What You Need To Know When Nukes Melt

What You Need To Know When Nukes Melt

(for all the people in the northern hemisphere after the Fukushima meltdowns)

[My ‘qualifications’: I am a literate survivor of the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986 and 61 year old ecological activist, researcher, teacher, theatre maker, poet and small-farm heritage apple grower]

• There are two main pathways of radioactive contamination: that coming directly through the air as rays and that being ingested in food and water as isotopes

• The former is primarily a physical phenomenon like an X-ray and is measured in microsieverts received per time unit

• Given that we are always exposed to rays anyway in natural background radiation (from the ground and atmosphere), this is what the adherents of nuclear energy and the media mostly focus on

• Direct physical radiation is primarily of concern to nuclear plant workers and people living in the vicinity of the plant (even in normal operation); at high dosages ‘radiation sickness’ and a very painful death occurs

• At low levels of direct radiation over time damage to cell DNA can occur, especially in foetuses, infants and children (there is no known level of radiation at which DNA damage does NOT occur)

• This is why several studies in Germany and the UK have found higher levels of childhood leukaemia around nuclear plants (although of course the direct causation can be as little scientifically ‘proven’ as the fact that smoking causes lung cancer or fossil fuel emissions cause climate chaos)

• For people living further away from nuclear plants, the contamination from radioactive isotopes in food and water is the central issue, particularly from iodine, caesium and strontium isotopes; these levels are usually measured in becquerels per kg

• Nuclear adherents and the media focus less on this because it more radically questions the Orwellian propaganda for nuclear power as a so-called ‘clean and green’ energy

• Being in the chemical form of isotopes, these radioactive particles enter the body and do their physical emitting right beside or inside the cells thus causing various ill effects like DNA damage, immune suppression disorders, cancers etc.

• These ill effects may appear fairly rapidly (e.g. as thyroid cancer after Chernobyl) or may take many years to manifest as cancer or disease, sometimes over generations

• Foetuses, infants and children are more susceptible to genetic damage by radioactive isotopes (and all toxics) because they are growing rapidly and have higher metabolic rates of uptake and throughput

• Like all persistent chemicals, radioactive isotopes accumulate up food chains: quite small quantities in the soil or water will exponentially increase at each stage as they are taken up by plants and then by animals

• For these reasons meat and milk will contain very much more contamination than the grass the animals grazed, predatory fish will contain much more than plankton

• This is why all the official talk of ‘dispersion’, ‘microscopic’ or ‘infinitesimal’ levels in the air is either naïve or mendacious

• Radioactive plumes from melting nuclear fuel rods spread far and wide over their respective global hemispheres according to prevailing wind and weather patterns

• The isotopes in these plumes or invisible ‘clouds’ return to the ground and water wherever there is rain, snow, fog to create radioactive hot spots and then bio-accumulate up the food chains into the cells of our bodies

Practical consequences for affected populations: get pregnant women and children away from reactors, plumes and hot spots; take potassium iodide tablets and kelp to minimise thyroid cancer risks; eat low on the food chain; avoid eating food from hot spots; eat organic food rich in potassium to minimise caesium uptake; help abolish nuclear and fossil fuel energy and create a sane society based on renewable energies, less per capita consumption, social justice and democratic self-management and control of technology and investment

Graphic by Effer Lecebe

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~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on March 20, 2011.

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