by Helen Caldicott
Volume 4, Issue 2 2014, Australian
Medical Student Journal
1 May 2014
Due to my
personal concerns regarding the ignorance of the
world's media and politicians about radiation
biology after the dreadful accident at Fukushima
in Japan, I organized a 2 day symposium at the
NY Academy of Medicine on March 11 and 12, 2013,
Medical and Ecological Consequences of Fukushima,'
which was addressed by some of the world's
leading scientists, epidemiologists, physicists
and physicians who presented their latest data
and findings on Fukushima. 
Great Eastern earthquake, measuring
9.0 on the Richter scale, and the ensuing massive tsunami on the
east coast of Japan induced the meltdown of three nuclear reactors
within several days.
During the quake the external power
supply was lost to the reactor complex and the pumps, which
circulate up to one million gallons of water per minute to cool each
reactor core, ceased to function. Emergency diesel generators
situated below the plants kicked in but these were soon swamped by
Without cooling, the radioactive cores
in units 1, 2 and 3 began to melt within hours.
Over the next few days, all three cores
(each weighing more than 100 tonnes) melted their way through six
inches of steel at the bottom of their reactor vessels and oozed
their way onto the concrete floor of the containment buildings.
At the same time the zirconium cladding
covering thousands of uranium fuel rods reacted with water, creating
hydrogen, which initiated hydrogen explosions in units 1, 2, 3 and
Massive quantities of radiation escaped into the air and water -
three times more noble gases (argon, xenon and krypton) than were
released at Chernobyl, together with huge amounts of other volatile
and non-volatile radioactive elements, including cesium, tritium,
iodine, strontium, silver, plutonium, americium and rubinium.
Eventually sea water was - and is still - utilized to cool the
Fukushima is now described as the greatest industrial accident in
The Japanese government was so concerned that they were considering
plans to evacuate 35 million people from Tokyo, as other reactors
including Fukushima Daiini on the east coast were also at risk.
Thousands of people fleeing from the smoldering reactors were not
notified where the radioactive plumes were travelling, despite the
fact that there was a system in place to track the plumes.
As a result, people fled directly into
regions with the highest radiation concentrations, where they were
exposed to high levels of whole-body external gamma radiation being
emitted by the radioactive elements, inhaling radioactive air and
swallowing radioactive elements. 
Unfortunately, inert potassium iodide
was not supplied, which would have blocked the uptake of radioactive
iodine by their thyroid glands, except in the town of Miharu.
Prophylactic iodine was eventually distributed to the staff of
Fukushima Medical University in the days after the accident, after
extremely high levels of radioactive iodine - 1.9 million becquerels/kg
were found in leafy vegetables near the University. 
Iodine contamination was widespread in
leafy vegetables and milk, whilst other isotopic contamination from
substances such as caesium is widespread in vegetables, fruit, meat,
milk, rice and tea in many areas of Japan. 
Fukushima meltdown disaster is not
over and will never end. The radioactive fallout which remains toxic
for hundreds to thousands of years covers large swathes of Japan and
will never be "cleaned up."
It will contaminate food, humans and
animals virtually forever. I predict that the three reactors which
experienced total meltdowns will never be dissembled or
TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power
Company) - says it will take at least 30 to 40 years and the
International Atomic Energy Agency predicts at least 40 years before
they can make any progress because of the extremely high levels of
radiation at these damaged reactors.
This accident is enormous in its medical implications. It will
induce an epidemic of cancer as people inhale the radioactive
elements, eat radioactive food and drink radioactive beverages.
In 1986, a single meltdown and explosion
at Chernobyl covered 40% of the European land mass with radioactive
elements. Already, according to a 2009 report published by the New
York Academy of Sciences, over one million people have already
perished as a direct result of this catastrophe.
This is just the tip of the iceberg,
because large parts of Europe and the food grown there will remain
radioactive for hundreds of years. 
Implications of Radiation
Fact number one
No dose of radiation is safe. Each dose received by the body is
cumulative and adds to the risk of developing malignancy or
Fact number two
Children are ten to twenty times more vulnerable to the
carcinogenic effects of radiation than adults. Females tend to
be more sensitive compared to males, whilst fetuses and immuno-compromised
patients are also extremely sensitive.
Fact number three
High doses of radiation received from a nuclear meltdown or from
a nuclear weapon explosion can cause acute radiation sickness,
with alopecia, severe nausea, diarrhea and thrombocytopenia.
