NOTE FROM JEFF: DR. Helen Caldicott is in my e-group and it’s my
privilege to share this recent interview with you. She is perhaps
the world’s most out-spoken anti-nuclear activist, physician, and
founders of Physicians for Social Responsibility.
GOOD JET-STREAM VIDEO AND ANALYSIS
The New Nuclear Danger
By Dr. Helen Caldicott
An Interview with Helen Caldicott, M.D.
Author of The New Nuclear Danger
By Dennis Hughes, Share Guide Publisher
The Share Guide: Tell us how you first became aware of the nuclear
weapons problem and nuclear power?
Dr. Helen Caldicott: I first became aware of the threat of nuclear
war when I read Neville Shute’s book On The Beach when I was 15 years
old and living in Melbourne, where the book was set. The book was
about an accidental nuclear war that triggers the end of human life.
This scenario branded my soul. When I grew up, I led the movement in
Australia against the French atmospheric tests in the Pacific and
Australian uranium mining. Later I came to the United States as a
member of the faculty of the Harvard Medical School specializing in
Cystic Fibrosis in the mid 1970s, and founded Physicians for Social
Responsibility–which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985 for
educating the public about the medical effects of nuclear war. I have
written several books on the subject.
The Share Guide: Can you give a brief overview of your most recent
book, The New Nuclear Danger, and why you wrote it at this time?
Dr. Caldicott: This book describes the internal, corporate related
dynamics of the Bush administration, and the reason it is totally
focused upon war, is violating all the international nuclear arms
control treaties, and is now prepared in a cavalier way to use
nuclear weapons on any non-nuclear nation it so chooses. This is
antithetical to the nuclear policies of any previous U.S.
administration. The nuclear weapons labs are also engaged in a new
Manhattan project: a huge nuclear buildup, which includes designing,
testing and building new nuclear weapons. In addition, the Bush
administration is engaged in a massive, five-layered Star Wars
project which will never work, and which will trigger a new nuclear
arms race with Russia and China. This is costing four times as much
money as the U.S. is currently spending on the State Department, and
could trigger a nuclear war. The danger is new because the hydrogen
bombs of Russia and America are still on hair trigger alert as they
were in the 1980s, but everybody thinks the nuclear threat of global
annihalition has been resolved because the cold war ended. In fact,
because of the public’s ignorance, the nuclear threat is much greater
The Share Guide: In a recent talk you gave, you mentioned the
Heritage Foundation. Please explain what they have to do with the
energy policies of President Bush and his administration.
Dr. Caldicott: The Heritage Foundation and other Washington, DC based
so called “think tanks” are omnipresent right-wing advertising
agencies for corporations such as Lockheed Martin and other military
corporations and oil companies. The Heritage Foundation has either
peopled the Bush administration with employees of corporations or
with their own specially trained fellows. They are determining the
policies of this administration, much as they determined those of the
Reagan years. The Cheney energy policy was determined after
consultation with oil and energy companies–with absolutely no input
from knowledgeable academics or environmental groups who are deeply
concerned about the rapid progress of global warming and its
devastating ecological and economic consequences.
The Share Guide: What specifically are the negative effects of
nuclear power, and aren’t there adequate renewable sources of energy
that we could use instead?
Dr. Caldicott: Nuclear power, apart from nuclear war, is the greatest
medical threat posed to life on this planet. In fact, 95% of the
total nuclear waste in the United States has been generated by
nuclear power plants. Nuclear waste will last for 500,000 years, and
there is no safe means to prevent these radioactive elements from
entering and concentrating in the food chain. These elements, which
are tasteless, odorless and invisible, are highly carcinogenic and
mutagenic. Over time, they will induce epidemics of cancer and
leukemia. This is particularly true for children, who are 10 to 20
times more radiosensitive than adults, and are therefore much more
susceptible to cancer. The nuclear waste will also induce epidemics
of genetic diseases and congenital abnormalities in humans (as well
as in animals and plants) for the rest of time. This is rather like a
process of random compulsory genetic engineering. Because of the
quantity of fossil fuel used to mine, separate and enrich uranium,
and to build the massive reactor, a nuclear power plant has to
operate for 18 years before one net calorie of energy is realized!
And the CO2 produced from the fossil fuel adds significantly to
global warming. Uranium enrichment also produces 88% of the CFC gases
emitted from the U.S., a potent global warming gas and a significant
ozone depleter in the upper atmosphere. The production and release of
CFCs has been internationally banned in the Montreal Protocol, but
the U.S. nuclear industry openly flouts this international treaty. So
nuclear power causes global warming, ozone depletion, epidemics of
malignancy and the destruction of the delicate process of evolution.
