Friday, 7 July 2017

World leaders at G20 Hamburg meeting overshadowed by global nuclear weapons ban at United Nations in NewYork

While the G20  club of global leaders meet in Hamburg today, and even more important meeting  will end at the United Nations in New York  after three weeks of painstaking negotiations -  concluding with an earth-shattering global ban on nuclear weapons (“A giant step towards a nuclear free world is in reach – but will it be sabotaged at the last minute?”

Here is the final text of the treaty they have negotiated, under positive pressure for several years of brilliant lobbying from many disarmament NGOs, led by the estimable and indefatigable ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish nuclear Weapons)


I played a small part in this process, attending the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in the Austrian Capital in December 2014, sponsored by the Austrian Foreign Ministry, which produced the following declaration at the end of an extraordinary diplomatic meeting, boycotted by the UK, but attended by the United States.




Pledge  presented at the  Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons  by Austrian Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Linhart

Having hosted and chaired the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons from 8-9 December 2014 and in light of the important facts and findings that have been presented at the international conferences in Oslo, Nayarit and Vienna, Austria, solely in her national capacity, and without binding any other participant, wants to go beyond the summary just read out. After careful consideration of the evidence, Austria has come to the following inescapable conclusions and makes the subsequent pledge to take them forward with interested parties in available fora, including in the context of the NPT and its upcoming 2015 Review Conference:

Mindful of the unacceptable harm that victims of nuclear weapons explosions and nuclear testing have experienced and recognising that the rights and needs of victims have not yet been adequately addressed,

Understanding that the immediate, mid- and long-term consequences of a nuclear weapon explosion are significantly graver than it was understood in the past and will not be constrained by national borders but have regional or even global effects, potentially threatening the survival of humanity,

Recognizing the complexity of and interrelationship between these consequences on health, environment, infrastructure, food security, climate, development, social cohesion and the global economy that are systemic and potentially irreversible,

Aware that the risk of a nuclear weapon explosion is significantly greater than previously assumed and is indeed increasing with increased proliferation, the lowering of the technical threshold for nuclear weapon capability, the ongoing modernisation of nuclear weapon arsenals in nuclear weapon possessing states, and the role that is attributed to nuclear weapons in the nuclear doctrines of possessor states,

Cogniscent of the fact that the risk of nuclear weapons use with their unacceptable consequences can only be avoided when all nuclear weapons have been eliminated,

Emphasizing that the consequences of a nuclear weapon explosion and the risks associated with nuclear weapons concern the security of all humanity and that all states share the responsibility to prevent any use of nuclear weapons,

Emphasizing that the scope of consequences of a nuclear weapon explosion and risks associated raise profound moral and ethical questions that go beyond debates about the legality of nuclear weapons,  


Mindful that no national or international response capacity exists that would adequately respond to the human suffering and humanitarian harm that would result from a nuclear weapon explosion in a populated area, and that such capacity most likely will never exist,

Affirming that it is in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again, under any circumstances,

Reiterating the crucial role that international organisations, relevant UN entities, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, elected representatives, academia and civil society play for advancing the shared objective of a nuclear weapon free world,

Austria regards it as her responsibility and consequently pledges to present the facts-based discussions, findings and compelling evidence of the Vienna Conference, which builds upon the previous conferences in Oslo and Nayarit, to all relevant fora, in particular the NPT Review Conference 2015 and in the UN framework, as they should be at the centre of all deliberations, obligations and commitments with regard to nuclear disarmament,

Austria pledges to follow the imperative of human security for all and to promote the protection of civilians against risks stemming from nuclear weapons,

Austria calls on all states parties to the NPT to renew their commitment to the urgent and full implementation of existing obligations under Article VI, and to this end, to identify and pursue effective measures to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons and Austria pledges to cooperate with all stakeholders to achieve this goal,

Austria calls on all nuclear weapons possessor states to take concrete interim measures to reduce the risk of nuclear weapon detonations, including reducing the operational status of nuclear weapons and moving nuclear weapons away from deployment into storage, diminishing the role of nuclear weapons in military doctrines and rapid reductions of all types of nuclear weapons,

Austria pledges to cooperate with all relevant stakeholders, States, international organisations, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movements, parliamentarians and civil society, in efforts to stigmatise, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons in light of their unacceptable humanitarian consequences and associated risks.

Here is the introduction to my 93,000 word submission.


 Uranium Exploitation and Environmental racism:

Why environmental despoliation and the ignorance of radiological risks of uranium mining cannot be justified by the nuclear weapons states for the procurement of the raw stock material for their nuclear explosives

Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Human Weapons

8-9 December 2014, Hofburg Palace Vienna, Austria

Dr David Lowry, United Kingdom

Environmental policy and research consultant, member, Nuclear Waste Advisory Associates (NWAA), senior research fellow, Institute for Resource and Security Studies, (Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA), former director European Proliferation Information Centre (EIC), former research fellow, Energy and Environment Research Unit, Open University , United Kingdom


I want make this submission following on the presentation by Dr Arjun Makijani of the US-based Institute for Energy and Environmental Research in the US in session 1b, who highlighted the often overlooked environmental degradation, lack of remediation and health hazards posed by uranium mining for the raw materials to make nuclear explosives for the nuclear arsenals of the nuclear weapons states (NWS). I note that this joint human health and environmental concern is the focus of an excellent and disturbing poster exhibition outside the main door to the stage of this Conference Hall.

I also note the conclusions of the interpretation of existing environmental law to military nuclear activities discussed in depth and breadth by the excellent panel in Session IV.

