(To the Los Angeles Times)
Written in approximately 1997.
Helen Caldicott’s recent Op-Ed in your newspaper is a fine example of sensationalistic journalism unsupported by the scientific facts. When reading Ms. Caldicott’s writings one must keep in mind that she is not a radiation scientist who has spent countless hours studying the effects of radiation on man, but someone who has made a name for herself by making unsubstantiated exaggerated claims regarding nuclear power.
She claims to be concerned about public health but the clean use of nuclear energy could prevent the thousands of deaths caused by the burning of fossil fuels every year in this country alone. She claims the release of Cesium, Plutonium, and Strontium, will cause thousands if not billions of painful deaths, but doesn’t explain how these elements would be released. Yes, they are contained in nuclear fuel, but that is where they remain throughout the lifetime of the reactor and that is where the remain when the spent fuel is disposed of as waste.
Even if they were released would they cause the health effects she claims? NO! All of these elements have been released in substantial quantities to the atmosphere by nuclear weapons testing. Matter of fact, orders of magnitude more than one pound of plutonium has been released but yet we are not all dying of cancer as she claims would happen. During the early years of the nuclear weapons programs many workers were exposed to plutonium and had measurable amounts in their bodies. They are living longer than comparable people unexposed to plutonium.
I hope the Los Angeles Times can make better use of their editorial page in the future to educate people rather than try to scare them with unsupported nonsense.
Michael C. Baker, Ph.D. Los Alamos, NM