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(sup) (en) International context of the Perm protest campaign
Worker <firstname.lastname@example.org>(Aleksei itasitihki-A-tao.ca)
Sun, 31 Oct 2004 11:42:39 +0100 (CET)
A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E
Below an article I have written, which shows connection between struggles in
Ukraine and USA related to Washington Group International.
An edited version of the article was published in local newspaper in
Perm (www.permnews.ru), but yet I found nobody interested to distribute
article in US, and none of the groups working on issues related to WGI
did not answered to my e-mails, so any help in this respect would be great.
Dark side of a construction giant
Washington Group International , inc. (WGI) is a playground of Montana's
billionaire, Dennis R. Washington. Washington's property assets sum to 1.8
billion dollars, which earns him 236th place in Forbes 500 ranking of
richest people in the world. WGI emerged in year 2000, its core operations
inherited from the construction giant Morrison Knudsen (revenue of $2.5
billion in 1994), famous for building Hoover Dam, which the smaller
Washington Construction Group (worth $500 million in 1994) acquired after a
bankruptcy in 1996.
Immediately trouble faced the renamed corporation, WGI, when its purchase of
Raytheon Engineers & Constructors landed it in a mess of badly managed
contracts and debts of the latter.
After mutual threats about court processes, WGI made peace with both
Raytheon, which it accused of disinformation, and its creditors, but Dennis
Washington had to give up his share of the stocks when all of the stock was
divided between creditors. He is still chair of the board of the corporation
which he created.
Headquarters of WGI are located in Boise of Idaho, with approximately 27,000
employees in more than 30 countries of the world. This brave new
transnational corporate giant of the 21st Century has many different fields
of operation, including
power generation, transmission and distribution, mining, nuclear services,
manufacturing, transportation and others around the world. Given the massive
scale of company's operation, it is not very surprising that WGI is becoming
a serious environmental and social concern.
In association with TRW (recently acquired by Northrop Grumman), WGI is
providing subsurface design and construction management services to the
Yucca Mountain High Level Nuclear Waste Repository located in southern
Nevada. WGI is one of the corporations majorly involved in the project.
Yucca Mountain is the only site under study for the permanent disposal of
high level nuclear waste in USA. Located only 80 miles from Las Vegas, Yucca
Mountain is one of the most seismically active areas in the USA with 621
seismic events of a 2.5 magnitude or greater in the last 20 years. In 1992,
a magnitude 5.2 quake caused over a million dollars in damage to government
buildings at the Yucca Mountain site. Las Vegas has 1.5 million inhabitants,
and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.
The plan involves moving over 77,000 metric tons of hazardous nuclear waste
across the country, using rails and roads that pass through other major
metropolitan areas and small towns across USA. A sizeable movement of local
inhabitants, anti-nuclear and indigenious activists has been fighting
against the project for years. Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn temporarily
vetoed project in spring of year 2002. US Senator Reid is opposed to the
project, but members of the US Congress loyal to Bush from the big industry
lobbies gave the green light to the project in June of 2002. Local activists
however confirm that the struggle has only begun.
According to the treaty which dates back to 1863 and is still in force,
Yucca Mountain is located in Western Shoshone lands. Like almost every
treaty the United States has entered into with Indian Nations, the treaty
with the Western Shoshone has been violated again and again. The Nevada Test
Site was carved out of their territory and today, the Western Shoshone
Nation is the most bombed nation on earth. The United States has detonated
more than 1,200 atomic bombs in their territory. High rates of cancer and
illness related to atomic fall-out plague the people, who suffer from this
historic injustice without any government health assessment, rectification
or medical aid. Thus, the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Depository Project is
another violation of the rights of the Western Shoshone, who have been among
most determined campaigners against the project.
Corporations involved in Yucca mountain project this far have not been too
committed to follow working safety regulations. Washington Group
International rank highest among these corporations, and is facing a class
action lawsuit for exposing workers and visitors to dangerous levels of
silica and other toxic dust during tunneling from 1992 to 1996. Hundreds of
workers may get sick and face death due to disregarding security measures,
and suspected alteration of documentation in order to misrepresent
potentially hazardous dust levels at the site.
