Sunday, January 11, 2009

Day 205: The open sea alternative

waste comes ashore, image from Foreign Policy's The Global Village's Septic Tank

Yesterday I wrote about WIPP, the high-security site in New Mexico used to store our nation's nuclear waste. This is supposedly a highly stable and safe, located deep within the depths of the earth, location to store toxic radioactive waste.

Earlier this week I was passed a link to a story about the Somalian pirates that I had been hearing so much about lately. I took the time to check it out and it turns out there is WAY more to the story than we have been told, not the least of which being, Somalian shores have pretty much been open sea dumping grounds for European nuclear waste for the last decade. It seems this might create just the kind of environment that would make one consider becoming pirate in the first place... So, today's image stands in stark contrast to yesterday's. The image above illustrates the exact opposite way that nuclear waste should be handled. A final twist in the story is that several hundred people died of radiation poisoning during the 2004 tsunami, directly as a result of these abandoned barrels leaking into the ocean and their toxins washing ashore.

Johann Hari wrote the January 4th article titled, You are Being Lied To About Pirates, in the Huffington Post. Here's an excerpt:
"The words of one pirate from that lost age - a young British man called William Scott - should echo into this new age of piracy. Just before he was hanged in Charleston, South Carolina, he said: "What I did was to keep me from perishing. I was forced to go a-pirating to live." In 1991, the government of Somalia - in the Horn of Africa - collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since - and many of the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country's food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.

Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died. Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy to Somalia, tells me: "Somebody is dumping nuclear material here. There is also lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury - you name it." Much of it can be traced back to European hospitals and factories, who seem to be passing it on to the Italian mafia to "dispose" of cheaply. When I asked Ould-Abdallah what European governments were doing about it, he said with a sigh: "Nothing. There has been no clean-up, no compensation, and no prevention."

Read about the UN report on the waste and the effects during the 2005 tsunami here.

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