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The Moral Outrage of Nuclear Power

The Truth About Radiation


I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news, and I’m going to have to point out some widespread – let’s say – untruths going around concerning the health impacts of radiation poisoning from the Fukushima meltdowns.  Yes, that’s “meltdowns,” plural.  It’s actually quite a bit more catastrophic than your mainstream media will tell you, and your government officials, of course, have only ever had one message on the subject: ‘It’s reaaaaaaally not so bad, so don’t you worry your pretty little head about it.’  They were saying this on day one, before they knew how bad it was. They were saying it ever since, even as the numbers skyrocketed up into uncharted territory.  How can they get away with blatantly lying to the public, you might ask?  That is a complex question, and requires a complex answer.

Ask yourself this, next time you come upon a “don’t worry be happy” take on a nuclear meltdown in the media:  are any doctors, the people directly treating the children who live in the radioactive contamination zones, ever included in their reporting?

Short answer is no.  They are not.  Are these doctors far too busy and/or isolated to be interviewed?  Is that the reason for their absence across the mainstream news-tainment complex?

A typical radiation news report includes an IAEA spokesman, a government official, and a factoid from the latest study that has come out, all of which bolsters the idea that nuclear meltdowns aren’t so bad.  One might assume that the IAEA, or International Atomic Energy Agency, is some kind of skeptical party, a watchdog perhaps.  This is false.  The IAEA was created by the UN Security Council, and its five permanent nuclear powers, to “…[assist] its Member States, in the context of social and economic goals, in planning for and using nuclear science and technology for various peaceful purposes, including the generation of electricity…”  In other words, the purpose of the IAEA is to promote the nuclear power industry on behalf of the most powerful nuclear states on the planet.

The IAEA is a political organization with the power to censor other UN bodies on nuclear matters, including the World Health Organization.  How would I know this?  Because it happened in 1995, when the World Health Organization studied the Chernobyl catastrophe.  WHO Director Hiroshi Nakajima held a conference of “700 experts and physicians” who would go on to produce the most comprehensive report of the human consequences of the Chernobyl meltdown to date.  This report was never published, never released to the public, and erased from history by orders of the IAEA.  You didn’t hear about that from network news.  It is found in a small Swiss news documentary entitled “Nuclear Controversies” (available online).

The corporate press went ape recently over a new report by the WHO, telling us that yes there is massive contamination, but “only” small percentages were calculated by them to form cancer as a result during their lifetimes.  These calculations make erroneous assumptions, however, and glaring omissions, which require further examination.  This examination did not happen in the corporate press; it never does.  CNN proclaims, “Report: Fukushima’s radiation damaged more souls than bodies (Feb 28, 2013).”

Do you believe that?

Ten days before this headline appeared on the world’s flagship news source, the Fukushima prefecture (ground zero) produced an official report that tells us, “44.2 percent of 94,975 children sampled had thyroid ultrasound abnormalities (RT, February 18, 2013).”  So, is the thyroid in the realm of the body or of the soul?

The thyroid is but one organ of the body.  It absorbs radioactive iodine and then the patient goes on to suffer a long list of incurable illnesses for the rest of their lives, including cancers.  Cancers, it should be understood from the start, take decades to form, and should not be widespread barely two years after the disaster.  But there are many, many other organs affected by ingesting radioactive “hot particles,” which CNN, the IAEA, and most of the corporate press will not talk about.  For this information you will need to perform due diligence and research the matter personally.

I’m afraid the public has been propagandized and blatantly lied to since the days of “Our friend the atom.”  A logical outgrowth of the nuclear weapons industry, the nuclear power industry was championed by the United States with outlandish claims that never, ever came close to being true.  The initial pitch was that electricity would be “too cheap to meter,” which is absurd today.  Nuclear power generation is one of the most expensive methods of creating electricity, and far and away the most dangerous.

Another factor that most in the public don’t know about is the Price Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act of 1957.  Indemnity?  That’s a curious word to be found in an act of congress, no?  Why would a private for-profit electrical generating industry need the federal government to grant it “indemnity?”  What does this law have to do with the nuclear power stations, perhaps in your neck of the nation?

That is quite curious, indeed.  The law caps the liability of the companies that run these power plants.  It shields them from the consequences of their actions, their giant dirty bombs, which are routinely operated in a reckless manner and not maintained at anything approaching a reasonable degree of safety.  Plants across the United States have exceeded their 40 year initial design lifespans, and yet remain in operation with leaking pipes and worn out critical safety systems.  Often emergency generators won’t even operate at all, and these are not kept in proven working condition.

