty of gas plants currently operate well below capacity.

At this point, there’s good reason to think that utilities can retire their oldest and dirtiest plants without crushing disruptions. It won’t be simple or cost-free — the EPA estimatesthat the mercury and air toxics rule alone will cost utilities at least $11 billion by 2016 to install scrubbers on their coal plants, and those costs will likely get passed on to households. On the flip side, the reduction in mercury is expected to prevent some 17,000 premature deaths per year and provide an estimated $59 billion to $140 billion in health benefits in 2016.

Mike Eisenfeld

New Mexico Energy Coordinator

San Juan Citizens Alliance

108 North Behrend, Suite I

Farmington, New Mexico 87401

office 505 325-6724

cell 505 360-8994

12/19/2011 Wall Street Journal: NAS Study Released

12/19/2011 Wall Street Journal By JOHN W. MILLER: The effort to lift the ban on mining uranium in Virginia received a setback Monday with the publication of a report by the National Research Council advising the state to draft tough new regulations to prevent health and environmental risks before it allows uranium mining. The issue is important for Virginia Uranium Inc., which is controlled by Toronto Stock Exchange-listed Virginia Energy Resources Inc., and owns 119 million pounds of uranium deposits underneath an old tobacco farm owned by the Coles family in southern Virginia.

The company has been lobbying the Virginia legislature to lift the ban, imposed in 1982 after the disaster at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, so it can cash in on uranium prices that are around $50 a pound, five times their level 10 years ago, valuing its holdings at more than $5 billion. Uranium prices typically track the price of oil, and with 432 nuclear reactors in the world, 63 under construction and 152 on order, the market is still considered solid, despite the disaster earlier this year in Japan.

While the National Research Council, which was asked by the Virginia legislature for an evaluation, did not advise against lifting the ban, and found that uranium mining in the state was “economically viable”, it also found contamination risks in the mining waste dumps known as “tailing ponds”, as well as risks proper to Virginia, such as possible earthquakes and high water levels. Uranium mining elsewhere in the U.S. occurs in dry places such as Texas and Colorado.

The Council concluded that the need for new rules to contain these risks constitutes “steep hurdles to be surmounted before mining and/or processing could be established within a regulatory environment that is appropriately protective of the health and safety of workers, the public, and the environment.”

Patrick Wales, a geologist for Virginia Uranium Inc., said the report was not a surprise and not an obstacle to their business model. “There are best practice solutions to every issue raised in the report,” he said. “And we’ve factored in the necessary time for the regulatory process estimated by the report to implement those practices.”

For example, Mr. Wales added, “We are fortunate that the underlying geology at the Coles Hill site is a very hard granite rock that has largely remained unchanged for the last 400 million years. This kind of setting will help ensure the safety and maintenance of our tailings facilities beyond the 200-1,000 requirement specified by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.”‘

The report concluded that it would take “five to eight years” after the granting of a mining license before mining uranium would be safe in Virginia. The legislature is due to debate and vote on the issue next year.

Virginia Uranium “is confident that this lengthy time frame will allow the General Assembly, state and federal agencies and community residents to thoroughly examine every aspect of this issue and make sure that the regulations are in place and best practices are fully adopted to protect the health and well-being of our community,” said Mr. Wales.

There was some good news for Mr. Wales’s company. “Only the deposits at Coles Hill in Pittsylvania County,” which is owned by Virginia Uranium Inc., it said, “appear to be potentially economically viable at present.”

But Paul Locke, chair of the committee of 14 experts which has spent the last two years compiling the 302-page report, was less sanguine. “There are unknowns, because this has not been done a lot in the U.S.,” he said. The problem, Mr. Locke said in a phone conference, is the long contamination periods of uranium.

The report says, “The decay products of uranium provide a constant source in uranium tailings for thousands of years, substantially outlasting the current U.S. regulations for oversight of processing facility tailings.” If those leak, that can lead to “a risk of cancer from drinking water,” the report says.

There are of course, uranium mines elsewhere in the world, and they have methods deemed safe for dealing with their waste. The Council found that mining uranium in Virginia would likely be safe if those methods were copied. However, one problem is “there’s no real analogue” for mining uranium in Virginia, said David Feary, who directed the study.

