BASE Community Board meets in Aiken
On Friday, May 6th, the Community Board of PDF's Building Action for Sustainable Environments came together for its annual three-day meeting, this time hosted by the Imani Group in Aiken, SC.
BASE is a network of organizations from around the country who all live near some chain of the nuclear cycle - from uranium mines, research, production and storage sites and nuclear waste facilities. Representatives from each member organization, along with youth from several of those regions and representatives from PDF, make up the Community Board.
As always, we had a busy and productive three days. Our Community Board meetings are always hosted by one of our community members, and this time we were graciously hosted by the Imani Group and its youth component, the Sharp Sisters. The Imani Group works on environmental and economic justice issues as it relates to the nearby Savannah River Site - a nuclear complex spanning over 300 square miles.
Because of the work of the Imani Group and its relationship to officials at the site, the BASE Community Board was allowed in for a tour of some of its facilities. While we were not able to take any photographs due to security issues, we were able to see the second largest nuclear waste facility in the country, the site where the majority of the country's plutonium was created, and the site of the still-under-construction Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility.
"I could smell the waste as soon as we approached the site," said Melton Martinez, director of BASE member Eastern Navajo Uranium Workers. Melton lives on the Navajo reservation surrounded by hundreds of old uranium mines that were never cleaned up, and knows the odor. "There is uranium all over my community, so I know that smell well." The sentiment was reiterated by Miguel Moreno, a youth organizer with Product of Aztlan, which works with the community living near Los Alamos National Laboratory, one of the largest nuclear research facilities in the country.
It was easy to be blown away by the science and technology at the site, as well as by our PR friendly tour guide. But our host, Rev. Jenkins from the Imani Group, reminded us, "The science of it all is incredible, and many of the members from our community are employed by the Savannah River Site - one of the only good paying jobs in this area. But we have to remember that we are opposed to nuclear technology."
In addition to the constant threat of nuclear disasters caused by natural disasters - like the one we just witnessed in Japan - we still have no long term plans for storing the hundreds and thousands of tons of radioactive nuclear waste that we create. The storage facility at the Savannah River Site is only a temporary solution. Our guide admitted that he had no idea what they were going to do with the waste, and that their facility is not designed for permanent storage.
After returning from our somber tour, the BASE family got back to work, meeting to discuss our work for the upcoming year, including providing a media training for BASE Youth, attending the UN Conference on Climate Change in Durban, South Africa, continuing to build relationships with federal officials, and ensuring that the voices of communities impacted by the nuclear industry have a voice at the tables where decisions are being made about energy and climate policies that impact them.
As is BASE tradition, we also spent an evening meeting the Aiken community during a dinner hosted by Rev. Jenkins in her home. The BASE members broke bread and had some great conversations with members of the Imani Group and Sharp Sisters, continuing to expand the BASE circle.
We look forward to our next Community Board Meeting in Memphis TN, hosted by BASE member Defense Depot Memphis TN Concerned Citizens Committee.