10: The world anti-nuclear movement since the 1970s
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This thematic chapter shows a variety of nuclear energy conflicts across the world in the last decades. From uranium mining to the disposal of nuclear waste and military testing, we find conflicts in Europe, North America, the Pacific, the post-Soviet region, East and South, Asia, Africa and South America. After its discovery around 1900, nuclear energy looked as a solution to energy scarcity, and also as a military resource. However, accidents at Three Mile Island (1979), Chernobyl (1986) and Fukushima (2011), and the negative health and environmental effects of nuclear waste disposal, uranium mining and military testing elsewhere, gave rise to the anti-nuclear movements since the 1970s. This one the most important branches of the environmental movement worldwide. There have been networks of information for anti-nuclear activists such as WISE, and more recently Hibakusha. Many NPPs were stopped before they were built; others are now getting old and the risk of accidents awakens a new opposition.

BACKGROUND: FROM URANIUM MINING TO NUCLEAR WASTE DISPOSAL AND MILITARY TESTING

Chapter 9 ended with the conflicts on the nuclear reactors of Kudankulam and Kalpakkam in Tamil Nadu which can be seen as an introduction to this chapter. Nuclear power appeared in the chapters on Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and China, in the case of China as part of a military-industrial complex.

The major accidents at Three Mile Island (1979), Chornobyl (1986) and Fukushima (2011) and some protest movements are milestones in the collective environmental conscience of the last 50 years. We read Robert Jungk (1977) and other books following the opposition in the United States, in Germany and the anti-nuclear referendums in Austria and Italy. In the early 1980s, I read all of Frederick Soddy's books (1922, 1926) on energy and economics, and some of his articles on radioactivity. Born in 1877 he died in 1956; following study at Merton College, Oxford, he received a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his discovery of isotopes. After 1945, he criticized the military and industrial use of nuclear power as also Lewis Mumford (1961, 1970) did in the 1950s. We reasonably wait for the next accident – it might happen in one of the oldest nuclear power plants in France or elsewhere in Europe. Over the years we discovered little publicized accidents in Russia and elsewhere. With Ksenija Hanaček (2022) we added some conflicts such as Nova Zemlya “tsar bomb” of 1961, and the Nevada-Semipalatinsk movement of the late 1980s against nuclear testing in Kazakhstan.

By January 2022 there are about 150 nuclear energy conflicts in the EJAtlas, a good sample of those in the real world. This chapter summarizes and analyzes about 25 nuclear energy conflicts from uranium mining to the disposal of nuclear waste and military testing, along the commodity chain. Starting with Ignalina in Lithuania, a plant similar to Chornobyl, I include Three Mile Island in the USA and Fukushima (described already in Chapter 2). Uranium mining in Jharkhand and Telangana (India), Niger, Namibia, Bulgaria, Malawi is discussed in this or other chapters. The early successes achieved in Plogoff in France and Wyhl in Germany, also in California (Diablo Canyon and Rancho Seco), and the current conflicts against NPP in Haripur and Jaipur in India are included. Some victimized anti-nuclear women were mentioned in Chapter 4.

IN EUROPE

Building and Dismantling Ignalina (Lithuania) but a New NPP is Built in Belarus 1

A referendum in 2012 ended plans for a new nuclear power plant after two large reactors at Ignalina were stopped in 2004 and 2009. The conflict was linked to the national independence p. 192of Lithuania after 1990 and to its incorporation into the European Union. This is a story of 20 years of production of electricity in two reactors at Ignalina starting in the 1980s, and a current dispute with Belarus regarding a nuclear power plant near the border. As described in various sources, in Lithuania in 1978 construction had begun on two RBMK reactors (1,380 MWe each) for the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, 50 km north-east of Vilnius. The light-water, graphite-moderated reactors were of similar design to those at Chornobyl. The nuclear power plant began operating in 1983. In the late 1980s, the birth of a Green Party, Žaliųjų partija, helped stop the building of the third NPP that had been criticized by the independence movement of Lithuania, Sąjūdis. In September 1988 some 10,000 people formed a human chain around the Ignalina nuclear power plant demanding safety inspections by international experts. There was a Green wave across Eastern and Central Europe after the fall of the Soviet regime.

WISE published reports in 1992 and 1994 explaining the risks from the Ignalina power plant. In 1994, Lithuania accepted US$36.8 million from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development's Nuclear Safety Account (EBRD) to improve safety at the site. Under the grant, both RBMK reactors had to be closed within 15–20 years: Ignalina units were shut down in 2004 and 2009. The main risk of accident was associated with generic design flaws of the RBMK reactors. To assist Lithuania, the EU agreed to pay for decommissioning costs and some compensation. Such costs keep still growing.

After the end of the Soviet Union (partly caused by the Chornobyl disaster) there were reviews of the state of some nuclear power stations. In 1992, at a G7 summit, it was decided that Ignalina in Lithuania, four units of the Kozloduy nuclear power plant in Bulgaria, and Bohunice in Slovakia had to be closed down as they presented a high level of risk. The closing of the NPPs in less than 20 years was negotiated as part of the countries’ EU accession treaties and the European Union was to provide financial support. The Radioactive Waste Management Agency of Lithuania, established in 2001, was responsible for disposal of all radioactive waste from Ignalina during operation and decommissioning. By 27 February 2018 Ignalina NPP announced the removal of the last used fuel assembly from the reactor of unit 2.

Option for Visaginas New NPP Defeated

This was a Baltic regional project intended to provide electricity for Lithuania. There were three regional partners: Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, in addition to GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy. This would be an NPP jointly owned by Japanese company Hitachi and Japanese American company GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (20 per cent shares), and state-owned companies Lietuvos Energija (Republic of Lithuania) (38 per cent), Latvenergo (Republic of Latvia) (20 per cent) and Eesti Energia (Republic of Estonia) (22 per cent). The estimated price was €4,9 billion. It was intended to replace the Ignalina NPP, scheduled to be shut down in 2009. On 14 October 2012 an advisory referendum on constructing the new NPP showed 62.7 per cent of the participating Lithuanian electorate against and 34.1 per cent favourable. “Visaginas nuclear power plant would be built on Lithuanian land, with increased danger, therefore we must ask the opinion of the Lithuanian people”, said opposition Social Democrat Birute Vesaite while Lithuania's governing Conservatives had opposed the referendum. By 2016 the instigator of the Visaginas NPP, former energy minister Arvydas Sekmokas, recognized that the proposal was “dead”.p. 193

Opposition to NPP Astravets in Belarus and the Espoo Convention

Lithuania has no plans for further NPP and indeed it renewed its longstanding opposition to the NPP Russia was building in Belarus not far from Vilnius. As reported by WISE in 2011, after two years of fruitless negotiations, Lithuania had brought its complaint over Belarus's nuclear power plant to the authority that enforces the Espoo Convention – an international agreement covering industrial projects that may potentially bring environmental harm across state borders. Both Lithuania and Belarus are Espoo signatories, but Belarus denies any violations. In April 2017, Vilnius passed a law against buying energy from what its parliament termed “unsafe nuclear power plants in third countries”. These boycotts against buying nuclear power have been effective in shutting down other unpopular nuclear projects in the region. However, Belarus eventually built a very large NPP, Astravets, a 2400-MW multi-reactor nuclear power plant less than 50 km from Lithuania's capital Vilnius. The Lithuanian government has long argued the plant does not meet Western safety standards. In a sign of the growing concern, the Lithuanian government ordered in January 2020 millions of iodine pills in case of a nuclear accident.

Moving to Western Europe, there are many old and dangerous NPPs. I chose to look at two of them (in Alsace ‒ France ‒ and in Belgium), one closed down and the other not yet, both near the border with Germany. To repeat, transnational conflicts are not uncommon in the nuclear energy field.

More Transborder Issues: Fessenheim and Bugey in France 2

The Fessenheim nuclear power station, stopped in 2017, is very near the German border. Out of the 58 nuclear reactors that France has, 15 of them have passed the 35-year mark. In service since 1977, Fessenheim was the oldest of the lot. There is a grave problem about what to do with the nuclear power plants built in the 1970s and 1980s. The Fessenheim NPP was one of the first to be closed down after many protests by Greenpeace and others. In March 2017, environmental groups organized protests throughout the country to commemorate the sixth anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, and to demand the closure of NPPs. In Strasbourg, hundreds of people from France, Switzerland and Germany gathered to demand the closure of Fessenheim alleging that previous accidents were downplayed.

