Under threat of uranium

Under threat of uranium

This summer will mark 45 years since the organized mobilization due to the social impact generated by the publication of four decrees in the Bank of England (March 17, 1979) declaring temporary reserve areas in favor of the State for the exploration of radioactive minerals with a total area of ​​777,330 hectares. Area 51 corresponds to Olot with 286,470 hectares and Area 52 to Sentilles (Osuna) with 75,600 hectares, in addition to other areas of Calaf and Terrassa. The Garrotxa Reserve was in the middle of a volcanic area (where we continued to extract chalk). The energy companies Chevron and Exxon controlled the exploration consortia.

The environmental action group Garrotxa, part of the Catalan environmental movement, requested an information session at the Olot City Council on August 11th which was crucial for the council to join the Coordinator of Nuclear Stoppage Councils (Camon). We considered the opening of a uranium mine in the area to be another attack on the natural park and future development based on the circular economy and tourism that respects the environment.

During 1979, we organised demonstrations in Barcelona and Vic and had the support of the written press of the time (our group of environmental journalists was represented in most newsrooms).

A report from the Catalan Institute of Studies opposing the exploration of radioactive minerals and delivered to the Diputació de Girona gave credibility to our work. It was signed by, among other scientists, Oriol de Bols of Olot, botanist; Enric Casasas, chemist; Ramón Folch, ecologist; Oriol Riba, geologist; and Manuel Ribas Pera, architect. La Camón also recruited experts such as the biologist Oriol Cabri; the physicist Pere Carbonell and the engineer Josep Puig. His contributions were collected in the book Catalunya sota el perill de l’urani (Version 62, 1981) which we delivered to the Maria Fireda Library. The nuclear physicist Antoni Lloret also participated in some of the work against the reserves.

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In September of that year, Joan Oliver (Perry Quart), who was spending the summer in Taradel, gave us the poem “Democracy and Uranium”, later set to music by the composer Rafael Subirax from Vigata and premiered at the Orfeó Popular Olotí in an event that celebrated the Ecofòrum of la Garrotxa on October 30, 1999.

The anti-uranium committee in Vic, particularly active, planted posters and painted asphalt on the roads of the district. Protests against uranium mining also featured prominently in the left-wing nationalist election campaign in the 1980 regional elections.

In February 1981, Chevron Exploration decided to leave the consortium in Catalonia and Extremadura, where reservations had also been decreed.

During a visit to the Mercat del Ram in Vic, President Jordi Pujol declared: “The people of Osuna no longer need to worry. This will not happen with regard to the uranium mines.” But on June 30, the Catalan Parliament, with a majority of votes in favour of the Convergència i Unió, the Centres and the ERC, gave the green light for the construction of the two Asco reactors. This decision fell on us like a bucket of cold water. The uranium will not be produced in Catalonia, but will come from different exporting countries such as Russia, Niger, Canada, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

In 2017, the cultural organization Òmnium, headed by Jordi Cuixart, organized the recognition of our work and that of other social movements through a traveling exhibition through all the territories dedicated to “common struggles”. The fight against uranium mining played an important role because it ended in victory. The success of that popular mobilization was due to the competence of Camón and the Catalan Anti-Nuclear Committee (Canc), with which the Anti-Uranium Committees were coordinated.

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At a historic moment of energy transition like the one we are experiencing now, this conflict reminds us that we will finally become a nuclear-free country (the Esco and Vandelos reactors are scheduled to close in 2035). However, we are concerned that the PP and Vox want to extend the life of the power plants until 2050 and break the agreement between the electricity employers and the Socialist government. This is also what an association called “Nuclear Economists” made up of members from different countries linked to the nuclear industry is demanding. On March 23 of this year, they held a small march in the Plaza de Sant Jaume with interventions that claimed that fission is the cleanest, cheapest and safest energy source; they said it was “the only alternative to combat climate change”. But they silenced the pollution caused by the entire nuclear fuel cycle and the chemical and radon contamination of the uranium mines where they work in inhumane conditions.

45 years ago, the inaction of the Catalan government forced some scientists to abandon their “neutrality” by supporting our struggle. Today, nostalgic for the past, allied with the positions of the PP and VOX, they want to stop the rise of renewable energy sources; incited by the European Parliament which has declared nuclear energy “green” and “clean” energy!

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