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USA Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) in Niscemi, Italy

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The Mobile User Objetive System (MUOS) is a modern satellite communications system of the US Navy. It consists of five geostationary satellites and four ground stations, with each of the latter including three swivelling very high frequency satellite dishes with a diameter of 18.4 meters and two Ultra High Frequency (UHF) helical antennas. MUOS will replace the UHF Follow-On (UFO) satellite system currently in operation and it will be used for the capillary coordination of all U.S. military systems deployed around the globe.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:USA Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) in Niscemi, Italy
State or province:Province of Caltanisetta, Sicily
Location of conflict:Niscemi
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Military installations
Establishment of reserves/national parks
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Communications services
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The MUOS Ultra High Frequency (UHF) SATCOM system (300 MHz to 3 GHz frequency range) encompasses four on-orbit satellites, one on-orbit spare and four ground stations placed in Virginia (USA), Hawaii, Australia and Sicily. The first two MUOS satellites were launched in February 2012 and July 2013. The MUOS program, primarily intended for mobile users (e.g. aerial and maritime platforms, drones, ground vehicles, and dismounted soldiers), is still in its development stage and is expected to launch all satellites into orbit by 2015.

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Project area:122
Level of Investment for the conflictive project11,000,000 USD (Niscemi installation)
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:Niscemi inhabitants are 27 932, but impacts would be felt in a much more extended area
Start of the conflict:2009
Company names or state enterprises:Lockeed Martin Space Systems from United States of America - Prime contractor
Consorzio Team Muos Niscemi from Italy - Constructor
Calcestruzzi Piazza Srl from Italy - Constructor
C.R. Impianti SpA from Italy
Relevant government actors:US Department of Defense, Italian Ministry of Defense; Sicily Region; Municipalities of: Niscemi, Comiso, Riesi, Acate, Butera, Gela, San Cono, Mazzarrone, Mirabella, Imbaccari, Chiaramonte Gulfi, Vittoria, Piazza Armerina, Enna, Caltagirone, San Michele di Ganzaria e Mazzarino, Palermo e Modica; Regional Environmental Protection Agency (ARPA); Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA); National Health Institute (ISS)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Coordinamento dei Comitati No Muos; Comitato Mamme No MUOS di Niscemi; Associazione Antimafie Rita Atria; Legambiente; Rete Disarmo; Emergency; WWF Sicilia; Pax Christi; Parlamentari per la Pace; Rifondazione Comunista party, Movimento 5 Stelle; Sinistra Ecologia e libertà party
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Hunger strikes and self immolation
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Appeals to the European Parliament
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Genetic contamination, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Other Environmental impacts
Other Environmental impactsBees, important for maintaining the biological balance of ecosystems are particularly sensitive to the presence of high electromagnetic fields
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Deaths, Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsMicrowaves emitted by the parables of the MUOS system could be high dangerous radiation for the surrounding areas. Moreover in the first years of operation should be added radiations emitted by the 46 existing antennas UHF Follow-On (UFO) satellite system which in measurements made by the Regional Environmental Protection Agency (Agenzia regionale per la protezione ambientale, ARPA) exceeded emission limits prescribed by law as demonstrated in the technical study promoted by the Administrative Tribunal of Sicily in 2013.
Given the risk of biological effects on humans, flora and fauna, the study shows the need to conduct an updated and complete research to verify the conformity of the MUOS.
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Militarization and increased police presence, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Other socio-economic impacts
Other socio-economic impactsThe electromagnetic field induced could interfere with neighboring airports (Comiso, Sigonella and Catania) and airplanes flying in the beam of the MUOS parables.
The Niscemi station of the most advanced U.S. military communications system could expose local population to become a military target.
Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Land demarcation
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
Fostering a culture of peace
Proposal and development of alternatives:No Muos movement demands the definitive revocation of the authorization for the installation and activation of the MUOS.
They also question the very reason of having US military installation in Sicily and oppose military interventions in North Africa and Middle East which use Sicily as the main navy base.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:No Muos movement raised the attention of local and national authorities and citizens on important issues as territorial sovereignty and human health. The movement was able to bring into question the legitimacy of the process of authorization and obtained the temporarily revocation of the authorization, mainly for the serious risks to the environment and human health caused by the electromagnetic waves of the MUOS. Presently the project is under construction and all the actions to stop the installation are still in progress.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Legge 36/2001 sui limiti alle esposizioni a campi elettromagnetici (Italian law on the limits regarding the exposure to electromagnetic fields)
[click to view]

DIRECTIVE 2013/35/EU OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 26 June 2013 on the minimum health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to the risks

arising from physical agents (electromagnetic fields)
[click to view]

DPCM 2003 che fissa i limiti di esposizione ai campi elettromgnetici
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1]Final Relation promoted by the TAR Palermo on the MUOS technical studies, issued by Prof. Marcello D'Amore, La Sapienza University of Rome, 2013
[click to view]

[2]National Health Institute Report, 2013
[click to view]

[3]Abstract for 8th ECPR General Conference – Glasgow, 3-6 September 2014, Donatella della Porta (European University Institute) and Gianni Piazza (University of Catania)

United States Government Accountability Office, Report to Congressional Committees, DEFENSE ACQUISITIONS Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs, March 2013
[click to view]

Report, Risks linked with the realization of the MUOS in the NRFT base Niscemi, M.Zucchetti and others, 2014
[click to view]

ENAV aeronautical Report, 2013
[click to view]

MUOS project, SPAWAR Report, 2006
[click to view]

Il MUOStro di Niscemi. Per le guerre globali del XXI secolo, Antonio Mazzeo, 2014

US and MUOS bases: interview with General Mini (1,2,3), may 2014
[click to view]

Legambiente – Comitato Regionale Siciliano, Osservazioni e proposte in merito alla vicenda MUOS all’interno della Riserva Naturale “Sughereta di Niscemi”. Valutazioni sulle illegittimità delle autorizzazioni, Palermo, 22 gennaio 2013.
[click to view]

ISPRA - Istituto Superiore per la Protezione e la Ricerca Ambientale, Indagine Ambientale Campi Elettromagnetici. Relazione Tecnica sul Sistema MUOS, Roma, giugno 2013.
[click to view]

ARPA Sicilia:

- Monitoraggio CEM RF Territorio del Comune di Niscemi, Ragusa, 10 marzo 2009.

- Controdeduzioni alle osservazioni contenute nella relazione “MUOS presso il Naval Radio Transmitter Facility di Niscemi: Analisi dei rischi” del Politecnico di Torino, Palermo, 31 maggio 2012.

- Relazione integrativa all’istruttoria sul progetto 002-06/1035 denominato “Installazione sistema di comunicazioni per utenti mobili, sito radio U.S. Navy di Niscemi –U.S.-Navy 41° Stormo-Sigonella” nella Riserva naturale Sughereta di Niscemi, Ragusa, 26 maggio 2009.

Lockheed Martin website
[click to view]

Space News
[click to view]

Sicily Region website
[click to view]

EU Parliament officials question and answers web page
[click to view]

Niscemi municipality website
[click to view]

No Muos websites
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[click to view]

Other comments:Niscemi’s area also suffers contamination from the neighboring petrochemical complex of Gela [2]
Meta information
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:1324
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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