As the world remembers Fukushima, internationally acclaimed nuclear activist Dr. Helen Caldicott — in Seattle this week for the event, “Lessons from Fukushima for the Northwest” — reminds the nation that nuclear fallout isn’t just for a year. Radiation is a silent killer, says Caldicott, and the repercussions remain for hundreds and hundreds of years. This week Green Acre Radio catches up with Caldicott and a local documentary filmmaker about his film, "Surviving Japan."
If you want an impassioned opinion about the dangers of nuclear power, talk to Dr. Helen Caldicott. The Nobel Peace Prize nominee and co-founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility has been alerting the public since she was a medical student in Australia. “At that time, 1956, Russia and America were blowing up bombs in the atmosphere with impunity. And I couldn’t understand as a young medical student why they were doing it because it was obvious what the genetic implications would be.”
In the soon to be released documentary Surviving Japan, local filmmaker Chris Noland brings us up close and personal to the disaster. Noland lived in Tokyo at the time of the nuclear disaster and volunteered with relief agencies. After meeting people whose voices weren’t being heard, he decided to tell their story. “I kind of empathized with them because I had the same questions and they weren’t getting answered for me either,” he says.
Questions like, what would the physical effects of the nuclear fallout be? “They told us what happened but they didn’t really tell us what it would do to our body or anything and then they backpedaled and said this is how nuclear power plants work. Nothing about the health effects.”
Noland joins journalists seeking information from government officials and TEPCO, Tokyo Electric Power Company. Finally, he meets the mayor of the besieged town of Minamisoma who begged the world for supplies on YouTube. Mayor Sakori was one of the first officials to break the silence and speak against Japan’s investment in nuclear energy. “Nuclear power is not the answer,” he says in the film. “We need an alternative. This is an important time not only for Japan but for the entire world to start focusing on renewable energy.”
Noland also shares the story of Yumea Keller, a single mother who evacuated herself and her children after witnessing the first explosion. Keller says the government initially defined only a small area, close to the reactor, as being at risk. “Government and TEPCO wanted to keep the area small so they don’t have to pay too much money," he explains. "But the real victims here are children. They have done nothing wrong and we have responsibility to protect them.”
Click on the audio player above or here to listen.
Interview with Dr. Helen Caldicott, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and Co-founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility
Martha Baskin: What moved you to speak out against nuclear power years ago? I believe it was the French government’s atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons in the South Pacific.
Dr. Helen Caldicott: When I was about sixteen, I read a book by an Australian author, Nevil Shute, called On the Beach. It was about a nuclear war that occurred by accident in the Northern Hemisphere. Everyone died and the only people left alive were people in Melbourrne, Australia, which was so far south but gradually the radioactive fall out came down and killed everybody.
And at the end of that book the beautiful, elegant streets of Melbourne were still there and bits of pieces of paper were blowing in the breeze and that was the end of life on earth. So at that time, at fifteen, I lost my virginity. In other words I lost the purity and enthusiasm and joy for life knowing that at any time there could be a nuclear war and life on earth could be obliterated.
I then went to medical school and learned about how radiation affects the drosophila fruit fly and how mutation for crooked wings and the like are passed on generation to generation. At that time, 1956, Russia and America were blowing up bombs in the atmosphere with impunity and I couldn’t understand as a young medical student why they were doing it because it was so obvious what the genetic implications would be.
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