Nuclear Threat Draws WHO and Civil Society Closer

Nuclear Threat Draws WHO and Civil Society Closer

GENEVA, May 5 (IPS) – The global health agency and a network of
non-governmental organisations opposed to nuclear proliferation
have resumed their dialogue, prompted by concern over the effects
of the nuclear catastrophe at Fukushima in Japan and the enduring
consequences of the explosion at Chernobyl, in Ukraine.

Margaret Chan, the head of the World Health Organisation (WHO),
met Wednesday with representatives of a group of NGOs who are
harshly critical of the United Nations agency’s policies on the
health hazards of nuclear radiation.

The coalition, "IndependentWHO", presented Chan with demands
for the adoption of measures for dealing with possible nuclear
accidents like the Mar. 11 events at Fukushima and the Apr. 26,
1986 disaster in Chernobyl, in Ukraine, then a part of the Soviet

Civil society wants to see urgent measures to provide medical
care, treatment and adequate protection for the people who live
in regions contaminated with radioactivity. The activists also
want WHO and other international agencies to ensure these people
have the right kind of food to encourage rapid elimination of
radioactive substances from their bodies.

Another of their proposals is the creation of a commission on
ionising radiation and health, made up of independent experts,
to carry out scientific research on the long-term health effects
of the Chernobyl accident.

No member of the proposed commission should have any interests,
financial or otherwise, with the nuclear industry or any
associations linked with it, the coalition specified, calling for
the commission to deliver a report at the 2014 World Health
Assembly, the decision-making body of WHO.

The commission should organise working groups devoted to
evaluating and describing the gaps that have remained in
research on the effects of radiation on health.

The coalition is also requesting the publication of the minutes
of conferences in Geneva in 1995 and in Kiev in 2001 about the
consequences of the Chernobyl accident. The activists claim the
documents have not been released in order to protect the
interests of the nuclear industry.

Furthermore, the civil society group is calling for the
amendment of the 1959 agreement between WHO and the
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the world’s centre of
cooperation in the nuclear field, so that WHO is given full
responsibility as the primary coordinating body on issues related
to the health effects of ionising radiation.

Ionising radiation alters the physical state of atoms, the
electrically neutral component particles of matter, transforming
them into ions, which are electrically charged particles. The
ions damage the normal biological processes in living tissues.

The coalition’s main proposal was distributed to the diplomatic
missions of the countries represented in Geneva, but so far no
state has volunteered to move the proposal at the next World
Health Assembly.

The Cuban government has said it will second the motion if
another country takes the lead in proposing it, activist Alison
Katz of the People’s Health Movement told IPS. The Movement is an
NGO network that supports the People’s Charter for Health, a
declaration adopted by WHO in 1978 at the World Health Assembly
held in Alma Ata, Kazakhstan. (FIN/2011)



Nuclear energy – uncontrollable in time and space

Abolition 2000 message on the nuclear crisis in Japan and around the world

Unit 3, Fukushima

Unit 3, Fukushima

The challenge to meet increasing national and global energy demand, while at the same time reducing climate change emissions, has led a number of governments to turn to nuclear energy as a potential saviour. The Fukushima disaster should prompt us to stop, assess the real dangers and costs of nuclear energy, and make the necessary transition to the development of safe, clean, renewable energy sources.

The earthquake and tsunami in Japan devastated a whole region. Radioactive emissions from the damaged nuclear reactors are very serious, and have already contaminated food and water in Japan, prompting bans on food exports from four prefectures. The release of contaminated water into the Pacific ocean has caused growing international concern as the radiation continues to spread, beginning to impact human health and the environment on an even wider scale — across Japan and around the globe.

The Abolition 2000 Global Council expresses its concerns and support for everyone in Japan in the wake of the triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear reactor damage.  We express our condolences for the many thousands who lost their lives, our sympathies for the more than 150,000 people injured or displaced, and our best wishes for the rescue, recovery and rebuilding efforts.

