Misleading The World on Radiation: Why There is No Such Thing As Nuclear Safety
Using lethal nuclear technology to make a light bulb glow, heat a house or charge a battery is like using a hammer to kill a fly. The advocacy of nuclear power was never about providing safe, clean energy. At best, almost every nuclear agency in the world misinforms, and at worst misrepresents or distorts, the scientific evidence of the harmful effects of radiation exposure.
Nuclear apologists insist that if you look at all of the risks to human health involved in energy production from all parts of the process -- the mining, transport, refining, shipping and disposal of waste -- nuclear energy is the second most safe. But this is simply not true.
Internal radiation emanates from radioactive elements which enter the body by inhalation, ingestion, or skin absorption. Hazardous radionuclides such as iodine-131, caesium 137, and other isotopes currently being released in the sea and air around Fukushima bio-concentrate at each step of various food chains (for example into algae, crustaceans, small fish, bigger fish, then humans; or soil, grass, cow's meat and milk, then humans).
After they enter the body, these elements – called internal emitters – migrate to specific organs such as the thyroid, liver, bone, and brain, where they continuously irradiate small volumes of cells with high doses of alpha, beta and/or gamma radiation, and over many years, can induce uncontrolled cell replication – that is, cancer. Further, many of the nuclides remain radioactive in the environment for generations, and ultimately will cause increased incidences of cancer and genetic diseases over time.
There is a very distinct difference between radiation and radioactivity, yet many media sources which reported on Japan's nuclear disaster used the terms interchangeably.
Radiation is a process in which energy particles or waves travel through a medium, space or object. It does not deposit itself in plants or the organs or tissues of animals or humans. It is typically measured in mrems, rads and sieverts.
Radioactivity is the release of energy by emitting ionizing particles (ionizing radiation). The emission is spontaneous, and it is released into the environment, biosphere, plants, animals and human beings.
There are more than 400 radioactive isotopes that are released in a nuclear accident such as those now admitted in Japan. Out of those isotopes, there are many that are too short lived to be dangerous to humans. However, approximately 50 of these isotopes are indeed very dangerous to humans including strontium-90, cesium, iodine, plutonium, and tranuranium elements, since they can be absorbed by the human body.
The grave effects of internal emitters are of the most profound concern at Fukushima. It is inaccurate and misleading to use the term "acceptable levels of external radiation" in assessing internal radiation exposures. To do so is to propagate inaccuracies and to mislead the public worldwide who are seeking the truth about radiation's hazards.
Nuclear industry proponents often assert that low doses of radiation (eg below 100mSV) produce no ill effects and are therefore safe. But , as the US National Academy of Sciences BEIR VII report has concluded, no dose of radiation is safe, however small, including background radiation; exposure is cumulative and adds to an individual's risk of developing cancer.
Since World War II, the process of secrecy – the readiness to invoke "national security" - has been a pillar of the nuclear establishment…that establishment, acting on the false assumption that "secrets" can be hidden from the curious and knowledgeable, has successfully insisted that there are answers which cannot be given and even questions which cannot be asked.
The net effect is to stifle debate about the fundamental of nuclear policy. Concerned citizens dare not ask certain questions, and many begin to feel that these matters which only a few initiated experts are entitled to discuss.
Nuclear industry apologists seek to confuse the public on radiation risks, and in much the same way that the tobacco industry did in previous decades about the risks of smoking. Despite their claims, it is they, not the "anti-nuclear movement" who are "misleading the world about the impacts of radiation on human health."
As if the United States does not have enough corruption, its neighbours to the north have also jumped on the denial band wagon to minimize radiation risks.
Government officials in Canada claimed there was nothing to worry about after the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan errupted. “The quantities of radioactive materials reaching Canada as a result of the Japanese nuclear incident are very small and do not pose any health risk to Canadians,” Health Canada said on its website. “The very slight increases in radiation across the country have been smaller than the normal day-to-day fluctuations from background radiation.”
In fact, Health Canada’s own data showed this was not true. The iodine-131 level in the air in Sidney peaked at 3.6 millibecquerels per cubic metre on March 20. That’s more than 300 times higher than the background level, which is 0.01 or fewer millibecquerels per cubic metre.
“There have been massive radiation spikes in Canada because of Fukushima,” said Gordon Edwards, president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility.
“The authorities don’t want people to have an understanding of this. The government of Canada tends to pooh-pooh the dangers of nuclear power because it is a promoter of nuclear energy and uranium sales.”
Edwards has advised the federal auditor-general’s office and the Ontario government on nuclear-power issues and is a math professor at Montreal’s Vanier College.
In a phone interview from his Montreal home, he said radiation from Fukushima will lead to higher rates of cancer and other diseases among Canadians.
“It’s not the risk to an individual that’s the problem but how much society is at risk. When you are exposing millions of people to an insult, even if the average dose is quite small, we are going to see fatal health effects,” Edwards said.
“There has been a dismissiveness about the long-term hazards of nuclear power,” said Dr. Curren Warf, adolescent-medicine division head at B.C. Children’s Hospital.
“These were some of the most advanced nuclear power plants in the world. But a natural earthquake and tsunami rendered their safety measures completely meaningless,” he said.