Shari Collins-Chobanian

Shari Collins-Chobanian, “Environmental Racism, American Indians, and Monitored Retrievable Storage Sites for Radioactive Waste,” in Larry May and others, Applied Ethics: A Multicultural Approach, Prentice Hall, 5th Ed., 2011, pp. 194-201.

Collins-Chobanian argues that the location of radioactive waste sites in Mescalero, New Mexico, on confiscated Western Shoshone land in Nevada, and in the Fort McDermitt tribal lands on the Nevada-Oregon border is ethically unjustified.

She describes the decision as an instance of environmental racism, a term that describes a disproportionate burden of environmental contamination borne by minorities. She notes that a 1983 U. S. General Accounting Office report found that 75% of off-site commercial hazardous and toxic waste landfills in eight Southeastern states were in African-American and other minority communities, even though these minorities make up only 20% of the population in these states. She argues that native Americans have been subject to a similar unfair burden.

Her central focus is the quality of consent given by the indigenous American People to the proposed monitored retrieval storage (MRS) sites. She considers five conditions of consent: all known existing relevant information regarding the risk(s) must be disclosed; the information disclosed must be understood; the risk must be undertaken voluntarily; the risk-taker(s) must be competent to decide; and the risk-taker(s) must consent to the risk.

The five conditions are compromised in the current proposals, and the poor quality of consent or the absence of consent renders the selection of these sites unjustifiable.