In April 2017 the French government issued a decree to cease power generation at the 1.800-MW Fessenheim reactor by April 2020. The cost of dismantling plus the cost of keeping the nuclear waste will easily reach €2000 million. In July 2017, for the first time, the French government declared the actual number of planned nuclear reactor closures: 17, an estimate offered by the then Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot, a former environmental campaigner who later resigned

A similar case is that of the NPP of Bugey. The Geneva authorities in 2016 outlined their legal complaint against the 43-year-old Bugey plant in neighbouring France, which they claim “endangers lives and pollutes water”. By 2018, the Geneva authorities issued a second legal complaint lodged with a French court, arguing that the Bugey plant has design faults, leakage problems and is located in an earthquake and flood risk area. Geneva is situated about 70 km away.p. 194

Tihange and Doel in Belgium 3

Tihange has three large reactors, often malfunctioning. There are concerns about their safety expressed even by the official agency for nuclear security. There are also complaints from neighbouring countries. The plant is located on the bank of the Meuse River, in the Walloon province of Liège, which has borders with The Netherlands, Germany and Luxembourg. Tihange 1 (962 MW) came online in 1975, Tihange 2 (1008 MW) in 1983 and Tihange 3 (1015 MW) in 1985. The units were designed for an operational lifetime of 30 years. Laws were passed in Belgium in 2003 (with Olivier Deleuze as Secretary of Energy) to ensure that no additional nuclear plants will be built in Belgium, and to limit the lifespans of the existing plants to 40 years. On 4 July 2012, however, the Belgian government decided that Tihange 1 could operate for 50 years. However, like so many other NPP of their age in other countries, the reactors at Tihange are old and dangerous, as are those in Doel in Belgium, located very near the Dutch border.

The Belgian energy corporation ENGIE Electrabel is the plant's largest shareholder. The company belongs to a French company. Court cases are pending, including some from neighbouring countries and the city of Aachen. However, ENGIE Electrabel finds the old reactors profitable and makes small investments to prolong their lifespan up to 50 and even maybe 60 years.

Plogoff, Brittany: Fisherfolk Stop One of the First NPP in France 4

Here we revive the memory of the struggle of several weeks in Pointe du Raz, Plogoff, Brittany, in 1974‒80, against the attempt by Electricité de France (EDF) to build an NPP of 1500 MW. It would have been the first in Breton territory. An excellent documentary by Nicole Le Garrec commemorated the events in this small fishing village, one of the few successful anti-nuclear struggles In France.

As reported by WISE, 5 in June 1976 a first confrontation occurred when EDF engineers were prevented from entering the prospective site by local inhabitants blocking the access roads. After that, in 1978, the state opted for the Plogoff location. Meanwhile, in March of that year, the large Amoco Cadiz oil spill happened on the coast of Brittany and environmental awareness had risen. As soon as the decision to build the NPP was made public, people started to organize marches. In September 1978 5,000 people marched on the site, and 15,000 a week later in the nearby cities of Brest and Quimper. However, the authorities approved the site. In July 1979, the commune of Plogoff received the first papers regarding the inquiry into the public utility of the project, a sign that EDF was determined to proceed. The local council refused to cooperate with the inquiry.

In the morning of 30 January 1980, the official documents for the inquiry arrived at the town hall and were immediately burned ceremonially on the square in the presence of the mayor. This launched a new level of resistance. To fulfil the legal procedures, the public utility inquiry documents had to be displayed locally. Because civil servants and EDF were not allowed by the local politicians to use the town hall or any other place, they set up mobile “Mairies Annexes” in small vans for displaying the documents. The first barricades appeared. All access roads were blocked with tree trunks, old tractors and whatever was available, to stop the mobile “town hall annexes” from entering the town. Under heavy police protection the vans made their way and stayed for six weeks from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and withdrew again. p. 195The police guarding them came under constant harassment, including Molotov cocktails, arrests, trials, petitions asking for the removal of the intervention forces, marches gathering thousands of people, general strikes and even strikes in regional courts when cases against anti-nuclear activists were scheduled.

All this put a new rhythm into the daily life of Plogoff's inhabitants. Every day, the convoy had to get into place through the barricades; the location of the “town hall annexes” was usually fouled with manure and had to be cleaned up. During the day women kept up a constant psychological warfare with insults and taunts thrown at the police. On 14 March, the last day of the inquiry, a crowd of at least 7,000 “pilgrims” gathered and organized a symbolic burial with black coffins, wooden crosses, crowns of flowers and women wearing the traditional grieving headdress. A feast took place two days later attended by over 50,000 people. During the following months, people asked for support from other localities in the area, and organized lectures about the 1979 Three Mile Island accident at Harrisburg, US. In May 1980, at Pentecost (Whitsunday) 100,000 people demonstrated on the site.

By the autumn of 1980 the landing of helicopters was made impossible by kites and oil drums ready to be ignited. Barricades to block all access roads had been prepared. The land had been taken in common ownership by about 2,000 individuals to make expropriation more difficult. A sheep farm was installed on the site and supplied with additional sheep by Larzac farmers. The resistance of Plogoff drew upon support of environmental organizations such as “Eau et Rivières de Bretagne” and “Bretagne vivante”, consumers’ associations, political parties such as the PSU, the CFDT labour union and committees like the Groupement des Scientifiques pour l’Information sur l’Energie Nucléaire (GSIEN). The French state did not expect such resistance by a fisherfolk village mostly populated by old people who for six weeks confronted the riot police (CRS) and the military police (gendarmerie). In 1981 François Mitterrand was elected President of France. He carried out his campaign promise to cancel the project (Figure 10.1).

Plogoff villagers on a march in 1980 (Le Télégramme/Eugène Le Droff).
Figure 10.1

Plogoff villagers on a march in 1980

Source:  Le Télégramme/Eugène Le Droff

Creys-Malville and the Death of Vital Machelon in France 6

Nuclear energy in France has found little opposition, despite cases such as Plogoff and Creys-Malville. Nuclear energy was pushed after the world increase in oil prices in 1973. It was linked to the military and led to colonial incursions for uranium mining in Niger and elsewhere, and to nuclear explosions in Mururoa. The political right liked nuclear power as everywhere else but in France the left did too; the French Communist Party was proud of members like Frédéric Joliot-Curie. This constellation of power (the right, the military, the Communist Party, the CGT) did not exist in Germany, with a differing trajectory of nuclear energy conflicts in both countries. The situation in India is favourable to nuclear energy because a similar political constellation existed to that in France, with a pro-nuclear left.

There have been a few memorable conflicts in France. Prevention of Plogoff was one. Dismantling of Fessenheim, much later, was another one. There are also conflicts on nuclear waste, as at present in Bure, Meuse. A special case was Creys-Malville, near the Swiss border. The reactor was arrogantly called Superphénix, from the mythical bird reborn from its own ashes, as electricity would be produced from the plutonium which is a waste product of uranium-fuelled nuclear reactors. In 1989, WISE asked the European Parliament to intervene. It explained that Superphénix was a prototype 1,250-MW fast-breeder reactor. In conventional Pressurized Water Reactors (PWR) and Boiling Water Reactors (BWR) the neutrons are p. 196slowed down by the water. In a fast breeder the reactor is cooled with liquid sodium instead of water. Superphénix contained five tons of plutonium while a traditional plant contains only a few kilos. A few micrograms of inhaled plutonium are enough to cause lung cancer. The half-life of plutonium is 24,000 years. Superphénix needed 5,000 tons of sodium as a cooling agent. Sodium catches fire when it comes into contact with air and explodes when it comes into contact with water.

In the summer of 1976, the first major demonstration against the Superphénix took place. Protests increased, locally, nationally and internationally. The demonstrators were not defending a particular territory but attacking what in their view was a misguided public policy. There was a demonstration with over 60,000 people (from France, Switzerland, Germany…) on 31 July 1977 against the project. It met a disastrous end because of police violence. The police killed Vital Michalon, a young demonstrator, a physics teacher, by throwing a grenade at him. Another one hundred got wounded, including some policemen. Resistance remained active on different levels. And with final success. On 31 July 1997, a commemoration was held for Vital Michalon. At that commemoration there was something to celebrate; Superphénix would not be restarted. On 2 February 1998 the French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin reaffirmed its shutdown. Costs of dismantling are estimated at US$2.5 billion. Superphénix went into operation in 1986, was plagued by many accidents and only operated for an equivalent of 278 days at full power during those 11 years. Total costs (excluding closure costs): US$10 billion.