Nuclear (un)safety in USA
Several times, projects under administration of Washington Group
International in the US have been penalized by the Department of Energy,
according to Price-Anderson legislation concerning sanctions for nuclear
safety violations. In October 2003 WGI was fined $55,000 by the Department
of Energy, because RTS Wright Industries, LLC, (RTS), a supplier for which
Washington Group International (WGI) had direct contractual responsibility,
had falsified quality control inspection records in Idaho National
Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL). RTS was retained by WGI to
fabricate components for the facility. RTS was cited for falsifying
inspection records, failing to comply with its procedures related to quality
control stamps, and with failing to implement an adequate quality
improvement process to identify and correct quality assurance deficiencies.
WGI was cited for failing to properly establish adequate surveillance and
oversight for the work performed by RTS. Fortunately, this violation did not
result in harm to workers or the environment.
In March of 1999, WGI bought America's largest commercial nuclear reactor
producer Westinghouse together with British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL). With this
purchase, WGI became also co-operator of Westinghouse Savannah River
Company, nuclear facility located in one of the most contaminated area in
the USA. In April 2004, the Westinghouse Savannah River Company was fined
$206,250 for the unnecessary radiation exposure of three employees and the
subsequent falsification of radiation dose records. The radiation exposures
had occurred at the FB-Line facility during material repackaging activities
on the morning of July 29, 2003.
Iraq and Afghanistan
Washington Group International become one of five companies invited by the
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to participate in a
"secret bidding" process for contracts to help rebuild Iraq. In April 2003,
the secret bids made international news, with England's Sunday Herald
reporting, "All the American firms to get Iraqi reconstruction contracts
have bankrolled George Bush and the Republican Party, or have direct links
The Herald went on to note that Washington Group International "gave
$438,700 to the Republicans," placing it in the same select group as
Halliburton, the company once run by Vice President Dick Cheney.
Halliburton, has attracted most of the press attention for its Iraq-related
contracts, it is hardly the whole story. All companies sharing Iraqi pie are
tightly connected, for example executive vice president and CFO of WGI,
George H. Juetten previously was senior vice president and CFO for Dresser
Industries, a subsidiary of Halliburton Inc.
On March 12, 2004, the Program Management Office awarded the company a
contract with a ceiling of $500,000,000 for "electrical power distribution
and transmission" in the northern region of Iraq. A joint venture with Black
& Veatch Joint Venture was awarded a contract with a maximum value of
$600,000,000 for work in the public works and water sector. The joint
venture also holds a contract worth $33 million for electrical work. In
Afghanistan, contracts won by Washington Group International, along with
Fluor Continental and Perini, will cover rebuilding damaged roads and
replacing a destroyed bridge in Afghanistan as part of their individual
contracts to support U.S. military's Central Command (CENTCOM). Those
contracts have a minimum value of $500,000 and a maximum of $500 million.
Whatever the final result of Dubya's adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq may
be, WGI has put itself firmly in the camp of the final winners.
As part of the international disarmament treaties, Russia and Ukrainia have
to retool former nuclear missile factories to dismantle old missile engines
and their fuel. In practice this is done with American technology and to a
large extent with American money as well.
On their own webpage, WGI boasts about its Dniepropetrovsk operation as an
ultimate success story.
As they put it,
"When Washington Group managers and engineers first set foot in
Dniepropetrovsk in 1995 the town, with its checkpoints and guard stations,
still had the look of a closed city, even if the oppressive feeling of the
Soviet presence was gone. Today the check points and guard stations remain,
but are unmanned and there are statues of Lenin about town-but with
Coca-Cola advertisements hanging from his neck."
Reality in Pavlograd is more grim. For years, the American partner of WGI in
Pavlograd, Thiokol promoted hydrodynamic method and volunteered to assume
responsibility for this stage of disposal of solid fuel from missiles,
provided that the Ukrainian engineers from the rocket factory shared with it
the technology of solid rocket fuel processing into explosives. Then
suddenly, after American engineers announced that the hydrodynamic method is
not "technically sound nor financially feasible", and having spent at least
24 million dollars of Pentagon money (of a contract worth $54 million), WGI
withdrew from the project. The most likely reason is that the Pentagon
feared that explosives made in the process of recycling solid rocket fuels
could be also used for military purposes. When nuclear warheads were sent
back to Russia, and solid fuel were separated from missiles, US governement
concluded that Ukraine's cold war heritage did not pose a threat anymore.
