MISSION: Southwest Research and Information Center is a multi-cultural organization working to promote the health of people and communities, protect natural resources, ensure citizen participation, and secure environmental and social justice now and for future generations
This issue of Voices from the Earth features some of the work of Southwest Research and Information Center (SRIC) and its partners, not only in New Mexico, but also in Russia and Australia. You'll read about things that happen in New Mexico affecting what goes on in other parts of the world, and how what's going on in other places is important to us.
An example of what's going on in the world affecting us is the rise in the global uranium spot prices - the price per pound of uranium used in nuclear power plants - and how it relates to work we do, especially regarding proposed uranium mining in New Mexico (pages 8-9). The press release on page 2 by the Church Rock Chapter on the Navajo Nation decries a ruling by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regarding those proposed Hydro Resources, Inc. (HRI) in situ uranium leach mines. Church Rock Chapter, as well as other Navajo Nation communities, have been supportive of Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining's (ENDAUM) work to prevent new uranium mines on the Navajo Nation. Church Rock Chapter's concerns are about a housing development that has been proposed which is within two miles of the mine site. Nonetheless, the NRC's judge refused to consider the mines' impact on the people in the new housing development (see also the quotations on this page).
We also touch on how some of our work has global implications, such as our environmental education and mining work. SRIC staffers have traveled the world in 2004. Frances Ortega went to Australia as part of her environmental education doctorate degree. She discusses her journey on page 3. And Paul Robinson continued, and expanded on, his work in the Russian Far East (page 4), which resembles how we assist New Mexico communities to advocate for cleaning up wastes from abandoned mines. In 2005, our Russian and U.S. partners intend to expand environmental reclamation efforts in Russia, learning from successes and failures here.
The world's only deep underground nuclear waste dump is in New Mexico, and efforts of many New Mexicans to prevent high-level waste disposal at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) have had an effect on the state's decisions (page 5). Another aspect of the world uranium situation is the uranium enrichment plant proposed for Eunice, New Mexico by Louisiana Energy Services (LES). This is the third time LES has tried to site an enrichment plant: first in Louisiana, then Tennessee, and now here. Community groups mobilized to oppose the siting of a plant in both states, in part because of concerns about "where" the nuclear waste will go, since it's an inevitable part of uranium enrichment. Similar concerns about the LES waste also apply to New Mexico. Another problem lies in the fact that the NRC is the main government agency in charge of licensing (pages 6-7).
Nationally, many community organizations and state officials have had difficulty working with the NRC, just as is occurring with HRI and LES. Traditionally, NRC Commissioners and staff are people who have been involved in the nuclear power industry. Convinced of the safety of nuclear activities, they appear to not listen to community concerns, caring more about what's best for industry.
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". . . [I]t should be noted that the SEP [Springstead Estates Project] is, at best, in a conceptual stage and that it is totally speculative as to which, if any, aquifer would supply the SEP with water should the housing development ever be built."
NRC Judge Thomas Moore
October 22, 2004
"Apparently the Government in Washington doesn't care about the health, safety and well-being of the 4,000 people who will be living in the Springstead community within five to ten years. This ruling is another example of how the NRC consistently ignores our communities' concerns about new uranium mining and why the Navajo Nation must step into this fight to protect our people."
Johnny Livingston, President
Church Rock Chapter
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