Kalkar's Sodium-cooled Fast Breeder Reactor Prototype, a Bad Joke 7

Between 1957 and 1991, West Germany tried to build a fast breeder reactor, a 300-MW prototype near Kalkar on the Rhine. It was known as the SNR-300, the Schneller Natriumgekühlter p. 197Reaktor, to be cooled by sodium. Construction began in April 1973 as a project of West Germany (72 per cent), Netherlands and Belgium (both 14 per cent). The modernizing Zeitgeist is well captured in a chronicle by Alice Siegert. She wrote:

People in this quaint, 750-year-old town in the lower Rhine still walk on cobblestone pavement … But north of the town limits, where black-and-white cattle graze in green pastures, the 21st Century has begun. On land bought from the Catholic Church, the concrete outer shells of a 1 billion, plutonium-based, fast breeder reactor were recently completed. The 300 MW prototype is being financed by the West German, Dutch and Belgian governments. Eventually it will serve as a model for a 1200 MW commercial reactor. European governments believe that the third-generation, sodium-cooled fast breeders, which reproduce their own fuel, will make Europeans less dependent on imported fuels.

There were at the time large anti-nuclear demonstrations at Whyl and Brokdorf, and Kalkar. Before the Greens first came to Parliament in Germany in 1980, militants were already active. Petra Kelly was a speaker at the first demonstration in 1975 against the reactor in Kalkar. In 1977, 50,000 people demonstrated against the project. Kalkar is near the Dutch border (Nijmegen), not far from Duisburg and Dusseldorf in Germany. As reported by WISE, in 1981 police violence stopped construction of a summer anti-nuclear village near the site at Kalkar. 800 activists participated and 12 protesters were injured by police attacks during those days.

Construction had advanced by 1985, but political opposition in the aftermath of the Chornobyl accident (in April 1986) caused the federal government to announce in 1991 that the reactor would not be put into operation. It seems that the original costs finally escalated to US$4 billion. Nuclear materials were sold or sent off for free to France and the United States. Showing a sense of humour, the nuclear plant has been turned into an amusement park, Wunderland Kalkar.

Wyhl am Kaiserstuhl, Germany 8

The expression Energiewende (energy transition), so important in German and European energy policy, was born in this struggle. Wyhl is where the German anti-nuclear movement cut its teeth in the early 1970s, based on Bürgerinitiativen and university researchers. Wyhl is a small wine growing locality in Emmendingen in Baden-Württemberg very near the Alsace border in France. After South Baden, Alsace and the neighbouring region of Switzerland were chosen in 1971 as a site for a nuclear power plant, the local opposition in Wyhl steadily mounted. Permission was granted and work began on 17 February 1975. On the following day, local people spontaneously occupied the site and police removed them forcibly two days later. Television coverage of police dragging away common people through the mud helped to turn nuclear power into a major national issue. Wine-growers and clergy supported the movement together with members of the University of Freiburg (where the Öko-Institut was to be founded). On 23 February about 30,000 people re-occupied the Wyhl site and plans to remove them were abandoned in view of the large number involved and potential for more adverse publicity. On 21 March 1975, an administrative court withdrew the construction licence for the plant.

During the summer of 1975, the occupied site at Wyhl became a symbol. People from across Western Europe were drawn to the occupation and determined to recreate it elsewhere. It was not long before these visitors discovered the difficulty of simply exporting “Model p. 198Wyhl”. Years of alliance building had preceded the Wyhl occupation. The police too had learned from Wyhl and were better prepared. Thus, the attempted occupations near the town of Brokdorf descended into pitched battles between protesters and police. Even so, concerns about nuclear energy became increasingly commonplace after Wyhl. In this sense, the grassroots movement against reactors that took place along the Upper Rhine played a major part in making nuclear energy a hotly contested issue throughout Western Europe, signalling an early success for the German anti-nuclear and Green movement.

According to Stephen Milder (2013) many of the Wyhl occupiers were conservative farmers and vineyard owners. Cooperation between these rural people and scientists from nearby University of Freiburg connected local knowledge of the region with technical expertise. Most importantly, collaboration between French and Germans in a transborder conflict allowed for the creation of a community that spanned the Rhine and positioned itself as an alternative to the governments in Bonn, Paris, and Stuttgart. In the end Wyhl was not constructed, and neither was an NPP in Switzerland, but ‒ as we have seen ‒ Fessenheim in Alsace was built. The European, international character of the protest was supported again by activists such as Petra Kelly in 1975 (then working at the EEC in Brussels). Thus, Jan-Henrik Meyer (2014) agrees that the site occupation at Wyhl in 1975 was the symbolic birthplace of the West German anti-nuclear movement but it may also serve as the starting point for a West European history of anti-nuclear protest.

IN NORTH AMERICA

In California: Diablo Canyon and Rancho Seco 9

California, in contrast to Western Europe, is more advanced technologically in many aspects, and its energy supply is actually devoid of any inputs from nuclear energy. This is not how it looked in the 1970s, when the hopes of a source of energy “too cheap to meter” took over the USA's imaginary together with the lie (propagated under President Eisenhower in 1952‒60) that there were “atoms for war” and “atoms for peace”. There are still many nuclear power plants in the United States providing almost 20 per cent of electricity. Most of them are nearly 40 years old: the issue is now how to close them down, what to do with the nuclear waste, and who will cope with the environmental liabilities. Diablo Canyon and Rancho Seco in California teach something about these facts to the rest of the world.

Diablo Canyon in San Luis Obispo country was famous in the annals of environmental struggles since the 1960s, when in 1966 the Sierra Club Board amazingly voted to endorse the Diablo Canyon site. They discovered later that it was home to the largest Abalone site in California and that it was risky also to humans. A major campaign to reverse the Sierra Club's endorsement of the atomic plant was started by several board members including David Brower. All this led to a split in that conservationist organization and to the founding of Friends of the Earth.

There were many protests against Diablo Canyon. In 1977, about 500 “activists” staged civil disobedience at the gates of Diablo Canyon and 47 were arrested. In September 1981, the Abalone Alliance started a blockade of Diablo Canyon that lasted two weeks. Over 1,900 people were arrested, while tens of thousands showed up to support them. In any case Diablo Canyon was built although it was alleged that the site suffered the risk of an earthquake. On p. 19921 June 2016, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) announced a proposal written with Labor and Environmental organizations to increase investment in energy efficiency, renewables and storage, while phasing out nuclear power. Specifically, the operating licences for Diablo Canyon Units 1 and 2 would not be renewed.

Political and environmental pressures lie behind this 2016 decision. In October 2010 a major controversy arose when California enacted a new policy banning by 2015 the use of antiquated “once-through cooling” systems, which allow coastal power plants to directly take in and discharge massive amounts of seawater ‒ causing significant damage to marine creatures and the environment. Diablo Canyon caused some 80 per cent of the damage to the marine environment of all the coastal power plants combined

In June 2016, pro-nuclear analysts still lamented that Diablo Canyon would close down. They said that “the plant is safe, can withstand a large earthquake, tsunami and any other disaster, provides billions to the local economy, and produces more clean energy than all the wind turbines in California combined” (Conca 2016). For critics of nuclear power, the prospect of closing Diablo Canyon was welcome. Even the Sierra Club had already changed its views favourable to nuclear energy. PG&E estimated it would cost $3.779 billion to decommission Diablo Canyon (Nikolewski 2016). The nuclear waste will be kept on site because, as is the case with all nuclear facilities in the US ‒ and elsewhere ‒ companies are not liable for final disposal: it is the federal government's responsibility to ultimately find places to deposit nuclear waste. However, with the proposed repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada apparently scrapped, nuclear facilities keep spent fuel at their respective sites.

Rancho Seco in Sacramento 10

When residents of Sacramento, California, voted to shut down their utility's only NPP they were motivated by both economic and environmental reasons. The plant was closed by a public vote on 7 June 1989, a decade before its operating licence was to expire. The vote was 53.4 per cent to shut down the plant and 46.6 per cent to keep it open. This nuclear plant had a shorter lifespan than Diablo Canyon. The 913 MWe Babcock & Wilcox PWR had achieved criticality on 16 September 1974 and entered commercial operation on 17 April 1975. In 2005 the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission concluded that an accident in Rancho Seco in 1986 was the third most serious occurrence in the United States (behind the Three Mile Island accident in 1979 and the cable tray fire at Browns Ferry in 1975).

In 1986 “Sacramentans for SAFE Energy” called for the SMUD (Sacramento Municipal Utility District) to study the safety and economic risks associated with Rancho Seco. Some years before, in 1981, the Abalone Alliance activists along with local opposition held an eight-day sit-in at the State Capitol in Sacramento, urging Governor Jerry Brown to use emergency powers to shut down Rancho Seco. The plant operated across these bumps from April 1975 to June 1989 but had a lifetime capacity utilisation average of only 39 per cent. Four hundred and ninety-three nuclear fuel assemblies remained stored in casks in concrete bunkers.

