precautionary principle

Nurses on Nukes: No More, thanks!

The Canadian Nurses Association passed 3 environmentally-oriented resolutions at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) held in June 2011. All the resolutions from the AGM are listed here

Here is the preamble to the one about nuclear energy:

BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) in collaboration with member associations

· Reaffirm support for the principles of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act 1999 specifically the precautionary principle in respect to fuels, air and water pollution

· Promote a moratorium on construction of new nuclear power plants and the phasing out of present nuclear reactors

· Lobby provincial/territorial and federal governments for funding to identify best practices for conserving and reducing energy consumption and for safer alternative energy resources.

You can find the rest of it here

Janet

P.S. Plenty of great quotations about nukes here

Darl. Hearings: Dr. Baker (PGS) ~ Final Submission

NOTE to anyone who got here by querying "health effects in Elliot Lake" or similar queries: you may want to consider also having a look at the posting 'Uranium: Got 46 minutes?' ***************************

** Dr. Baker's submission printed here w. her permission, of course! Her first submission is here Lots of Darlington-related postings listed here

Once again I would like to thank you for the opportunity of having presented my submission to the panel.

You have heard from a number of physician, scientists and other citizens who are deeply concerned about the risks of expanding nuclear power. As presented in my submission, numerous scientists and physicians, including myself, have extensively reviewed the scientific literature and have come to the unwavering conclusion: there is no safe level of radiation exposure. The vast literature that I have personally reviewed includes the report theHealth Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation: BEIR VII Phase 2.”

The National Research Council panel found a linear dose curve, meaning that the higher the dose, the greater the likelihood of developing cancer. However they also recognized that “a single radiation track (resulting in the lowest exposure possible) traversing the nucleus of an appropriate target cell has a low but finite probability of damaging the cell’s DNA.”

Cumulative exposure increases the risk. There is no safe level of radiation exposure. The interpretation of the BEIR report given by Patsy Thompson, a toxicologist working for CNSC, was biased and misleading at best and not supported by a large number of the scientific community.

The evidence of increased risk to children living near a nuclear reactor of developing leukemia is also overwhelming and irrefutable. An analysis of the data presented by Rachel Lane, an epidemiologist for CNSC, and Patsy Thompson on March 31, which denies this connection, is both circular and flawed. Not expecting an outcome does not negate an outcome. Furthermore, finding other clusters of children with leukemia is completely irrelevant. In a world riddled with carcinogenic toxins, this too is expected and should be addressed. This does not negate the evidence that children living near a nuclear reactor are at higher risk of developing leukemia.

Ms. Lane also referred to studies done in Canada and stated “there is no substantive evidence that there are any adverse health effects related to environmental radiation exposures from these facilities.” In fact the studies are minimal, and lack medical collaboration, but do suggest possible health risks which require further study and improved design. There is no substantial evidence that environmental radiation exposures from these facilities are safe.

Additionally we are still discovering the devastating consequences of the Chernobyl disaster to human health and life. This nuclear disaster resulted in contamination of a large area of land, numerous deaths and many suffering from illnesses including thyroid cancer, leukemia, brain tumours, congenital defects and mental deficiencies. The data that Ms. Lane presented to the panel on March 31 on Chernobyl is not consistent with a recent report published by the New York Academy of Sciences. Russian and Ukraine physicians state that there have been almost one million people who have died as a result of the Chernobyl disaster. Ms. Lane claimed the “official” death count as 4000. Where the numbers are so far apart, there is good reason to doubt the accuracy of what we are being told.

The health dangers of radiation are clear. All the processes in the mining, milling, refining, and enriching uranium - and running the nuclear reactor - increase exposure to radiation, even when using Canadian standard precautions. Nuclear tailings and waste are also a particular risk to the environment. Nuclear technology increases individual exposure and the global burden of radiation. This will increase the incidence of cancer and other diseases linked to radiation exposure. Risks include cancer, genetic damage, birth defects, immune system dysfunction, diabetes and heart disease.

