If You Love This Planet, Dr. Helen Caldicott

Archive for December, 2008

Why nuclear power is not the solution to global warming, and how renewables can power everything

Monday, December 29th, 2008

Solar-powered plug-in hybrid cars could recharge during the workday. Photo: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Solar-powered plug-in hybrid cars could recharge during the workday. Photo: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Dr. Caldicott joined Dr. Arjun Makhijani, President of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER), at a public lecture in Washington, D.C. in October 2008. IEER is the sponsor of If You Love This Planet.

Dr. Makhijani has completed a decisive study called Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy, and in this lecture he and Dr. Caldicott address the folly of nuclear power, and discuss the bright future of renewable energy sources.

In the first part of the program, Dr. Caldicott details the dangerous misconceptions the nuclear power industry spreads about nuclear energy, and why it can never be a safe and sane solution to global warming. Nuclear reactors, she notes, emit radiation every day into the air and water, and create a major cancer risk for neighboring communities. She mentions a recent report about people living near 16 old reactors in Germany, showing a statistically higher rate of cancer. Two short summaries of the “Epidemiological Study of Childhood Cancer in the Vicinity of Nuclear Power Plants” (the KiKK Study), commissioned by the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection, can be found here and here.

Dr. Caldicott talks about how radioactive isotopes released by nuclear power plants are synergistic with toxic chemicals, and become exponentially damaging. In other words, tritium from a nuclear power plant in combination with a substance like carbon tetrachloride, a dry cleaning fluid, will become ten-fold more destructive to humans, animals and plants.

Dr. Caldicott notes that the Union of Concerned Scientists has done a study ["Impacts of a Terrorist Attack at Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant"] that finds that 100,000 people would be immediately irradiated by a meltdown in a major metropolitan area. A nuclear accident near New York City, at the Indian Point facility, would mean those in Manhattan and other boroughs would be trapped in gridlock trying to escape, and millions of people would be irradiated. She describes the effects of acute radiation illness, and how the two reactors at Indian Point were actually targeted by the 9/11 terrorists.

Dr. Caldicott underlines how important a green-energy transition is now, and how it could help resolve the present economic downturn in the U.S. Solar-powered plug-in hybrid cars are one of many necessary solutions that must be implemented [see illustration above]. Read Using Solar Roofs To Power Hybrids.

Recommended reading: Dr. Caldicott’s books Nuclear Answer Is Not the Answer and Nuclear Madness.

Dr. Makhijani then joins the discussion with Dr. Caldicott and the audience, and illuminates the findings of Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free about how the U.S. can meet all its energy needs by 2050 with solar, wind and other renewable energy sources, and without nuclear, coal or oil. Nuclear power, he says, has been glamorized, but it is really just “sticking radioactive rods in a pot of water to boil it. It’s better to use the nuclear reactor in the sky - called the sun.”

The question-and-answer session covers such topics as Chernobyl, weapons in space, the U.S./Indian nuclear arrangement, and depleted uranium (DU). Because of DU weapons the U.S. used in 1991 and 2003, there is a 700% cancer increase in parts of Iraq, and the incidence of severe congenital malformations has also gone up 700%. Dr. Caldicott has stated in many lectures that women in Iraq are now afraid to give birth. To see graphic photos of birth defects induced by the DU the U.S. has now used in several invasions, go to Google Images and search for “depleted uranium” which brings up several pages of pictures. Dr. Caldicott refers the audience to a study on DU from the New York Academy of Medicine.

Dr. Makhijani answers a question about electric car batteries, and mentions capacitor technology. Read Cars of the Future, Will Batteries Be Required?

