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Truthdig Radio: Helen Caldicott, Mr. Fish on Ice

Posted on Mar 31, 2011
Photo illustration from an image by Colin Grey

(Page 5)

Peter Scheer: Welcome back to Truthdig Radio. Next up, we have Dr. Helen Caldicott, author of such books as “Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer” and “War in Heaven,” and the leading voice against nuclear weapons and energy for many, many years.

Josh Scheer: Could you expand on, you were talking about…spell the end of the nuclear industry, the disaster in Japan?

Helen Caldicott: Yeah, I did. Well, obviously, it’s…the disaster is so profound, and is ongoing, and hasn’t ended. I think it’s going to wake the whole world up to the profound dangers of nuclear power, and I think the general feeling throughout the population of the world will be, “We don’t want it anymore.”

Josh Scheer: And I wanted to ask you, being a doctor, what are the effects? Because maybe a lot of people don’t know, how does this affect people?


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Helen Caldicott: Oh. Well, I think first we should note that the New York Academy of Sciences has put out a report called “Chernobyl,” where for the first time they translated 5,000 Russian articles into English. And it seems…that almost 1 million people have died already from the effects of Chernobyl. Now, that’s just one reactor melting down. There are huge numbers of cancers and leukemia, babies being born severely and grossly deformed, such that we pediatricians have never seen anything like this before. Many of the materials coming out of that reactor last for 600 years. For instance, the whole of the European landmass—40 percent of it is contaminated with Caesium-137, but also plutonium and strontium and the like, and will remain so for 600 years, because that’s how long…but plutonium also lasts for half a million years. Now, the material getting…and what happens is that these elements bio-concentrate in the food chain. For instance, they get into algae and concentrate hundreds of times compared to background water levels; then the crustaceans eat the algae, concentrate it further; little fish, big fish, and finally us. And it’s the same with vegetables and fruit, and milk; the cows come along and graze on the grass that’s concentrating strontium…and caesium and the like, and that then is bio-concentrated in their milk, and then when we drink milk it’s concentrated further in us, in our bones and our teeth, and the like. And so, because we stand at the apex of the food chain, we’re most at risk. Now, you can’t taste any of these substances; you can’t see them or smell them. They’re like minerals that we eat in our food all the time—calcium and zinc, and the like—but they’re radioactive. There are six reactors at risk now in Japan; not one, six. Several of them seem to be melting down. Plus, each one of them has a cooling pool on top of the reactor, unprotected by the containment vessel. And the cooling pools, two of them have run dry. If they are not continually cooled, the water runs out; the zirconium cladding of the fuel rods, containing the uranium pellets and the highly radioactive material, burns and ignites; and as that burns then the fuel melts, and then there’s much, much more radiation in the cooling pool than in the reactor itself. There’s as much long-lived radiation in the reactor as that produced by the explosion of a thousand Hiroshima-sized bombs. So you multiply that by, you know, two to 20 times, and that’s what you’ve got in the cooling pool. So you’ve got reactors melting down, plus cooling pools melting down.

Josh Scheer: So, say you’re someone in the U.S. What are the six reactors melting down right now going to mean—I know we just talked about the, into the food chain and everything else…

Helen Caldicott: Well, it depends on the wind direction. Now, when Chernobyl went, the wind changed 360 degrees in 24 hours, but Chernobyl burnt and melted for at least 10 days. And the whole of Europe was contaminated; in fact, the fallout landed also throughout the Northern Hemisphere in America and right around. The two air masses at the equator do not mix, so this will probably stay in the Northern Hemisphere, but it depends where the wind’s blowing. But they blow from West to East, towards America, and I think there’s going to be—already there’s a fair amount going up there now into the stratosphere; planes have been re-routed around the cloud. Two planes landed in America yesterday and radiation was found upon the passengers and their luggage, an airlift from Tokyo. So it’s already landing in Tokyo. What you need to know, though, is that you only need to inhale a microgram, a millionth of a gram of plutonium, and that will irradiate just a tiny volume of itself for many years. And one of the cells, its regulatory gene could be mutated or biochemically changed by the radiation in one day. Instead of the cell dividing in a regulated way by mitosis, it will go crazy and produce trillions of cells. So it takes a single gene and a single cell to be hit by a single alpha particle by some plutonium, and that’s a death sentence. And that is not just the only one. Plutonium… Strontium-90 is like calcium; it can go to the bone, where it can cause bone cancer or leukemia. Caesium goes throughout the body, so it can cause brain cancer, muscle cancers, ovarian cancers. Radioactive iodine, which only lasts six weeks, but is very potent and concentrates in milk and leafy vegetables, and can be inhaled, causes thyroid cancer. And over 20,000 people in Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine have had thyroid cancer; it’s probably many more now.