According to the Ontario Diabetes Database, there is a higher incidence of diabetes in the Central East Local Health Integrated Network, LHIN 9, than in Ontario in general. The incidence was particularly high in the region near Pickering. Diabetes is becoming a global pandemic and there is much blossoming evidence that radiation exposure, including from nuclear reactors, is contributing to this. While there is not substantial evidence to conclude that the nuclear reactors at Pickering and Darlington are responsible for this local increase, there is sufficient evidence to conclude that there might be a risk. It is consistent with evidence that the local population is exposed to increased levels of radiation and that that radiation is causing negative health effects. Based on the “Precautionary Principle,” this, alone, is substantial evidence to call for a moratorium on nuclear expansion.

The Precautionary Principle states that if there is a possibility of harm to a population or the environment from an action, we should not proceed with that action.

In my own practice as a Palliative Care Physician, I have seen a number of patients with cancer, particularly breast and lung cancer, who were living either in the area of the Bruce Nuclear reactor or in the Pickering/Darlington/Port Hope region at the time of their diagnosis. Just as smokers often quit smoking after they are diagnosed with lung cancer, many of these people left the area that they felt contributed to the etiology of their cancer. I have also had patients who spent many years in Elliot Lake and later developed lung cancer, colon cancer, pancreatic carcinoma or lymphoma. I know firsthand that there are no studies identifying, tracking, reporting or investigating any of these people.

There is cost to human health and to the taxpayer. The reactors at Darlington were almost $10 billion over the original budget. We spend well over $100 million a year in just protecting nuclear reactors in Ontario. We are squandering tax dollars on private armies. Investment in safe forms of sustainable technology pale in comparison. If health concerns were not enough to make using nuclear energy to boil water unacceptable, financial concerns should surely bring the industry to a halt. Every dollar wasted on expanding and protecting nuclear technology is a dollar diverted from the development of renewable, sustainable green energy.

We cannot continue to live in denial of the possibility of a significant accident happening in Canada. We have had numerous accidents.

There was a significant meltdown of a reactor in Rolphton, Ontario, Chalk River, in December, 1952. At that time the core was damaged. There was also an accident at Chalk River on May 24, 1958 in which fuel was damaged.

A severe nuclear event occurred in Pinawa, Manitoba in November, 1978. The reactor which was cooled by a type of oil, terphenyl isomer, experienced a major coolant leak as one of the pipes developed a hole and 2,739 litres of oil escaped.

It took several weeks for workers to find and repair the leak. Much of the leaked oil was then discharged into the Winnipeg River. According to Dr. Agnes Bishop of the Atomic Energy Control Board, (later the CNSC), the fuel reached high temperatures.

Although the temperature did not hit the meltdown level, it did result in three fuel elements being broken, with some fission products being released. The accident, which many consider significant especially to the health and safety of the people of Manitoba, was not reported for several years.

An attempt was made in 2000 to have the full report from this accident made public, but Atomic Energy of Canada refused, and labelled it “Protected.”

We may never know what radioactive carcinogens were vented or released into the air and water. There has been no systematic medical response to investigate or follow potentially affected workers or the local population.

On 9th August 1989, at the Pickering reactor an accident resulted in a mechanic being exposed to six times the yearly industry accepted radiation limit. Another worker who was standing nearby was also exposed. The workers were replacing a radioactive control rod, which is moved in or out of a reactor to control the nuclear process, when a radiation detection device one of the men was holding went off scale. It was later discovered that the equipment being used by the men was designed for training and did not contain lead, which provides workers with some shielding from radiation.

In early October of the same year, 1989, human error resulted in operations workers mistakenly putting Tritium-contaminated heavy water into the heat transport system of the Unit 2 reactor at the Darlington nuclear station.

Of interest, a significant accident was reported at Fukushima, Japan that same year.

Additionally, as many as 217 workers were exposed to radioactivity at the Bruce nuclear power station while refurbishing a reactor in November 2009. Again, no details have been released and there has been no systematic medical response to investigate or follow these workers.

Accidents and leaks continue. On March 16 of this year 73,000 litres of demineralised water were released into Lake Ontario when a pump seal failed at the Pickering Nuclear Power Plant. While this accident is considered by the industry to be small, it is a significant health risk and demonstrates once again that the Canadian system is not perfect.

