The battle continues to stop Yucca Mountain from becoming a nuclear waste dump
From Derrick Broze, MintPress News….February 18, 2016: https://www.mintpressnews.com/the-battle-continues-to-stop-yucca-mountain-from-becoming-a-nuclear-waste-dump/213976/ :
NYE COUNTY, Nevada — From 1951 to 1992, the U.S. government used a 1,300-square mile patch of land known as the Nevada Test Site for atmospheric and underground nuclear weapons testing. Many people have seen images from the site, though they probably don’t even realize it: 928 American and 19 British nuclear tests were conducted there, and it’s the place where the infamous mushroom cloud images were taken.
Today, tourists can take a trip back in time to the Cold War with a visit to the National Atomic Testing Museum. Located in Las Vegas, Nevada, the museum features permanent exhibits on surviving a nuclear blast and life in the “Atomic Age.” And for those who have grown weary of the nuclear reality back on Earth, there’s also an Area 51 exhibition — “Area 51: Myth or Reality?”
What’s mostly absent from the exhibition space, however, is attention to the global movement against nuclear weapons and the impacts on the nearby environment and people, including the Western Shoshone and Moapa Paiute.
The Moapa River Reservation is downwind of the Nevada Test Site, and locals have long maintained that radiation has harmed the health of the local population.
“We hope that that stuff [radiation] went up in the air and blew over us,” Vernon Lee, a Southern Paiute with the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians, who has lived on the Moapa River Reservation since 1973, told MintPress News. “We know that we got some because we are just east of the testing, but we hope we got less.”
Areas around the test site, particularly those located “downwind,” saw increases in cancers, including leukemia, lymphoma, thyroid cancer and brain tumors, throughout the entire span of the nuclear weapons testing. A 1984 study by the Journal of the American Medical Association found increased rates of cancer among Mormon families as far away as southwestern Utah, for example.
For Lee, the decades of environmental degradation and risks to human health reflect a much larger issue. The problem, he believes, is that the U.S. government does not recognize the tribal nations as equals. Officially, the U.S. Department of Interior states that the U.S. government operates under a “federal Indian trust responsibility,” a legal obligation that includes “moral obligations of the highest responsibility and trust” toward Native American tribes.
“To me, that doesn’t exist. It’s a word on paper, but I don’t think I have ever seen it put into practice,” Lee said.
“Trust responsibility, to me, is that government-to-government relationship that they are supposed to have with the tribes. It’s ridiculous the way the U.S. government treats the sovereign tribes. It’s very unfair.”
Native communities have a long history of resources discovered beneath the reservations being exploited by the U.S. government and supported industries. These communities have suffered exposure to dangerous substances through uranium mining and milling. In Nevada, the lives of generations of Western Shoshone and Moapa Paiute have become intertwined with the history of nuclear weapons testing and, more recently, the disposal of nuclear waste from faraway power plants.
“There are multiple problems. Moving the waste is a problem. High risk, unnecessary risk. If the company is ever going to benefit from nuclear power they should process it and store it themselves. Stop shipping it across the country and exposing the population to a potential disaster,” Lee said, alluding to the controversial long-term nuclear waste repository planned for Yucca Mountain, about a three hours’ drive from the reservation.
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