The Price Anderson Act rewards this culture of recklessness by shifting the burden onto a minimal insurance fund that isn’t even paid unless a meltdown occurs.  Once a meltdown occurs, the industry as a whole is required to chip in a token amount per year with the federal government left holding the bag to the tune of unknown billions of dollars.

Nuclear power plant operators are:

“…capped at $17.5 million per year until either a claim has been met, or their maximum individual liability (the $111.9 million maximum) has been reached… (Wikipedia)”

Simply put, no private insurance company will take on the risk of insuring entire cities, entire regions against a nuclear calamity.  The industry would not exist at all, period, if the federal government didn’t absorb this risk.  What’s more, those affected by massive radiation leaks are in no way guaranteed anything if their properties and businesses find themselves swimming in radiation.  If the patterns witnessed so far hold true, the standard response to a meltdown is to claim that a radiated zone is clean enough to go on living in, whether you and your family are contaminated or not.  The end result of a fictional, feel-good spun reality is that the people on the receiving end are out of luck, and those responsible for massive environmental calamities walk away with fat bank accounts.

Speaking of nuclear controversies, the blackout on valid medical reporting and the human costs of radiation poisoning, isn’t total.  Slivers of light do shine through from time to time.  How many have actually sat down and watched the 2004 Academy Award Winner for Best Documentary Short?  It’s a low-budget, one-camera excursion to the radiation zone near Chernobyl by Maryann DeLeo, and it’s called Charnobyl Heart.

What is “Chernobyl Heart?”  It’s not a feel-good term for emotional outpouring.  It’s a medical condition brought on by ingesting radionuclides, which damage the vital organs of the children of Ukraine, Belarus and the surrounding region.  This heart disease, labeled “cesium cardiomyopathy,” is killing the young of the contaminated zone who require major open heart surgery to remain alive. Thyroid cancers are also prevalent, and quite a large number of other radiation induced maladies, which you will not learn about from your corporate media.  Chernobyl Heart is also available online.

What you will be told by your televised talking heads is that there is such a thing as “background radiation” and that any and all radiation problems you may encounter are of no more concern to you than eating a banana or flying in a plane at high altitude.  Are you really going to fall for that one?  They type this stuff with a straight face.

The US Academy of Sciences studied the effects of low-level ionizing radiation in a massive report called BEIR-VII: Health Risks From Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation (2006).  Well, the very first paragraph tells us, “A comprehensive review of available biological and biophysical data supports a “linear-no-threshold” (LNT) risk model—that the risk of cancer proceeds in a linear fashion at lower doses without a threshold and that the smallest dose has the potential to cause a small increase in risk to humans.”

So think about that.  How then can the news media and government officials proclaim that doses are so small that they are “safe” and of no concern?  Their own best available scientific data tells us that there is no “safe” dose at all, and that all radiation is bad and to be avoided.  Radiation is the most potent carcinogen in existence, and it also negatively impacts vital body organs in numerous other ways.  Outdated models of risk assessment do not use this LNT paradigm.  The first models were developed after World War 2 by studying the effects of a radiation blast vis a vis the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  These studies were not concerned with long term ingestion of radioisotopes by populations.  This illustrates the problem with outdated models, outdated thinking and outdated propaganda.

Ingesting radioactive “hot particles” is categorically different than being exposed to a single exposure of gamma radiation.  Particles trapped within the body can behave differently depending upon where they end up.  Some radioactive elements collect in the thyroid, as with Iodine-131.  Others, such as cesium-137 and 134 collect in muscle tissue and other organs. Strontium-90 collects in bones, and there it stays irradiating the host for likely the remainder of his life.  In such close proximity to other cells a radioactive hot particle engages in “cellular disruption (CDC, Cesium 2, Relevance to Public Health).” These radioactive isotopes bombard the nuclei of surrounding cells with energy, and this energy can cause mutations in DNA, thus sparking cancer.

This primer on radiation should illustrate why the public should remain highly skeptical, if not outright hostile, to organizations that gloss over the effects of massive radiation leaks.  It is not “safe.”  Do not be fooled by well-oiled spin machines that have distorted and mangled science in the service of perhaps the most dangerous industry on planet earth today.  The most reasonable response to a radiation leak is to run as far away from the source of the contamination as possible and to never return.  These are uninhabitable zones, and the radiation sitting in the environment attacks the young, particularly unborn developing children, many times harsher than it does full grown adult males (the standard body type used in the old risk assessment model).  Horrific birth defects are the norm in the radiation zones, and these, such as those seen in the two films cited above, will shock the viewer to his/her very core.  This is not an academic discussion nor a scientific debate.  This is a moral outrage.  Nuclear power has poisoned millions.

Joe Giambrone is an author and filmmaker.  His new novel is Hell of a Deal.