Tag Archives: prior informed consent

The Nuclear Waste Administration Bill of 2013: United States

department of energy nuclear sites map

Today four senior U.S. senators introduced a bipartisan, comprehensive plan for safeguarding and permanently disposing of tens of thousands of tons of dangerous radioactive nuclear waste currently accumulating at sites dispersed across the country.  Senators Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. – the leaders of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development – and Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, collaborated on the proposal, the Nuclear Waste Administration Act of 2013 (S. 1240).  “Stalemate can’t solve our nation’s nuclear waste issues. This bill takes immediate steps to more safely store the most dangerous radioactive waste, and lays out a clear plan for a permanent solution,” Wyden said… “This bipartisan bill—years in the making—will finally begin to address the dangerous, expensive absence of a comprehensive nuclear waste policy,” Feinstein said. “In addition to creating an independent Nuclear Waste Administration to manage nuclear waste, the bill authorizes the construction of interim storage facilities and permanent waste repositories, sited through a consent-based process and funded by fees currently collected from nuclear power ratepayers. The inability of the federal government to collect waste stored across the country at functioning power plants, decommissioned reactors and federal facilities is costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year. It’s time to finally put a policy in place to address this problem.”…Currently there is no central repository for spent nuclear fuel, leaving fuel rods to be stored on-site at dozens of commercial nuclear facilities around the country, including areas that are at risk of earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters. Millions of gallons of high-level radioactive waste from the nation’s nuclear weapons programs are also being stored at Department of Energy sites around the country. The 2011 Fukushima disaster, combined with recent announcements of new radioactive waste leaks at the Hanford Site in Washington State add to the urgency of securing spent fuel and finding permanent repository for the nation’s nuclear waste.

The bill updates an April draft, after the Energy committee received more than 2,500 public comments on the measure. It includes establishment of a new nuclear waste administration and creates a consent-based process for siting nuclear waste facilities. It also enables the federal government to address its commitment to managing commercial nuclear waste, limiting the costly liability the government bears for its failure to dispose of commercial spent fuel. The integrated storage and repository system established by this legislation will expand opportunities for nuclear power to supply low-carbon energy, and will provide long-term protection of public health and safety for both commercial and defense high-level waste.  The Energy and Natural Resources Committee is planning a hearing on the bill in Jul, 2013.. The date and witnesses will be announced when they are confirmed.

Senators Introduce Bipartisan, Comprehensive Nuclear Waste Legislation, http://www.energy.senate.gov,  June 27, 2013

The Bill

One Page Summary

Section by Section Analysis



Neither Free, Nor Informed: consultation of indigenous peoples in Ecuador

Ecuador_bridge over the Pastaza. Image from wikipedia

The Constitution of Ecuador adopted in 2008 establishes a broad range of rights for indigenous peoples and nationalities, including the right to prior consultation, which gives them the opportunity to influence decisions that affect their lives. But this right has yet to be fully translated into legislation, as the bill for a Law on Consultation with Indigenous Communities, Peoples and Nationalities is still being studied by the National Assembly.

Article 57, section 7 of the constitution guarantees “free, prior and informed consultation, within a reasonable period of time, on plans and programmes for exploration, exploitation and sale of non-renewable resources located on their lands which could have environmental or cultural impacts on them.” The constitution also stipulates the right of indigenous peoples “to share in the profits earned from these projects and to receive compensation for social, cultural and environmental damages caused to them. The consultation that must be conducted by the competent authorities shall be mandatory and timely.”  “If the consent of the consulted community is not obtained, steps provided for by the Constitution and the law shall be taken,” it adds.  Legal grounds for consultation are also established in Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization (ILO), which Ecuador ratified in 1998, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted in 2007.

Nevertheless, recent mining and oil drilling projects have put the government’s commitment to respecting the right to consultation to the test, and spurred indigenous organisations to take action.  On Nov. 28, 2012, hundreds of indigenous representatives converged in Quito to protest the lack of consultation prior to the 11th oil auction round, in which exploration blocks containing an estimated total of 1.6 billion barrels of crude oil would be put up for bids from private companies. At the time, Domingo Peas, a leader of the Achuar indigenous ethnic group, declared that “the government says it has carried out prior consultation, but this is not true.”  “The consultations carried out among the peoples and nationalities in the areas of influence are invalid, because there was no participation by indigenous peoples and nationalities in determining the way they were conducted, they did not respect their traditional methods of decision-making, and cultural aspects, such as language, were not adequately taken into account,” he stressed.  Overall, said Peas, the consultations “were neither prior, nor free, nor informed, and were conducted in bad faith.”

