Putting Nukes In A Poor Black GA Town: If A Black President Does It, Is It Still Environmental Racism?

ENVIRONMENTAL RACISM by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

In the weeks since President Obama announced $8.3 billion in loan guarantees to build new nuclear reactors next to an existing pair of nukes in mostly black Burke County, GA, the inconvenient questions, unanswered and mostly unasked, continue to pile up.

The first and most obvious questions are why nukes, and why Burke County? 

The answer to "why nukes" is that discussion of the catastrophic risk inherent to nuclear power is pretty much off the table in mainstream media these days. The Obama administration likes to call it "safe nuclear energy," often in the same breath as "clean coal." Both are colossal and equally transparent lies. The 24th anniversary of the horrific nuclear accident atChernobyl, Ukraine on April 24 passed almost unnoticed in the mainstream US media, although video of abrawl over something else in that nation's parliament made most of the networks here. Greenpeace marked the event with the release of a study by more than 50 scientists across the planet who peg the human toll of Chernobyl at a quarter million cancers, 100,000 of them fatal. Like the anniversary of the disaster itself, the Greenpeace story dropped soundlessly down the memory hole. Our amnesia is nearly perfect. I spoke to a class of journalism students at a local university at the beginning of April. Not a one of them ever heard of Chernobyl, or even of Three Mile Island. So why not nukes?

A second set of questions are why put nukes on a river that's already the 4th most toxic waterway in the nation, on a site just across from the contaminated Savannah River nuclear weapons installation? And if leaky civilian and military nukes really are the job-creating answers to poverty, shouldn't Burke County, GA be one of the wealthiest, instead of the poorest places east of the Mississippi 25 years after its first civilian nukes, and six decades after neighboring towns, some of them all black on the South Carolina side of the river, were bulldozed to create the Savannah River nuclear weapons facility?

A third set of questions are whether anybody is listening to the urgent warnings from nuclear expertsthat the site's planned next-generation reactors are even less safe than their leaky older cousins? Like most information unfavorable to utility companies and the nuclear industry, these warnings cannot seem to find their way into the mainstream media.

A fourth set of questions are why there are no laws requiring, and no funds to pay for, testing the air, soil, water, fish, wildlife, or the people of mostly black Burke County, who are experiencing an unexplained epidemic of cancer? The people living closest to the new and existing reactors in Waynesboro, GA depend on ground water wells for drinking and bathing water. Ground water is easily contaminated by tritium, a radioactive substance produced in abundance by civilian reactors and used on the other side of the Savannah River to produce nuclear weapons.


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