Thus, Pavlograd inhabitants are left to cope with 5000 tons of extremely
hazardous solid rocket fuel the best way they can.
US government and WGI promote burning fuel as a solution - a method which is
banned in the USA, with exception of some special cases in Nevada desert,
dozens of kilometers from the nearest settlement (but in Western Shoshone
territory). According to Russian and American specialists, solid rocket fuel
burned at a temperature of 3500 degrees of Celsius results in poisonous
dioxins being formed in the cooling stream of gases emitted during the
process. Even small doses of dioxins are poisonous; they easily accumulate
in the food chain, hurt embryos and cause cancer. They are chemically
stable, yet stay lethally dangerous for several decades.
Ukraine has refused to burn solid fuel, and is looking for other sources of
finance. Although the main responsible for this shameful episode is surely
American government, WGI is happily distributing lies and disinformation
about the "safety" of burning rockets according to the needs of its biggest
In Perm, Russia, burning has been the proposed solution from the beginning -
this has caused uproar among local inhabitants.
FGUP Perm Factory Mashinostroitel has been given a license to become the
leading company in Russia in the field of decommissioning missiles using
solid fuel rockets, most importantly SS-24 "Scalpel" missiles which have a
flight radius of 10 000 kilometers armed with up to 20 nuclear warheads of
550 kilotons (46 times the explosive power of the Hiroshima bomb).
Missiles to be dismantled have their nuclear warheads removed. Although
missile cases are still slightly radioactive, the main problem is the
extremely poisonous fuel they are loaded with. They plan to build a site
inside the factory of S.M. Kirov, which currently builds and tests engines
of strategic missiles. Mashinostroitel decided to fulfil its task without
wasting time to acquiring necessary permissions and preparing environmental
impact assessments, as demanded by law.
American funding, given within the framework of the 13-year-old Lugar-Nunn
legislation, is very crucial to the project. Actually, regional powers have
already wasted a lion's share of the money given 7 years ago, and currently
the social budget has been shrunk so that the project may be finally
realized without having the American government asking questions about whose
pocket all that money ended up back then. This money is channelled through
Washington Group International. Last autumn American Congressman Richard
Lugar himself visited Perm, to ensure that the legislation he endorsed with
Senator Samuel Nunn is followed to the letter.
The Perm project was halted once already. At the end of the nineties,
Trutnev, the governor of Perm oblast, promised not to build the facility,
fulfilling one of his main election promises. However in spring of 2004
Trutnev got invited to the second government of Putin. In exchange he has
kept quiet about the project. Completing the project in Perm became more
important when a similar project in Votkinsk of neighbouring Udmurtian
republic collapsed due to popular unrest back in 2002. Perm inhabitants have
organized themselves as well with protest actions against dismantling
rockets in the city being organized since September 2003, and a protest camp
against project launched July 2, 2004 lasted until 7th of
September the same year.
(proofreading by Stephen Kawamoto)
Homepage of Washington Group International
Nevada-based NGO Citizen Alert on Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Depository
Suit Claims Toxic Dust Hurt Waste Workers (by Ken Ritter of Associated
West Shoshone Land and Sovereignty:
Western Shoshone Treat of 1863:
Senator Reid Opposed to Yucca Mountain:
Department of Energy Preliminary Notice of Violation and Proposed Imposition
of Civil Penalty to Washington Group International, October 23 2003
Department of Energy preliminary notice of violation and proposed imposition
of civil penalty to Westinghouse Savannah River Vompany April 6, 2004
Iraq and Afghanistan:
Windfalls of War (by the Center for Public Integrity)
Dennis Washington, Missoula's Iraq connection (by Missoula Independent)
WGI's version of the Dniepropetrovsk project
Ukrainian point of view
Campaign against dismantling ballistic missiles in Perm (only in Russian)
Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program - The Lugar-Nunn legislation
in retrospect - http://lugar.senate.gov/nunnlugar.html
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