Sister Rosalie Bertell
Following article from The Ecologist, Nov 1999, pp. 408-411
Victims Of The Nuclear Age
By Dr. Rosalie Bertell
Abstract: A minimum of 1,200 million people have been killed, maimed or diseased by nuclear power since it's inception. The industry's figures massively underestimate the real cost of nuclear power with restrictive rules, in an attempt to hide its victims from the world. Here, the author calculates the real number of victims of the nuclear age. Additionally, Rosalie cites figures on the true amount of deaths and casualties from Chernobyl ...thousands of times higher than nuclear industry regulatory apologists claim.
Firemen Deployed as Bio-Robots to Clean up Chernobyl
On the tenth anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, I was standing at a public meeting in Kiev, Ukraine, listening to the story of one of the firemen employed to clean up the site after the explosion. These workers took huge doses of radiation during this task, and their story is a terrifying one.
About 600,000 men were conscripted as Chernobyl `liquidators' [also called bio-robots']: farmers, factory workers, miners, and soldiers -- as well as professionals like the firemen -- from all across Russia. Some of these men lifted pieces of radioactive metal with their bare hands. They had to fight more than 300 fires created by the chunks of burning material spewed off by the inferno. They buried trucks, fire engines, cars and all sorts of personal belongings. They felled a forest and completely buried it, removed topsoil, bulldozed houses and filled all available clay-lined trenches with radioactive debris. The minimum conscription time was 180 days, but many stayed for a year. Some were threatened with severe punishment to their families if they failed to stay and do their duty. These `liquidators' are now discarded and forgotten, many vainly trying to establish that the ill health most have suffered ever since 1986 is a result of their massive exposure to radiation.
At the Centre for Radiation Research outside Kiev, there is an organization of former liquidators. This group reports that by 1995, 13,000 of their members had died ... almost 20 percent of which deaths were suicides. About 70,000 members were estimated to be permanently disabled. But the members of this organization are the lucky ones. Because many former liquidators are now scattered throughout Russia, they neither have the benefit of the organization's special hospital, nor of membership of a survivor organization. They are known as the `living dead.'
The fireman whose story I was listening to seemed to be an exception to this grim litany of illness and death. He was telling the meeting how pleased and excited he was that, for the first time in ten years, his blood test findings were in the normal range. I was standing next to a delegate from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – the organisation charged with promoting the use of atomic energy.
On hearing the fireman's story, he leaned over to me and said: "You see! We said these were only transient disorders."
A rough translation might read: Chernobyl? What's the problem?
NRC, ICRP & IAEA Continue Ignoring the Victims of Nuclear Industry
The IAEA man's attitude was perfectly in keeping with that of his organization which, along with the International Commission on Radiation Protection (ICRP) exists in practice largely to play down the effects of radiation on human health, and to shield the nuclear industry from compensation claims from the public. The IAEA was set up in the late 1950s by he UN, to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and to promote the peaceful use of atomic energy – ironically, two contradictory objectives.
1928 International Committee on X-Ray and Radium Protection
The ICRP evolved from the 1928 International Committee on X-Ray and Radium Protection, and was set up in the fifties to explore the health effects of radiation and [theoretically] to protect the public from it. In fact, both organizations have come to serve the industry rather than the public.
The Chernobyl case is a classic example of the IAEA's inadequacy and questionable science. Despite massive evidence to the contrary, not least from the many thousands of victims themselves, the IAEA insists that only 32 people have so far died as a result of Chernobyl – those who died in the radiation ward of Hospital six in Moscow.
All other deaths related to the disaster and its aftermath are ignored; (and, there have been many more than 10,000 in Ukraine, alone ...according to the Minister of Health there). Belarus had the highest fallout, and yet there is an international blackout among the IAEA and the rest of the 'radiation protection community' on the suffering of its people.
The essential problem is that both the IAEA and the ICRP are dealing not with science but with politics and administration; not with public health but with maintaining an increasingly dubious industry. It is their interests, and those of the nuclear industry, to play down the health effects of radiation.
