The mothers are angry at la Hague

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Special: Women respond to the nuclear threat

(May 11, 1999) Le Collectif des Mères en Colère (the collective of angry mothers) at la Hague in France was organized in a spontaneous way in February 1997, following the publication of a study of Professor Viel about high infant leukemia rates near the reprocessing plant.

(509/10.5005) Nathalie Bonnemain - The study of Professor Viel revealed high infant leukemia considered to be abnormally high in the district of the Cogéma plant at la Hague (see WISE News Communique 476.4720: July 25, 1997). Our objective was to press the operator of the plant to give objective, transparent and independent information. We pressured them by manifesting, initiating petitions and by participating at different commissions and official meetings. We were convinced that efforts had to be developed to start dialogues with representatives of the concerned industries and to reflect collectively on how to answer the social and environmental concerns created by the reprocessing sites.

The epidemiological study of Professor Viel was the first medical study during 30 years of operation of the le Hague plant, which started for military aims and now fulfills civilian purposes. Since those 30 years, we have assessed the activities of this industry with its impact on the environment and on the health of our children. But the plant provides a whole region with work and thousands of families are in contempt of feelings of total rejection of the plant by a small part of the population.

At our meetings and discussion we became aware of the fact that political and economic decisions have been made systematically by men. And they are making abstractions of all environmental and psychological problems that such an industry can give. This is one of the reasons for such a culture of silence and non-information. Our intervention has brought a sense of humanity, sensibility and reality. For us, mothers of possibly affected families, the risks of the reprocessing industry is not acceptable in so far as it brings harm to our environment and to our children. We believe that an economic activity cannot operate to the detriment of their health.

Women have to invade the economic and political world mastered by men. Now that the doors are opened, step by step it is time to press our ideas forward. It is a struggle that requires a lot of energy and things that have to be renounced, but which also brings a lot of consolation. The exchanges between women have permitted us to express our anxieties which have been latently existent in many households. There is need to express opinion on this subject, which was (and still is) taboo dictated by economy; a kind of informal law to keep silent was imposed on us.

We are daily confronted with the actual problems this reprocessing industry faces. The many dysfunctions are in most cases revealed by environmental organizations whose credibility is no longer questioned by the population. The collective of angry mothers answers to an expectation of women living in this region. We became their spokeswomen and have therefore the obligation to be faithful to them.

Source and contact: Le Collectif des Mères en Colère
Nathalie Bonnemain, La Fordette
50840 Fermanville, France.
Tel: +33-23344-5251; Fax: +33-23344-1615