Three Mile Island, 1979 11

This was a memorable nuclear accident. When the Three Mile Accident happened, I was at home near the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona and we had a visitor, our friend Martha Acklesberg, who was researching archives for a book on Mujeres Libres, an anarchist p. 200organization of women from before the Spanish Civil War. She had relatives near Harrisburg in Pennsylvania. There was no Internet yet, so she was for a few days reaching for the line phone asking for information that we were all so keen to get. The Three Mile Island Unit 2 (TMI-2) reactor, near Middletown, Pa., on the Susquehanna River, partially melted down on 28 March 1979. The accident enhanced safety concerns among activists and the general public, resulted in new regulations for the nuclear industry, and contributed to the decline of reactor construction programmes in the US and other countries. It gave a great impulse to the anti-nuclear movement, and discredited previous risk assessments such as the notorious 1975 Rasmussen Report sponsored by the US Atomic Energy Commission statistically estimating extremely low risks of accidents in commercial nuclear power plants, carried out under the direction of Norman C. Rasmussen of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

A sign dedicated to the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island (Wikimedia Commons).
Figure 10.2

A sign dedicated to the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island

Source:  Wikimedia Commons

On 30 March 1979, Gov. Richard Thornburgh recommended an evacuation for preschool children and pregnant women within five miles of Three Mile Island. Data collected since the meltdown demonstrate a nexus between radiation exposure and adverse health impacts to women and children. Three Mile Island-1 (TMI-1) had come on line in September 1974 at a cost of $400 million. Three Mile Island-2 (TMI-2) came on line in December 1978, 90 days before the accident. TMI-2's cost was close to $2 billion dollars in construction and clean-up bills. Units 1 and 2 were owned by Metropolitan Edison (50 per cent), Jersey Central Power & Light (25 per cent) and Pennsylvania Electric (25 per cent). Regarding liability for damage to health, a federal appeals court in December 2003 dismissed the consolidated cases of 2,000 plaintiffs seeking damages against the plant's former owners.p. 201

The US industry had begun confidently taking new orders totalling 8,000 MW in that year 1979 – more than any year since 1974. The 1979 Oil Crisis, in the wake of the Iranian Revolution, was supposed to increase orders for NPPs. President Carter said he would expedite efforts to expand the number of nuclear inspectors and added that “there is no way for us to abandon nuclear power in the foreseeable future”, reiterating his administration's intention to introduce fresh legislation to accelerate the licensing of new nuclear plants. However, this would never happen. The US nuclear industry slowly retreated after 1979. The one thing that Carter had been sure to quit was the fast breeder project, at Clinch River in Tennessee (the American Creys-Malville).

Laguna Verde in Mexico 12

There is an NPP in Mexico, Laguna Verde, that includes two nuclear power units of 805 MW each. The construction of the first plant began in 1976 and it started operating in 1990, the second one started in 1977 and was connected to the electric grid in 1995. Since the beginning, there were protests of civil society organizations, especially the group Madres veracruzanas. They claim that the presence of the plant entails a negative environmental risk and that it operates with poor security standards. In 1987 up to 10,000 people demonstrated against the project. With Chornobyl in mind (1986) the community did not want to take the risk.

As Carlos Navarro (2001) reports, the threat of a nuclear mishap in Mexico ignited a debate again in 2011 on whether the Mexican government should proceed to expand the capacity of Laguna Verde. The plant, property of the state-run electric utility Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE), provides 4 per cent of Mexico's total electricity needs. The Fukushima disaster prompted a group of environmental organizations, led by Greenpeace México, to demand the government abandon nuclear power altogether. Opinions in the Mexican Congress were varied. The governments have been confident in the Laguna Verde facility because it has been certified by Mexico's Comisión Nacional de Seguridad Nuclear y Salvaguardias (CNSNS). Authorities point out that the Laguna Verde plant is in a relatively seismic low-risk area. Still, Veracruz is not immune to earthquakes, and hurricanes, which would bring high winds and flooding.

The CNSNS admits that operators of the Laguna Verde facility had to suspend operations 37 times between 2000 and 2007. The CNSNS implemented stricter inspection and training requirements after the World Association of Nuclear Operators released an audit in 1999. Bernardo Salas Mar (2021 13 ), a physics expert at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, pointed out that there have been risks of a meltdown. Salas was fired from Laguna Verde for reporting irregularities at the plant. He worried that the nearby population is being exposed to excessive radioactivity. Leaders of communities in Veracruz assert that there have been excessive cases of cancer. Greenpeace México opposes the plant together with local organizations ‒ including Grupo Antinuclear de Madres Veracruzanas and La Asamblea Veracruzana de Iniciativas y Defensa Ambiental.

IN THE PACIFIC

The Fukushima Daiichi disaster in Japan has been briefly described in Chapter 2.p. 202

Mururoa: French Nuclear Colonialism in the Pacific 14

We now spend some pages on a very large topic ‒ nuclear arms testing in colonial peripheries which goes together with deprivation of human and political rights, describing the conflicts in Mururoa, in the Marshall Islands and in Kazakhstan under the Soviet regime. In the Pacific Ocean, France and the United States used some colonial possessions as nuclear warfare test stations. This was opposed by powerless local inhabitants and by international environmental organizations such as Greenpeace.

In the 1960s, the Algerian Independence War forced France to move its nuclear tests out of the Sahara Desert. The new location chosen for the tests was French Polynesia (FP), in particular, the Mururoa and Fangataufa atolls in the Tuamotu Archipelago. The first atomic bomb was dropped in 1966. Since then, and for 30 years, the Centre d’Expérimentation du Pacifique (CEP) carried out 193 nuclear tests in the atmosphere and underground (after 1974). The first hydrogen bomb (H-bomb) was detonated in Fangataufa in 1968 and had an explosive power 200 times superior to Hiroshima's A-bomb. The atoll had to be declared off-limits for six years.

The French military was and is very secretive on the impacts of the tests on the Polynesian population. Studies on the impact of radiation fallout on the population are lacking. In the 1970s, Japanese scientists were alerted to the correlation between the nuclear tests and the ciguatera fish poisoning illness. Moreover, New Zealand and Australian monitoring stations detected high levels of radiation fallout.

According to the local population, each time there was a new detonation the military moved them to shelters and their houses had to be decontaminated. The population affirmed they never saw the radiation monitoring inspectors mentioned by the CEP. Moreover, it was alleged there was also plutonium leakage from undetonated bombs, which the military covered with bitumen. During the 1980s, strong cyclones destroyed the plutonium-bitumen layer and the radioactive material ended up in the Ocean.

The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) said little on the impacts of the French nuclear programme in the Pacific. In the 2000s, the Observatoire des Armements published a report which showed that radiation levels in food, drinking water and rainwater in the Mangareva atoll (to the east of Mururoa) were well above the accepted limits. Despite having access to this information, the CEP chose to continue the tests. Moreover, a study from the same period indicated a strong correlation between thyroid cancers and the nuclear tests. It was reported that approximately 9,500 suffered from radiation-induced diseases in the region. The Polynesian Territorial Assembly (local government) tried to form a civilian commission to conduct a thorough survey of the population's health and was constantly blocked by the French Government.

There have been protests since France decided to start the tests in Polynesia. In 1973, there was an anti-nuclear meeting in Tahiti that gathered some French parliamentarians and a few thousand locals. During the early 1970s, there were also protests occurring in Australia and New Zealand because of the monitoring activities mentioned above. Many civil society associations also called for a boycott of French goods. At the same time, the nuclear detonations were criticized at the UN (1975). In the same year, the governments of Australia and New Zealand filed a demand against France in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for polluting their territories. France did not recognize the competence of the ICJ to decide on the matter, and also ignored the court injunction order.p. 203

Protest actions escalated when New Zealand sent a warship to Mururoa with a cabinet minister and members of the press. Some civilians also sailed vessels in international territorial waters nearby Mururoa in the advent of a set of nuclear detonations, which pushed the French military to detain the crews in order to carry on with the operation. In the early 1980s, after the beginning of the underground tests, French technicians working at Mururoa denounced the dumping of radioactive waste material to the French press when the government failed to hear their claims. On 10 July 1985, two agents of the French secret services sank the flagship of the Greenpeace fleet, the Rainbow Warrior, at the Port of Auckland in New Zealand on its way to a protest against a French nuclear test in Mururoa. Fernando Pereira, a photographer, drowned on the sinking ship.