Frequent leaks of contaminated water have also been a significant health risk at uranium mines and tailing sites. One example occurred in November 1989, when there was a 2-million litre spill of radioactive water at Rabbit Lake, Saskatchewan, due to a faulty pipe burst. The spill remained undetected for 14 hours even though there were Atomic Energy Control Board inspectors on site.

Moreover the current tragedy in Fukushima, Japan is of great importance. Already people have died; food, water and air have been contaminated. Every day we are hearing more about the impact of the local crisis and international consequences. We still have more to ascertain. This disaster has permanently increased the global burden of radiation and must not be repeated. Ontario has recently been found to have increased levels of radiation. The origin and significance of this must be evaluated. If governments and industry refuse to learn from history, it will repeat itself.

While it appears that the risk of terrorism is small, based on the amount we spend defending nuclear reactors, it is not negligible. The very technology which prevents the need for opening fuel cells has also been equated with an increased risk of theft, diversion and terrorism. Fuel can be removed from CANDU reactors at any time without shutting down the reactor, and the fuel elements are substantially smaller and more portable than is the case for LWRs (Light Water Reactors). In a LWR, the entire reactor core is a single large pressure vessel containing the light water, which acts as moderator and coolant, and the fuel arranged in a series of long bundles running the length of the core. In CANDU the pressure and the fuel bundle are contained in much smaller and lighter, easier to fabricate tubes. The CANDU technology has its own significant risks.

An accident or terrorist event in the Toronto vicinity would be devastating. A Public Health response is not ready for such a catastrophic occurrence. In medicine we do not perform a procedure unless we are prepared for the worst possible outcome of that procedure. We are not prepared for a nuclear accident.

In order to promote unbiased scientific method and uphold the principle of democracy, we desperately need studies in Canada on the health risks of nuclear power that are not in the control of the nuclear industry. We need to respect and value differing scientific opinion, not just those of nuclear physicists and industry representatives.

The nuclear industry has provided the Review panel with interpretations of data from their perspective. The scientific and medical communities are not in consensus with their biased and narrow-focused opinions. While CNSC and OPG officials have attempted to minimize the risks, they have not proven safety. The “Precautionary Principle” must be implemented. We need to invest in safe, sustainable, renewable energy now. The hunger for power does not justify leaving a toxic, radioactive inheritance for generations to come.

Nuclear technology must be phased out, not expanded.

Respectfully submitted,

Sharon Baker, MD, MCFP

Physicians for Global Survival

 

Darl. Hearings: Dr. Baker-Physicians for Global Survival (April 4th)

Good to hear a medical perspective! April 4th transcript here Audio here

Physicians for Global Survival

Darlington New Nuclear Power Plant Project Joint Review Panel

Good morning Mr Chairman, panel members, ladies and gentleman. My name is Dr. Sharon Baker. I have with me two young people and a community member who are also deeply concerned about the future of our planet: Justin and Shawn Hertwig and Don Baker.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. I am here as a member of Physicians for Global Survival. I have been a physician in Ontario for 26 years. I currently work as a Palliative Care Physician Consultant and Site Chief at University Hospital – London Health Sciences Centre. This includes a position as an assistant professor in the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Western Ontario. I also served for 10 years as an acting Medical Officer of Health in Elgin County.

Physicians for Global Survival is an organization concerned about global health.

I am sure that many of the people in this room have been affected by cancer, whether directly or indirectly. As a Palliative Care Physician, I care for people every day who are actively dying from this devastating disease. Cancer is largely preventable, with education about healthy lifestyle choices and the elimination of toxic substances from our environment.

As a society, Canadians have raised billions of dollars to find a cure for cancer. We walk, run, relay, ride, and row. While these are noble acts, and I applaud these people, still there is no cure. Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. The insanity needs to end. Our approach to health care has been seriously flawed. We need to move from treating illness, and turn our focus to prevention. April is cancer awareness month. Cancer can be prevented.

Cancer in general is not caused by just one thing - it is multi-factorial. It is the result of the cumulative exposure to carcinogens over time, referred to as a body burden. Carcinogens often work synergistically with one another, to produce cancer. Therefore, the more carcinogens to which a person is exposed over time, the more likely cancer is to develop.