Only a small cluster of companies in western states mine uranium in the U.S., and the industry is dominated by giants like Rio Tinto Plc., Areva, Cameco Corp. and Kazatomprom. The number of people employed in exploration in the U.S. increased to 211 in 2010 from 175 in 2009, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Kazakhstan, a vast landlocked nation in central Asia that belonged to the Soviet Union, now produces one-third of global supply. Kazakhstan, Canada and Australia now mine three-fifths of the world’s uranium. The U.S., which still has the world’s most nuclear power stations, now has to import over 90% of its uranium.

Prices stayed low in the 1990s, as the Soviet Union flooded the market by converting Cold War nukes into commercial uranium. It was only with the rise of oil prices in the 2000s that uranium prices started to climb back up.

Write to John W. Miller at

12/8/2011 Associated Press: EPA head says ruling on Ariz. coal plant complex

12/8/2011 Associated Press: EPA head says ruling on Ariz. coal plant complex By FELICIA FONSECA: FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.—The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency expects to make a decision on whether to mandate pollution controls for a coal-fired power plant on the Navajo reservation next spring.But with so many competing interests, regional administrator Jared Blumenfeld in the EPA’s San Francisco office admits the agency won’t satisfy them all, and the differences likely will have to be ironed out in court. “To say it’s complex would be an understatement,” he told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday.

The Navajo Generating Station near Page ensures water and power demands are met in major metropolitan areas and contributes significantly to the economies of the Navajo and Hopi tribes. Conservationists see it as a health and environmental hazard.

Blumenfeld said the EPA ultimately must decide what technology would best protect the air around the Grand Canyon and other pristine areas as part of its regional haze rule. Whether that means low nitrogen oxide burners already installed at the plant, more expensive scrubbers or something else won’t be disclosed until next year. The plant’s owners would have five years to comply once a final rule is issued.

“It is likely we will be scrutinized, so we are sticklers for following the rules,” he said.

The Navajo Generating Station is just one of three coal-fired power plants in the region that directly or indirectly affects the Navajo Nation. The EPA already has proposed pollution controls for the Four Corners Power Plant and the San Juan Generating Station in northwestern New Mexico, which are in clear view of one another. The latter is overseen by another EPA region.

The Department of Interior is conducting a study with a draft due out this month on the 2,250-megawatt Navajo Generating Station that will show just how vast the interests are in the plant that began producing electricity in 1974. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is the majority owner of the plant. It is run by the Salt River Project and fed by coal from Peabody Energy’s Kayenta Mine.

The regional haze rule allows the EPA to look at factors other than air quality and cost effectiveness in determining regulations for power plants. Navajo Generating Station provides energy to deliver water from the Colorado River to Tucson and Phoenix through a series of canals and fulfills water rights settlements reached with American Indian tribes.

Blumenfeld said the agency needs specific information on what tribes, like the Gila River Indian Community, would expect to pay for water if that power no longer was available, or the figures from the Navajo and Hopi tribes on revenue losses should the power plant cease operation. SRP has said it could be forced to shutter the plant if it doesn’t secure lease agreements or it cannot afford more the expensive pollution controls.

“Until we have the detailed information about what those impacts are, we can’t do very much with that,” Blumenfeld said.

His office also has been criticized by some Republican members of Congress for what they say are unnecessary regulations that are hurting local economies. Blumenfeld said while critics believe states can take over the EPA’s duties, his agency ensures consistency across the board.

“Ultimately it’s an example of common-sense standards of helping the American public have a healthy life,” he said. “We recognize that we also need energy, but I think they are not in conflict.”

Andy Bessler

Southwest Organizing Representative
Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal to Clean Energy & Community Partnerships
P.O. Box 38 Flagstaff, AZ 86002
928-774-6103 voice
928-774-6138 fax
928-380-7808 cell


TABOSHAR RESIDENTS FENCE TAILING DUMP Urgently Kryso Resources to begin development of Pakrut deposit in 2012 Tajik FM leave for Bonn to attend international conference on Afghanistan 28/11/2011 11:25 Bakhtiyor Valiyev KHUJAND, November 28, 2011, Asia-Plus — Residents of the northern city of Taboshar have begun to fence the nearby tailing dump. The Taboshar residents began to fence the so-called “acid lake” and to clear the Sarimsakli River on November 25. The fence is expected to be finished within the next few weeks.

Ishoqjon Zokirov, the head of the NGO Amaliyot baroi Hayot (Action fro Life), they have changed the course of the Sarimsakli River after the radiation level in the river was measured at more than 140 microroentgen per hour that exceeds the acceptable norm. All the works are carried out under support of the OSCE Office in Tajikistan and the Committee for Emergency Situations (CES)’s office in Sughd province.

