“The case is closed, no matter how sad and sad it may be.” In this categorical way, Social Security shelves the claim of former workers and relatives of the Andújar Uranium Factory (FUA), in Jaén, so that their ailments are considered as occupational diseases due to their exposure to uranium without protective measures During the 22 years that it remained open, what was considered the first radioactive facility in the country. This year 40 years have passed since the closure of the FUA and currently barely a dozen of the 126 workers who worked there survive. Many died from cancer and other diseases they understand associated with uranium.
The response of the Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migrations to the Junta de Andalucía – which has recently become known thanks to a parliamentary question from United We Can – closes the political path. It had been seized by former employees and their families after most of the lawsuits were dismissed.
“It has not caught me by surprise; most parties are no longer interested in this case coming to light. I would like to think that all is not lost and that it would be fair to address our claims, but I don’t know how or where to start, more and more doors are closed ”, explains Eva Navas, daughter of an octogenarian who worked until retirement at the FUA and that he is one of the few witnesses left of that unprotected job.
Between 1959 and 1981 the FUA treated uranium ore from Sierra Morena to extract uranium oxide concentrate (U₃0₈). It was managed by the then Nuclear Energy Board, the current Center for Energy, Environmental and Technological Research (Ciemat).
Enresa carried out its dismantling and restoration of its site in 1995. The public company that manages radioactive waste must prepare an annual report on the surveillance and maintenance plan of the old factory with radiological information and other aspects on its correct operation and stability. of the restored dump. The protection of the environment and the health of people in the facility’s area of influence is controlled through the same Enresa surveillance plan, and with the supervision and control of the Nuclear Safety Council (CSN).
“We will die without achieving anything and with great sorrow,” says Manuela Barroso, 77, resigned, who grew up in La Nuclear, as they call the FUA in Andújar. His father, Antonio, came from Ayamonte (Huelva) to work in the construction of the factory and later he was employed there as a security guard. And she herself began working in the laboratory of the dump when she was just 14 years old. “I remember playing with my sisters with the colored stones that came there from the mines without knowing the danger we had,” says Manuela, affected by severe rheumatoid arthritis from a young age. His father died of prostate cancer and lung disease.
In February 2006, the then Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and the Andalusian Regional Government Health Department created a working group to define diagnostic tests, specialist reports and other data necessary to assess the possible professional origin of the patients. pathologies that they had been suffering from. But it was not until May 2008 that the medical court tests were carried out to resolve the records of 54 living ex-workers and 34 who had already died.
These tests determined that in only a dozen cases the National Institute of Social Security recognized the occupational disease due to the existence of a “causal relationship” of the diseases and limitations suffered by occupational exposure to uranium. 46 people who were denied recognition filed lawsuits in the Social Court. None of them prospered.
“For all these reasons, the legal services of the Social Security consider that the case is closed, however sad and sad it may be, and it is not possible to reopen it in legal terms”, concludes in the letter sent by the Ministry of Inclusion, Security Social and Migrations to the Ministry of Health and Families of the Junta de Andalucía. However, the Ministry led by José Luis Escrivá adds that “the Junta de Andalucía, through the will expressed by its Parliament, has the ability to address the claims of former workers, deceased and their families for the suffering suffered”.
“The truth is that it is difficult to move forward, those affected are tired and disenchanted,” says Manuel Ángel Vázquez, a lawyer for the former workers’ association. After desisting from appealing to the Supreme Court, the only judicial strategy that this lawyer is still considering would be to go to the Court of Justice of the European Union for violation of rights. “We want to make it clear that they worked without any protection measure, subjected to uranium radiation and without complying with prevention and hygiene plans,” he says.
The parliamentary group of United We Can in Congress is reluctant to consider this case closed. They assure that they will continue to fight for justice to be done and their occupational disease recognized. “This is an unsolved labor crime, it is essential to do justice to the 15 workers who are still living and the 111 already deceased and their families, time is short,” says Deputy Isa Franco.
United We can recall the scientific-technical report issued in 2007, which explained that “there is imperfect evidence but evidence, after all, between prolonged exposure to uranium dust and a certain constellation of pathologies” and that ” Uranium is, above all, a chemically toxic metal, with demonstrable effects on the kidneys, lungs, immune system, quality of life and mood ”.