The nuclear activities in French Pacific only ended in 1996 prior to France's ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. Since then, both the Polynesian population and ex-military members have had many difficulties obtaining information and compensation for the radioactivity-induced impacts on their health. In 2010, France passed a Law (Loi Morin) authorizing compensation to people who had developed cancers because of nuclear tests in Algeria and the French Pacific. In eight years (from 2010 to 2017), the Committee for nuclear tests victims’ compensation (Comité d’indemnisation des victimes des essais nucléaires) received 1,245 demands, 811 of which were related to the Pacific programme. From these, only 69 military and 11 local civilians managed to receive compensation. In 2010 Polynesian workers at the test sites formed an association to defend their rights, in particular those with radiation-induced health problems. It's called “Mururoa e tatou” (“Mururoa and Us”, in local creole).

In 2013, some declassified documents showed that plutonium fallout from the tests had affected a much larger area than previously admitted by the French State. The island of Tahiti had been exposed to radiation levels 500 times above the maximum accepted. In 2014, FP's Territorial Assembly demanded $US 930 million in compensation for radioactive pollution and $US 132 million for the occupation of the Fangataufa and Mururoa atolls. Two years later, the French President, François Hollande, recognized the environmental and health impacts. In 2018, a Polynesian politician and ex-president, Oscar Temaru, filed a complaint against the State of France in the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague on behalf of the victims of nuclear colonialism.

US Nuclear Colonialism: Atomic Tests in Bikini and Enewetak Atolls, Marshall Islands 15

In a related case, 60 years after the last nuclear weapons tests in the Marshall Islands, their legacy reverberates in the form of health problems and people living in exile due to the radioactive contamination. In the post-war period, between 1946 and 1958, the US military carried out 67 nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands, a United Nations trust territory under its administration which became independent some years later. The explosive yield dropped in the Enewetak Atoll (44 bombs) and the Bikini Atoll (23 bombs) during the 12-year period is said to be equivalent to the daily detonation of 1.6 Hiroshima bombs.

The first tests occurred in the Bikini Atoll in 1946 and its residents were moved beforehand with the promise of only temporary displacement. Since then, the Bikinians have moved through different islands, often facing malnutrition. They eventually settled on Kili Island. During the 1960s, the US scientific community deemed the Bikini Atoll safe. Some families p. 204returned to Bikini in 1969, but nine years later they had to leave once again due to high radiation levels.

The people of Enewetak also had to leave their home. They also faced precarious conditions, but finally managed to return to Enewetak in 1980. Nonetheless, they live under threat of contamination due to the presence of a nearby nuclear waste facility, contaminating the soil around it with plutonium-239. Rising sea levels and the risk of a typhoon could augment the problem.

Due to wind effects, the fallout of Castle Bravo (1954), the strongest detonated bomb, affected people on Rongelap and Utrik Atolls. People from Rongelap were evacuated some days after when people began to show signs of exposure. They returned in 1957 but fled again in 1985 amidst fear of residual radiation. In the 1990s, declassified documents have shown that the US used Rongelap inhabitants as unconsented medical subjects, deliberately exposing people to radiation in order to study how it moved through the environment, food chain, and the human body.

The consequences of US nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands range from serious health problems to cultural and economic impacts. Project 4.1 was a medical study conducted by the US of those residents of the Marshall Islands exposed to radioactive fallout from Castle Bravo nuclear test at Bikini Atoll. Project 4.1 described several degenerative health effects: lower red blood cell counts and anaemia; immune system disorders; miscarriages, congenital defects, and infertility; higher prevalence of cancer, particularly thyroid and leukaemia. The nuclear tests deprived entire communities of their homelands and contributed to the loss of their cultural heritage. The economic impacts were significant as displacement led to malnutrition, starvation, and debt. Once self-sufficient communities, they became dependent on US food aid programmes.

The US used the condition of Territory Trust of the Marshall Islands to deny legal protection to Marshallese claims for justice. However, the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 opened new channels for the affected communities. In 1973, the Enewetak managed to stop a new battery of military tests and obtained repossession of their lands. In 1975, the Bikinians required a radiation study in their Atoll, conducted three years later. In the early 1980s, they also managed to receive two trust funds from the United States government as compensation.

In 1986, the Marshall Islands signed a Compact of Free Association agreement, thus leaving the condition of Trust Territory to become an independent Republic. The agreement led to the creation of a Nuclear Claims Tribunal to adjudicate claims for compensation for health effects from the tests. Five years later, the Bikini Council filed a lawsuit against the US Government seeking payment. After dismissals in lower courts, the US Supreme Court refused the case in 2010. No liability. In 2012, a special rapporteur from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees visited the Marshall Islands and wrote a report stating the long-lasting and irreversible effects. It urged for fair compensation, but the US government dismissed many of the report's claims. Christopher Loeak – Marshall Islands’ former president – has pleaded with the US to act and solve the nuclear testing legacy. Yet the US government said the responsibility is now on the Marshallese government.

NUCLEAR TESTING IN THE FORMER SOVIET UNION AND THE NEVADA-SEMIPALATINSK MOVEMENT 16

Hanaček's and Martinez-Alier's article of 2021 on nuclear conflicts in Soviet and post-Soviet territories has a table with 14 cases between 1998 and 2020. Nine are related to NPPs. There p. 205are some conflicts on military nuclear tests, and others focused mainly on nuclear waste. The anti-nuclear movement was an important factor in the dismembering of the Soviet Union. Thus, the environmental movement “Zelenyi Svit” (1988) demanded the Ukrainian government to declare a moratorium on any new nuclear reactors in the country (Sak 1993). Two conflicts against NPP are situated in Chornobyl, Ukraine near the border with Belarus, and in Mayak – a plutonium production site for nuclear weapons and nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, today Ozyorsk, Russian Federation. The explosion of a nuclear reprocessing facility in Ozyorsk exposed 177,000 people to high levels of radiation.

Only during the democratization period of the 1980s‒90s did people start to openly protest against officials responsible for the impacts of nuclear tests, accidents, and waste management (Kasperski 2012). For instance, commemorations of the Chornobyl victims were among the first public gatherings, where affected people expressed their concerns and opposition (Kasperski 2019). At the same time, formerly classified information on nuclear radiation harms became known to the public (Bauer et al. 2013).

One of the most successful mass anti-nuclear protest movements – the Nevada-Semipalatinsk Anti-Nuclear movement in Kazakhstan – was active between 1989 and 1991. Anti-nuclear sentiment was influential in the independence of Kazakhstan. The name reveals a transcontinental link with the anti-nuclear and Indigenous movements in Nevada, United States. Kazakhstan is a very large country, with low population density, and an important producer of uranium, oil and gas. The Kazakhstan movement of 1989‒91 achieved not only the closing down of the Semipalatinsk nuclear testing site, but a moratorium of all nuclear testing in the former Soviet Union (Bauer et al. 2013). The movement's largest demonstration with 50,000 participants took place during the 44th anniversary of the nuclear attack on Hiroshima. In 1990 the Kazakhstan parliament passed a bill banning nuclear weapons testing in the whole country. The same year, the Semipalatinsk site was officially closed (Magnarella 2008).

IN CHINA AND INDIA: SOME MORE NUCLEAR ENERGY CONFLICTS

In China: Daya Bay and Taishan in Guangdong 17

South of Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan we find several uranium-related conflicts in the Kyrgiz Republic. From the Soviet era there is a legacy of thousands of tonnes of radioactive waste accumulated in the town of Mailuu-Suu, upstream of the Syr Darya River basin. There are anti-uranium mining protests in Issyk Kul province. Further to the south-east, in Xinjiang not far from Urumqi, we approach the nuclear military testing sites of China, still indulging in military nuclear testing in Lop Nor desert in 1996. Here, China detonated its first nuclear bomb in 1964, followed by 22 atmospheric and 22 underground tests. There are reports of high cancer rates.