Both this conference and the predecessor Civil Society Conference in Vienna over the weekend have heard the moving testimony of radiation victims from the testing and belligerent us eof nuclear weapons: the Japanese “Hibakusha”, direct victims of nuclear wepons deliberately used upon on their communities, and the US, Marshallese Islanders, Australian indigenous peoples, and Kazakh “Downwinders, who have sufferd from nuclear testing.

But there are hundreds of thousands of radiation victims worldwide from the production of nuclear weapons, even if we remain lucky enough that they are never used by deliberate decision, or detonated by accident.

I raised this matter of concern with the United Kingdom delegation, representing the country of which I am a citizen, in the margins of this conference, to be told the exposure to radiation from uranium procurement was a long time ago. That is true, but the impact of exposure lives on through genetic transfer across generations, as the compensation agreements in the United States ( surprising not mentioned by the US

Ambassador to this conference in either contribution he made from the floor) have demonstrated recognise the responsibility of current political administrations for past administration’ actions.

Therefore, as my own Government has declined to take moral responsibility for the significant deleterious impact of the production process for the procurement of the raw uranium that, in its converted form, now makes up the nuclear explosives in each of the UK ‘s 180 nuclear warheads, I will set out below some examples of the impacts, especially to inform my own Government why they have a duty to wider humanity to take responsibility for the desecration of sacred land and for damaging the heath of exposed indigenous peoples and their successor generations, especially as indigenous people’s land in former colonies were used as the sources of the UK’s uranium used in nuclear warheads.

Governments have accepted the importance of recognizing and mitigating the carbon footprint of the production process of commercially tradable goods; they also need to accept the radiological footprint of past nuclear explosive materials production needs to be mitigated, and act accordingly in a moral fashion.

Nuclear warheads, even if never detonated, have not only an extraordinary financial cost, but even more importantly , an ecological, environmental, and enduring health cost – both radiological and toxicological - to the people whose communities have been exploited for the procurement of the uranium, which in processed and manufactured form, currently sits in the global nuclear arsenals of over 16,000 warheads, to no positive benefit a huge detriments for the human communities from which it was expropriated.

This submission includes as illustration primary materials ( and associated references) covering problems encountered in the major uranium production countries (Australia, United States, Canada, Kazakhstan, & Namibia, and some more minor ones such as the Czech Republic, France and eastern Germany).


In March 2009 , an American Civil Society non governmental organization, Beyond Nuclear, published in its regular information bulletin, Thunderbird, a review and summary of a conference held in Washington DC in February 2009, addressing the issue of the impact on indigenous people of uranium mining, milling and its waste streams. I reproduce the summary immediately below:

Beyond Nuclear Bulletin

March 5, 2009

Standing Room Only as Indigenous Speakers Describe Atomic Genocide

It was standing room only at the huge PowerShift 2009 youth conference on climate change in Washington, DC, February 27, when Beyond Nuclear hosted a panel that included three indigenous activists, a scientist and a prominent actor. The panel - Human Rights, Uranium Mining and Unfolding Genocide - featured actor, James

Cromwell; French nuclear scientist, Bruno Chareyron, Manuel Pino of the Acoma Pueblo; Sidi-Amar Taoua, a Touareg from Niger; and Mitch, an Australian Aboriginal. The panel held a press conference, briefed legislators on Capitol Hill and spoke at PowerShift to more than 500 students.

The activists described how uranium mining has disproportionately targeted indigenous communities across the world and represents a deliberate genocide. Mine workers were poorly protected and informed and suffered from often deadly diseases without proper treatment. Most disused mine sites have never been cleaned up while water supplies remain contaminated. "Poison Wind," a documentary by Jenny Pond, was also shown to a packed room at Busboys and Poets in Washington, DC at an event hosted by Cromwell.

The three days of events represent the beginning of a new Beyond Nuclear campaign to draw attention to the consistent violation of fundamental human rights caused by uranium mining.

The Beyond Nuclear tour of indigenous speakers on human rights and uranium mining received a variety of press coverage, including an article by Agence France Presse that appeared in the Melbourne Age, the Melbourne Sun and the Economic Times (of India) among other publications. View the articles here. In addition, James Cromwell was interviewed live on CleanSkies TV.


The history of neglect

Uranium mining legacies remediation and  renaissance development: an international overview

In an overview paper, Peter Waggitt

Today’s legacy problems arose because due to the lack of legislation in earlier

times. With no obligation to plan for, or undertake remediation and with no funds

having been put aside to carry out the work, remediation did not happen. This last

point is a major issue when legacy remediation programmes are discussed or efforts

are made to plan work. Mining legacy remediation is a very expensive business,

more so when uranium is involved…. few of the countries most affected by the uranium mine

legacy issue have adequate finance or resources and infrastructure in their regulatory

networks to plan, develop and manage such programmes. Neither do many of

the countries most affected have sufficiently well developed environmental protection

laws and resources.

So the diagnosis is one of neglect and lack of resources. The prognosis is not

very good at first glance due to the vast amounts of financial support required at a

time when there are many other priorities for Governments expenditure in many of

the most affected nations. Public health, education and re-building economies are

all activities competing for the money available. But all may not be lost if legacy

remediation can be incorporated with other development plans.

In today’s market this has increased interest in the possibility of re-treating tailings,

and perhaps other residues from legacy sites, to extract uranium. A number

of proposals are being considered by mining companies and governments in former

uranium mining centres around the world. Such plans should only be considered

if they are a component of a comprehensive remediation programme. Any

new processing scheme should be designed to ensure that the end state of the project

will be a remediated site i.e. no new legacy is created.

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