Whether or not the brave technicians in Fukushima are successful in containing the bulk of the radiation remaining in the six reactors, the lesson of Fukushima is clear: natural disasters and accidents will happen. If it can go wrong sooner or later it will go wrong. Murphy’s law and nuclear technology do not mix. Fukushima is not the first – and won’t be the last – nuclear disaster as long as countries continue to operate nuclear power facilities. Three Mile Island, Windscale/Sellafield and Chernobyl are other tragic examples of nuclear accidents which have had severe impacts on human health through radiation releases.  According to a 2005 study by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences National Research Council (BEIR VII – Phase 2), a preponderance of scientific evidence shows that even low doses of ionizing radiation are likely to pose some risk of adverse health effects.

In the case of Chernobyl, tens of thousands have died and millions have had their health severely affected by the accident. Alexei Yablokov from the Russian Academy of Sciences reports that, “Prior to 1985 more than 80% of children in the Chernobyl territories of Belarus, Ukraine, and European Russia were healthy; today fewer than 20% are well. In the heavily contaminated areas it is difficult to find one healthy child.” We will not know the full impact of Fukushima on human health and the environment for many years. As the crisis continues to unfold, further releases of radioactive materials will occur until the reactors are stabilized, and the possibility of additional problems leading to an even more catastrophic radiation release remains – which is why the disaster has been given a similar rating of seriousness as Chernobyl (category 7) and could lead to a similar permanent radioactive sacrifice zone in Japan.

Fukushima clearly showed the vulnerability of nuclear power plants to external attack, whether by an act of nature or a human act. The tsunami hit the external power source and destroyed the entire cooling system of the reactor complex.

Even without accidents, disasters or attacks, nuclear energy production releases harmful quantities of radiation at all stages of the nuclear fuel chain, including uranium mining, extraction, enrichment and transport, and routine nuclear power plant operation itself.

And no-one yet has found a solution to the storing of spent nuclear fuel, the radioactive waste byproduct of nuclear power production, which is highly dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years. Building nuclear reactors without knowing what to do with this radioactive waste is like building a house with no functioning toilet.

Just as alarming is the fact that every nuclear power program provides the potential to make nuclear bombs. France, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea all developed nuclear weapons from nuclear energy programs. There are serious concerns that other countries with nuclear energy programs could follow suit.

As far back as 1946, a US Secretary of State Committee on Atomic Energy concluded that, “The development of atomic energy for peaceful purposes and the development of atomic energy for bombs are much of their course interchangeable and interdependent.” The committee further concluded that “…there is no prospect of security against atomic warfare” in an international system where nations are “free to develop atomic energy but only pledged not to use it for bombs.”

Claims that nuclear energy is a viable economic choice do not withstand a reality check. The true cost has been hidden by extensive government subsidies, limits on liability for accidents, and pricing structures not including the costs for waste storage and nuclear power plant decommissioning. Add to this the huge costs incurred for compensation and clean-up after accidents like Chernobyl and Fukushima. Even without these costs included, the price of nuclear energy per kilowatt hour is approximately twice that of natural gas and is unlikely to decrease. The costs of wind and solar, on the other hand, are now comparable with nuclear energy and rapidly falling as energy efficiency improves and economies of scale kick in (as more wind turbines and solar panels are produced, for example, the unit cost is reduced).

Equally false are claims that nuclear energy is carbon neutral and thus a desirable choice to halt and reverse climate change. It is true that the fission of enriched uranium in a nuclear reactor to generate energy produces no carbon emissions. However, every other step required to produce nuclear energy releases carbon into the atmosphere. These include uranium yellowcake mining, ore transport, ore crushing, uranium extraction, uranium enrichment, uranium oxide furnacing, uranium casing, nuclear power plant construction and decommissioning.

J.W. Storm van Leeuwen and P. Smith (“Nuclear Power : the energy balance“) calculate that with high quality ores, the CO2 produced by the full nuclear life cycle is about one half to one third of an equivalent sized gas-fired power station. For low quality ores (less than 0.02% of U3O8 per tonne of ore), the CO2 produced by the full nuclear life cycle is equal to that produced by the equivalent gas-fired power station.

In addition, nuclear power plants take years to build and consume billions of dollars in research and development costs and subsidies. If these funds were applied instead to development of renewable energy technologies, this would enable a much faster, safer and sustainable replacement of fossil fuels. It would also enable the development of energy sources suitable to the needs of communities in developing countries – many of which are not part of national electricity grids and thus not served by centralized electricity generation but able to be served by local energy sources such as wind and solar.