Of course there are alternatives. Solar power is ubiquitous but
almost untapped because of the political power of the oil companies.
There is also enough wind west of the Missisippi to provide the whole
of the U.S. with energy. It’s worth noting that Europeans use half as
much energy as Americans, but have the same standard of living
because they practice pragmatic conservation.
The Share Guide: Most people are psychically numbed by the nuclear
problem. How can we deal with our feelings of fear, complacency,
anger, depression, etc, and take constructive action?
Dr. Caldicott: The only effective way I have found to deal with
peoples’ fears is through a process of responsible education. That is
why I wrote The New Nuclear Danger, and that is why I travel the
world talking to large numbers of people about these facts. As a
physician, I am obliged to practice global preventive medicine, and
my experience has validated the admonition of Thomas Jefferson when
he said “An informed democracy will behave in a responsible fashion.”
The Share Guide: I have heard the environmental effects of nuclear
war referred to as “collateral damage,” but nuclear winter could in
fact end life on earth as we know it. What actions can we as
responsible citizens take in the face of the new nuclear danger? What
can we say to people who are in denial of the problem?
Dr. Caldicott: This is the ultimate spiritual and religious issue
ever to face the human race. For what is our responsibility to God to
preserve the creation and evolution? We are the curators of possibly
the only life in the universe and our responsiblity is enormous. We
must therefore dedicate every waking and sleeping moment to the
preservation of creation. But first, action must be preceeded by
education. We are all physicians to a planet that is in the intensive
care unit. The New Nuclear Danger is now the Grays Anatomy for a new
breed of global physicians. Learn it and you will become ultimately
powerful and equipped with the necessary knowledge that will drive
our new crusade for global preservation.
The Share Guide: You have said “We are the rudder that can steer the
whole ship.” But our tax dollars are being stolen by the corporate
robber barons, currently at the level of 400 billion dollars
annually. What can we do to change this?
Dr. Caldicott: 400 billion dollars is almost half a trillion dollars,
and if one spent $1,000 a minute since Jesus was born, one would have
just spent one trillion dollars. Therefore, the amount of money being
stolen from the American people by this corporate administration for
death, mayhem and destruction is enough to solve ALL the problems in
U.S. society–plus feed, clothe, educate and house all the children
of the planet, reverse global warming, save all the threatened
species, save the tropical rain forests and save the Earth. So the
money is there, but the will is not. We must remove the men in charge
of the world! For the health of the planet and all of us, we must
replace them with wise prophetic men and women who will implement
life-giving and life-preserving policies. Millions of people in the
United States were involved in the anti-nuclear movement of the
1980s. They watched The Day After with dread. Now the people need to
be reawakened to the impending threat of nuclear war, and like the
tiny trim tab rudder built into the large rudder of a ship, as it
turns and they move, the whole ship of state will turn towards life
and not death.
The Share Guide: What is your opinion of the Yucca Mountain Nuclear
Waste Repository? And what do you think we should do with nuclear waste?
Dr. Caldicott: Yucca Mountain stands on 30 earthquake faults. It is a
very unstable area and will not prevent the disbursement of lethal
radioactive elements to the environment. Nuclear waste should be
retained in the cooling pools of the nuclear reactors, meaning that
all nuclear power plants would then have to close because their
cooling pools are full. This also means that there would be no more
electricity generated from nuclear power. As the spent fuel rods
cool, they can then be stored in above ground casks until the
brilliant American scientists who are currently so hard at work
designing new nuclear weapons are redeployed, inventing ingenious and
currently unthought of ways to store their radioactive garbage safely
for the next 500,000 years.
The Share Guide: Discuss the attitude in Japan and other nations
toward nuclear weapons and nuclear power, as compared to the attitude
here in America.
Dr. Caldicott: The Japanese politicians and corporations are pretty
keen about nuclear power, even though Japan is the only country ever
to have experienced the horrors of a nuclear holocaust. The Japanese
are forbidden in their constitution from developing their own nuclear
weapons. However, because they maintain huge stockpiles of
reprocessed plutonium, they could within several weeks if they so
decided build their own nuclear weapons. The Japanese people, on the
other hand, are very allergic to anything nuclear, particularly after
they experienced several very dangerous nuclear accidents in the last
several years in their own nuclear facilities.
The Share Guide: You mentioned earlier that you founded Physicians
for Social Responsibility. What are the goals of this organization?
Dr. Caldicott: Physicians for Social Responsibility was founded in
1978, to teach the American people about the medical effects of
nuclear power and nuclear war. I, along with my colleagues, recruited
23,000 physicians during the 1980s to join this massive educational
campaign. We were very successful in these efforts, and the
organization still continues to this day.