Reports of such illnesses,
particularly in children, appeared within the first few months
after the Fukushima accident.
Fact number four
Ionizing radiation from radioactive elements and radiation
emitted from X-ray machines and CT scanners can be carcinogenic.
The latent period of carcinogenesis
for leukemia is 5-10 years and solid cancers 15-80 years. It has
been shown that all modes of cancer can be induced by radiation,
as well as over 6000 genetic diseases now described in the
But, as we increase the level of background radiation in our
environment from medical procedures, X-ray scanning machines at
airports, or radioactive materials continually escaping from
nuclear reactors and nuclear waste dumps, we will inevitably
increase the incidence of cancer as well as the incidence of
genetic disease in future generations.
Types of ionizing radiation
X-rays are electromagnetic,
and cause mutations the instant they pass through the
Similarly, gamma radiation
is also electromagnetic, being emitted by radioactive
materials generated in nuclear reactors and from some
naturally occurring radioactive elements in the soil.
Alpha radiation is
particulate and is composed of two protons and two
neutrons emitted from uranium atoms and other dangerous
elements generated in reactors (such as plutonium,
americium, curium, einsteinium, etc - all which are
known as alpha emitters and have an atomic weight
greater than uranium).
Alpha particles travel a
very short distance in the human body. They cannot
penetrate the layers of dead skin in the epidermis to
damage living skin cells.
But when these radioactive
elements enter the lung, liver, bone or other organs,
they transfer a large dose of radiation over a long
period of time to a very small volume of cells. Most of
these cells are killed; however, some on the edge of the
radiation field remain viable to be mutated, and cancer
may later develop. Alpha emitters are among the most
carcinogenic materials known.
Beta radiation, like alpha
radiation, is also particulate. It is a charged electron
emitted from radioactive elements such as strontium 90,
cesium 137 and iodine 131. The beta particle is light in
mass, travels further than an alpha particle and is also
Neutron radiation is
released during the fission process in a reactor or a
bomb. Reactor 1 at Fukushima has been periodically
emitting neutron radiation as sections of the molten
core become intermittently critical. Neutrons are large
radioactive particles that travel many kilometers, and
they pass through everything including concrete and
steel. There is no way to hide from them and they are
So, let's describe just five of the
radioactive elements that are continually being released into
the air and water at Fukushima.
Remember, though, there are over 200
such elements each with its own half-life, biological
characteristic and pathway in the food chain and the human body.
Most have never had their biological pathways examined. They are
invisible, tasteless and odorless.
When the cancer manifests it is
impossible to determine its etiology, but there is a large body
of literature proving that radiation causes cancer, including
the data from Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Tritium is radioactive
hydrogen H3 and there is no way to
separate tritium from contaminated water as it combines
with oxygen to form H3O.
There is no material that
can prevent the escape of tritium except gold, so all
reactors continuously emit tritium into the air and
cooling water as they operate. It concentrates in
aquatic organisms, including algae, seaweed, crustaceans
and fish, and also in terrestrial food.
Like all radioactive
elements, it is tasteless, odorless and invisible, and
will therefore inevitably be ingested in food, including
seafood, for many decades. It passes unhindered through
the skin if a person is immersed in fog containing
tritiated water near a reactor, and also enters the body
via inhalation and ingestion. It causes brain tumors,
birth deformities and cancers of many organs.
Cesium 137 is a beta and
gamma emitter with a half-life of 30 years. That means
in 30 years only half of its radioactive energy has
decayed, so it is detectable as a radioactive hazard for
over 300 years.
Cesium, like all radioactive
elements, bio-concentrates at each level of the food
chain. The human body stands atop the food chain. As an
analogue of potassium, cesium becomes ubiquitous in all
cells. It concentrates in the myocardium where it
induces cardiac irregularities, and in the endocrine
organs where it can cause diabetes, hypothyroidism and
It can also induce brain
cancer, rhabdomyosarcomas, ovarian or testicular cancer
and genetic disease.
Strontium 90 is a
high-energy beta emitter with a half-life of 28 years.
As a calcium analogue, it is a bone-seeker. It
concentrates in the food chain, specifically milk
(including breast milk), and is laid down in bones and
teeth in the human body. It can lead to carcinomas of
the bone and leukemia.