Toxic hell at resurgent nuclear bomb factory

Monday, December 22nd, 2008


In October 2008, Dr. Caldicott traveled to Oak Ridge, Tennessee as a guest of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance (OREPA) which educates the public about nuclear weapons through its ongoing campaign Stop The Bombs. Reverend Ralph Hutchison, Director of OREPA, took Dr. Caldicott to the Y12 National Security Complex at Oak Ridge, which was involved in developing the nuclear weapons that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of the Second World War. Currently operated by B&W (Babcock and Wilcox) Y12, the plant flaunts its vital role in the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Weapons Complex. According to the USA Today story Nuclear Weapons Decision Awaits Obama, the incoming administration’s assessment of its nuclear weapons strategy next year will determine whether Oak Ridge focuses on maintaining existing warheads and storing uranium from weapons pulled out of a shrinking arsenal — or whether it becomes a cornerstone in a new production enterprise. The Bush administration over eight years has laid the groundwork for creating another huge U.S. nuclear weapons (plus space weapons) stockpile, as outlined in Dr. Caldicott’s 2004 book The New Nuclear Danger: George W. Bush’s Military-Industrial Complex.

Reverend Hutchison, a Presbyterian minister, has lived on the doorstep of the Oak Ridge facility for many years, and he joins Dr. Caldicott on If You Love This Planet to explain the capabilities - and dangers - of the Y12 plant. This complex was the largest building in the world in the 1950’s, and at the height of earlier U.S. nuclear bomb production, used one-fifth of all electricity in the country.

The bulk of this program focuses on the immense and terrifying quantities of toxic waste, radioactive and otherwise, that is and was burned, dumped, buried or otherwise emitted in the surrounding area, and on the contemptible plans to recycle nuclear waste around the world. Learn about the most radioactive lake in the U.S., if not the world, and the 75,000 barrels of low-level radioactive waste at the plant, many of which are leaking. Even Dr. Caldicott is horrified to learn about the extent of pollution at Oak Ridge, which she says takes my breath away. Dr. Caldicott and Reverend Hutchison discuss the report detailing the contamination, A Citizens Guide to Oak Ridge (1992) which can be purchased for $5.00 through the Foundation for Global Sustainability. Dr. Caldicott refers to it as one of the more profound documents I have ever read. A short excerpt from a promotional DVD, This is Y12, produced by the Y12 Complex, is played during the interview.

Strongly recommended and relevant viewing: the Emmy-Award-winning 2007 documentary White Light, Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which can be purchased here.

Forty percent of world’s children heavily impacted by pollution

Monday, December 15th, 2008


In this interview, Dr. Caldicott speaks with Richard Fuller, President and Founder of Blacksmith Institute, about the most significant areas of the world suffering from all forms of pollution, “the Top 10 of the Toxic 20.” One billion people are affected by pollution in the Third World and in some heavily polluted areas, 75% of children are born with birth defects. Based in New York, Blacksmith works in locations throughout the developing world where human health is most affected by pollution, and implements strategies to help local institutions address the problem.

In October 2008, Blacksmith, in collaboration with Green Cross Switzerland, released a report, The World’s Worst Pollution Problems. According to www.worstpolluted.org, “The Top Ten list includes commonly discussed pollution problems like urban air pollution as well as more overlooked threats like car battery recycling. The problems included in the report have a significant impact on human health worldwide and result in death, persistent illness, and neurological impairment for millions of people, particularly children. According to the report, many of these deaths and related illnesses could be avoided with affordable and effective interventions.”

Fuller and Dr. Caldicott cover air pollution (Fuller mentions that nearly everyone he encountered on the streets of Beijing this summer had a cough), surface and ground water contamination, sewage, industrial toxins, radioactive waste, indoor air pollution, mercury, lead, and contamination from factories making chemical warfare agents, among other concerns. The program also explores what is being done to reduce toxics, such as China’s major plan to deal with surface water pollution.

