If You Love This Planet, Dr. Helen Caldicott

David Kraft on the public health imperative to oppose a nuclear power “renaissance”


David Kraft
is the director and co-founder of Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS), a safe-energy anti-nuclear group based in Chicago. Currently, Kraft and NEIS are opposing what they call the Nuclear Relapse (a.k.a. “nuclear renaissance”) and supporting the Carbon Free-Nuclear Free energy policy approach for the U.S. As background, read Kraft’s articles It’s the water, stupid! Nuclear power won’t work in global warming world and Beware putting too many energy eggs in the nuclear basket….

David Kraft

David Kraft

First, Kraft reports on the nuclear energy industry’s intensive efforts since 2001 to allow construction of a new generation of power plants in the U.S., and their moves to overturn moratoriums in place in many states against constructing more reactors unless the problem of nuclear waste is resolved. Kraft makes a good analogy of hypothetical skyscrapers built without restroom facilities to illustrate the dangerous absurdity of enabling the industry to generate more radioactive waste at more nuclear power facilities.

He talks about the enormous financial burden residents in nuclear-power states shoulder to pay for plant leaks, emissions, construction and tear-down costs (not to mention the unfathomable costs of a meltdown, Dr. Caldicott notes). Dr. Caldicott next asks Kraft about the nuclear-power-heavy Chicago area. He describes the number of operating plants which pose a constant risk to the major Midwestern city and its busy airport. He explains how President Obama has received major funding from the nuclear power industry, and how those in Illinois who watched his earlier behavior as a state legislator and U.S. Senator understand the kinds of inducements he has been given to support nuclear power. Next, Dr. Caldicott and Kraft look at the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, and the role John Rowe, chairman and chief executive officer of Exelon Corporation, has played in influencing decisions about nuclear power and nuclear waste. Read Advice for the Blue Ribbon Commission. Dr. Caldicott expresses her concern that the Commission has no place for biologists or physicians to present the enormous health effects of radiation, including how dangerous nuclear waste is for 500,000 years. She talks about how anyone who points to the health hazards of radiation is labeled “emotional” by the industry in order to shut them up. Later in the show, Kraft comes back and underlines this important point made by Dr. Caldicott.

A gas mask next to a doll in a schoolroom in the city of Pripyat, immediately and permanently abandoned after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.  (Independent/UK)

A gas mask next to a doll in a schoolroom in the city of Pripyat, immediately and permanently abandoned after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. (Independent/UK)

Dr. Caldicott men-
tions the report, Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and Nature, which presented over 5,000 Russian medical papers in English to document how nearly one million people have died from the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown. Listen to Dr. Caldicott’s interview with
Dr. Janette Sherman, who edited the report
. Read the August 6 article Wildfires Could Spread to Region irradiated by Chernobyl Disaster. In discussing the Commission, Kraft criticizes President Obama’s 2010 State of the Union address which showed support for all the toxic energy sources including nuclear despite rhetoric about a “green, sustainable economy.” They next discuss Obama’s oratory and what he actually stands for and does. Dr. Caldicott asks Kraft why Obama has so many pro-nuclear people in his administration. In answering, Kraft points to the importance of the next Congressional elections, and states his worry that global warming is less and less on the public’s radar screen as the urgency of climate change becomes stronger and stronger.

Dr. Caldicott moves the dialogue to the extension of life spans of U.S. nuclear power plants. She asks Kraft to describe how long they were originally intended to operate, and what the nuclear industry is doing to make the plants run much longer than they were safely designed to do. He talks about the “generic rule-making” the Nuclear Regulatory Commission engages in which closes off vital input about safety concerns at power plants. Kraft gives a history of the NRC and the U.S. Department of Energy, and illuminates the revolving-doors between the nuclear industry and the regulatory bodies that are supposed to police the industry but actually do its bidding. Dr. Caldicott has Kraft outline the many dangers of extending a plant’s operation past 40 years. He mentions some of the accidents that have already occurred at aging reactors, and the “power upgrades” which bring in another set of dangers. He says that “this is the kind of thinking that allows space shuttles to crash.”
Dr. Caldicott describes the bathtub curve analogy from David Lochbaum, a former nuclear engineer turned nuclear watchdog. Listen to Dr. Caldicott’s interview with Lochbaum. Dr. Caldicott describes her frustrating attempts at outreach to Catholic clergy in Chicago when she convened a conference on nuclear power and children’s health. Read highlights of this conference here. She also mentions what a nuclear engineer told her about the chances of a meltdown at a U.S. reactor in the next 10 years, and how catastrophic such a disaster would be for a high-population center.

The conversation shifts to Kraft’s work around a carbon-free/nuclear-free energy future. He says that his organization is about safe-energy advocacy first, not just opposition to nuclear power. Read the report Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy by engineer Dr. Arjun Makhijani. Listen to Dr. Caldicott’s interview with Dr. Makhijani about this study. Watch Kraft interview Dr. Makhijani. Kraft gives a summary of the report, which he says provides credible numbers on the feasibility of its concepts, and says that the timeline to convert to all-green energy could be accomplished even more rapidly than Dr. Makhijani hypothesized. Read the October 2008 articles Massive Shift to Clean Energy Could Start Tomorrow and U.S. could create 4.2 million green jobs by 2038.
Dr. Caldicott says the report is a prescription for survival. She mentions her intention to meet with President Obama. Kraft turns to the healthy use of emotions in standing up to nuclear power and ensuring a safe future. Kraft recounts his 12 years doing mental health work in the Chicago area.
Dr. Caldicott asks Kraft about the National Grassroots Summit on Radioactive Waste Policy held in June in Chicago. he explains the motivation behind the Summit and some of the key principles of the “green-ribbon” commission. Read a letter to the Blue Ribbon Commission from Summit participants. Dr. Caldicott brings up the importance of educating the public through the media, and asks Kraft what strategies can be used if major media abrogates its responsibility. Kraft touches on the vitality of social networking Web sites and YouTube videos, while Dr. Caldicott talks about the importance of high-profile, attention-grabbing tactics to draw attention to urgent issues. Kraft explains why it is important that citizens attend hearings when public radio and television station licenses, to force broadcasters to fulfill their responsibility to inform the public.

For more information, see Kraft’s Website, NEIS.org. Check out nuclear news on NuclearFreePlanet.org. See the articles Problems with Nuclear Power Highlighted by Gulf Disaster?, Billions of New Nuke Giveaways in Kerry-Lieberman Bill Exposed, The Washington Post’s “Nuclear Power Regains Support” is a Big Lie, Administration Cannot Drop Bid for Nuclear Waste Dump in Nevada, Efficiency, innovation in the age of energy transformation, Foreign Companies, Workers Are Big Early Winners Under Federal Loan Guarantees For Nuclear Reactors, Climate Bill Would Undermine Regulation Of Reactors, Former NRC Commissioner Says, Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster raise doubts over nuclear plant safety, Meltdown, USA: Nuclear Drive Trumps Safety Risks and High Cost and Former EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman Fails to Disclose She is Paid to Promote Nuclear Energy. And read the Beyond Nuclear press release Obama’s Gulf oil catastrophe Oval Office call for “clean energy” tacit push for taxpayer-backed atomic power expansion?

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