Ethics Commission should demand proof of origin of uranium

Indigenous peoples suffer from uranium mining for Germany's nuclear power plants

The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) has appealed to Klaus Töpfer, chair of the Ethics Commission for Nuclear Power Phaseout, to press the German government for disclosure of the origin of uranium used in Germany. The STP asked former Environment Minister Töpfer to demand that energy companies be placed under legally binding obligation to provide documentation of the origin of uranium. This is the only way that the safety of workers in uranium mines workers, and of the people living in the surrounding areas, can be effectively guaranteed when mining uranium for use in German nuclear power plants.

"If the German chancellor is going to establish an Ethics Commission to advise the government on the phaseout of nuclear power, then it is only logical that this commission address the ethical questions surrounding the mining of uranium," asserted the STP. If not for uranium from abroad, German nuclear power plants would have been shut down long ago.

For more than three decades the STP has documented the fact that those most affected by uranium mining are indigenous peoples. Most of the world's uranium mines are located on indigenous peoples' lands, namely those of the Tuareg in Niger, aborigines in Australia, Indians and Inuit in Canada, Indians in the US and Adivasi in India. The lucrative raw materials are ruthlessly mined without informing workers and nearby residents about the dangers of the mining operations, and without providing adequate protection from the catastrophic effects on health.

The energy industry has no interest in disclosing the origin of the uranium, since they want to produce as inexpensively as possible. Protests by the STP at the annual general meeting of the energy conglomerates RWE and eon in the spring of 2011 produced no reaction. The German government, the EURATOM Supply Agency and the International Atomic Energy Commission (IAEA) also conceal the origin of uranium. No credible up-to-date statistical material has been published. Federal Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen was dismissive of the protests of several thousand STP supporters, who ran a postcard campaign to demand more involvement on behalf of the first victims of the uranium cycle. He said he found the idea interesting, but claimed in a written response that he was not the responsible party.

While the German government ducks its responsibility, leukemia, skin cancer and lung cancer are on the rise among the indigenous peoples near uranium mines. "Anyone who thinks they are using cheap atomic energy should acknowledge their responsibility for the victims of the nuclear cycle and do all they can to ensure that basic safety regulations are observed in the uranium mines."