In order to decrease rates of cancer, exposure to known carcinogens must be decreased, period. This is a societal choice.

Radiation is a known carcinogen. This is not debatable. Madame Curie, in her research, taught about radiation, including its potential to be fatal. Exposure to radiation is accumulative. It builds up in biological organisms, including human bodies; the more exposure – the greater the likelihood of getting cancer¹. Humans are constantly exposed to low levels of radiation in the environment, some that can’t be controlled. Attention needs to be directed to what we can control.

Radiation toxicity is accumulative. There is no safe level of radiation exposure. As physicians, we recognize this. We weigh the risk and benefits when ordering X-rays, mammograms, CT scans and radioisotopes. We try to limit exposure to decrease the risk of cancer or genetic defect.

The assignment of “acceptable risk” is completely arbitrary. This approach has more in common with a game of chess, or rolling a dice, than actual science.

Increasing the global burden of radioactivity increases the incidence of cancer. Nuclear technology increases humanity's collective exposure to radiation. The increased risk is not limited to emissions from nuclear reactors themselves. It is also the culmination of all the risks of exposure from processing uranium, the mining, milling and the handling and the management of toxic wastes from all these processes.

Choosing to expand nuclear technology and thus the global burden of radioactivity is like determining that it is acceptable that some people are expendable. That person might be your neighbour, someone in this room or an impoverished aboriginal that you will never meet. Choosing nuclear power puts the sweep of the pen to someone’s or some people’s death sentence. I would not want to live with that responsibility.

The negative impact that uranium mining has upon the environment is gargantuan. The fossil fuel requirements for the mining, milling, refining, enriching and transport of uranium ore are enormous. However, I will only discuss the health risks of radioactivity here.

Uranium miners are exposed to multiple types of excess radiation. This includes a radioactive gas called Radon 220 which is a decay product of uranium. When this is inhaled, it increases the risk of lung cancer.

In the early 20th century, a number of people, primarily women, were employed to paint numbers on watch dials with radium-enriched paint so the numbers would glow in the dark. The women would lick the brushes so that the numbers would be precise. They believed what they were doing was safe. However, many developed painful bone cancers called osteosarcomas, or leukemia, from this radioactive material. This same Radium is also in mines and can be ingested via the dust with the same resulting cancers these watch-makers faced.

The mining of uranium ore results in a destabilized radioactive environment. When mines are abandoned, the water that has been pumped out often re-enters the mine, contaminating the ground water. Milling - extracting uranium from ore - results in further risk of exposure and production of radioactive waste products. These toxic waste products, or tailings, require safe isolation from the environment. In the post-World War II era, in Canada, this sludge was often deliberately dumped directly into our lakes, contaminating the groundwater. Accidental dumping also occurs, as in the 1984 spill of 100 million litres of contaminated liquid at Key Lake, Saskatchewan. Currently, industry is experimenting with ponds and hoping the experiments don’t fail. These tailing ponds will be radioactive, essentially forever. We cannot let our hunger for power be used to excuse leaving a toxic mess for our children to inherit.

The uranium mining industry has still not effectively addressed the issue of contamination that resulted from mines that have been abandoned. For example, contamination remains a problem in the rural community of Deline in the Dene Nation of the North West Territories, and El Dorado at Uranium City in Saskatchewan.

Developing more uranium mining when the unconscionable contamination of the past has not been addressed is a travesty to social justice.

An extensive amount of uranium mining and milling in Canada is done on Aboriginal land, usually without consultation. This a health issue, a human rights issue and a native rights issue.

The nuclear reactors themselves are not innocuous. They are a risk factor for increasing background radiation. Workers are exposed to low dose radiation. The arbitrary figure that has been chosen by many nuclear power facilities as acceptable for worker exposure in one year is equivalent to 400 chest X-rays.

The issue has been studied extensively in Europe. A 15-country collaborative study among workers in the nuclear industry demonstrated that this type of low-dose radiation exposure resulted in a risk of developing cancer that was equal to or greater than the risk of the survivors of the atomic bomb in Japan.

