The medical and economic costs of nuclear power – On Line Opinion – 14/9/2009

The medical and economic costs of nuclear power
OnLine opinion By  Helen Caldicott – 14 September 2009

“…………………..The radioactive elements “routinely” emitted from nuclear power plant stacks into the air can be inhaled, or ingested when they concentrate in the food chain – in vegetables and fruit, -and then further concentrated in various internal organs in humans.

Similarly, the millions of gallons of cooling water flushed daily from a nuclear reactor into the always adjoining water source (lake, river or sea) contaminate it with radioactive materials which bio-concentrate hundreds of times in the aquatic food chain. The fish of course, who may ingest these materials in the surrounding water, routinely travel for tens and even hundreds of miles before they are caught by commercial or recreational purposes. And when caught their physical appearance does not provide any clues about such ingestion.

Unfortunately, radioactive elements are invisible to the human senses – taste, smell, and sight. Also unfortunately, the incubation time for radiation-induced cancer is five to 60 years, a long, silent latent period. No cancer ever denotes its specific cause.

Among these biologically active elements that are routinely released from nuclear power plants are tritium which lasts for more than 100 years (there is no limit to the amount of tritium that escapes); xenon, krypton. and argon which decay to cesium and strontium; carbon 14 which remains radioactive for thousands of years; cesium 137 – radioactive for hundreds of years; and iodine 129, which has a half life of 15.7 million years.

Tritium combines directly in the DNA molecule of the gene and can induce fetal deformities and various cancers in both animals and humans; cesium causes muscle sarcomas and brain cancers; and strontium – a calcium analogue – migrates to bone where it can induce bone cancer or leukaemia. Finally radioactive iodine causes thyroid cancer.

This situation is made worse by the fact that we are all – including populations living within the vicinity of nuclear reactors – routinely exposed to carcinogenic chemicals in our daily lives, many of which enhance the carcinogenic effects of radioactivity. There are now 80,000 chemicals in common use.

The medical and economic costs of nuclear power – On Line Opinion – 14/9/2009

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