has been startled by a wave of atomic bomb tests, proof of
growing use of nuclear technology towards military ends.
Meanwhile, the populations of Caetité (46,000
inhabitants) and Lagoa Real (13,000 inhabitants),
municipalities of the semi-arid Bahian sertão region
enclosed in the Polígono das Secas and integrated into the
Hidrographic Basins of the São Francisco and Contas Rivers,
suffer from the noxious socio-environmental impacts caused
by the Nuclear Industries of Brazil (INB).
INB is responsible for the mineral-industrial complex
Lagoa Real/Caetité, which produces uranium for Brazilian
away atomic explosions instigate the popular imagination of
the populace, which already faces the effects of living with
the only Unit of Uranium Concentrate – URA – active in
the country. This
plant works with no transparency, unjustifiable due to its
supposed civil character and pacific ends.
As the consequences of the irresponsible use of this
technology have already been felt, the inhabitants of the
region have expressed concern over the announcement in
Brazilian energy policy to reactivate the nuclear program,
including the construction of plants in the Northeast.
INB is a private-public partnership, which produces products
and services related to the cycle of nuclear combustion.
URA-Caetité was activated in 2000, without an
operating license from IBAMA (the Brazilian Institute for
the Environment and Renewable Resources).
It began with barely a property license, granted by
the State Council for the Protection of the Environment –
CEPRAM – which established 37 conditions, such as
condition 2.12 (to
monitor the health of workers and surrounding population)
and condition 2.8 (hydrogeologic
these conditions were not to be met, it would challenge the
institutions of control and fiscal responsibility, causing
revolt in the population.
RIGHT TO INFORMATION – Financed by technicians of the
National Commission on Nuclear Energy – CNEN – which
promotes nuclear activity and is responsible for the budget
of nuclear projects, the INB is accused of disrepsecting the
Principles of Precaution and Prevention, consecrated in
environmental legislation, and infringing upon human rights,
such as the right to health and work safety. It has been
sued for violating international conventions on nuclear
safety, the constitutional principals of Activity Control,
Democratic Control, Objective Responsibility, and the Right
to Information. Due
to its original link with militarism, the company is
considered strategic, functioning without transparency or
The phase of optimism and confidence in a promising
future having passed— a hope which characterized the
arrival of the company to the region and the first four
years of activity— the beginning of 2004 saw operational
errors that brought an avalanche of questions, lack of
confidence, and frustration.
The weight on the environment of transporting uranium
in the summer of that year put the company on defensive
against the pressures of society, the vigilance of unions,
and even criticisms of past allies, all of whom yearned to
know about the operations "from the inside".
A consensus was formed that the situation could not
be sustained atop the threat of "secretive technology". The participation of civil society and public powers became
necessary in order to clarifty the processes of nuclear
combustion and decommissioning, not only due to the effects
of the radiation, but also
from the quantities of rejections from the area.
law determines that adminsitrative acts are public and
should be widely divulged.
But in the URA, which is in the Caetité district of
Maniaçu, censorship of information is strongly imposed,
internally and externally.
In 2004, the team of Preventative Integral
Fiscalization of the São Francisco Basin, which sued the
company for various irregularities, was almost barred from
entering its installations.
A blockade of information closed down upon the team.
To such an extent that the municipality only knew of
the extension of dumpings of containers, occurred in the
beginning of 2004, eight months later, with the diffusion,
in Brasília, of the fiscal report of CNEN (National
Commission on Nuclear Energy), that suggested the
interruption of mineral activities due to risk of dumping
and suspicion of possible water contamination.
The inexistence of a hydrogeologic study that proves
the lack of contamination of the surface water, leaves the
threat to animal and plant life up in the air.
fiscal proposal was rejected by the president of CNEN, Odair
Gonçalves, who was also president of the Administrative
Council of INB, for whom suspending mineral activity would
do more harm than good. This declaration revealed the company's choice of
profit over a democratic and humanitarian posture of
protecting the population and the environment. Society
questions the independence of the CNEN in its fiscalization
of the INB, of which it is a majority partner, and would
like to separate these institutions.
They understand that, without transparency and social
accountability to the most diverse levels of civil and
public organizations, the risk is enormous of privileging
only these economic interests. Divorcing these two entities is defended by society and the members of the
Public Ministry, as well as the Promotor of the State of
Bahia in Caetité, Jailson Trindade
(...) Our work has not been oriented by the larger
principal of controlling the environmental question, the
principal of prevention, rather we've always run backwards.
It is a crucial point, to give autonomy, through federal
legislation, and break this link that exists, I wouldn't say
an incestual link, but this relation that exists between the
CNEN and INB, this is fundamental, because when we go to
investigate a dumping the capacities end up being performed
in the CNEN, since the conditions to perform them don't
exist in Bahia.