Furthermore, living near a nuclear reactor has been shown irrefutably to increase the risk for children of developing leukemia2. This has been studied extensively in Germany. The closer children live to a nuclear reactor, the more likely they are to develop leukemia before the age of five. There are other toxins in the environment which can cause Leukemia, such as pesticide exposure. Observing clusters of children who have suffered from other toxic exposures does not negate the dangerous effects of living near a nuclear reactor. In fact, the findings of an increase incidence of childhood leukemia are expected. Their parents are more likely to work in the reactor. The chronic radiation levels they are exposed to can affect their sensitive germocytes, resulting in genetic damage. In addition, water containing tritium is released by nuclear power plants into the environment both by planned events and accidentally. On March 16 of this year 73,000 litres of demineralised water was released into Lake Ontario when a pump seal failed at the Pickering Nuclear Power Plant. Tritium is dangerous. It binds with oxygen in water. For biological organisms, including humans, this radioactive water is indistinguishable from normal water, and it becomes incorporated in every cell of the body. Tritium has a half-life of 12 years, meaning it can do damage over a long period of time. Moreover, industry data shows spikes in the local measurements of radioactivity when reactors are opened for refuelling.

Nuclear power generating plants also produce radioactive waste that must be stored and guarded essentially forever. Again, the need and greed for power does not justify leaving a radioactive inheritance for generations to come.

While my focus today has been on cancer, we must not forget that accumulative exposure to radiation also causes other illnesses. It contributes to genetic damage, birth defects, immune system dysfunction, diabetes and heart disease.

This issue cannot be addressed effectively without mentioning the possibility for human error. Accidents happen! With all of the marvellous fail-safes and back-up plans, planes still crash, the Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrated, and patients die from human errors. While accidental leaks of radioactive water are relatively common, serious accidents also happen. There was a significant meltdown of a reactor in Rolphton, Ontario in December, 1952. We have also experienced very serious accidents at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania in 1979, Chernobyl in 1986, and Tokaimura Japan in 1999. And now our hearts go out to the people of Japan. The accident in Fukushima that began on March 11 is devastating. It humbles us to realize that nature can be relentless and that man-made fail safes can and do fail. People have already died because of this nuclear disaster. Many more will become ill and die. The global burden of radioactivity has increased forever.

While I conclude that the serious risks to Public Health and human life from nuclear technology is indisputable, if doubt did exist we would still be ethically required to follow the “precautionary principle.” The precautionary principle states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking the action. You have seen that there are many scientists who conclude that nuclear power is unacceptably dangerous. We must implement the precautionary principle. Nuclear power must be phased out. This is the same approach that lead to banning cosmetic pesticides in Ontario and many other provinces.

Beyond error, particularly since 9/11, we have lived with the fear of a terrorist attack. This raises a seldom-mentioned point - the astronomical costs of security. It doesn't take a rocket scientist, or a nuclear physicist, to do the math.

Guarding nuclear reactors and nuclear waste costs society enormously more than protecting wind towers and solar farms.

The risk of a terrorist attack is low; nevertheless, over $100 million is spent annually in this province on special weapons and tactical forces to protect nuclear power plants and the valuable nuclear bomb-making materials contained within.

The nuclear power plant at Darlington is protected by the Nuclear Division of the Durham Regional Police Force. This plant, as Pickering was in January 2010, is to be transferred to the Ontario Power Generation Nuclear Security Branch.

The Bruce Nuclear Generating Station is protected by a privately owned and operated highly trained tactical force larger than the police force of many large Ontario cities.

These tactical team salaries, the extensively high level of training, and the expensive equipment, result in costs that are exorbitant.

The extreme cost of military presence cannot be justified when no other form of power generation requires even a fraction of this defence cost. While the probability of a terrorist attack on a nuclear reactor may be low today, the future is unknown. Public funds are better allocated to health care, education and employing people to fix and repair existing environmental problems. Every dollar wasted on expanding and protecting nuclear technology is a dollar diverted from the development of true green energy.