The main way in which the "radiation protection industry" has succeeded in hugely underrating the ill-health caused by nuclear power is by insisting on a group of extremely restrictive definitions as to what qualifies as a radiation-caused illness statistic.
For example, under IAEA's criteria:
> If a radiation-caused cancer is not fatal, it is not counted in IAEA figures.
> If a cancer is initiated by another carcinogen, but accelerated or promoted by exposure to radiation, it is not counted.
> If an auto-immune disease or any non-cancer is caused by radiation, it is not counted.
> Radiation-damaged embryos or foetuses which result in miscarriage or stillbirth do not count.
> A congenitally blind, deaf or malformed child whose illnesses are are radiation-related are not included in the figures because this is not genetic damage, but rather is teratogenic, and will not be passed on later to the child's offspring.
> Causing the genetic predisposition to breast cancer or heart disease does not count since it is not a 'serious genetic disease' (in the Mendelian sense).
> Even if radiation causes a fatal cancer or serious genetic disease in a live born infant, it is discounted if the estimated radiation dose is below 100 mSv [mSv= millisievert, a measurement of radiation exposure. One hundred millsievert is the equivalent in radiation of about 100 X-Rays].
> Even if radiation causes a lung cancer, it does not count if the person smokes ...in fact whenever there is a possibility of another cause, radiation cannot be blamed.
> If all else fails, it is possible to claim that radiation below some designated dose does not cause cancer, and then average over the whole body the radiation dose which has actually been received by one part of the body or even organ, as for instance when radio-iodine concentrates in the thyroid. This arbitrary dilution of the dose will ensure that the 100 mSv cut-off point is nowhere near reached.
It is a technique used to dismiss the sickness of Gulf War veterans who inhaled small particles of ceramic uranium which stayed in their lungs for more than two years, and in their bodies for more than eight years, irradiating and damaging cells in a particular part of the body. [continued, here]
from Rosalie Bertell to Zac Goldsmith, editor, The Ecologist
03/11/99 2:58 PM re: November Issue
Congratulations on a generally excellent issue! I have always felt that newspaper articles are too fleeting, and books are too ponderous to reach the public on this important issue; however, you have found a very good imtermediate carrier for the information. Please keep me informed of reactions (which may get nasty).
I was concerned about my article, and perhaps there were some attempts to reach me for comments when I was overseas (13 Oct to 2 Nov). It was too bad that important references were omitted, as was the fact that I used only UNSCEAR data on population doses of radiation due to weapons or civilian nuclear enterprises. The text does not mention the source of the population dose estimates, which are fundamental to the credibility. I can also be faulted for the comment (added by someone) that 100 mSv is the equivalent in radiation to about 100 medical Xrays. Nuclear doses are always whole body doses, while medical Xray delivers a partial body dose to the target organ (teeth, chest, kidney, etc.). Speaking about "100 medical Xrays" is pretty vague and useless.
I tried to present the results in table form so that you could aggregate them as you needed, but I cannot match the numbers used in the article with my original estimates. The editor exaggerated somewhat the weapon testing contribution and very much slighted the nuclear power contribution. Both calculations were made using the same methodology and both used the official UNSCEAR data.
However, the text says: "we find that weapon testing has led to ....... approximately 1,200 million. Meanwhile, electricity production from nuclear plants between 1943 and 2000 may have led to another million victims ....."My estimates are:
Nuclear weapon testing:
Nuclear weapon production:
(84% local or regional)
Nuclear power production:
(76% local or regional)
Medical production and use:
Total civilian electricity related:
Of these amounts, about 31.4% are radiation induced cancers; 19.6% are genetic effects and 49% are teratogenetic effects in live born offspring.I used official risk factors except for not introducing the dose rate effect which the nuclear people do to reduce the number of cancers. My own research would say that the cancer estimates should be doubled, not divided by two. In the paper I maintained a neutral position be not doing either.