The works are carried out in a form of “hasher” (Central Asia’s tradition of voluntary work to benefit the community), Zokirov said. A roundtable entitled “Water Sanitary in the Aspect of Radiation Threat in Taboshar” was held on November 25 as well. Organized by the Taboshar mayor’s office, the Sughd emergency management agency and local environmental protection NGOs under financial support of the OSCE Office in Tajikistan and the Act Central Asia, the meeting discussed issues related to water sanitary and radiation safety awareness. The meeting participants also exchanged views on improving safety of water sources in Taboshar.

Tajikistan News: The inhabitants of a settlement Табошар, in north of Tadjikistan, the former workers uranium for the needs of the Soviet nuclear industry, and went on khashar (voluntary workers) digging holes for fence around the future pillars of the so-called “acid lake, said,” Asia Plus “.” According to the organizers of the work day, in the coming weeks fence will be built.

As chairman of the NGO “Amaliet baro hayot” Isokdzhon Zakirov, the river channel, which flows near the tailings dam, changed after the measurement was made by the background radiation areas. He has made over 140 micro-roentgen per hour, which exceeds the permitted limit. This was done in order to prevent soil erosion, which covers the tailings, including radionuclides, because the local population uses the water source for various purposes, and livestock drinking water from it.

Taboshar with a population of about 12,000 residents located just a few kilometers from the inactive Tabosharskogo uranium deposit, which is a huge area of 400 ha occupied by the near-surface waste storage plant, off-balance sheet production waste pits and storage of waste Factories low-grade ores. In the vicinity of the town is more than 10 million tons of radioactive waste. According to the Director of the Agency for Nuclear and Radiation Safety of RT Ulmas Mirsaidov, due to the proximity of tailings to a residential area of prime concern for human health are radioactive radiation, inhalation of radon and its decay products, radioactive dust particles from entering the body is dissolved radioactive and toxic substances through food and water.

Meanwhile, according to the highest category physician, therapist Muhabbat Kamilova, such works should engage specialists, not ordinary people, “and if so the people in despair, went to work day, then they should have been equipped with special protective suits, dosimeters, special products to remove radiation from the body, as was necessary to conduct explanatory work on security measures. “A dig pit ordinary people specially prohibited, since it is underground and concealed uranium waste,” – said the doctor. According to her, about 70% of the total population of the city suffer Taboshar epidemic goiter, increasing infant mortality, congenital malformations and miscarriages.

In late December last year to study the uranium mine in Tajikistan profit professionals from Japan and China. According to the foreigners, if not taken drastic measures to reduce radiation levels, the Over the next 3 years there will need evacuation of all residents of settlements within a radius of 50 kilometers, because the waste will remain hazardous to humans for many hundreds of years. ”

Details: # ixzz1fZZgu3aa
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12/4/2011 AlterNet: The Greatest Water Crisis in the History of Civilization

12/4/2011 AlterNet: The Greatest Water Crisis in the History of Civilization: Coming to the American West? Think of the coming Age of Thirst in the American Southwest and West as a three-act tragedy of Shakespearean dimensions. Consider it a taste of the future: the fire, smoke, drought, dust, and heat that have made life unpleasant, if not dangerous, from Louisiana to Los Angeles. New records tell the tale: biggest wildfire ever recorded in Arizona (538,049 acres), biggest fire ever in New Mexico (156,600 acres), all-time worst fire year in Texas history.

The fires were a function of drought. As of summer’s end, 2011 was the driest year in 117 years of record keeping for New Mexico, Texas, and Louisiana, and the second driest for Oklahoma. Those fires also resulted from record heat. It was the hottest summer ever recorded for New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana, as well as the hottest August ever for those states, plus Arizona and Colorado.

Virtually every city in the region experienced unprecedented temperatures, with Phoenix, as usual, leading the march toward unlivability. This past summer, the so-called Valley of the Sun set a new record of 33 days when the mercury reached a shoe-melting 110º F or higher. (The previous record of 32 days was set in 2007.)

And here’s the bad news in a nutshell: if you live in the Southwest or just about anywhere in the American West, you or your children and grandchildren could soon enough be facing the Age of Thirst, which may also prove to be the greatest water crisis in the history of civilization. No kidding.

If that gets you down, here’s a little cheer-up note: the end is not yet nigh.