Nuclear energy has caused grassroots protests in China. Leaving the military aspect aside to the extent that it is possible, we shall consider a few conflicts far from Xinjiang, in coastal China. In fact, Chapter 6 presented a nuclear conflict that grew into successful protests against the proposed Sino-French nuclear reprocessing plant in Lianyungang, Jiangsu. Another case against nuclear power for electricity is the Daya Bay NPP in Guangdong. Meanwhile, in 2021 another urgent alarm developed at the Taishan NPP also in Guangdong, again owned and built in part by French interests.p. 206

Daya Bay

In 2019 China had a total nuclear power generation capacity of 49.6 GW from 50 reactors, with an additional 17 GW under construction. In 1986 after Chornobyl, there was an Anti-Daya Bay Nuclear Plant Campaign developed under the shadow of political uncertainty over Hong Kong's future. Daya Bay Nuclear Power Station (“DBNPS”), which currently includes Guangdong Nuclear Power Station (“GNPS”) and Lingao Nuclear Power Station (“LNPS”), is located about 50 km north-east of Hong Kong city centre. About 70 per cent of GNPS's electricity output is supplied to Hong Kong. The output of LNPS is entirely supplied to Guangdong Province. According to Hong Kong Nuclear Investment Company (HKNIC) the electricity produced by Daya Bay saves Hong Kong each year million tonnes of pollution from sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particles from fossil fuels.

According to the Administration, GNPS comprises two French-designed pressurized water reactors similar to those at LNPS. Each reactor is protected by three barriers to prevent the release of radioactive material from the core. In addition, there are many other protective systems. The joint venture contract was signed in early 1985 following formal approval from both the Central Government in Beijing and the Hong Kong Government. The negotiation for the Daya Bay nuclear power station project coincided with the political negotiations between China and Britain over the future of Hong Kong, and was seen as a symbol of cooperation between the Chinese and the British Government for the long-term benefit of Hong Kong.

Concerns over the nuclear project were limited to local environmental groups, focusing more on the environmental and radiological impact of a nuclear power station than specific technical and safety issues. As for the general public, the project wasn’t much of an issue… until April 1986. The Anti-Daya Bay Nuclear Plant Campaign overlapped with the nuclear accident at Chornobyl which helped mobilization by changing people's views of nuclear energy.

At the beginning, there was a debate in the local media on the safety of nuclear energy. The debate then quickly turned into a polarized process of politicization between the pro-Daya Bay camp (pro-PRC-Daya, conservative, and business interests) and environmental NGOs, social activists, and environmentally sensitive middle-class liberals. Hong Kong legislators also visited nuclear sites in France, Austria, the United States and Japan in response to mounting disquiet in Hong Kong since the nuclear disaster at Chornobyl.

After their return, Hong Kong's Legislative Councillors wrote a report in which they urged the Chinese authorities to take more stringent safety measures at Daya Bay. The report made it clear, however, that it was the Chinese government, not the Hong Kong government, which would take the final decision over construction at Daya Bay.

The Chinese nuclear industry minister said that the Daya Bay site was chosen after careful geological study. For more than 1,000 years, the area has had no earthquakes more than 7 on the Richter scale. The Daya plant will be able to withstand quakes of 8 or more, he said. Such assurances failed to quieten the Hong Kong opposition. Political groups, legislators and newspaper publishers questioned whether Hong Kong residents could be evacuated fast enough in case of a disaster. The NPP became, as elsewhere, a geopolitical issue.

Under the leadership of a Joint Conference for Shelving the Daya Bay Nuclear Plant formed by 107 local pressure and community groups in the late 1970s, the Anti-Daya Bay movement had obtained more than one million signatures. However, the Chinese minister of nuclear industry rejected the petition. A feature of the movement was that the core leaders in the Joint Conference were not strongly associated with established NGOs. Both CA (The Conservation p. 207Association) and the FoE (Friends of Earth) were members of the Joint Conference, and the latter's spokesman, Reverend Fund Chi-wood, was a member of CA. However, the Anti-Daya Bay movement was steered by other veteran pressure groups, such as the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union, the Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee, the Hong Kong Social Workers’ General Union, the Hong Kong Federation of Students, and elected officials and community organizations. After the campaign, the leaders of the anti-nuclear campaign turned to other social issues on the political agenda and, in the late 1980s, to political liberalization. The Anti-Daya Bay campaign died down. In 2010, it was reported that there were leaked traces of radioactive iodine into the surrounding cooling fluid, but no radiation escaped the building. After Fukushima in 2011, there were anti-nuclear marches around the world, including a march in Hong Kong as well. A representative, on behalf of the alliance Anti-Nuke, posted two letters to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan respectively, asking them to support the abolition of nuclear power and a nuclear-free zone in Asia.

Taishan, one new EPR reactor

The Taishan NPP is a nuclear power plant in Guangdong province. The plant features two operational EPR reactors. The first unit, Taishan 1, entered commercial service in December 2018. The second unit, Taishan 2, entered commercial service in September 2019. On 23 July 2021, France Press announced that “France's EDF Would Have Shut Taishan 1 Down” as Co-Owner of the Faulty Nuclear Plant, while Chinese authorities have said that damaged fuel rods led to increased radioactivity at one of Taishan's two reactors, but that it remains within safety limits, and have allowed it to keep operating. The following section on Jaitapur, India, gives further details on the parallels with other French EPR reactors under construction or planned.

In India, NPPs in Jaitapur and Haripur 18

The state in India is so committed to nuclear energy for the future (as China also is) that it deserves a large space in this chapter, adding cases to the ones in the previous chapter. We start in Ratnagiri, in Maharashtra. The French connection is obvious. An overambitious project was planned in 2005 with six units of 1,650 MWe each at a cost of US$ 55 billion. The distance between each adjacent reactor unit was planned to be 250‒300 metres. They would be so-called European Pressurized Reactors (EPR) from Areva, that would be placed in the district of Ratnagiri, Jaitapur. Bringing Jaitapur and the Chinese Taishan's incident of 2021 together, a report in The Leaflet by Sonali Huria written for the Indian public, stated:

The Indian media has remained singularly obsessed with China's failings. The trigger for these debates was a CNN report regarding a potential “radiation leak” at the Taishan plant following warnings of a “performance issue” and the possibility of an “imminent radiological threat” from Framatome, the French firm that designed Taishan's EPR (…). Chinese foreign ministry was to dismiss such reports […]Taishan's two-unit nuclear power plant is a joint venture between China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group, EDF and Chinese utility Guangdong Energy Group. At present, Taishan is the only site where EPR design reactors are in operation, even as similar EPR projects like Jaitapur in India, Hinkley Point C in the UK, Flamanville in France continue to experience long delays and massive cost escalations […] The continuing troubles for the French nuclear industry concerns India, which is in the final stages of negotiations with EDF to host a massive nuclear power park in Jaitapur along Maharashtra's ecologically diverse and fragile Ratnagiri coast, despite Gram p. 208sabhas in Jaitapur have routinely passed unanimous resolutions opposing the nuclear project […]. Farmers from the villages of Madban, Niveli, Karel, Mithgavane and Varliwada in Ratnagiri district have already been evicted. The lack of transparency and the bulldozing of peaceful dissent have also meant the routine promulgation of Section 144 of the CrPC.

On 4 December 2010, protests had become violent when over 1,500 people were detained from among thousands of protesters, who included environmentalists and local villagers. Members of the Konkan Bachao Samiti (KBS) and the Janahit Seva Samiti (organizations opposing the project), were also detained. The protesters raised serious doubts about the objectivity of the EIA Report. Parallel studies by the venerable Bombay Natural History Society showed that the project will cause substantial environmental damage. The former chairperson of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, A. Gopalakrishnan, questioned the wisdom of India entering into a contract with Areva for the EPR. In 2008, it had been estimated that the Jaitapur plant would be fully operational in the next 20 years. Areva, who was to provide the technology for the reactors, went bankrupt and was taken over by EDF. The project was also delayed by farmers’ protests as they were opposed to the acquisition of their land.

In Haripur, West Bengal, the story was similar although the partner was not France but Russia. During his visit to Russia in December 2009, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed an agreement with the government for collaboration on setting up five nuclear plants in India. The project was given environmental clearance by the Centre Government and land in Haripur was allotted to Russian company Rosatom for developing a nuclear park. Local farmers and fishermen, supported by a number of NGOs, launched strong resistance against the proposed Haripur nuclear power plant and forced the state government to reject the union government's proposal. Haripur was expected to have six nuclear reactors each of 1,650 MW ‒ a total installed capacity of 10,000 MW of electricity. It would be located in the coastal area of Contai, East Midnapur district, roughly 170 km away from Kolkata.

