Dr Helen Caldicott spoke to a standing room-only crowd at the Santa Barbara Central Library’s Faulkner Gallery on Friday on “The Medical Implications of Fukushima, Nuclear Power and Nuclear Proliferation.”
The event was sponsored by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation to remind us that nuclear issues are very much still with us.
Caldicott explained that the United States and Russia still have enough warheads aimed at each other to destroy both countries and cause a global nuclear winter. And that the margin for error is just seconds in some cases before a launch can occur.
But most of her talk was on the impact of the Fukushima nuclear disaster and nuclear power in general. She compared it to Chernobyl 25 years ago and said it is at least three times worse.
The effects of Chernobyl were never properly researched by the World Health Organization or any other independent agency. University of South Carolina biologist Timothy Mousseau has done painstaking research on the effects on his own. He said the Russian research had never even been looked at or even translated by international agencies.
Figures of a few thousand deaths are cited, but these are mostly from pro-nuclear industry propaganda, Caldicott claimed. She uses a figure of 1 million premature deaths as a result of Chernobyl.
Not only is Fukushima worse, but also the Fukushima disaster is far from over, she warned. There is still “uranium lava” inside the plant that can explode at any time.
Nuclear contamination from Chernobyl was largely ignored, she said. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) looked at external radiation but did not look at internal consumption through the food chain. When food was found to be radioactive, it was not disposed of; it was simply diluted with unradiated food, she explained.
Radioactive isotopes can remain for hundreds of years and some for many thousands of years. Speaking as a physician, Caldicott explained the result is genetic damage, mutations and cancers. And the radiation concentrates up the food chain. Wild animals at the top of the food chain after Chernobyl had to be buried in nuclear waste dumps.
In the cases of Fukushima, Chernobyl and Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, officials delayed warnings and outright lied about the situation at every stage, Caldicott said. Assurances of safety were issued when no information was even available, she added.
“Your government is full of corporate prostitutes,” she explained.
But Caldicott laid the harshest criticism on us, the public, if we don’t speak out.
You live in a democracy, she told her audience. You should be meeting with your members of Congress and lawmakers and demanding action, she added. You are the leaders, she said.
“It is your fault about the 1 percent and the 99 percent,” Caldicott said.
The Nuclear Freeze movement in the 1980s was rejected by politicians until people got out in the streets and politicians reacted, she said, adding that mass political action works.
The good news is that we don’t need nuclear power, she said, citing a book Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy as an example.
Caldicott berated California for not having solar panels on every home. When the audience blamed the corporations, she said that is no excuse. You can put solar water heating and photovoltaics on your roof today, she replied.
During the question-and-answer period, a survivor of the 1945 Hiroshima atomic bombing spoke of her survival in a high radiation zone.
Caldicott explained that, medically, radiation effects are “idiosyncratic” and that many died from much lower radiation exposures.
Caldicott explained that she is 73 years old and still writing books and traveling the globe speaking out. She said she expects each of us to do our part and not wait for others to do the work for us.
Click here for more information on the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, or call 805.965.3443.