Josh Scheer: OK. And now, another question, because…with the green movement, and I know you just wrote the book “If You Love This Planet.” A lot of advocates for nuclear power and lobbyists have jumped on that bandwagon, saying this is clean, this is safe, and this is a great way to… 

Helen Caldicott: Well, they don’t understand. They don’t understand biology; they don’t understand radiation biology; they don’t understand medicine. And they have no right to be for nuclear power. First, nuclear power is undergirded by huge industrial infrastructure, all of which produces huge quantities of C02. You have to mine millions of tons of uranium, you have to crush it, you have to enrich it using huge coal-fired plants; you have to build the reactor; you have to transport and store the waste. A large amount of global warming gas is induced by nuclear power. So, it doesn’t affect greenhouse warming, not one little bit. No. 2, it leaves…well there are 64, 70,000 tons of high-level radioactive waste from civilian nuclear power alone in America, let alone much more from the production of nuclear weapons. That waste is leaking; as it leaks and gets into underground water, it will bio-concentrate in food chains and over generations will induce epidemics of leukemia, cancer and genetic disease. This is the most monstrous public-health hazard the world will ever face. Most of us will be dead, however, by the time the ramifications can be clearly seen.

Josh Scheer: And how do we step back from this? How do we stop…

Helen Caldicott: Well, you close down every single reactor in the world. And I predict this is the end of nuclear power, when the tragedy and the awfulness of this sinks in. And I commissioned a study by Dr. Arjun Makhijani a couple of years ago, to show that the current forms of renewable energy are sufficient to supply all the energy America needs by 2040, with no carbon and no nuclear. Why hasn’t it happened? The politicians are sycophants and servants and prostitutes of the oil companies, the coal companies and the nuclear companies. Period.

Josh Scheer: And then, I was going to ask, with China, they’re planning a major expansion into nuclear power, and countries like France…

Helen Caldicott: China is watching us really carefully. The Chinese are not stupid.

Josh Scheer:…but with countries like France, Lithuania, Slovakia, and obviously many more, they get a lot of their power…you know, I think the French get 78 percent of their power from…

Helen Caldicott: I know—well, the French are nuts anyway. I’ve got a son-in-law who’s a French count; they’re very arrogant. The French nuclear company, it’s all being run by the French government, and Le Monde has really been sycophantal to the French government. Even Eric’s sister [the sister of the French count], who’s a very big TV personality and news person, knew nothing about nuclear power till I taught her. The French are ignorant, they love their food and its agrarian economy, and at every corner you turn there’s a huge nuclear power plant. And there’s a very big rising anti-nuclear movement in France, and they all have to be shut down. They’re pouring radioactive waste into the sea continually as we speak.

Josh Scheer: They have to be close to population centers, right? Because if they’re too far away, they lose their effectiveness?

Helen Caldicott: Because the transmission is inefficient, and you lose a lot of electricity through the power lines, they are usually located near population areas. But they have to be next to water bodies, because each reactor needs a million gallons a minute to keep it cool. And that water goes back, relatively radioactive, into the lake, river or ocean, and they continually pour out radioactive materials. A new study done by the German government, looking at children under the age of 5 living within 5K of 16 reactors, found they had a more than double increased incidence of leukemia and a high incidence of cancer.

Josh Scheer: And then—we just talked about the French, but who are the, who are all the other bad players in regards to the…

Helen Caldicott: Oh, the English are nuts too, they’ve got…and let me tell you that it’s a ..uranium fueling these Japanese reactors. The English have had the most ghastly accidents. There’s some sort of deep psychological need by some men to go for the energy that is obtained from splitting the atom. Einstein said, “The splitting of the atom changed everything save man’s mode of thinking; thus we drift towards unparalleled catastrophe.” The Department of Energy in America called nuclear power “hard energy.” Whereas they call solar and wind “soft energy.” So the psychosexual analysis…no statement stands alone.

Josh Scheer: Thank you very much for joining us, and have a great day.

Helen Caldicott: Thank you.

* * *

Peter Scheer: With his new single, “Words I Never Said,” off the album “Laser,” superstar rapper Lupe Fiasco brings mainstream hip-hop back to its best tradition of actually saying something. There’s a debate raging in the comments on Truthdig about how Lupe Fiasco compares to the likes of Bob Dylan, and whether that even matters. You be the judge.

[Listen to the last two minutes of the podcast to hear the Lupe Fiasco song.]

Peter Scheer:That’s it for this week’s episode of Truthdig Radio. Check us out in a week on air, or anytime online at Thanks to our guests, Dr. Helen Caldicott, Marcia Dawkins, Dr. Alan Lockwood and Loretta Napoleoni. Special thanks to our board-op, engineers Stan Mizrahi and Mark Maxwell, and also Alan Minsky. For Robert Scheer, Kasia Anderson, Dwayne “Mr. Fish” Booth, Josh Scheer and myself, thanks for listening.



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By Voltaire, April 5, 2011 at 7:39 pm Link to this comment

@diedaily Sorry Dude but the links you sent say “page not found” would have
loved to read them but they’re not accessible.

