2 January 2012

Trust Us, We're the Experts

By Marguerite Finn

According to a confident statement by the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on 16 December 2011, Japan said that the damaged Fukushima reactors had achieved a “cold shutdown condition” on that day.

Not so, according to the Japan Times, which pointed out that: “the term ‘cold shut down’ is traditionally used to describe a reactor in normal working order that has reached a state of sub-criticality. If the nuclear fission process is stopped in such a reactor, the temperature inside the reactor falls below 100 degrees centigrade and the nuclear fuel is cooled by the reactor’s own internal cooling system in a stable manner”.

In no way at all can the Fukushima reactors be described like this. So why is the world’s premier authority on nuclear power disseminating such politico-speak? In brief, why are they lying?

Some background information may provide an answer: as long ago as 1959 an agreement came into force between the all-powerful IAEA and the World Health Organisation (WHO) that the two bodies would “consult each other regularly in regard to matters of common interest” … “with a view to adjusting the matter by mutual agreement”. The IAEA’s remit has always been to promote nuclear power as much as it possibly can, and ever since 1959 this agreement has been used to repress all possible information that might disadvantage that cause. So the IAEA is keen to say that “Fukushima’s OK now” at the first possible opportunity.

If you doubt such crookedness could exist in such high places, how about this?

Independent scientists have worried for years that the raised child leukaemia incidence near to nuclear stations might be caused by the radiation from the stations, but it has always been hard to prove, because the stations are in sparsely populated areas so it’s difficult to get data that are statistically significant, because the health data are confidential to protect the children, and because data on radiation emissions are difficult and expensive to collect in sufficient detail and quantity to be significant. Radiation levels in vegetables near Sizewell are measured only once a year, local milk only twice, so that’s of little value.

The only data on emissions available from nuclear reactors have been those released by the nuclear establishment. These are all averaged out over long periods of time, making it impossible to see whether at any one time the emissions are higher than at others. And the industry’s experts say “Look how low the emissions have been over all that long time. They couldn’t possibly hurt anyone. Trust us, we’re the experts.” And, while not everyone agrees what constitutes a safe or a dangerous level of radioactivity, the officially accepted levels are those of a body officially backed by the IAEA, so it’s difficult to argue against that.

One body that has not been content with this is the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. Their section in South Germany has joined with the Green Party to demand from the Bavarian State Parliament the release of detailed, non-averaged values of radiation emissions from a nuclear station at Gundremmingen. The normal emission concentration of released radioactive gases from this station during the year is about 3 kBq/m3 – not very much at all. http://www.ippnw-europe.org/en/nuclear-energy-and-security.html?expand=707&cHash=8752881e4a

But the situation changes significantly when the station is being refuelled. Refuelling happens about once a year and “the concentration of noble gas emissions during refuelling was 500 times greater than during normal reactor operation.”(See the graph at http://www.ippnw.de/commonFiles/pdfs/Atomenergie/Edelgasemissionen-Gundremmingen_engl.pdf

The detailed figures released show that for two days during refuelling of the station this concentration suddenly increased to an average of about 500 kBq/m3. with a peak of 1470 kBq/m3. Up till now the industry has been very careful not to include these events in the averaged data on emissions; that is all they have released to the public until now. Yet the industry, the regulators and the IAEA must all have known all about these spikes of radioactivity ever since the first stations were built and refuelled 50 years ago.

What’s more, they must know, and the IAEA better than anyone else, that this has always provided a perfectly plausible explanation for child leukaemias near nuclear stations. At refuelling times, these huge emissions of radioactive isotopes could be breathed in by pregnant women or land on local vegetables consumed by them. Transferred across the placenta, these isotopes could very well contaminate the foetus. Yet for 50 years the nuclear establishment has denied that the emissions from nuclear power stations could possibly cause any harm.

The IAEA is an agency of the United Nations. As the Vice Chair of the Norwich and District United Nations Association, I am particularly ashamed that the IAEA has behaved like this. The UNA is always prepared to criticise the UN when it is necessary. I have raised my disquiet about the dishonest pact between the IAEA and the WHO before now within our branch. I shall now insist that we object to this deception in the strongest terms.

Please raise the matter with your MPs, because our government is also complicit in trying to foist new nuclear stations on us in the full but secret knowledge of all this.


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