LACK OF CARE FOR SAFETY – Knowing the
sócio-environmental consequences caused by tragedies that
occur around the world, such as Chernobyl,
society fears the effects that mineral activity offers in
the long term, since those who handle nuclear substances are
subject to cancerous radiation.
The fear is justified because in six years of
operation, the URA-Caetité has presented consistent
mistakes that deserve inquiry, lawsuits, and fines by
professional environmental organizations.
More than a dozen "usual nuclear events – ENU"
and various paralyses of activity, which could add up to
more than two years of inactivity, unmask the technical and
administrative challenges that the INB faces in order to
simultaneously operate the system safely and lucratively.
What's more, these events only feed into doubts
regarding the scientific competence of the business to
handle such a dangerous product.
Dumping of 5000 m3 of uranium sludge, denounced 6
months later and only attested to 3 years later
CRA applies the maximum fine;
State Pubilc Ministry instals civil pacific action;
Activities suspended from November/00 to July/01
Socioenvironmental NGOs ask the
Federal Public Minstry for an integral, independent,
and multidisciplinary audit.
Dumping in area 170, performed
Possible contamination of surface water
Federal Public Ministry advocates the MPE to listen to
96 tons of uranium concentrate
are registered in the Port of Salvador, with no
authorization from any environmental body.
Causes repercussions in the press and awakens society.
Federal Public Ministry follows the
3a Promotion of the
Environment by the Public MInistry of Bahia installs a
Ship that brought enriched uranium from Canada to
Rezende, Rio de Janeiro state, is retained 5 days in
Salvador, where 170 tons of uranium were unloaded at
The situation causes port workers and the population
to become restless.
The Federal Public Ministry installs an investigation
and advocates IBAMA-SSA to act towards avoiding risks
to the port workers, to Baia de Todos os Santos, and
to the population.
The basin of "delicate" transport transports
spills, more than 7 times, liquid containing
concentrates of uranium-238, torium-232, and radium-226,
into the environment.
Death of fish in the lagoons of Maniaçu (location of
the mine), Vargem Grande, and Covas.
Charge and fine from IBAMA-SSA due to the lack of
meeting the conditions referring to the monitoring of
workers' and the population's health and lack of
Public Ministry installs a civil investigation;
CODEVASF collects material for analyais;
Ship with enriched uranium headed to Rezende (RJ),
enters Baia de Todos os Santos to pick up 250 tons of
uranium from Caetité.
Situation causes port workers and population to
IBAMA-SSA fines INB for R$ 1 million;
DILIC/IBAMA prohibits "partner operations"
in the transport of uranium from Baia de Todos os
Breach of one of the covers of the basin of uranium
liquor, stopping activity for close to 60 days.
Reduction of the population
Despite the lack of equipment for protection against
radiation and military disputes, the CNEN renews the
Initial Authorization for Operation – AOI.
the above chart the greatest occurrences, admitted to or not,
by the company- such as accidents and "ENU"
incidents- indicate the incompetence and lack of care for an
installation that operates with potential risk for the
population and for the environment.
In 2001, tests pointed to indeces of contamination in
two ex-workers involved in an accident in 2000. In 2004, the
polemical situation that revolved the loading of yellow-cake
at the Port of Salvador, ended in a fine and prohibition by
IBAMA of "partner operations", in the transporto f
uranium through Baia de Todos os Santos, an important área
of environmental protection. From 2004 to 2006, operators were affected by uranium
liquor, by uranium paste and by sulfuric acid (which
denatures the proteins that constitute the human body, an
Despite being officially stopped for a year after the
dumping of 5000 m3
of uranium liquor in April 2000 due to the rupture of
protective covering, the press noted that URA did not
suspend its activities, as the shipment of 84 tons of
uranium to Canada proved in 2001. The accident occurred
because the project of compacting the soil below the
protective coverings did not occur according to the license
that was obtained, according to IBAMA technician Sanra Miano(2)
(...) The nuclear industries took a long time to admit they
had a problem, complicating our investigation, until we
asked for liquor tank 1401 to be emptied.(...)
We asked the tank to be emptied and to open the protective
the covering was opened, we saw that the compacting of soils
had not been performed.
The executive project that we had approved had not
been carried out, despite all companies being mandated to
carry out the project that is approved.(...)
January of this year alone, it was confirmed that the CNEN
imposed a suspension of activities from August to December
of the previous year, demanding studies on the safety of the
Already this year, it was noted that the company
works half-way and precariously due to the lack of
committment to dependence on the CNEN, referring
to the repair projects in the basins and the lack of
equipment for protection and safety against radiation, such
as a detector of surface contamination.