In fact, this year the weather elsewhere rode to the rescue, and the news for the Southwest was good where it really mattered. Since January, the biggest reservoir in the United States, Lake Mead, backed up by the Hoover Dam and just 30 miles southwest of Las Vegas, has risen almost 40 feet. That lake is crucial when it comes to watering lawns or taking showers from Arizona to California. And the near 40-foot surge of extra water offered a significant upward nudge to the Southwest’s water reserves.

The Colorado River, which the reservoir impounds, supplies all or part of the water on which nearly 30 million people depend, most of them living downstream of Lake Mead in Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Tucson, Tijuana, and scores of smaller communities in the United States and Mexico.

Back in 1999, the lake was full. Patricia Mulroy, who heads the water utility serving Las Vegas, rues the optimism of those bygone days. “We had a fifty-year, reliable water supply,” she says. “By 2002, we had no water supply. We were out. We were done. I swore to myself we’d never do that again.”

In 2000, the lake began to fall — like a boulder off a cliff, bouncing a couple of times on the way down. Its water level dropped a staggering 130 feet, stopping less than seven feet above the stage that would have triggered reductions in downstream deliveries. Then — and here’s the good news, just in case you were wondering — last winter, it snowed prodigiously up north in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.

The spring and summer run-off from those snowpacks brought enormous relief. It renewed what we in the Southwest like to call the Hydro-Illogic cycle: when drought comes, everybody wrings their hands and promises to institute needed reform, if only it would rain a little. Then the drought breaks or eases and we all return to business as usual, until the cycle comes around to drought again.

So don’t be fooled. One day, perhaps soon, Lake Mead will renew its downward plunge. That’s a certainty, the experts tell us. And here’s the thing: the next time, a sudden rescue by heavy snows in the northern Rockies might not come. If the snowpacks of the future are merely ordinary, let alone puny, then you’ll know that we really are entering a new age.

And climate change will be a major reason, but we’ll have done a good job of aiding and abetting it. The states of the so-called Lower Basin of the Colorado River — California, Arizona, and Nevada — have been living beyond their water means for years. Any departure from recent decades of hydrological abundance, even a return to long-term average flows in the Colorado River, would produce a painful reckoning for the Lower Basin states. And even worse is surely on the way.

Just think of the coming Age of Thirst in the American Southwest and West as a three-act tragedy of Shakespearean dimensions.

The Age of Thirst: Act I

The curtain in this play would surely rise on the Colorado River Compact of 1922, which divided the river’s water equally between the Upper and Lower Basins, allocating to each annually 7.5 million acre-feet, also known by its acronym maf. (An acre-foot suffices to support three or four families for a year.) Unfortunately, the architects of the compact, drawing on data from an anomalously wet historical period, assumed the river’s average annual flow to be about 17 maf per year. Based on reconstructions that now stretch back more than 1,000 years, the river’s long-term average is closer to 14.7 maf. Factor in evaporation from reservoirs (1.5 maf per year) and our treaty obligation to Mexico (another 1.5 maf), and the math doesn’t favor a water-guzzling society.

Nonetheless, the states of the Lower Basin have been taking their allotment as if nothing were wrong and consequently overdrafting their account by up to 1.3 maf annually. At this rate, even under unrealistically favorable scenarios, the Lower Basin will eventually drain Lake Mead and cutbacks will begin, possibly as soon as in the next few years. And then things will get dicier because California, the water behemoth of the West, won’t have to absorb any of those cutbacks.

Here’s one of the screwiest quirks in western water law: to win Congressional approval for the building of a monumental aqueduct, the Central Arizona Project (CAP), which would bring Colorado River water to Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona agreed to subordinate its Colorado River water rights to California’s. In that way, the $4 billion, 336-mile-long CAP was born, and for it Arizona paid a heavy price. The state obliged itself to absorb not just its own losses in a cutback situation, but California’s as well.

Worst case scenario: the CAP aqueduct, now a lifeline for millions, could become as dry as the desert it runs through, while California continues to bathe. Imagine Phoenix curling and cracking around the edges, while lawn sprinklers hiss in Malibu. The contrast will upset a lot of Arizonans.

Worse yet, the prospective schedule of cutbacks now in place for the coming bad times is too puny to save Lake Mead.

The Age of Thirst: Act II

While that Arizona-California relationship guarantees full employment for battalions of water lawyers, a far bigger problem looms: climate change. Models for the Southwest have been predicting a 4ºC (7.2ºF) increase in mean temperature by century’s end, and events seem to be outpacing the predictions.

