Nuclear Attack In Kingman, Arizona - Part 4 of 4 - Meeting Set To Discuss 'New Uranium Recovery Facilities'
Feature Story Phoenix Magazine
Submitted by Eleanore Fanire
"I was hoping maybe 25 people would show up," Fanire remembers from that inaugural meeting of the Down-winders. "But 100 people showed up. Nobody could believe how many had already passed - we couldn't believe the people who came who had cancer."
In their shared astonishment and their shared grief, these people - most of whom had grown up together and remembered the "Bulldogs" as their high school team - began the slow process of dealing with the hand their government had dealt them.
They immediately appealed to their Congressional leaders, and expected to get some results, considering that by then, both Arizona senators were powerful Republicans in Congress. But initially, neither John McCain nor Jon Kyl did much. ("They didn't acknowledge it until we made some noise," Stephens says, surmising that it took so long because "it didn't affect them personally.")
As a backup, they appealed to state lawmakers - again, getting a tepid response until they proved they wouldn't go away and the information they'd amassed was too horrible to ignore.
These days, you can see the Downwinders coming by the thick three-ring binders they carry, filled with government re-ports and terrifying maps of exposure - Fanire has so much information, she hauls it around in a suitcase on wheels.
Early on they'd discovered that knowledge is power and facts are strength, and they'll go almost anywhere to tell their sad stories. To date, they've testified at hearings in St. George, Utah, and Window Rock, Arizona - going there because no one's ever come to Kingman to hold a hearing on this issue.
In addition, they have addressed the Senate Health Committee. "In memory of the victims of radiation fallout who have died of cancer, please wear our Black Hat," said Downwinder Gloria Richhart as she put on the hat she's covered with the names of the dead. "For the victims whose cancer is in remission, please come walk in our boots," she added, as she put a pair of children's cowboy boots on the podium.
She remembers the senators sitting there, "shaking their heads" in disbelief as she laid out what had been done to American civilians by the atomic tests.
"We believe that we as radiation fallout victims, or the families of victims, are not only entitled to recognition and compensation, but also to unqualified appreciation, gratitude and support for our sacrifices, bra-very and courage," she said.
To date, the Mohave County Downwinders display 164 black hats in memory and 36 boots in hope. About 120 people are actively involved in the year-old group, and Fanire estimates that from 2,000 to 4,000 people in their county were sickened by the nuclear tests.
A volunteer named Johnny Sean created the group's website, explaining, "I am angry about the names in Hats and Boots. Those are not simply names on a list. They are people I have known, worked with, partied with, cried with and loved."
"Even if we get the money, it won't give us another Christmas," Fanire explains. "It won't give us another anniversary, it won't give us a fourth-generation picture, it won't give us what's missing in our hearts."
Really, it's not a very big payment, and $50,000 gets even smaller when you consider how costly cancer can get. "The people who died in the Twin Towers on September 11 suffered a few moments and the government paid their families $1.8 million," Fanire says. "Our people have suffered 40 to 50 years - some have lost their homes because of this, some have been ruined - and if they get the money it's not even $1,000 a year."
Stephens says it isn't the money that's important, it's the principle - the acknowledgement that this devastation was visited upon the good people of her county. "It's the right thing," she says.
And so the people of Mohave County keep on fighting, in big ways and small.
Lately, they've been handing out packets of seeds, hoping concern and understanding will grow and nobody will ever forget what has happened to them and what was done to them.
The packets show a field of blue and yellow flowers, and the name offers a haunting message: Forget-Me-Not.
Jana Bommersbach © 2003 - 2007 Email: email@example.com :
NRC Public Meeting Set For Sept. 27th In Gallup
By Kathy Helms
WINDOW ROCK Members of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission will conduct a public meeting Sept. 27 in Gallup to obtain public comments on a “generic environmental impact statement” designed to expedite licensing for new uranium recovery facilities and conventional mills.