In conclusion, nuclear power is costly. It is costly to human health, the environment and the taxpayer. Nuclear power is a cancer on society. It increases the global burden of radioactivity and human exposure to radiation. Radiation causes cancer. Developing nuclear power will contribute to untimely deaths. Now is the time to turn our attention to prevention.

Nuclear power should be phased out, not expanded.

Thank you.

Respectfully submitted,

Sharon Baker MD, MCFP

References:

This reference list is incomplete; a complete list can be submitted upon request.

1) BEIR VII (U.S. Academy of Science report on the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation) unequivocally states that “no low level of radiation exposure is safe.”

2)Kaatsch P., Kaletsch U., Meinert R., Michaelis J. An Extended Study on Childhood Malignancies in the Vicinity of German Nuclear Power Plants. Cancer Causes Control 1998; 9: 529-33

Hofmann W., Terschueren C., Richardson D. B., Childhood leukemia in the Vicinity of the Geesthacht Nuclear Establishments near Hamburg, Germany. Environmental Health Perspectives 2007; 115: 947-52

Spix C., Schmiedel S., Kaatsch P., Schulze-Rath R., Blettner M. Case-Control Study on Childhood Cancer in the Vicinity of Nuclear Power Plants in Germany 1980-2003. Eur. Journal of Cancer 2008; 44:275-284

Kaatsch P., Spix C., Schulze-Rath R., Schmiedel S., Blettner M. Leukemia in Young Children Living in the Vicinity of German Nuclear Power Plants. Int. J. Cancer 2008; 1220: 721-26

American Cancer Society. Radiation and Cancer. 2010. http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/

CancerCauses/OtherCarcinogens/MedicalTreatments/radiation-exposure-and-cancer.

"Annual General Assembly Resolution No. 17/2008." Assembly of First Nations. 17 July 2008. Web. 21 Feb 2011. <http://64.26.129.156/article.asp?id=4280>

Caldicott, Helen. Nuclear Power is Not the Answer. New York: The New Press, 2006. Print.

Diehl, Peter. Uranium Mining and Milling Wastes: An Introduction.

2010. http://www.wise-uranium.org/indexu.html.

Environmental Protection Agency. “Understanding Radiation: Health Effects.” 2009. www.epa.gov/radiation/understand/health_effects.html.

Goncharova, Roza. "New insight into cancer risks." Institute of Genetics and Cytology: Belarus, IPPNW World Congress. 2010. Web. http://www.ippnw2010.org/fileadmin/user_upload/

Plenary_presentations/Plen4_Slides_Goncharova_Basel_291008.pdf>.

Harding, Jim. Canada's Deadly Secret: Saskatchewan Uranium and the Global Nuclear System. Winnipeg, ON: Fernwood Publishing Company, 2007. Print.

London Police. "2011 Budget." Web. police.london.ca/Headlines/Images/2011LPSBPublic.pdf.

McKay, Paul. Atomic Accomplice: How Canada deals in deadly deceit. 2009. Print.

National Research Council of the National Academies. "Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation: BEIR VII Phase 2. 2006."  www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=11340.

"OPG’s Commitment to Security - Safe Station, Safe Community." Ontario Power Generation. Darlington Nuclear Neighbourhood Newsletter, Dec 2010. Web. <http://www.opg.com/community/activities/newsletters/DN%202010-12.pdf>

Tufts, Heather. 2010. “‘Canada, O Canada!’ Uranium Mining and Indigenous Communities: The Impacts of Uranium Mining on Indigenous Communities.” Native Unity Digest.

"Radiation Exposure Information and Reporting System (REIRS) for Radiation Workers." U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. 12 Feb 2008. Web. <http://www.reirs.com>.

Zielinkski, et al. "Low dose ionizing radiation exposure and cardiovascular disease mortality." Low dose ionizing radiation exposure and cardiovascular disease mortality. Study based on Canadian national dose registry (NDR) of radiation workers. Ottawa, ON, 2010.

[27-33] Web. <http://www.ippnw2010.org/fileadmin/user_upload/Plenary_presentations /Plen4_behar_slides_CHRONIC%20LOW%20DOSE%20RADIATION.pdf>

** Dr. Baker's final Darlington submission can be found here