Friday, December 25, 2015

Levels of radiation from Uranium Corporation of India operations are 60 times "safe levels" set in US

Subarnarekha river, "affected" by uranium waste
By Our Representative
As India seeks to go nuclear signing one pact after another with other countries, a US-based non-profit organization, Centre for Public Integrity (CPI), has come down heavily on the state-owned Uranium Corporation of India Ltd’s (UCIL’s) operations in Jadugoda, Jharkhand, for failing to protect “nuclear workers, village residents, and children living near mines and factories” from “persistent exposure to unsafe radiation.”
Situated 250 km west of Kolkata, UCIL, an investigative report by CPI says, is “sitting on a mountain of 174,000 tons of raw uranium”, which “is the sole source of India’s domestically-mined nuclear reactor fuel, a monopoly that has allowed it to be both combative and secretive.”
CPI claims, it has reached the conclusion after “close examination of hundreds of pages of personal testimony and clinical reports”, which suggest “how nuclear installations, fabrication plants and mines have repeatedly breached international safety standards for the past 20 years.”
A report based on its investigation says, “Doctors and health workers, as well as international radiation experts, say that nuclear chiefs have repeatedly suppressed or rebuffed their warnings.”
Quoting local residents, London-based investigative reporter and filmmaker, Adrian Levy, who is the chief investigator of the report, says, “The industry's aim, according to local residents, has been to minimize evidence of cancer clusters, burying statistics that show an alarming spate of deaths.”
"Impact" of contamination
In fact, the report says, case files, include epidemiological and medical surveys, talk of “a high incidence of infertility, birth defects, and congenital illnesses among women living in proximity to the industry’s facilities.” They also detail “levels of radiation that in some places were almost 60 times the safe levels set by organizations like the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.”
Levy underlines, “Poor conditions for those who work or live near nuclear facilities have been largely unchanged for decades. When we drove into Jadugoda, we quickly spotted labourers, barefooted, and without protective clothing, riding trucks laden with uranium ore through villages, their tarpaulins gaping and dust spewing.”
“Ore was scattered everywhere: on the roads, over the fields and into the rivers and drains”, Levy says, adding, “Uranium tailing ponds that dribbled effluent into neighboring fields were readily accessible, and children played nearby as their parents gathered wood. Washed clothes hung from tailings pipes carrying irradiated slurry.”
Pointing out that about 35,000 people, who live in seven villages that lie within two-and-a-half kilometres of the three huge ponds, most of them tribals, are the worst affected because of the radiation, the report says, “During the monsoon season, the ponds regularly overflowed onto adjacent lands, with contaminants reaching streams and groundwater that eventually tainted the Subarnarekha river.”
It adds, “Pipes carrying radioactive slurry also frequently burst, leaching into rivers and across villages, according to photographs taken by residents. Lorries hired by the mines also dumped toxic effluent in local fields when the ponds were full.”
The report regrets, “No government institution acted until last year, when the Jharkhand High Court in Ranchi ordered an inquiry into congenital diseases, mainly among children near the mines, after reviewing local coverage on the issue. But Chief Justice R Banumathi said that ‘given the sensitivities surrounding the corporation, and the role it plays, that investigation is to be internal’.”
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Read the full report HERE

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