Radioactive iodine 131 is a
beta and gamma emitter. It has a half-life of eight days
and is hazardous for ten weeks. It bio-concentrates in
the food chain, in vegetables and milk, then in the the
human thyroid gland where it is a potent carcinogen,
inducing thyroid disease and/or thyroid cancer.
It is important to note that
of 174,376 children under the age of 18 that have been
examined by thyroid ultrasound in the Fukushima
Prefecture, 12 have been definitively diagnosed with
thyroid cancer and 15 more are suspected to have the
disease. Almost 200,000 more children are yet to be
examined. Of these 174,367 children, 43.2% have either
thyroid cysts and/or nodules.
In Chernobyl, thyroid cancers were not diagnosed until
four years post-accident. This early presentation
indicates that these Japanese children almost certainly
received a high dose of radioactive iodine.
High doses of other
radioactive elements released during the meltdowns were
received by the exposed population so the rate of cancer
is almost certain to rise.
Plutonium, one of the most
deadly radioactive substances, is an alpha emitter. It
is highly toxic, and one millionth of a gram will induce
cancer if inhaled into the lung. As an iron analogue, it
combines with transferrin.
It causes liver cancer, bone
cancer, leukemia, or multiple myeloma. It concentrates
in the testicles and ovaries where it can induce
testicular or ovarian cancer, or genetic diseases in
It also crosses the placenta
where it is teratogenic, like thalidomide. There are
medical homes near Chernobyl full of grossly deformed
children, the deformities of which have never before
been seen in the history of medicine.
The half-life of plutonium is 24,400 years, and thus it
is radioactive for 250,000 years. It will induce
cancers, congenital deformities, and genetic diseases
for virtually the rest of time.
as a result of radiation
with permission from Dr Wladimir Wertelecki)
Plutonium is also fuel for atomic bombs. Five kilos is
fuel for a weapon which would vaporize a city. Each
reactor makes 250 kg of plutonium a year.
It is postulated that less
than one kilo of plutonium, if adequately distributed,
could induce lung cancer in every person on earth.
In summary, the radioactive contamination and fallout from nuclear
power plant accidents will have medical ramifications that will
never cease, because the food will continue to concentrate the
radioactive elements for hundreds to thousands of years.
This will induce epidemics of cancer,
leukemia and genetic disease. Already we are seeing such pathology
and abnormalities in birds and insects, and because they reproduce
very fast it is possible to observe disease caused by radiation over
many generations within a relatively short space of time.
Pioneering research conducted by Dr Tim Mousseau, an
evolutionary biologist, has demonstrated high rates of tumors,
cataracts, genetic mutations, sterility and reduced brain size
amongst birds in the exclusion zones of both Chernobyl and
Fukushima. What happens to animals will happen to human beings.
The Japanese government is desperately trying to "clean up"
radioactive contamination. But in reality all that can be done is
collect it, place it in containers and transfer it to another
location. It cannot be made neutral and it cannot be prevented from
spreading in the future.
Some contractors have allowed their
workers to empty radioactive debris, soil and leaves into streams
and other illegal places.
The main question becomes:
Where can they place the
contaminated material to be stored safely away from the
environment for thousands of years?
There is no safe place in Japan for this
to happen, let alone to store thousands of tons of high level
radioactive waste which rests precariously at the 54 Japanese
Last but not least, Australian uranium fuelled the Fukushima
Australia exports uranium for use in
nuclear power plants to 12 countries, including,
the US, Japan, France, Britain,
Finland, Sweden, South Korea, China, Belgium, Spain, Canada and
270,000 metric tons of deadly
radioactive waste exists in the world today, with 12,000 metric tons
being added yearly (each reactor manufactures 30 tons per year and
there are over 400 reactors globally.)
This high-level waste must be isolated from the environment for one
million years - but no container lasts longer than 100 years. The
isotopes will inevitably leak, contaminating the food chain,
inducing epidemics of cancer, leukemia, congenital deformities and
genetic diseases for the rest of time.
This, then, is the legacy we leave to future generations so that we
can turn on our lights and computers or make nuclear weapons.
It was Einstein who said,
"the splitting of the atom changed
everything save mans' mode of thinking, thus we drift towards
The question now is:
Have we, the human species, the
ability to mature psychologically in time to avert these
catastrophes, or, is it in fact, too late?
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 Tests find cesium 172 times the limit in Miyagi Yacon tea.
The Asahi Shimbun. 2012.
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JD. Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and
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