We have already experienced close to 1º C of that increase, which accounts, at least in part, for last summer’s colossal fires and record-setting temperatures — and it’s now clear that we’re just getting started.

The simple rule of thumb for climate change is that wet places will get wetter and dry places drier. One reason the dry places will dry is that higher temperatures mean more evaporation. In other words, there will be ever less water in the rivers that keep the region’s cities (and much else) alive. Modeling already suggests that by mid-century surface stream-flow will decline by 10% to 30%.

Independent studies at the Scripps Oceanographic Institute in California and the University of Colorado evaluated the viability of Lake Mead and eventually arrived at similar conclusions: after about 2026, the risk of “failure” at Lake Mead, according to a member of the Colorado group, “just skyrockets.” Failure in this context would mean water levels lower than the dam’s lowest intake, no water heading downstream, and the lake becoming a “dead pool.”

If — perhaps “when” is the more appropriate word — that happens, California’s Colorado River Aqueduct, which supplies water to Los Angeles, San Diego, and the All-American Canal, which sustains the Imperial and Coachella Valleys, will go just as dry as the Central Arizona Project aqueduct. Meanwhile, if climate change is affecting the Colorado River’s watershed that harshly, it will undoubtedly also be hitting the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

The aptly named Lester Snow, a recent director of California’s Department of Water Resources, understood this. His future water planning assumed a 40% decline in runoff from the Sierras, which feeds the California Aqueduct. None of his contemplated scenarios were happy ones. The Colorado River Aqueduct and the California Aqueduct make the urban conglomerations of southern California possible. If both fail at once, the result will be, as promised, the greatest water crisis in the history of civilization.

Only Patricia Mulroy has an endgame strategy for the demise of Lake Mead. The Southern Nevada Water Authority is, even now, tunneling under the lake to install the equivalent of a bathtub drain at close to its lowest point. At a cost of more than $800 million, it will drain the dregs of Lake Mead for Las Vegas.

Admittedly, water quality will be a problem, as the dead pool will concentrate pollutants. The good news, according to the standard joke among those who chronicle Sin City’s improbable history, is that the hard-partying residents and over-stimulated tourists who sip from Lake Mead’s last waters will no longer need to purchase anti-depressants. They’ll get all the Zoloft and Xanax they need from their tap water.

And only now do we arrive at the third act of this expanding tragedy.

The Age of Thirst: Act III

Those who believe in American exceptionalism hold that the historical patterns shaping the fate of other empires and nations don’t apply to the United States. Be that as it may, we are certainly on track to test whether the U.S. is similarly inoculated against the patterns of environmental history.

Because tree rings record growing conditions year by year, the people who study them have been able to reconstruct climate over very long spans of time. One of their biggest discoveries is that droughts more severe and far longer than anything known in recent centuries have occurred repeatedly in the American Southwest. The droughts of the Dust Bowl in the 1930s, of the 1950s, and of the period from 1998 to 2004 are remembered in the region, yet none lasted a full decade.

By contrast, the drought that brought the civilization of the ancestral Puebloans, or Anasazi, centered at Chaco Canyon, to its knees in the twelfth century, by contrast, lasted more than 30 years. The one that finished off Mesa Verdean culture in the thirteenth century was similarly a “megadrought.”

Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist at the University of Arizona who played a major role in the Nobel-Prize-winning work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, tells me that the prospect of 130° F days in Phoenix worries him far less than the prospect of decades of acute dryness. “If anything is scary, the scariest is that we could trip across a transition into a megadrought.” He adds, “You can probably bet your house that, unless we do something about these greenhouse gas emissions, the megadroughts of the future are going to be a lot hotter than the ones of the past.”

Other scientists believe that the Southwest is already making the transition to a “new climatology,” a new normal that will at least bring to mind the aridity of the Dust Bowl years. Richard Seager of Columbia University, for instance, suggests that “the cycle of natural dry periods and wet periods will continue, but… around a mean that gets drier. So the depths — the dry parts of the naturally occurring droughts — will be drier than we’re used to, and the wet parts won’t be as wet.”

Drought affects people differently from other disasters. After something terrible happens — tornados, earthquakes, hurricanes — people regularly come together in memorable ways, rising above the things that divide them. In a drought, however, what is terrible is that nothing happens. By the time you know you’re in one, you’ve already had an extended opportunity to meditate on the shortcomings of your neighbors. You wait for what does not arrive. You thirst. You never experience the rush of compassion that helps you behave well. Drought brings out the worst in us.