COMPLAINTS ON URANIUM MINING IN NAMIBIA, NIGER AND BULGARIA: ACTIVISTS MOBILIZING SCIENTISTS

Before the Fukushima accident in 2011 it seemed that the world nuclear power industry would grow and with it the demand for uranium. Through EJOLT project, 2011‒15 we got new contacts with CRIIRAD in France (Commission for Independent Research and Information about Radiation, a small EJO founded in France by nuclear scientists in the aftermath of the Chornobyl accident of 1986), and with activists in Namibia and Bulgaria. Marta Conde (then a PhD student at ICTA UAB) was in charge of this part of EJOLT. One of her articles was titled “Activists mobilising scientists”. I use this concept again in Chapter 28. She drew on events in Niger and Namibia in which she herself had been involved helping local activists to secure technical advice from Bruno Chayeron, an expert on nuclear energy and head of CRIIRAD. A group in Malawi was also involved. The uranium mining cases in the EJAtlas often have a strong anti-colonial flavour. They also tend to belong to the category of “post-normal science”, where there is urgency in taking a decision, lack of local knowledge, and where values such as economic gain compared to human health are in dispute and not commensurate (Funtowicz and Ravetz 1993).p. 209

Namibia 19

In Namibia, near Arandis, the Rössing uranium mine belonged to Rio Tinto (about 70 per cent) and to the government of Iran (15 per cent). In the apartheid era there were allegations of health damage to workers at Rössing with an attempt to claim damages in a court case in London. By the early 1980s, the UK was importing nearly half its uranium requirements from Rössing alone. The deal led to an international Campaign Against the Namibian Uranium Contract (CANUC), which brought together the Namibian independence movement, the anti-apartheid movement, and “Partizans” (People Against Rio Tinto Zinc), a London‑based grassroots organization. The mine employed about 500 people, the fifth largest open-pit uranium mine in the world. There were plans around 2007 to invest another US$112 million, to increase uranium oxide production to the mine's full planned capacity of 4,000 tonnes, which was achieved. EARTHLIFE Namibia and CRIIRAD organized radioactivity measurements in areas located in the vicinity of uranium mines in Namibia, especially Rössing. The dose rate measured in 2011 by CRIIRAD in the parking lot of Rössing mine was about six times above natural background value. The radioactive rocks are washed down by rainwater and contaminated the sediments of the Khan River with values ten times above those collected upstream. The small local organization EARTHLIFE used such data in their campaigns, but Rio Tinto, as usual, managed to escape its socio-environmental liabilities. The health damage to uranium miners has not even been acknowledged.

Niger, in Tuareg Territory 20

In Niger, the French nuclear giant Areva started mining activities in the Agadez Region in 1968, with the creation of the holding company SOMAIR and the open-pit mine of Arlit. In 1974 a second holding company, COMINAK, was created together with the underground mine of Akouta, also built by Areva, close to the town of Akokan. Local organization Aghirinman together with other EJOs contacted CRIIRAD, Sherpa and Greenpeace to evaluate the health and environmental conditions of the area. They found alarming levels of radioactivity in water, soil and air samples. The aquifers are contaminated and have been drained, making the traditional way of life of Tuareg people impossible. People living in the area are exposed to radioactivity and death rates linked to respiratory problems Peaceful demonstrations and strikes were organized by local CSOs and miners asking for better working conditions and a more equitable share of profits. A Tuareg rebellion continued on and off for many years despite negotiations.

In Agadez, the French nuclear energy company Areva also developed a mine in Imouraren, in 2014‒15, expected to last 35 years. In April 2012, 800 workers at Imouraren staged a strike over work conditions and in July 2012, 1,200 workers at the COMINAK mine undertook a 72-hour strike to demand higher wages. During the intervention in Mali in December 2012, French forces were sent to protect the new mine. In 2007, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), through its local subsidiary Sino-Uranium, invested US$ 334.7 million to be able to exploit Niger's uranium deposits. Like mining companies from Canada, Korea, and other countries, China received one of the contracts offered to bidders by the Niger government in 2007, breaking the 40-year monopoly held by the French company Areva. The Société des Mines d’Azelik SA (SOMINA) began production in 2010 in the area of Azelik/Teguidda, about 150 km away from Arlit and Agadez.p. 210

The soils of Teguidda n’Tessoumt, heavy in salt content, were used for salt production for centuries. Ingall, a town to the south, is the destination for hundreds of thousands of livestock every year during the annual transhumance to replenish livestock salt needs. These age-old practices shifted in 2009, when the government leased the community's land to Sino-U for uranium exploration. Salt traders have launched community campaigns throwing stones at mining machinery. The movement seeks compensation for the loss of salt activities due to mining. Local officials in Ingall attempted to find a solution for these losses. “They say they have direct communication with the central government”, adds Mohamed Mamane Illo, Tuareg rebel and elected councillor of Ingall (Armstrong 2010).

In March 2013, a 72-hour strike was carried out by over 680 mining workers demanding better wages and bonus payments (Green 2013). Niger workers are provided with dorms separated from Chinese workers, but these dorms are located near to open-pit uranium mines, prompting disease (Armstrong 2010, in The Christian Science Monitor).

In February 2014 the mayor and nomadic pastoralists of Ingall reported that many hundreds of livestock died mysteriously after drinking from reservoirs near the Azalik mine.

Buhovo in Bulgaria 21

Another trip with Bruno Chayeron took us in June 2011 to Buhovo, one of the first uranium mines in Bulgaria, and this is a summary of what we wrote in the EJOLT Blog (Meynen 2011). Our partner in Bulgaria was the organization Za Zemiata which is a member of the confederation Friends of the Earth International. In 1938, uranium from the Buhovo mine was sold to the German army for ‘unknown’ purposes. Some years later, uranium was exported from here to allegedly produce the first Soviet atom bombs, according to Todor Dimitrov, a former mayor of the town. After the political change in post-Soviet times, in 1992, the uranium mining and milling industry in Bulgaria was closed down by Decree No. 163 of the Council of Ministers.

In Buhovo, the local agricultural land was polluted. In the 1980s, the government forbade the population from growing plants for animal and human feeding. Despite the rehabilitation programme water and soil are still contaminated. Radioactive and toxic dust from the tailings is blown even over Sofia city, 20 km away. The area is also polluted additionally from the steel plant and waste reprocessing. The condition of the previous mining sites was of lack of vigilance, there was easy public accessibility. Potential hazards arise from the re-use of materials from uranium mining sites.

GASTRE, PATAGONIA, ARGENTINA: ATTEMPTED DISPOSAL OF NUCLEAR WASTE IN A FARAWAY FRONTIER 22

This conflict takes us to the other end of the nuclear energy chain (from uranium mining to nuclear waste disposal). In 1996 the people of Chubut stopped the project for a large nuclear waste cemetery, which was supposed to store nuclear waste from Argentina and France. In 1989, according to Greenpeace, Henry Troude representing Pechiney Ugine Kuhlmann S.A. offered the Argentine government to finance the nuclear repository and transport system between the city of Puerto Madryn and the town of Gastre. The deposit would get US$ 30 billion in ten years, and the Argentine government would receive some US$ 13.5 billion.p. 211

Javier Rodriguez Pardo (OLCA)
Figure 10.3

Javier Rodriguez Pardo

Source:  OLCA

Argentina has some operating nuclear power plants. In 1976 a plan during the dictatorship established that, by the end of the century, six nuclear power plants would operate in the country and all stages of the nuclear cycle would be controlled. The military link was obvious. For the people of Gastre, the nightmare began in 1986, after the dictatorship, when the Comisión Nacional de Energía Atómica (CNEA) publicly announced that the place chosen to deposit the waste would be their town, with the echoes of the Chornobyl disaster.

“The public's mobilization and complaints were key to stopping the project”, said Juan Carlos Villalonga, Greenpeace-Argentina. A major march in June 1996 put an end to the CNEA project, which was to be the world's first High Activity Radioactive Waste Repository. La gesta de Gastre, “the exploit of Gastre” as it is known today, counted with the participation of thousands of people from all over the region and from all social strata This triumph is seen in Argentina as an antecedent to other environmental mobilizations in the country such as Esquel, Famatina and Gualeguaychú. In Chubut, people began to organize in October 1986; they gathered 8,000 signatures and handed them over to the then President Raúl Alfonsín but in 1996 the Energy Commission of Deputies of the national congress approved the construction of the atomic waste repository.

On 17 June 1996, a march of two thousand people opposed the project. The crowd marched through the snow. Every year it is reminded that there is no such repository working anywhere in the world with local agreement. The nuclear industry has no answer to the lethal radioactive waste generated by atomic reactors, as shown by the failure of Yucca Mountain, Nevada.

The struggle of Gastre made it possible to introduce into the Provincial and National Constitution the express prohibition of the entry into national territory of radioactive waste. In 2014, Silvana Buján, head of environmental organization BIOS, remarked that Italy had closed down NPPs, Germany had decided to give up nuclear power, and Japan was now dealing with the Fukushima aftermath. Many town halls in Argentina and some provinces have norms against nuclear power. This movement had its origin in Gastre.