Four years ago, 70 operators worked under grave,
imminent risk next to the dig, placing them at risk for a
great disaster. Only three of them had any specific
training, and the Regulatory Norm 13 determined the
paralysis of any plant in case of grave imminent risk.
It is worth registering that insurance does not exist
for these workers of the URA.
This year, the Mineral Workers' Union sued INB in
front of the Regional Delegation of Workers of Bahia and the
Public Ministry of Labor for not having met the norms of the
CLT and the ILO, especially in reference to Health and Job
Safety Insurance (NR 4, 5, 13, 22). The company has 131
workers, 300 contract workers, and maintains the Registry of
Autonomous Payment – RPA.
TO HEALTH – In a public audience performed by the
Executive Management I - IBAMA-BA, in April 2005 in Caetité,
the population demanded an urgent inspection of the INB
complex by a group of multidisciplinary, multi-institutional
technicians, with representatives of civil society and
accompaniment of the Federal and State Public Ministries.
They demanded, as well, that IBAMA only deliberate
about the request of extension of the plant and renewal of
the license, to have ended in October 2006, after hearing of
the report of this inspection.
In the audience, the INB admitted that it had not
performed the monitoring of workers' health nor of the
communities, leaving the population more restless facing the
risk of exposure to low doses, once the scientific studies
proved that "there are no safe levels for exposure to
ionizing radiation and radiation had other effects, beyond
neoplasias such as cardiac arrest and cerebral vascular
na Audiência, o quadro regional foi informado pelo
coordenador do Programa de Avaliação e Vigilância do
de Saúde da Bahia, Dr.
Alexandre Will(4) :
(...) neoplasis present a growing tendency in the region
among the principal causes of death. (...)
the situation of câncer in the region should be seen in an
integral way as a wider and more complex reality, as it is
necessary to develop actions to monitor and accompany this
illness, with the goal of detecting subtle changes in its
is important to minimize the impact of this global pathology
in the region, as well as reducing environmental,
work-related, behavioral, and supportive risks.
diagnostic center for cancer exists in the region to detect
environmental exposure to cancerous products, and new cases
occur, including among the company's workers.
Because of this, Caetité and Lagoa Real received
with enthusiasm the constitution of IBAMA-BA of the
Commission of Accompaniment of the Activities of the INB,
formed by representatives of social organizations and
federal, state, and municipal health organizations, the
proposal of which was an agreement between these entities
and the INB in order to facilitate the monitoring of
socio-environmental and health impacts on the workers and
However, despite having assumed the committment of signing
the agreement, the company blocked the initiative.
Instead of easing the proposal sent by IBAMA-BA in
2005, it met in August of this year with representatives of
the 24th State Director of Health (Dires), and the municipal
prefects and health secretaries of Caetité and Lagoa Real,
proposing the signature of a Letter of Intention.
The document stated the intention of performing a
licitation to contract an epidemilogical study covering the
two muncipalities, evading the obligations of INB in that it
binds the prefecture to certain actions.
This diligence is seen as an attempt to evade the
actions of IBAMA-BA and to neutralize the pressures of civil
society, that has demanded urgent and effective actions to
tend to the effects of the accidents and to guarantee the
compliance of the audience's recommendations.
NEGLIGENCE TOWARDS THE WATER – The INB, that today owns
1850 hectares as the largest individual landowner ( latinfundio)
of the lands of Caetité, has not implemented the Plan
of Sustainable Development, suggested by the Environmental
Impact Assessment – EIA-Rima – as a method of measuring
the impact of the project, generating employment and income,
nor has it implemented a plan of resettlement of the
affected families, as research concluded in 2005 reveals: "The
discourse of advantages and benefits for those affected
transformed into "a horror and nightmare" for 30%
of the families transferred involuntarily. (5).
the deception contaminates even old allies – authorities
from the three branches of government, politicians, and
electoral bodies – who used their influence in society to
suggest that the damages pointed out by the Environmental
Impact Assessment – EIA/RIMA (1997) would be compensated
by higher taxes, more jobs, more development.
But, disillusioned by the lack of counterparts
promised by the Municipal Prefects, many waiver between a
more firm action confronting the sócio-environmental
damages caused in the region, according to the EIA-RIMA, and
the hope of receiving industrial taxes on the production of yellow-cake,
that INB does not pay to the municipality.
Also in rural areas the tendency towards clientelism
prevails among community leaders who still dream in
compensatory policies for the critical state of rural
communities, who lack treated water, energy, health, and
The most affected populations by the suspected water
contamination has had the impact of liberating radion into
the atmosphere and the particles generated by uranium
explosions and suffer from the rejection of their products
from their communities at free markets.