After the Chacoan drought, corn-farming ancestral Puebloans still remained in the Four Corners area of the Southwest. They hung on, even if at lower population densities. After the Mesa Verdean drought, everybody left.

By the number of smashed crania and other broken bones in the ruins of the region’s beautiful stone villages, archaeologists judge that the aridifying world of the Mesa Verdeans was fatally afflicted by violence. Warfare and societal breakdown, evidently driven by the changing climate, helped end that culture.

So it matters what we do. Within the limits imposed by the environment, the history we make is contingent, not fated. But we are not exactly off to a good start in dealing with the challenges ahead. The problem of water consumption in the Southwest is remarkably similar to the problem of greenhouse gas pollution. First, people haggle to exhaustion over the need to take action; then, they haggle over inadequate and largely symbolic reductions. For a host of well-considered, eminently understandable, and ultimately erroneous reasons, inaction becomes the main achievement. For this drama, think Hamlet. Or if the lobbyists who argue for business as usual out west and in Congress spring to mind first, think Iago.

We know at least one big thing about how this particular tragedy will turn out: the so-called civilization of the Southwest will not survive the present century, not at its present scale anyway. The question yet to be answered is how much it will have to shrink, and at what cost. Stay tuned. It will be one of the greatest, if grimmest, shows on Earth.

William deBuys is the author of seven books, including the just published A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest (a Pulitzer Prize finalist), and The Walk (an excerpt of which won a Pushcart Prize). He has long been involved in environmental affairs in the Southwest, including service as founding chairman of the Valles Caldera Trust, which administers the 87,000-acre Valles Caldera National Preserve in New Mexico.

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12/4/2011 AFP: India's uranium mines cast a health shadow

12/4/2011 AFP: India’s uranium mines cast a health shadow By Ammu Kannampilly: Gudiya Das whines as flies settle on her face, waiting for her mother to swat them while she lies on a cot in Ichra, one in a cluster of villages around India’s only functioning uranium mines. The 12-year-old, whose skeletal frame makes her look about half her age, was diagnosed with severe cerebral palsy when she was a year old. “Back then there were 33 disabled kids here, now there are more than a hundred,” her father, Chhatua Das told AFP in his home in Jaduguda valley in the eastern state of Jharkhand. For Das and his wife Lakshmi, who have lost six children before the age of one, there is only one possible culprit — the nearby mines run by the state-owned Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL).

“I know there is some connection between the mining and what’s happened to my daughter,” Lakshmi told AFP. “It’s because of the uranium in the water here.”

Environmental groups say the mining company is polluting the groundwater by dumping radioactive waste inside three so-called tailings ponds that hold the sludge produced by the mining process — a charge vehemently denied by UCIL.

UCIL opened its first mine in Jaduguda in 1967, and has built six more since then, providing work for thousands of local villagers in what was a deeply impoverished area.

With starting salaries of 14,000 rupees ($280) a month, jobs with the mining firm are highly coveted and bring a level of economic prosperity that adds a conflicting layer of complexity to the health risk issue.

Jharkhand is one of India’s poorest states, with more than 40% of the population living on less than $2 a day, according to 2007 World Bank figures.

Ghanshyam Birulee, founder of the Jharkhand Organisation Against Radiation, believes the financial benefits are meaningless when weighed against what his group says is an alarming rise in stillbirths, birth defects, and adults and children diagnosed with cancer, kidney disease, and tuberculosis.

“How did these illnesses suddenly become so commonplace here? It’s because our valley has become a dumping ground for all this nuclear trash,” Birulee said.

“Jaduguda” means “magic fields” in the local language Sadri.

“These days it feels like there’s black magic at work here,” said Birulee, a former apprentice at UCIL who lost both his parents to cancer.

“When people first started getting sick, they thought it was because of witches or evil spirits. We had never seen anything like this,” he told AFP.

UCIL firmly denies any links between its operations and any health issues in Jaduguda.

“The grade of ore is very low, so the level of radioactivity is also very low. If you are 100-120 metres away from the periphery of the tailings ponds, you face no risk,” said A.K. Sarangi, deputy general manager for strategic planning at UCIL.

“We acquired land for several people here and tried to help them move, but they refused. Their intention is to extract as much money as possible from the company now,” Sarangi said.

The company cites a 1998 government-funded study that found no water contamination and rejected the idea that illnesses in Jaduguda could be ascribed to radiation exposure.

