Nuclear-Free Future

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29 September 2012

Gabriele Tsukamoto / MUNN

People fighting against the global nuclear-industrial complex have one thing in common: they know it is a long haul and they will not accept defeat.

Gabriela Tsukamoto and MUNN (Movimento Urânio em Nisa Não) might succeed in saving their community – Nisa in northern Portugal – from the fate of so many uranium deposit areas. For a while it looked as if this dark chapter – uranium had been mined here until 1991 – was closed, even though former workers suffering from cancer were still fighting for compensation. But on the world market the price for uranium is rising, and the mine operators are back in Nisa, whose deposits are estimated to be worth 43 million euros at current prices.

At first, the potential extractors feigned compassion. The uranium in the ground was a health hazard, they said, it should be taken out to protect the people. This kind of hypocrisy had worked before, for instance with the Indian nations in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. When the mining lobby realized that the local people were not to be fooled, they offered jobs and money.

“We are fighting against millions of euros and against millions of tons of tailings.”

But mayor Tsukamoto and MUNN are fighting back. What are seventy jobs for five years compared to several hundred sustainable jobs provided by tourism and the region’s famed agricultural products?

Against the promises of those that are after the yellowcake Gabriela Tsukamoto recalls the bitter experiences of the recent past. She encourages the victims of previous uranium mining – all of them sick – to give public testimony. MUNN has closed ranks with Spanish activists across the border in Extremadura who oppose the renewed intrusion of uranium mining. MUNN publicizes documentation about radioactive dust in mining areas and about contamination of ground and surface waters. “The River Tejo is our lifeline, it must not be poisoned,” the MUNN people say. So far, the local population is united in its will to resist. But mining rights are granted primarily in Lisbon, and Portugal’s financial situation is precarious.

The 3600 inhabitants of Nisa must not be held hostage, says Gabriela Tsukamoto. In public debates with the “clean energy” experts her calm and relentless arguments often win the day. Schools are another arena important to herself and her fellow activists in MUNN.

In Nisa, the struggle for a home without renewed uranium extraction is undecided. “We are fighting against millions of euros and against millions of tons of tailings,” they proclaim. “Above all, we are fighting for a future that is not irradiated.”