New Mexico’s long history of uranium mining on Native American lands provides fuel for the front end of the nuclear industry and stores much of the mine tailings and radioactive waste from nuclear weapons and power plants. DemocracyNow! looks at the devastating impact uranium mining continues to have on Native lands with Leona Morgan of Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining, a group dedicated to protecting the water, air, land and health of communities in areas impacted by uranium mines.Also joining the discussion is Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico and former Los Alamos National Laboratory investigator Chuck Montaño.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting from Los Alamos, New Mexico, the state home to the Navajo Nation. For decades, they’ve fought uranium mining on their land. Despite a mining moratorium on tribal property, the company Hydro Resources, Inc., is seeking approval to mine near the towns of Crown Point and Church Rock. Uranium has been mined here for more than 50 years, and the impact is still felt. The land is dotted with contaminated tailings, hundreds of abandoned mines that are still not cleaned up. Meanwhile, Navajos have suffered from high cancer rates and respiratory problems.
For more, we’re joined by Leona Morgan, a coordinator with the Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining—their mission: to protect the water, air, land and health of communities in areas impacted by uranium mines.
Leona, welcome to Democracy Now! We’re talking about the dawn of the Nuclear Age. We’re broadcasting from Fuller Lodge. It’s where the scientists first came in 1943, part of the secret Manhattan Project, to develop an atomic bomb. Talk about where you come from and how that, in 1943, relates to you.
"The largest domestic natural gas drilling boom in history has swept across the United States. The Halliburton-developed drilling technology of "fracking" or hydraulic fracturing has unlocked a "Saudia Arabia of natural gas" just beneath us. But is fracking safe? When filmmaker Josh Fox is asked to lease his land for drilling, he embarks on a cross-country odyssey uncovering a trail of secrets, lies and contamination. A recently drilled nearby Pennsylvania town reports that residents are able to light their drinking water on fire. This is just one of the many absurd and astonishing revelations of a new country called GASLAND. Part verite travelogue, part expose, part mystery, part bluegrass banjo meltdown, part showdown."
Shell is due to begin exploratory drilling at two offshore sites in the Alaskan Arctic in the coming weeks. If Shell is successful this summer, an Arctic oil rush will be sparked and the push to carve up the region will accelerate. Russian oil giant Gazprom is also pushing into the offshore Arctic this year.
Scientists in California said on Monday that bluefin tuna had been found to contain radioactivity, carried 6,000 miles from Japan where radioactivity leaked into the waters after its nuclear crisis. “We were frankly kind of startled,” said Nicholas Fisher, one of the researchers in the National Academy of Scientists who reported the findings. The levels of radioactive cesium were 10 times higher than the amount in tuna off the California coast in recent years, although the levels are still well below the safe-to-eat levels set by the U.S. and Japan.
The results "are unequivocal. Fukushima was the source," said Ken Buesseler of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, who had no role in the research.
A new report on the BP oil spill aftermath find disturbing numbers of "Eyeless shrimp and fish with lesions are becoming common, with BP oil pollution believed to be the likely cause." Fishermen and scientists alike say they've never seen anything like it.
Recently I shared a report on the Gulf Coast fishing industry written by Dahr Jamail, a reporter for Al Jazeera who has been covering the BP Gulf oil spill since early on in the days of the disaster. Once again, Jamail - the journalist from Qatar - reports on these latest findings. You can check out the American mainstream media and read all about President Obama eating dog meat as a child when his step-father fed it to him in Indonesia, and other really important stuff.
And so it seems that not all of the creatures of the sea have been killed off by the effects of the oil spill, and BP's use of toxic dispersants. There are fish with sores and lesions, mutated shrimp, deformed crab and fish, fish with oozing sores, underdeveloped blue crabs lacking claws, eyeless crabs and shrimp (Shrimp lacking even eye sockets), crabs with their shells soft instead of hard, full grown crabs that are one-fifth their normal size, clawless crabs, and crabs with shells that don't have their usual spikes, shrimp with tumors on their heads, crabs that are dying from within (Alive, but when opened smell as if they are already dead.), and more.
"The dispersants used in BP's draconian experiment contain solvents, such as petroleum distillates and 2-butoxyethanol. Solvents dissolve oil, grease, and rubber," Dr Riki Ott, a toxicologist, marine biologist and Exxon Valdez survivor told Al Jazeera. "It should be no surprise that solvents are also notoriously toxic to people, something the medical community has long known".
The dispersants are known to be mutagenic, a disturbing fact that could be evidenced in the seafood deformities. Shrimp, for example, have a life-cycle short enough that two to three generations have existed since BP's disaster began, giving the chemicals time to enter the genome.
Pathways of exposure to the dispersants are inhalation, ingestion, skin, and eye contact. Health impacts can include headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pains, chest pains, respiratory system damage, skin sensitisation, hypertension, central nervous system depression, neurotoxic effects, cardiac arrhythmia and cardiovascular damage. They are also teratogenic - able to disturb the growth and development of an embryo or fetus - and carcinogenic.
Cowan believes chemicals named polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), released from BP's submerged oil, are likely to blame for what he is finding, due to the fact that the fish with lesions he is finding are from "a wide spatial distribution that is spatially coordinated with oil from the Deepwater Horizon, both surface oil and subsurface oil. A lot of the oil that impacted Louisiana was also in subsurface plumes, and we think there is a lot of it remaining on the seafloor".
Jamail attempted to get answers to questions arising from his investigation from various government agencies, as well as BP. One agency referred him to another, some couldn't or wouldn't talk, and while BP refused to comment for a televised interview, they did offer a statement:
"Seafood from the Gulf of Mexico is among the most tested in the world, and, according to the FDA and NOAA, it is as safe now as it was before the accident."
Right. Somehow, I don't think anyone will run in to any of the executives from BP at any of the Gulf Coast eateries enjoying the seafood cuisine anytime soon.