Following the radiation trail

October 1, 1997

By Pat Brewer

CANBERRA — A public meeting organised by the Greens on September 23 highlighted the Pilgrimage Project to stop uranium mining and nuclear power.

The meeting of around 80 was chaired by former senator Jo Vallentine. It heard about a range of experiences in attempting to stop the proliferation and build-up of nuclear waste from military and civilian uses of nuclear energy and weaponry.

The pilgrimage started from Western Australia on Hiroshima Day, August 6, and before returning to Perth on September 30 will have travelled via uranium deposits in the Pilbara and the Kimberleys in WA, through Alice Springs and Uluru up to the Gulf of Carpentaria in north Queensland, to Roxby Downs and Adelaide, Sydney and Canberra.

The project follows in the tradition of two previous pilgrimages, the first of which took place in the United States on the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, and the second in 1996 in the United Kingdom on the 10th anniversary of the Chernobyl accident.

Inga Johren from the German anti-nuclear movement spoke of the mass organisation and protest in Germany from the '60s onwards against nuclear power stations, nuclear weapons and the permanent storage of nuclear waste underground. At present storage is designated "temporary", but the definition of temporary has shifted from 30 years to 100 years.

Germany has 19 nuclear power stations, but the strength and persistence of the mass movement have helped raise public awareness about the dangers of nuclear technology and the unsolved problems of nuclear waste remaining dangerous for tens of thousands of years.

Natalia Dicun and Andrei Krychtop, survivors of the Chernobyl disaster, spoke of the experiences of living in the most highly contaminated inhabited region, and the impact this has on the lives and minds of the people there — birth defects, cancer and psychological problems.

The weight of official scientific and government opinion is in favour of the nuclear industry; they noted how difficult it is for the popular movement to get a public hearing of the dangers without instant rebuttal from the "experts".

To build awareness, they have gathered drawings and stories from children in their town, Novozybkov, who can no longer run barefoot, walk in the rain, swim in the rivers, eat wild mushrooms or fruit.

Jo Vallentine also issued a call to support a campaign for a nuclear free future and a declaration of opposition to Australia's involvement in the nuclear fuel cycle, nuclear reactors or uranium mining anywhere, in the interests of present and future generations.

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