The NRC says it is expecting numerous applications for new in-situ uranium recovery operations in the next two to three years and plans to lump together common issues associated with environmental reviews to aid in a more efficient environmental review for each separate license application
Opponents, however, say it is just another attempt by the NRC to circumvent the National Environmental Policy Act and shortchange the public.
George Hardeen, communications director for the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President, said, “If people want to mine uranium, they can do it as long as it's not on the Navajo Nation,” which in 2005 approved a ban on uranium mining and milling operations throughout Navajo Indian Country.
“If it’s in Navajo Indian Country, the Natural Resources Protection Act applies,” he said. Attempts to get around that act then become a challenge to Navajo Nation sovereignty.
“If a uranium company wants to mine on Navajo land and disregard Navajo law, they can expect some trouble. The governors of all of the states surrounding the Navajo Nation, every congressman that President (Joe) Shirley has visited with, tell him that indeed, they will stand behind the Navajo Nation and its sovereignty.
“So it doesn’t matter what the uranium companies say. The Navajo Nation just doesn¹t want anything to do with it. It¹s not good for the Navajo people,” he said. An EIS already has been completed for Hydro Resources Inc.’s operations in McKinley County so the GEIS would not have a direct bearing on these projects, according to Mark Pelizza of HRI.
“In this process, NRC will evaluate the historic in situ recovery uranium operations and reclamation in the western United States and will review the successes and failures of such operations,” Pelizza said.
Using information obtained through the GEIS, NRC will analyze future uranium recovery operations and determine the potential impacts associated with such proposed operations, he said.
“More importantly, NRC will use this information to implement requirements for new uranium recovery operations that will mitigate or eliminate potential impacts that may have been posed by historic uranium recovery operations.
“From my perspective, I can see no downside to the creation and use of this type of intensive study of the broad and regional aspects of uranium recovery operations.
“They do not preclude the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from examining the site-specific aspects of each and every new proposed uranium recovery project in a manner consistent with federal law and their regulations.
“I am puzzled as to why some people would oppose this study when it does not eliminate the requirement for site-specific analysis,” Pelizza said. “Could it be that some people simply do not want to be confused with the facts?”
Eric Jantz, staff attorney with New Mexico Environmental Law Center in Santa Fe, which has represented Eastern Navajo Dine Against Uranium Mining in its efforts to stop the start-up of HRI's in-situ leach mining facilities in Church Rock and Crownpoint, views the GEIS differently.
“The NRC is bending over backward to accommodate the uranium mining industry. Rather than requiring a rigorous environmental analysis for each and every proposed ISL mine site, the NRC is instead proposing a GEIS that will require less site-specific environmental analysis.
“The GEIS will also dramatically reduce opportunities for public participation in the environmental analysis process, and could virtually eliminate environmental justice analyses. And the NRC is proposing this because it feels it is not processing ISL mining applications quickly enough,” Jantz said.
Chris Shuey of Southwest Research and Information Center in Albuquerque also is opposed to the NRC's plan. “The GEIS represents NRC's continued efforts to streamline the uranium licensing process, long an objective of the uranium industry.
“It's another attempt to limit public review of ISL operations and to avoid evaluating the ISL industry¹s systematic failure to restore groundwater to pre-mining conditions. If NRC won¹t drop this bad idea, Congress should do it for them,” Shuey said.
Steve Cone of “electors Concerned about Animas Water,” or CAW, in Farmington, in comments to the NRC, said, “We are sick and tired of government agencies such as the NRC acting as lapdogs for corporate interests to sanction and accelerate a culture of environmental degradation which threatens to transform the Southwestern United States into a National Energy Sacrifice Area.”
Cone said fast-tracking the GEIS process is “a gross miscarriage of environmental justice for indigenous populations and their neighbors, who refuse to see their homes and health sacrificed to increase the profits of a government-favored special interest group.”
“Reverse course now, adopt the no-action alternative, and get the hell out of dodge, or prepare to be tarred and feathered by those you seek to marginalize described on your website as the ‘lower population density’ in ‘the western states’.”
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