Dr. Caldicott on the medical implications of nuclear power and climate change, and the risk of nuclear war

Monday, December 8th, 2008


Photo: Jess Worth, New Internationalist, June 2008

Photo: Jess Worth, New Internationalist, June 2008

In October 2008, Dr. Caldicott gave a lecture to medical colleagues (grand rounds) in Calgary. The lecture was part of her annual speaking tour in North America. During the speech, Dr. Caldicott describes in detail the medical and environmental risks associated with the complex process of the nuclear fuel cycle, and climate change. Without a knowledge of the facts presented in her lecture, she says, the heavily funded nuclear industry will proceed apace, and the world will see epidemics of malignancies by the hundreds of thousands in children and adults. And global warming left unchecked will present enormous challenges to public health, creating billions of ecological refugees and an increase in tropical diseases. Global warming may be greatly exacerbated by permafrost melting and an ocean phenomenon called the albedo flip, which she explains in the presentation. Neither of these threats were noted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in their reports on global warming. Nuclear power, Dr. Caldicott declares, is not the solution to global warming, and in fact contributes to both global warming and ozone depletion. Dr. Caldicott refers the attending doctors to a map of Europe showing the enormous reach of radiation from the Chernobyl disaster.

Photo: Vanity Fair

Photo: Vanity Fair

As a prescription for survival, Dr. Caldicott says the U.S. and the world must follow the explicit guidelines in Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy [also see our August 4 episode]. Medical professionals, and the general public, must now practice the ultimate form or preventive medicine in speaking out against nuclear power and nuclear weapons, and demanding action on global warming.

Dr. Caldicott concludes her presentation by talking about the continuing risk of nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia, and the Dead Hand device that would launch all of Russia’s missiles (toward the U.S. and elsewhere) if the Russian leadership were killed. Read the Wired story, Soviet Doomsday Device Still Armed and Ready. Both the U.S. and Russia have embarked on building a large new generation of nuclear weapons, and the U.S. is arming space to dominate the planet. She outlines the enormous killing capacity of just one nuclear-armed Trident submarine. See the Scientists for Global Responsibility article, Could one Trident submarine cause nuclear winter? and the CBS News/60 Minutes story, The Deadliest Weapon Ever: Navy Creates Weapon Against Terror.

America’s fraudulent missile defense program continues to threaten world security

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

Photo: Lockheed Martin

Photo: Lockheed Martin

Photo: Space4Peace.org

Photo: Space4Peace.org

The U.S. Missile Defense system, enthusiastically promoted by the outgoing Bush administration, has long been met with criticism and doubt within the scientific community. In this episode, Dr. Caldicott talks with Dr. Ted Postol, Professor of Science, Technology and National Security Policy in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Postol, winner of the 2001 Norbert Weiner award from Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, has defiantly uncovered numerous false claims about missile defense made by his employer, which he claims is “representing a weapons system they know will not work as something that will work.”

He describes how the idea of a missile defense system fits in with U.S. strategic nuclear policy and how such a system is dangerously flawed. Dr. Postol and Dr. Caldicott talk about how Russia and China perceive America’s new missile-defense installations in Poland and Czechoslovakia, moves which Dr. Postol calls “worse than irrational.” Dr. Postol says that any nuclear weapons accident occurring at a time of heightened tension between the U.S. and Russia would be more catastrophic than anything the human race has ever experienced. He mentions the 1995 false alarm that brought the world close to nuclear annihilation when a sounding rocket set off the early-warning system of Russia. Read Going Postol in the Boston Globe Magazine about Dr. Postol’s issues with MIT.

The hour concludes with Dr. Caldicott’s summary of missile defense or “Star Wars,” which she calls “crazy, provocative, and dangerous,” from the time Ronald Reagan introduced the idea in 1984 - at a time of nearly unanimous public support for global nuclear disarmament - to the present. She outlines how this “useless program” has mostly benefited universities, to the tune of $100 billion. There are signs that missile defense development will continue under the Obama administration, especially if the pro-Star Wars Robert Gates is retained as Defense Secretary. She describes the new $38 billion missile defense office complex to be opened in 2010 near Washington, D.C. Read the Time magazine article Why Obama Will Continue Star Wars.