The Abolition 2000 Global Council heralds the establishment of the International Renewable Energy Agency which can assist countries in meeting their energy needs through safe, sustainable and renewable energy sources without the need to resort to nuclear energy.

As noted in the 1995 Abolition 2000 Statement, “The inextricable link between the ‘peaceful’ and warlike uses of nuclear technologies and the threat to future generations inherent in creation and use of long-lived radioactive materials must be recognized. We must move toward reliance on clean, safe, renewable forms of energy production that do not provide the materials for weapons of mass destruction and do not poison the environment for thousands of centuries. The true ‘inalienable’ right is not to nuclear energy, but to life, liberty and security of person in a world free of nuclear weapons.”

In solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of victims and survivors of the nuclear energy and weapons industries we call for an end to nuclear energy and weapons – the human and environmental impact of both being uncontrollable in time and space.

Released on Tuesday 26th April, the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster

The Horsemen ride again; but toward the finish line or in circles?

Former IPPNW co-president Gunnar Westberg of IPPNW’s Swedish affiliate, SLMK, and Ira Helfand, North American regional vice president and a member of the board of Physicians for Social Responsibility (IPPNW-USA), had different perspectives on the latest Wall Street Journal editorial by the US Gang of Four, which are published on the IPPNW Peace and Health Blog.

Read their opinions on the IPPNW blog

Elder Statesmen Call for an End to Nuclear Deterrence

George Schultz, Berlin, 2009The US Elder Statesmen George Schultz, Henry Kissinger, Edward Perry and Sam Nunn argue in their third op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on March 7, 2011 that the doctrine of mutual assured destruction is obsolete in the post-Cold War era. They ask “Can we devise and successfully implement with other nations, including other nuclear powers, careful, cooperative concepts to safely dismount the nuclear tiger while strengthening the capacity to assure our security and that of allies and other countries considered essential to our national security?”

Read the op-ed here

Call of Conscience – Interfaith initiative for a world free of nuclear weapons

On 4 Feb 2011, a Cooperation Circle established by the United Religions Initiative (URI) released a Call to Conscience: A Ban on Nuclear Weapons. The call notes that:

The indiscriminate, destructive effects of nuclear weapons render them incompatible with civilized values and international humanitarian law. The threat to use them and annihilate vast numbers of innocent people, inflict indescribable suffering and environmental destruction is immoral, and contrary to the purposes for which the blessings of life have been given to us, and that Only by building bridges of cooperation and trust amongst peoples can we effectively address unnecessary crushing poverty and adequately organize ourselves to protect the global commons, such as the oceans, the climate, and the rainforests – the living systems upon which civilization depends. A discriminatory security system with nuclear haves and have-nots is incompatible with the achievement of this necessary global cooperation.

The Call to Conscience proposes a number of actions for people of faith and faith-based communities to take including to “Persuade governments …to commence negotiations as rapidly as possible on the universal, legally verifiable, and enforceable elimination of nuclear weapons” and to “align our religious institutions’ investment policies with their values, by prohibiting investments in companies producing weapons of indiscriminate effect – landmines, cluster munitions and nuclear weapons.”

The Cooperation Circle Voices for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons consists of a diverse group of former policy-makers, technical experts, religious leaders and academics such as Dr. Sidney Drell (Senior Fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution), Ambassador James E. Goodby (Vice Chairman of the U.S. Delegation to the Strategic Nuclear Arms Negotiations with the U.S.S.R.), Mussie Hailu (Chair of the Interfaith Peace-building Initiative in Addis Ababa), Professor David T. Ives (Executive Director of the Albert Schweitzer Institute), George P. Shultz (former U.S. Secretary of State), Rev. William E. Swing (Retired Episcopal Bishop of California) and Jonathan Granoff (President of the Global Security Institute).

Global Hibakusha Forum Statement for a Nuclear-Free World

Global Hibakusha Forum Statement for a Nuclear-Free World

We Global Hibakusha from Japan, Australia and Tahiti came together on Peace Boat from 23 January – 5 February 2011 to share testimony, information and our vision for a nuclear-free future. We have reached consensus on the statement below and will continue to exchange to realise our goals by increasing cooperation and networking.