Critics say the study, carried out by the Mumbai-based Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, was tainted by association with the nuclear industry, and cite a 2007 report by the non-profit Indian Doctors for Peace and Development (IDPD).

That report showed a far greater incidence of congenital abnormality, sterility, and cancer among people living within 2.5 kilometres (1.5 miles) of the mines than those living 35 kilometres away.

Mothers in villages close to the mine sites were also twice as likely to have a child with congenital deformities, it said.

The IDPD is an affiliate of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize winning organisation, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

The health risks associated with exposure to uranium are well-known. According to the US department of energy, sustained exposure can result in kidney damage and an increased risk of cancer.

A few years ago, the US environmental protection agency noted high levels of radiation in homes and drinking water sources in parts of Arizona state occupied by Navajo people, many of whom worked in the mines operating there from 1944 to 1986.

Developed nations like the United States and Australia employ strict environmental standards to limit the amount of uranium released into the air by mines and processing plants.

They also require mining waste to be disposed of in a manner that limits emissions and keeps groundwater clean, by erecting fences around tailings ponds and building earthen covers to prevent any seepage into the soil.

UCIL officials insist that their mines are in complete compliance with international requirements, and that emission levels are within the accepted limits.

“We have built fences around the tailings ponds, but villagers still cut through them in parts,” to take shortcuts across the land, Sarangi said.

“It is a huge area, it is just not possible to guard it all the time.”

Asha Kaibart lives in a small house about 200 metres from a tailings pond.

Seventeen years ago her son Anil started to have trouble with his eyes. A few years later the same thing happened to his younger sister Sumitra. Doctors said both had sustained severe damage to their optic nerves.

Today, at 29, Anil is totally blind. He and Sumitra rarely leave the house anymore, according to their father Situ, a former UCIL miner.

“I am sure waste from the company mixes with the water we use to bathe,” Asha said, pointing to a small lake nearby.

Birulee says companies like UCIL simply abdicate responsibility, refusing to help families like the Kaibarts and “threatening anyone who supports us” — a charge that UCIL spokesperson Pinaki Roy rejected outright.

“Such allegations pain us. Our social responsibility is very important to us. After all, at least one member of each family here is working for us,” Roy said.

12/4/2011 Los Angeles Times: Japan's 'nuclear gypsies' face radioactive peril at power plants

Japan’s ‘nuclear gypsies’ face radioactive peril at power plants Unskilled contractors make up most of the workforce and face higher doses of radiation than utility employees at Fukushima and other nuclear power plants in Japan. By John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times, December 4, 2011: Namie, Japan— Kazuo Okawa’s luckless career as a “nuclear gypsy” began one night at a poker game. The year was 1992, and jobs were scarce in this farming town in the shadow of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. An unemployed Okawa gambled and drank a lot. He was dealing cards when a stranger made him an offer: manage a crew of unskilled workers at the nearby plant. “Just gather a team of young guys and show up at the front gate; I’ll tell you what to do,” instructed the man, who Okawa later learned was a recruiter for a local job subcontracting firm. Okawa didn’t know the first thing about nuclear power, but he figured, what could go wrong?

He became what’s known in Japan as a “jumper” or “nuclear gypsy” for the way he moved among various nuclear plants. But the nickname that Okawa disliked most was burakumin, a derisive label for those who worked the thankless jobs
he and others performed.

Such unskilled contractors exist at the bottom rung of the nation’s employment ladder, subjecting themselves to perilous doses of radioactivity.

Solicited from day labor sites across the country, many contractors are told little of the task ahead.

“The recruiters call out their windows that they have two days of work; it’s not unlike the way migrant farm workers are hired in the U.S.,” said Kim Kearfott, a nuclear engineer and radiation health expert at the University of Michigan.

“Many are given their training en route to the plant. They’re told: ‘Oh, by the way, we’re going to Fukushima. If you don’t like it, you can get off the truck right now.’ There’s no such thing as informed consent, like you would have
in a human medical experiment,” she said.

After an earthquake-triggered tsunami deluged the Fukushima plant in March, a disaster that cascaded into reactor core meltdowns, activists are calling for better government regulation of what they call the nuclear industry’s dirtiest

For decades, they say, atomic plants have maintained a two-tiered workforce: one made up of highly paid and well-trained utility employees, and another of contractors with less training and fewer health benefits.

Last year, 88% of the 83,000 workers at the nation’s 18 commercial nuclear power plants were contract workers, according to Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, a government regulator.