An annual march commemorates Javier Rodríguez Pardo (deceased in 2015), who fought against the nuclear dump. Born in Spain, he arrived in Argentina in his youth and settled in Trelew (Chubut) around 1980. In the mid-1980s the announcement of the construction of the radioactive repository led him to a new militancy and to start the Anti-Nuclear Movement of Chubut (MACH). Later on, together with other organizations of a nascent environmental movement in Argentina, he co-founded the National Network of Ecological Action (Red Nacional de Acción Ecologista ‒ RENACE). The gesta de Gastre marked a victory for Argentine environmentalism (Figure 10.3).

CONCLUSION: A MOST IMPORTANT BRANCH OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT WORLDWIDE

I ended Chapter 9 near Chennai in India where the construction of a breeder reactor is taking place in Kalpakkam. Nuclear energy since its discovery around 1900 was seen as a solution to energy scarcity (from coal, and later from oil and gas) and also as a formidable military resource. There were promises in the 1950s of nuclear energy in the form of “atoms for peace” being “too cheap to meter” but the real causes of its growth have not been its cheap price but the perception of imminent energy scarcity plus the military links. Many years later these are still two main reasons why nuclear energy is being used. Sometimes, the “eco modernists” p. 212present nuclear energy as a solution against climate change caused by fossil fuels. Indeed, this promise of abundance was voiced from the early twentieth century both in the West and in Russia, where the great ecologist V.I. Vernadsky (1865‒1945) promoted nuclear energy before and under Stalin. The problem of nuclear waste looms larger and larger, accidents occur from time to time, and it cannot be excluded that the twenty-first century will witness if not a global nuclear war, at least some awful regional wars.

This will hopefully not happen in Latin America because Brazil and Argentina have no nuclear arms, but it might happen in West Asia, and also between Pakistan and India. I still remember Bertrand Russell and Canon Collins in London in the 1950s in the sitting-down street demonstrations of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), They emphasized the perils of nuclear war, but they said very little against the use of nuclear energy for electricity production. Both issues went together.

Leaving nuclear war aside despite threats from Russia's war on Ukraine in 2022, this chapter has dealt with some nuclear energy conflicts around the globe, a “sample within the EJAtlas sample”. In the global environmental justice movement, the general rule is that the resistance and information come from local EJOs. In this chapter, I profit however from the documentation from World Information Service on Energy (WISE) which was born from the global movement against nuclear energy. The Japanese network Hibakusha and the Bellona organization (based in Oslo) for the post-Soviet territories must also be mentioned here. The anti-nuclear energy movement operates at the local, national, and international level. It has common symbols.

The opposition to nuclear power has formed since the 1970s one of the most important branches of the environmental movement worldwide. The anti-nuclear movements have been p. 213often linked to peace and politically democratic movements. Speaking at a rally against the nuclear plant in Brokdorf, Germany, in February of 1977, Robert Jungk coined the term “The Nuclear State” which later gave title to an influential book. While the biodiversity conservation movement (of the IUCN, WWF) is more powerful in terms of social influence and certainly in terms of finance, the anti-nuclear movement has always been grassroots, sometimes with help from dissident scientists.

Until Three Mile Island in 1979 the anti-nuclear energy movement was despised by the mass media and by mainstream politicians, and it was not supported by the conservation environmentalists, with famous disagreements inside the Sierra Club in the United States. Back in the 1970s, the Sierra Club had a pro-nuclear power stance with an ad campaign called “Atoms, Not Dams”. Later they changed. Support for nuclear power is still shown sometimes by environmentalists worried about climate change, such as James Lovelock. But after Three Mile Island in 1979, Chornobyl in 1986 and Fukushima in 2011, among the environmentalists as a whole there is no support for nuclear power. To be in favour of nuclear power means to place yourself among the rabid anti-environmentalists. Nuclear power goes together with strong state power and often with nuclear arms. This is shown again in Chapter 24 in the US conflicts on uranium mining in Navajo territory, plutonium in Hanford and the Yucca mountain nuclear waste storage.

One main debate in the rich countries is now often on whether old NPPs should be closed very soon or whether (because of an economic accounting that does not include liabilities) their “life” should be prolonged to 50 or even 60 years. There is also a debate on new “safe” NPPs around the world. The pro-nuclear energy team is down but not out. The displacement of nuclear power has been done by the display of reasonable arguments and by the shocking accidents, by the local opposition movements and the sacrifice of Vital Michalon, Gladys del Estal, Karen Silkwood, Fernando Pereira and other men and women. If I were asked whether the campaign against Diablo Canyon in California or Fessenheim in France was a success in environmental justice, I would reply “no” or “not sure” because it took a very long time to close them down, while to the same question on Wyhl, Kalkar, Valdecaballeros, Plogoff, Haripur or Gastre, I would reply, “yes, certainly”. The world's environmental movements need some successes in all their branches.

Notes

1

Building and dismantling Ignalina nuclear power plant Lithuania (Joan Martinez-Alier), EJAtlas.

Nuclear power plant at Astravyets, Belarus, EJAtlas.

2

Fessenheim nuclear power station stopped, France, EJAtlas.

Ageing Bugey NPP threatens Geneva from France, EJAtlas.

3

Nuclear power station in Tihange, Belgium (Nick Meynen), EJAtlas.

4

Plogoff nuclear power plant, Brittany, France (Joan Martinez-Alier.), EJAtlas.

Le Garrec, N. & F. (1980). Plogoff. Des pierres contre des fusils, Bretagne Films.

5

WISE (1998). Bretons against Plogoff nuclear power plant, Nuclear Monitor Issue: #499‒500, 16 October.

6

Creys-Malville, fast breeder reactor stopped, France (Joan Martinez-Alier), EJAtlas.

7

Kalkar's sodium-cooled fast breeder reactor prototype, a bad joke, Germany (Joan Martinez-Alier), EJAtlas.

Siegert, A. (1997). Europe building fast breeder reactor, The Chicago Tribune, 1 August.

WISE, Then and Now. Nuclear Monitor Issue: #499‒500.

8

Wyhl anti-nuke movement in Kaiserstuhl, Germany (Joan Martinez-Alier), EJAtlas.p. 214

9

Diablo Canyon stopped forever, California, United States, EJAtlas.

Conca, J. (2016). Closing Diablo Canyon nuclear plant will cost money and raise carbon emissions, Forbes, 15 July.

Nikolewski, R. (2016). It’ll take time – and $3.8 billion – to shut down the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, Los Angeles Times, 22 June.

10

Rancho Seco nuclear power station, closed down by referendum in 1989, California, US, EJAtlas.

11

Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania, US (Joan Martinez-Alier), EJAtlas.

12

Laguna Verde, Mexico, EJAtlas.

Navarro, C. (2001). Mexican Government, Congress support nuclear power to varying degrees; detractors want Laguna Verde power plant closed, Digital Repository.

13

Salas Mar, B. (2021). Laguna Verde puede ser como Chernobyl, La Opinion, 8 November.

14

Nuclear colonialism and French nuclear tests, Polynesia (Grettel Navas), EJAtlas.

15

“Nuclear Colonialism” (US atomic bomb tests in Bikini and Enewetak Atolls), Marshall Islands (Grettel Navas), EJAtlas.

16

Nevada-Semipalatinsk anti-nuclear movement, Kazakhstan (Ksenija Hanaček), EJAtlas.

17

Daya Bay nuclear power plant, Guangdong, China, EJAtlas.

18

Haripur nuclear power plant, India (Swapan Kumar Patra), EJAtlas.

Huria, S. (2021). Why “Radiological Threat” at Taishan N-plant in China should concern India, The Leaflet, 28 June.

Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant, Maharashtra, India (Sohan Prasad Sha & Swapan Kumar Patra), EJAtlas.

19

Rio Tinto's Rössing Uranium Mine, Namibia (Julie Snorek), EJAtlas. See also Chapter 28.

20

Areva Uranium Mines in Agadez, Niger (Valentina Bassanese), EJAtlas.

Areva Uranium mining in Imouraren, Niger (Zahra Moloo), EJAtlas.

Green, J. (2013). Uranium mining in Niger. WISE, 1 August.

Armstrong, H. (2010). China mining company causes unrest in Niger, The Christian Science Monitor, 29 March.

21

Life after the uranium mines in Buhovo, Bulgaria (Todor Slavov), EJAtlas.

Meynen, N. (2011). EJOLT field trip to Bulgaria mine, EJOLT Blog, 7 September.

22

Nuclear waste storage in Gastre, Chubut, Argentina (Joan Martinez-Alier), EJAtlas.

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