How She Misinforms the Public
The Los Angeles Times published an article on November 30th written by Dr. Helen Caldicott. She is a well known critic of the use of nuclear power and often warns of the dangers of radiation. Although most of the factual statements made by Dr. Caldicott are true, there is so much information omitted from her article that it does not give an accurate picture of the risks from radioactive materials. For example, she states that plutonium can cause cancer, but fails to mention that the concentration of any cancer producing agent is a critical factor in determining whether or not cancer will occur. She also fails to mention that many naturally occurring radioactive materials can also cause cancer, and that the population is not likely to have any greater exposure to plutonium than to these naturally occurring elements. It is fair to say that Caldicott’s article is an extremely one-sided and biased presentation that does not fairly evaluate the risks of nuclear power and radioactive materials. She also makes a few factual errors, such as the claim that radioactive Sr-90 concentrates in the food chain (It does not).
Recently Helen Caldicott called for a boycott of Hershey candy because it is produced a few miles from Three Mile Island. She is implying by this, that the environment in that area has radioactive contamination. That is simply not true. I wrote to her asking for evidence to support her claim. After 9 years, I am still waiting for a reply. It is important to note that Helen Caldicott has no background or experience in the measurement of radioactive materials in the environment. She is not an expert in this field. Nuclear and Radiation Safety Issues – Responses of Professionals in the Industry
[Los Angeles Times] [COMMENTARY]
Sunday, November 30, 1997 COLUMN LEFT/HELEN CALDICOTT
Nuclear Power Won’t Fix Our ‘Greenhouse’
Selling U.S.-made reactors to China is hugely dangerous for all the world, far into the future.
By HELEN CALDICOTT
During and since the recent visit to Washington by Chinese Premier Jiang Zemin, two myths have been promulgated by the Clinton administration: that the U.S. cares about human rights in China, and that the $60-billion sale of about 50 nuclear reactors to China would help to alleviate global warming. Let us deal with the first myth. If President Clinton and his guests at the dinner given to honor Jiang were in any way concerned about human rights, then Westinghouse, GE and the other nuclear reactor companies would be forced to abstain from their profit-making agenda and address the medical, biological and genetic ramifications of selling nuclear power to China. These are the firms that for months lobbied Congress and the White House for this deal, which was approved and consummated during Jiang’s visit. Nuclear power creates massive quantities of radioactive isotopes, which are classified as nuclear waste. Among these materials are strontium 90, which remains radioactive for 600 years and concentrates in the food chain. Like other isotopes, it is tasteless, odorless and invisible. It acts like calcium in the human body, where it enters bone and lactating breast. It is a potent carcinogen, causing bone cancer and/or leukemia and probably breast cancer. Another byproduct of the nuclear energy process is cesium 137. It, too, remains radioactive for 600 years, concentrating in the food chain and in human muscle, where it can induce rare, extremely malignant muscle cancers called sarcomas. Last but not least is the isotope plutonium, which is so carcinogenic that, hypothetically, one pound evenly distributed could cause cancer in every person on Earth. Plutonium has a radioactive life of half a million years. It enters the body through the lung, where it is known to cause cancer. It mimics iron in the body. Hence it migrates to the bone, where it can induce bone cancer or leukemia, or to the liver, causing liver cancer; and it crosses the placenta into the embryo, where, like the drug thalidomide, it can cause gross birth deformities. Finally, it has a predilection for the testicles, thus inducing genetic mutations in humans and other animals that are passed from generation to generation for the rest of time. Meanwhile, the plutonium itself lives on to enter testicle after testicle, lung after lung, liver after liver for the rest of time as well. Children are 10 to 20 times more susceptible to the carcinogenic effects of radiation than are adults. It is estimated that nuclear power by the year 2000 will have generated 1,139 tons of plutonium, whereas weapons will have contributed 250 tons in the same period. Repressive regimes come and go, but nothing matches the extraordinary abuse of the random, compulsory genetic engineering implicit in American business’ nuclear deal with China, which will condemn untold generations of humans and animals to cancer and genetic diseases. As for the second myth that nuclear power is the answer to global warming: A Friends of the Earth study showed that a nuclear power plant must operate for 18 years before realizing one net calorie of energy. This is because of the amount of fossil fuel used in the manufacture and construction of the reactor and in the mining of the uranium, the milling and enriching of the uranium and the fabrication of the fuel rods. This calculation does not include transport and storage of radioactive waste or decommissioning the reactor. So nuclear power contributes both to global warning and, massively, to the global burden of manmade radioactivity. Nuclear reactor manufacturers must be forced to desist from their push to export nuclear power. If the American people have decisively decided that no new reactors will be built in this country, the same criteria must be applied to China, Indonesia and the former Eastern Bloc countries that are being persuaded by the U.S. nuclear industry that nuclear power is the answer to their energy dreams.
Helen Caldicott, a Pediatrician on Long Island, N.Y., is the Founding President of Physicians for Social Responsibility and Author of “Nuclear Madness” (W.w. Norton, 1994)
Copyright Los Angeles Times