By Helen Caldicott, The StarPhoenix November 9, 2012
I write to reply to the allegations made about me in John Gormley’s column, More private liquor stores, less Caldicott (SP, Nov. 2).
First, it is important for me to stress that the aboriginal people in Northern Saskatchewan are being exploited by the uranium and nuclear power industry, as they have routinely been in the United States and Australia.
People who have lived benignly with nature for tens of thousands of years have been forced to allow mining companies to extract uranium from beneath their feet and to work in the mines.
Ample evidence abounds in the scientific literature that one-fifth to one-half of uranium miners in North America have suffered from lung cancer. Furthermore, uranium miners are also exposed to carcinogenic whole body gamma radiation as well as the ingestion of radium – the element that induced leukemia in Madame Marie Curie.
Many indigenous people who live near uranium mines are also exposed to radioactive elements, and newly elevated rates of cancer are now reported in these populations. We don’t know exact numbers because the Saskatchewan government has not performed a baseline health study on the populations affected.
As if this ecological danger were not enough, the nuclear industry is proposing to bury 37,000 tonnes of extremely toxic, high level long-lasting radioactive waste from Canadian nuclear reactors among this vulnerable group of people, which, it is claimed will give them jobs.
As the isotopes inevitably leak, they will contaminate the food chain for evermore inducing more malignancies and genetic disease over future generations.
The Swedish attempt to bury waste, after which the Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s plans were fashioned, has recently run into technical problems, not the least of which is the proposed integrity of the nuclear waste containers.
Gormley was upset that I referred to the global gas oven when discussing nuclear war and proliferation of nuclear weapons as a result of Canadian uranium exports. Surprisingly, Russia and the U.S. still target each other with thousands of nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert, ready to be launched with a three-minute decision time by Barack Obama or Vladimir Putin.
Nuclear war could well be induced during a time of high international tension and anxiety, as happened on 9/11 when the Strategic Air Command went on the highest state of nuclear alert to DEFCON 2 (posted on its web page for only two or three days). All cities in Canada, the U.S., Europe, China, Russia, England, Japan and Australia are targeted with at least one bomb.
Such is the redundancy of the arsenals that New York City is presently targeted with 40 bombs and Washington, D.C., with 60. Secretary Bob McNamara and I wrote an article for the L.A. Times several years ago quoting these figures. Should the respective arsenals be launched by computer error or human mistake, nuclear winter would ensue and most life on Earth would perish.
Finally, it is true that the Canadian film If You Love This Planet along with two other films on acid rain are classified as “foreign propaganda,” and one must register with the U.S. Justice Department to show these films. This extraordinary issue was taken to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the ruling prevailed. As a result, Terri Nash who made the original, made another called, If You Love Free Speech.
Caldicott is founding president of Physicians for Social Responsibility and was featured in the Oscar winning film, If You Love This Planet.