April 26 marks the 33rd anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. And on March 11, the eighth anniversary passed of the triple meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility. Both anniversaries passed mostly without comment in mainstream media circles. In spite of ongoing radiological contamination that will continue to spread and threaten human health for lifetimes to come, other stories dominate the international news cycle. We give below a transcript of an interview of Dr Helen Caldicott conducted by Global Research in March this year on the health dangers posed by these nuclear disasters.
Global Research: Now the Japanese government is preparing to welcome visitors to Japan for the 2020 Olympic Games, and coverage of the 8th anniversary of the Fukushima disaster is hardly, it seems to me, registered given the significant radiological and other dangers that you cited and your authors cited in your 2014 book, Crisis Without End. Now it’s been more than four years since that book came out. I was hoping you could update our listenership on what is currently being recognised as the main health threats in 2019 in relation to the Fukushima meltdown.
Helen Caldicott: Well, it’s difficult because the Japanese government has authorised only examination of thyroid cancer. Now thyroid cancer is caused by radioactive iodine and there were many, many cases of that after Chernobyl. And already, they’ve looked at children under the age of 18 in the Fukushima prefecture at the time of the accident, and by June 2018 last year, 201 had developed thyroid cancer. Some cancers had metastasized (means spreading of cancer to a different body part from where it started – ed.). The incidence of thyroid cancer in that population normally is 1 per million. So obviously it’s an epidemic of thyroid cancer and it’s just starting now.
What people need to understand is the latent period of carcinogenesis, that is, the time after exposure to radiation when cancers develop, is any time from 3 years to 80 years. And so it’s a very, very long period. Thyroid cancers appear early. Leukemia appears about 5 to 10 years later. They’re not looking for leukemia. Solid cancers of any organ as such appear about 15 years later. The Hibakusha from Hiroshima and Nagasaki who are still alive are still developing cancers in higher than normal numbers.
The Japanese government has told doctors that they are not to talk to their patients about radiation and illnesses derived thereof, and in fact if the doctors do do that, they might lose their funding from the government. The IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) interestingly set up a hospital—a cancer hospital—in Fukushima along with the Fukushima University for people with cancer, which tells you everything.
So there’s a huge, huge cover up. I have been to Japan twice and particularly to Fukushima and spoken to people there and the parents are desperate to hear the truth even if it’s not good truth. And they thanked me for telling them the truth. So it’s an absolute medical catastrophe I would say, and a total cover up to protect the nuclear industry and all its ramifications.
GR: Now, are we talking about some of the contamination that happened 8 years ago or are we talking about ongoing emissions from, for example . . .
HC: Well there are ongoing emissions into the air consistently, number one. Number two, a huge amount of water is being stored—over a million gallons—in tanks at the site. That water is being siphoned off from the the damaged melted reactor cores. Water is pumped consistently every day, every hour, to keep the cores cool in case they have another melt. And that water, of course, is extremely contaminated.
Now, they say they’ve filtered out the contaminants except for the tritium which is part of the water molecule, but they haven’t. There’s strontium, cesium and many other elements in that water—it’s highly radioactive—and because there isn’t enough room to build more tanks, they’re talking about emptying all that water into the Pacific Ocean. But this will be a disaster. The fishermen are very, very upset. The fish being caught off Fukushima, some are obviously already contaminated.
Water comes down from the mountains behind the reactors, flows underneath the reactors into the sea and always has. When the reactors were in good shape, the water was fine, didn’t get contaminated. But now the three molten cores are in contact with that water flowing under the reactors and so the water flowing into the Pacific is very radioactive. Note that that’s a separate thing from the million gallons or more in those tanks.
They put up a refrigerated wall of frozen dirt around the reactors to prevent that water from the mountains flowing underneath the reactors, which has cut down the amount of water flowing per day from 500 tons to about a 150. But it’s a transient thing anyway so it’s ridiculous. So over time the Pacific is going to become more and more radioactive.
They talk about decommissioning and removing those molten cores. When robots go in and try and have a look at them, their wiring just melts and disappears. The cores are extraordinarily radioactive. No human can go near them because they would die within 48 hours from the radiation exposure. They will never, and I repeat never, decommission those reactors. They will never be able to stop the water coming down from the mountains. And so, let the truth be known, it’s an ongoing global radiological catastrophe which no one really is addressing in full.
GR: Do we have a better reading on the other cancers, like leukemia incubation . . .
HC: No they’re not looking for leukemia. They’re not charting it. So the only cancer they’re looking at is thyroid cancer and that’s really high, 201 have already been diagnosed and some have metastasized. And a very tight lid is being kept on any other sort of radiation related illnesses and the like. It’s not just a catastrophe it’s a . . .
GR: . . . a cover up
HC: Yeah. I can’t really explain how I feel medically about it. It’s just hideous.
