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.
One of the ground stations is currently under construction in the southern part of Sicily in the U.S. military base NRTF (Naval Radio Facility Trasmitter) Niscemi, operational since 1991 and about 60 km from the Naval Air Station Sigonella (a military base used by the U.S. Navy and Air Force, by NATO and by the Italian navy). The project is located in the Natural Reserve Sughereta di Niscemi (a cork forest), 6 km from Niscemi.
The Island of Sicily, where several US and NATO military bases are placed, represents a geopolitically strategic site in the Mediterranean due to its proximity to Africa and the Middle East. US military infrastructure on Italian territory are regulated by a secret bilateral treaty between Italy and the USA dating back to 1954. The process of permissions for the new installation began in 2001. In 2006 the Italian Ministry of Defense approved the installation site in Niscemi (originally the installation was planned at the Sigonella base but risks of electromagnetic interferences with weapons led to a change of location). The project for the realization of the MUOS was presented by the US Navy in 2008. In 2009 the administration and population of Niscemi started to express concern about health risks and environmental damage due to electromagnetic waves emissions and a strong opposition to the realization of the new installation emerged. Works for the construction officially started in June 2011 after the authorization issued by the Sicilian Region. Protests have increased progressively since 2012 with demonstrations, pickets near the base and legal actions against the legitimacy of the project authorization. In October 2012 works were temporarily suspended for a few weeks and in early 2013 the new President of the Sicily Region revoked the authorization for the MUOS construction. The National and Regional government agreed to commission a study to assess the impact of the electromagnetic waves on the environment and on the health of the population to the National Institute of Health (Istituto Superiore di Sanità, ISS). The Italian Ministry of defense presented an appeal to the TAR (Regional Administrative Tribunal) against the Sicilian Region for revoking the authorization and asked for compensatory damages (25,000€ per day starting from 29th of March 2013). The appeal was rejected by the TAR. In summer 2013 the Sicilian Region retracted the measures to withdraw the authorization motivated by the results of the ISS study, which refutes health hazards due to MUOS , thereby works for the construction of the militar installation restarted. The municipality of Niscemi and local committees presented several appeals to the TAR against the authorization issued by the Region Sicily. In April 2014 the TAR requested a new study including the ISS Report in the research commissioned in 2013 to the University la Sapienza to evaluate effects of the electromagnetic waves generated by the military bases near Niscemi. The first results of the research carried out by the technician Professor Angelo D’Amore were published in June 2013and commented on the lack of rigor and comprehensiveness in the data collected by the Space and Naval Warfare system center and used to evaluate the installations’ impact until the present . The author concludes that there is not sufficient data in order to prove the safety or to fully understand the risks of the installation and the impact of long-distance waves on human health. In November 2014 there will be the next TAR judicial hearing. In January 2014 installation of the three satellite dishes was finalized.
The No Muos movement has grown into a broad-based movement in Sicily with wide support from residents and local municipalities and has employed a wide range of actions including direct action such as blockades and occupations of the spaces, climbing antennas, etc..
If at the beginning the citizens protested because they were worried about health risks and environmental damage due to radio waves (based on scientific studies promoted by local and regional authorities), with the main goal to stop the new installation, in the course of the mobilization, the frames of the protesters were extended beyond the concern for electromagnetic pollution until to the fighting for peace and against the war and territory militarization.