A study by the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, a Tokyo-based watchdog group, found that contractors last year accounted for 96% of the harmful radiation absorbed by workers at the nation’s nuclear power plants.

Temporary workers at the Fukushima plant in 2010 also faced radiation levels 16 times higher than did employees of the plant’s owner-operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., because contractors are called in for the most dangerous work, according to the government’s industrial safety agency.

“This job is a death sentence, performed by workers who aren’t being given information about the dangers they face,” said Hiroaki Koide, an assistant professor at Kyoto University’s Research Reactor Institute and author of the book “The Lie of Nuclear Power.”

Okawa, who was off work from the plant the day of the tsunami, immediately quit the job and the “suicidal work” he performed there: mopping up leaks of radioactive water, wiping down “hot” equipment and filling drums with contaminated nuclear waste.

He described an unofficial pecking order at most nuclear plants among contractors, with the greenest workers often assigned the most dangerous jobs until they got enough experience to question the work or a newer worker came along.

“In the beginning, you get a little training; they show you how to use your tools,” said Okawa, 56. “But then you’re left to work with radiation you can’t see, smell or taste. If you think about it, you imagine it might be killing you.
But you don’t want to think about it.”

Okawa, a small man with powerfully built hands, said contractors knew they faced layoff once they reached exposure limits, so many switched off dosimeters and other radiation measuring devices.

“Guys needed the work, so they cut corners,” he said. “The plant bosses knew it but looked the other way.”

Now the Fukushima plant needs its temporary workers more than ever, to help Tokyo Electric Power Co. engineers shut down the stricken reactors for good. The “gypsies” are being paid salaries several times higher than before the accident, says Okawa, who says he was offered $650 a day to return to work at Fukushima after the reactor meltdowns there.

On a recent day, hundreds of contractors milled about an abandoned soccer complex near the Fukushima plant that Tokyo Electric Power Co., known as Tepco, has transformed into a nuclear-worker locker room and debriefing center. Men waited in line to pick up dosimeters and disposed of dirty clothes from a just-completed shift. Buses packed with blank-faced workers ran continuously between the center, known as J-Village, and the plant a few miles away.

Tepco defended its worker training, which “includes basic knowledge of protection against radiation, such as how to manage radiation doses or how to put on and take off protective suits and other equipment,” said Mayumi Yoshida, who works in the utility’s corporate communications office.

But nuclear experts point to what they call a lax safety culture that downplays the risk of radiation exposure. “What’s troubling is that both the utilities and the government are saying there isn’t a problem, while we know the doses these workers are being subjected to [are] quite high,” said Kristin Shrader-Frechette, a professor of radiobiology and philosophy at Notre Dame University.

After the Fukushima disaster, the government raised the annual limit for allowable radiation exposure from 200 millisieverts to 250 for nuclear plant workers, Shrader-Frechette said.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation has warned that exposure to just 30 millisieverts a year can cause cancer. “The government is allowing workers to receive more than seven times that amount,” she said.

Tepco says it monitors radiation absorption rates among workers, who are not allowed to exceed government-set limits.

Since the start of Japan’s nuclear boom in the 1970s, utilities have relied on temporary workers for maintenance and plant repair jobs, while providing little follow-up health training, activists say.

“Typically, these workers are only told of the dose they get from an individual or daily exposure, not the cumulative dose over the time they work at a particular plant,” said Shrader-Frechette. “As they move from job to job, nobody is asking questions about their repeated high doses at different sites. We’re calling for a nuclear dosage tracking system in Japan and other nations.”

Activists say utilities rely on a network of contractors, subcontractors and sub-subcontractors to supply those who work for short periods, absorb a maximum of radiation and are then let go.

Hiroyuki Watanabe, a city councilman in Iwaki, just south of the Fukushima plant, said past medical tests on plant contractors who had become sick did not produce a definite link to radiation exposure. Still, he thinks the utilities
should be more forthright about the dangers such workers face.

“It’s wrong to prey on the poor who need to feed their families,” he said. “They’re considered disposable, and that’s immoral.”

No matter what people called him, Okawa is proud of the work he performed for his nation’s nuclear industry. He labored among teams of men who every day faced incredible risks without complaint.

Yet his scariest work had nothing to do with radioactive exposure. “I stood atop a building once, seeing the danger with my own eyes,” Okawa said. “That’s the way many guys felt about radioactivity: You had to see the danger to fear it. We never saw it.”