The majority came to depend on water, scarce and controlled by the
company, consuming the resource from native artesanal wells
and from the Vaca brook, that passes through the mine.
In the cities of Caetité and Lagoa Real, the water
is treated by the Bahian Purifying Company – Embasa –
which regularly feeding mineral water to representatives or
workers from the mines, while untreated water is served
through tanker to the workers, as the Secretary of Hydric
Resources of Caetité, Joaquim Bandeira, says (6):
(...) In Carrapato, in Angico, near the Passagem de Areia, an older
woman asked me for a tanker.
I responded that I would ask the INB and she
responded: I don't want a tanker from the INB because their
water is contaminated (...).
In Mata, close to Maniaçu, they said that the dust that
comes from the mine stuck to the houses, that the company
was open, and it was going to contaminate people.
The community suffered from a terrible fear from this
There is no justification to leave here with the tankers, 40
kilometers from the área, to dump water 4 kilometers from
the mine. This social policy of the company needs to be worked in
such a way that would support a policy of distribution of
water to improve the conditions of life of the people of the
ABOUT THE FUTURE – On July 18th of this year, the
Technical Chamber of IBAMA-BA approved the motion of the
Ministry of the Environmenta (MMA) and the Licensing
Division (DILIC) plus IBAMA, conditioning the renovation of
the Operating License of the URA for the carrying out of the
public audience and the determination of more rigid
conditions to ensure a better quality of life for the
communities, their workers, and environmental protection.
On September 18th of this year, the Minister of the
Environment Marina Silva received, in Salvador, a copy of
the report handed into the International pacto n Economic,
Social, and Cultural Rights – PIDESC – and a requirement
of urgent responsibilities to inhibit the activitities of
the INB, in conditions which represent grave risks for
humans and the environment" (7).
In the place of explanations due to society, an old
triumphalist discourse prevails, always announcing the
duplication of production, which creates fear ahead of
signals of irresponsible administration and technical
incompetence to lead the project.
In fact CNEN accused the INB of inability and
negligence, but, contrary to its own safety norms, it
renewed for the sixth time the Initial Operation
Authorization – AOI, because the URA-Caetité did not meet
the norms of protection against radiation and safety, that
only led them to renewal of the AOI twice.
Some sectors believe that the announcement of
production increases is only propaganda to maintain a quiet
city, hoping for new employment, more wealth, since the INB
would be drowned in administrative and technical dilemmas
relative to the cost-benefit analysis, in order to maintain
the current damages and trace a less adverse future.
fact is that a licitation has already been announced for
contracting geomechanic, hidrogeologic and hydrologic
studies to serve as foundations for the analyses of
stability of the open-air excavations of the mines of
Engenho and Quebradas, while proposals of the company
circulate around the population of Pau Ferro, 12km away from
Maniaçu. There, where there is a surface mine, small
farmers are ironically convinced to plant umbuzeiro
trees, towards the end of increasing the value of their
properties in the moment of indemnization.
Pau Ferro has 34 families, fear, and a willingness to
defend their lands and fight for politicians and authorities
to begin to respect water as a fundamental human right.
organizations are pressuring for a more firm action from the
responsible fiscal bodies and controlo f the nuclear
2001, they have been fighting for the performance of a large,
independent, and multidisciplinary audit to speed up the
functioning of the company. In this moment, they see as positive the recent
instalation of a section of the General Attorney of the
Republic in the municipal neighborhood of Guanambi, with the
expectation of a combined action between the Federal Public
Ministry and the Public Ministry for the Environment of
Bahia, which could result in effective measures for the
clean up not only of the impacto f the accidents, but also
of all the legal and technical aspects that involve the work
of INB in Caetité, due to the necessity of confirming or
finally burying the speculations that bring such
restlessness to the region.
Declaration in Public Audience made by GT-Senate in Caetité
Report from the Senate on Fiscalization and Nuclear Safety,
item 220.127.116.11.1, 2006
Declaration of Doctor Maria Vera de Oliveira from the Center
of Health Reference of Santo Amaro, from the Prefect of São
Paulo – Report from the Senate on Fiscalization and
Nuclear Safety, item 3.3, 2006
in Public Audience about INB and the Workers' and Population's
Health, in Caetité, 4/13/2005
"EfEffects of Implantation of the Lagoa Real Project on
the Quality of Life of Families in the Affected Área",
a case study of Manoel Raimundo Alves, 2005, page 85
in Public Audience organized by IBAMA-BA in Caetité,
Documented handed over to Minister Marina Silva of the MMA,
by the Paulo Jackson Movement Association – Ethics,
Justice, Citizenship, in Salvador, 9/15/2006