Report this

By NadePaulKuciGravMcKi, April 5, 2011 at 5:54 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Fukushima Internal Emitters
An ill wind comes arising
Across the cities of the plain
There’s no swimming in the heavy water
No singing in the acid rain
Absalom Absalom Absalom

Report this

By Voltaire, April 5, 2011 at 2:22 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

@diedaily I’m fine thank you. More worried about what’s coming out of Japan than
France right now!  As I said not a fan of nuclear energy at all but you’ve got to
admit that Caldicott’s insults are no way to get people in her corner! I still believe
it was unnecessary and gratuitously belligerent.  Can we agree on that?

Report this
DieDaily's avatar

By DieDaily, April 5, 2011 at 7:50 am Link to this comment

...continued from below:

The champagne produced from France’s illustrious
Champagne region may have some radioactive elements
in it.
ar_waste_sites_may_affect_french.html?cat=5; As many
as one-third of the utility’s reactors have been out
of service simultaneously this year.
ves/2009/12/french_nuclear.html; 8th nuclear Incident
Tricastin France, nuclear fuel building evacuated
evacuated#ixzz1Ie9T5Qud; French nuclear incident
highlights problems at Gravlines plant.
; Problems at French nuclear construction site for
company seeking Ont. contract

Repeated incidents raise questions about French
nuclear safety
i=ab3_1216650036&comment_order=newest_first; FRENCH
20French reprocessing.pdf; BEST OF ALL:
power-in-france-setting.pdf (DUDE, PUH-LEEZ READ THIS

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DieDaily's avatar

By DieDaily, April 5, 2011 at 7:49 am Link to this comment

@Voltaire: hey buddy, you ok???

450-tonne shipment of depleted uranium from the port
of Le Havre;
Concern over French nuclear leaks; Will French
Leaks Harm Nuclear’s Revival?
/gb20080728_585698.htm; French Nuclear Watchdog Says
EDF Has Problems With Flamanville EPR Liner
watchdog-says.html; French “nuclear miracle” crowds
out renewables

Report this

By Voltaire, April 4, 2011 at 5:01 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m no fan of nuclear plants but Ms. Caldicott almost made me one! First she is
factually wrong saying the French pour nuclear waste into the sea “as we speak”. It
is an utter lie. It’s the only nation that has invented and perfected a system of
recycling over and over again nuclear waste (and the U.S. has asked the French to
teach them and shipped some of the U.S. waste for recycling to France) and then
contains the little bit left by interment in massive, several layered-containment
“boxes”, further covered in cement. It is the most regulated industry in the world
and no “pouring into the sea” is remotely allowed.  Then she went on to insulting
the French, which was completely unnecessary, I pity her son in law the Count!
Calling us nuts, arrogant, ignorant, clinging to our food and agrarian economy will
not improve our relationship with people like her.  All it does is make me want to
put one of our Rafale planes up her rear end to teach her manners. Enough with
gratuitous insults.

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DieDaily's avatar

By DieDaily, April 2, 2011 at 1:01 am Link to this comment

I was captivated by this broadcast. It was very high
quality and most thoughtful. I first saw Dr.
Caldicott in Edmonton, AB in the late 80s. Her
lecture was spot-on then as it is now. She argued
that Reagan was a demented psychopath (along medical
lines) and I was was well and fairly convinced.

Minor complaint: Caldicott’s segment was small. It’s
a bit cheesy to name only the headline band on your
gig poster. grin

But, all in all, a fantastic broadcast. I enjoyed all
of the other guests even if they were sneaked in a
bit surreptitiously. Keep it up. I understand you
guys have to make a living, so I’m going to go and
buy something from one of your advertisers now.
Please, please, everyone else do the same so that
these poor TruthDiggers can stop with the Waspington
Post articles. All of our nausea levels could be
greatly reduced by this. I personally pledge to buy
something from an affiliate every single time that a
week goes by during which no WP shill is allowed to
mangle your message. I understand that for now this
is a safe bet on my part. For survival purposes, I
guess one must occasionally consort with the Devil.

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By prosefights, April 1, 2011 at 8:46 pm Link to this comment

Ms Caldicott may be a BS artist?

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By gerard, April 1, 2011 at 7:48 pm Link to this comment

            z z z z z z z z .....

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By gerard, April 1, 2011 at 7:45 pm Link to this comment

            zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz ...

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Peter Knopfler's avatar

By Peter Knopfler, April 1, 2011 at 5:38 pm Link to this comment

IN THE STREET, more people in the street globally.

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Night-Gaunt's avatar

By Night-Gaunt, April 1, 2011 at 4:05 pm Link to this comment

It would only happen if there was enough dedicated, billionaire supporters of our point-of-view to get them up and running an on air. Not on the computer but on the radio waves. Not in this universe any time soon.

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Clash's avatar

By Clash, March 31, 2011 at 9:52 pm Link to this comment

Finally fish you have now got the right idea and are talking to the right person, but like always just 40 years to late.

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MK Ultra's avatar

By MK Ultra, March 31, 2011 at 8:43 am Link to this comment

This is just so cool!  smile

We need more radio stations like this to compliment and continue the work of Amy Goodman and DemocracyNow!

Way to go Truthdig!

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