Hibakusha is the name given to those who survived the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 66 years ago with nuclear weapons which are indiscriminate. There are now 2nd and 3rd generation Hibakusha and overseas Hibakusha, who were exposed to the atomic bomb and later moved to another country. They suffer the inter-generational genetic affects of their parent’s and grandparent’s exposure to ionising radiation. They demand recognition that does not discriminate based on nationality and their country of residence.

Hibakusha have suffered discrimination, and yet they have courageously re-lived the events of 6 August and 9 August 1945 to teach about why horrific and cruel nuclear weapons must never be used again. We celebrate the endurance, strength and determination of Hibakusha and encourage and remember their testimony. We join their call for genuine peace education in our schools. We join their call for the total abolition of nuclear weapons through a Nuclear Weapons Convention to rid the world of these weapons that have been described as “weapons of terror” by the Blix Commission on Weapons of Mass Destruction.[1]

We define the term “Global Hibakusha” to mean all victims of radiation at each link in the nuclear chain – uranium mining, nuclear reactors, nuclear accidents, nuclear weapons development and testing, and nuclear waste. We recognise that Indigenous people have suffered radioactive racism through being targeted for uranium mining, nuclear testing and nuclear waste dumping. This has contaminated their land, water, culture, economies and health.

Ionizing radiation is a toxic poison that damages our DNA – the genetic material in living cells. The nuclear age has introduced radiation in forms that can become airborne and breathed in, or find their way into the water table and gene pool, entirely unlike naturally occurring background radiation. Nuclear testing scattered radiation poison across land and water and continues to be a present danger, which in Polynesia still threatens the collapse of atolls around Moruroa and Fangataufa. Nuclear reactors routinely release radiation. Nuclear waste stockpiles are growing daily, and include tonnes of plutonium which will remain toxic for 250,000 years.

Each link in the nuclear fuel chain releases radiation – beginning with drilling for uranium. To protect future generations and prevent future Hibakusha we must stop creating more radiation, and phase out all sources. We must invest in renewable clean energy for a sustainable future.

Instead of truthful data about radiation, we have received official government denial, self-serving control of information and refusal to redress the shameful wrongs. Governments must make the archives of information about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, about Fangataufa and Moruroa, and about Maralinga transparent, accepting responsibility for the damages and injuries caused. Resolving the effects of nuclear activity and the nuclear threat is a matter of our survival. We cannot contain nuclear dangers, contain environmental damage or support the sick and dying without truthful information.

We Global Hibakusha desperately request

– That governments immediately commence negotiations on a Nuclear Weapons Convention, with a goal of presenting their final treaty to the 2015 NPT Review Conference and completing the disarmament processes by 2020.

– That governments address climate change by investing in clean and renewable energy sources.

– That all civil society groups, NGOs, media, youth and religious organisations redouble their efforts towards a nuclear-free world.

– That responsible governments officially apologise for their nuclear crimes.

– That governments disclose all medical and environmental records on radiation exposure.

– Peace education, including the truth about the nuclear age, be part of official school curricula.

– Proper compensation and proper subsidised medical treatment for all Global Hibakusha.

– Court cases made by Global Hibakusha for truth, justice, recognition, compensation, environmental clean up and health treatment require support from civil society and sincere response from governments.

– Governments should develop public contingency and evacuation plans for populations potentially affected by nuclear accidents and incidents.

– Retaining of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution which renounces war and inclusion and implementation of similar clauses in all constitutions.

– The conversion of the 1.5 trillion global military budget to health and education programmes and measures that address our real security challenges such as climate change and poverty.

No More Hibakushas! No More Global Hibakushas!

No More Hiroshima! No More Nagasaki! No More War!

Adopted 5 February 2011 on Peace Boat

Papeete, Tahiti

A2000 letter to President Obama on de-alerting of nuclear arsenals

In November 2010 the A2000 Global Council sent a letter to President Obama expressing concern about the many thousands of nuclear weapons which remain on high-alert launch-ready status, and calling for a Presidential Decree abandoning the launch-on-warning policy and de-alerting all remaining launch-ready nuclear forces.   The letter was sent following the adoption of United Nations General Assembly Resolution A/RES/65/71 which “calls upon the nuclear-weapon States to take measures to reduce the risk of an accidental or unauthorized launch of nuclear weapons and to also consider further reducing the operational status of nuclear weapons systems in ways that promote international stability and security.”