The president of the influential Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), Humberto Cholango, believes that the authorities have not done enough. “Prior consultation is still pending, we have still not seen the results we would like to see. We need the law to be approved; that would be a major advance,” he told Tierramérica*.

The draft law, comprising 29 articles, refers to consultation on legislative measures and establishes four stages: preparation; a public call for participation and registration; the actual holding of the consultation; and analysis of the results and conclusion.  In accordance with the law, the government will determine if a proposed bill affects the rights of certain communities, in which case the National Assembly will convene a prior consultation that will be conducted through the National Electoral Council…

One year ago, President Rafael Correa stated in one of his regular Saturday broadcasts that non-governmental organisations “want prior consultations to be popular consultations and to be binding; that means that for every step we want to take, we will need to ask the community for permission.”  “This is extremely serious. This is not what the international agreements say. This would not mean acting in the interests of the majorities, but rather in the interest of unanimity. It would be impossible to govern that way,” he declared.  In response to these statements, indigenous organisations sought reinforcement, calling on agencies such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the ILO to supervise the implementation of prior consultation.

In fact, indigenous communities in Ecuador have already turned to some of these mechanisms in the past. In 2003, the Quechua community of Sarayaku filed a complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights against the state for authorising oil exploration in their territory, without prior consultation.  The community, located in the province of Pastaza, in Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest region, denounced damages to their territory, culture and economy. In June 2012, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled in favour of the community and against the state. The government is still studying how to pay the required compensation – a total of 1,398,000 dollars for material and moral damages and legal costs – and how to finish repairing the physical damage caused

By Ángela Meléndez, Ecuador’s Indigenous People Still Waiting to Be Consulted, Inter Press Service, May 2, 2012

Who Owns Your DNA? the boundaries between bioprospecting and biopiracy

The Q’eros People of Peru claim that they were not consulted by the United States-based Genographic Project and they have not provided informed consent for their blood samples to be collected….Here is their an excerpt for their position

“The Genographic Project is a large scale genetic study that seeks to collect DNA samples of hundreds of thousands of people from around the world, particularly indigenous people. By sequencing and comparing the DNA samples, the Project purports to be able to map human migration over history, one of many purposes to which the DNA samples may be put to use.

The computing giant IMB is the principle corporate sponsor of the Project. Key Project scientists are employed by the US National Geographic Society. Members of the Project’s “Genographic Consortium” also include researchers at 14 other universities, institutes and a DNA sequencing company. The Project planned to end DNA collections in 2010, but it still collecting indigenous peoples’ DNA for reasons that have yet to be publicly explained.

The Genographic Project was constructed and is steered by architects of the Human Genome Diversity Project (HGDP) and their protégés. It is an uncomfortable heritage. In the 1990s, the HGDP’s plan to collect blood from indigenous people proved so controversial that it earned the popular name ‘The Vampire Project.’

In 1997, the HGDP was effectively terminated when its efforts to obtain US government funding were rejected due to ethical shortcomings.4 The Genographic Project claims to have solved some of the HGDP’s problems; but its own transparency is lacking. Because it is privately funded, there are few requirements for public disclosure of its activities, and oversight by government and civil society organizations is highly curtailed.


In early April, Asociación ANDES received word that seven researchers from the Genographic Project will arrive in Peru in the first week of May to collect human DNA samples from the Q’eros people. This information is not widely known in the Cusco Region because the US-based Genographic Project did not approach local or regional authorities about their plan, rather, the Project hired a local tour guide and sent a cursory one page notification of their upcoming visit to people in a Q’ero town.

The Q’eros are an isolated indigenous group who live in a rural province of the Cusco Region. They are renowned for their shamanic knowledge and self-proclaimed identity as ‘The Last Incas.’… The Q’eros were not consulted beforehand about the DNA collection which, they have been informed, will take place following a presentation on May 7th (2011).”

For more Genographic Project Hunts the Last Incas

See also Ethical Framework of the Genographic Project

Community of Q’eros