GR: Well I have a brother who’s a physician, who was saying that the World Health Organisation is a fairly authoritative body of research for all of the indicators and epidemiological aspects of this, but you seem to suggest the World Health Organisation may not be that reliable in light of the fact that they are partnered with the IAEA. Is that my understanding…?
HC: Correct. They signed a document, I think in 1959, with the IAEA that they would not report any medical effects of radiological disasters and they’ve stuck to that. So they are in effect in this area part of the International Atomic Energy Agency whose mission is to promote nuclear power. So don’t even think about the WHO. It’s really obscene.
GR: What would the incentive be . . . simply that they got funding?
HC: I don’t know. I really don’t know but they sold themselves to the devil.
GR: That’s pretty incredible. Then, there’s also the issue of biomagnification in the oceans, where you have hundreds of tons of this radioactive water getting into the oceans and biomagnifying up through the food chain, so these radioactive particles can get inside our bodies. Could you speak about what we could expect to see in the years ahead in terms of the illnesses that manifest themselves?
HC: Well number one, Fukushima is a very agricultural prefecture. Beautiful, beautiful peaches, beautiful food, and lots of rice. The radiation has spread far and wide through the Fukushima prefecture, and indeed they have been plowing up millions and millions of tons of radioactive dirt and storing it in plastic bags all over the prefecture. The mountains are highly radioactive and every time it rains, down comes radiation with the water. The radiation is from the elements. There are over 200 radioactive elements made in a nuclear reactor. Some have lives of seconds and some have lives of millions of years, that is to say, the radiation lasts for millions of years. So there are many many isotopes, long-lasting isotopes—cesium, strontium, tritium—on the soil in Fukushima.
And what happens is—you talked about biomagnification—when the plants take up the water from the soil, they take up the cesium also, which is a potassium analog, it resembles potassium. Strontium 90 resembles calcium, and so on. And these elements get magnified by orders of magnitude in the rice and in the plants. And so when you eat food that is grown in Fukushima, the chances are it’s going to be relatively radioactive.
Now, these isotopes go into the ocean as well, and the algae bio-magnify them by ten to a hundred times or more. And then the crustaceans eat the algae, bio-magnify it more. The little fish eat the crustaceans, the big fish eat the little fish and the like. Tuna found off the coast of California some years ago contained isotopes from Fukushima. So, it’s an ongoing bio-magnification catastrophe.
And the thing is that you can’t even taste, smell or see radioactive elements in your food. They’re invisible. And it takes a long time for cancers to occur. And you can’t identify a particular cancer caused by a particular substance or isotope. You can only identify that problem by doing epidemiological studies—comparing irradiated people with non-irradiated people—to see what the cancer levels are and that data comes from Hiroshima and Nagasaki and many, many, many other studies.
GR: Chernobyl as well, isn’t it?
HC: Oh, Chernobyl! Well, a wonderful book was produced by the Russians, and published by the New York Academy of Sciences, on Chernobyl with over 5,000 on the ground studies of children and diseases in Belarus and the Ukraine, and all over Europe. By now, over a million people have already died from the Chernobyl disaster. And many diseases have been caused by that, including premature aging in children, microcephaly in babies, very small heads, diabetes, leukemia, I could go on and on.
And those diseases which have been very well described in that wonderful book, which everyone should read, are not being addressed or identified or looked for in the Fukushima or Japanese population.
May I say that parts of Tokyo are extremely radioactive. People have been measuring the dirt from roofs of apartments, from the roadway, from vacuum cleaner dust. And some of these samples are so radioactive that they would classify to be buried in radioactive waste facilities in America. That’s number one.
Number two, to have the Olympics in Fukushima just defies imagination. Some of the areas where the athletes are going to be running, the dust and dirt there has been measured, and it’s highly radioactive. Abe, the Prime Minister of Japan, has set this up as a sort of way to obscure what Fukushima really means. And those young athletes . . . young people are much more sensitive to radiation . . . it’s just a catastrophe waiting to happen.
It is being called the radioactive Olympics!
GR: Is there anything that people can do, whether they live in Japan or, say, the west coast of North America, to mitigate the effects that this disaster has had, and may still be having eight years later?
HC: Yes. Do not eat any Japanese food because you don’t know where it’s sourced. Do not eat fish from Japan, miso, rice, you name it. Do not eat Japanese food. Period. Fish caught off the west coast of Canada and America, well, they’re not testing the fish so I don’t know what to say. Well, most of it’s probably not radioactive, but you don’t know because you can’t taste it.
They’ve closed down the air-borne radioactive measuring instruments off the west coast of America. That’s pretty bad, because there still could be another huge accident at those reactors.
For instance, if there’s another large earthquake, number one, all those tanks would be destroyed and the water would pour into the Pacific. Number two, there could be another meltdown, a release —huge release of radiation, from the damaged reactors. So, things are very tenuous, but they’re not just tenuous now. They’re going to be tenuous forever.
(Dr Helel Caldecott is author, physician & one of the leading world’s anti-nuclear campaigners)
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