In defense of the reputation of the community of Port Hope, Ontario, a community whose safety and livability has been slandered repeatedly, and in the defense of reason and science, here is a response to a recent editorial by the infamous Helen Caldicott.
In the interest of being sure not to be called evasive, all parts of this editorial will be independently addressed and responded to.
I challenge Ottowa Citizen or any other paper to publish a response, which I can provide in a format which is more traditional of a newspaper editorial publication. I’m only asking for the opportunity to refute these claims and show “both sides” of the story, which news outlets seem to always pride themselves on doing.
Nuclear Radiation is Forever
No, it’s not. Chemical toxins are forever. Mercury, lead and arsenic are forever. Radioactivity is, by definition, finite. There may be circumstances where a radioactive substance may last a long long time, even billions of years, but that’s because it’s only slightly radioactive. High activity means short half-life and vice-versa. If it’s highly radioactive, it does not last long.
Like most Ontario towns, Port Hope, on the shores of Lake Ontario, has a water treatment plant supplying its drinking water. Incredibly, adjacent to this plant is a huge factory now owned by Cameco. The factory hovers over this picturesque town, emitting uranium gas and dust into the air and Lake Ontario as it manufactures uranium fuel rods for export.
There’s no evidence at all that this facility contaminates drinking water. More importantly, uranium is not a gas. Maybe you’re talking about uranium hexafluoride, which, if it is, should be noted. In any case, that’s not released either, because it’s a valuable end product. Even uranium hexaflouride is NOT a gas at atmospheric temperature and pressure. If it were released, it would desublimate to a white crystalline solid.
Annual reports on the analysis of drinking water supplies in Port Hope are available here. The water is fine.
Port Hope is the deep dark underbelly of the Canadian nuclear industry, representing dangers that so far, have escaped sufficient scrutiny and cleanup.
There has been a clean-up effort ongoing since the 1970′s. Most of it is concerned with industrial chemical contamination, not radiation. The highest priority areas were completed years ago.
Yes, there has been a cleanup, moron.
Also, I’m pretty sure those who live in Port Hope are not happy about hearing their community repeatedly insulted in this manner.
Eighty years ago, Port Hope was introduced to the nuclear age when the Labine brothers began refining radium from pitchblend mined at Great Bear Lake. Radium is a radioactive decay product of uranium and this process produced much radioactive waste over the years.
So? Radium refining is no longer done because radium is no longer considered a valuable product, as it has been replaced in nearly all applications with synthetic isotopes. The primary byproduct of radium refining is lots of left over uranium. Of course, that has all since been put to use.
None of this stuff really qualifies as “nuclear waste” in the normal sense of the word. There are no fission byproducts or transuranic elements. It’s just the left over material after uranium has been extracted from rock. If this stuff is so dangerous then I’d love an explanation as to how we can all live on a planet that is full of it.
In the early 1940s, the federal government co-opted the refinery– renamed Eldorado — on the shores of Lake Ontario to produce uranium for the first nuclear weapons made by the U.S. Port Hope continued supplying uranium for U.S. weapons until 1957.
The facility was then used to refine uranium for fuel rods in nuclear reactors around the world.
Hundreds of thousands of tons of waste containing many radioactive carcinogenic elements — including uranium, radium, radon, and polonium which accrued at the factory site, were randomly dispersed throughout the town in ravines and playing fields and used as landfill and building materials in foundations for schools and other public buildings.
Such bullshit I’m not even going to start on such an unfounded accusation. How does this woman sleep at night?
Just one thing that should be pointed out: radon is an inert gas that disperses and is no danger outdoors. Polonium-210, the type found in uranium ore has a half-life of 138 days. So there’s none left in any of the mill tailings. It’s all gone.
When St. Mary’s School was discovered to be highly polluted with radon gas in 1975, it was promptly closed.
Radon gas comes primarily from geological sources (uranium and daughter products found in the local geology). Any uranium residue from industrial activities is an insignificant contributor to the total amount of radon in a structure.
Such an outcry followed that the federal government excavated 200,000 tons of severely contaminated soil from 400 properties and exported it to Chalk River.
I thought you just said that there was no cleanup. Does she just lose track of her own lies?
However two million to 3.5 million cubic metres still remain in the town in huge radioactive dumps, under buildings, on the beach and in the fishing harbour. Other towns were asked to take this material but all declined — so it will be excavated yet again over 10 years and moved a short distance to a dump within town boundaries which drains into the lake and is adjacent to Highway 401. Nuclear waste can never be re-mediated, just moved.
Can never be re-mediated? You do realize that this is all material that came out of the ground to begin with, right?
Many towns sit on far more uranium than you accuse Port Hope of containing, although not because anyone put it there due to natural occurance.
Contrary to statements provided by federal government agencies and Cameco, no level of radiation is safe and it is cumulative — each dose adds to the risk of cancer. Children are 10 to 20 times more radiosensitive than adults, and fetuses are extremely sensitive.
While children may well be more sensitive to ionizing radiation, I’ve never heard this “10 to 20 times” number and suspect that she pulled it out of her ugly wrinkled ass.
If there is no safe level then we’re all in deep trouble and should probably retreat to lead-lined caves, because you’re always being bombarded by radiation. Actually, much of it comes from internal sources like carbon-14 and potassium-40. So… this is unsafe?
Uranium waste is radioactive for billions of years, decaying sequentially to radioactive elements ( “daughters”), all of which can induce cancer or genetic diseases when entering the human body as hot spots or “internal emitters.”
It is radioactive for billions of years because it is so low-level. It generates minute amounts of daughter products at a very very slow rate and it will do this whether you dig it up or not. Uranium is found in the enviornment. It’s in the soil. It’s in sea water. Consequently these daughters are as well, although in low concentrations. Many people live in areas which are rich with high grade uranium ore. They’re not all keeling over dead. The concentrations and activities are very very low.
They are only significant “internal emitters” if you actually uptake a large enough amount of them to cause internal exposure. Unlikely.
Two of the most dangerous are:
1. Radon gas which seeps continuously from uranium-contaminated soil into houses, playing fields, schools etc. When inhaled, radon emits alpha particles delivering high-level radiation to surrounding cells — possibly inducing cancer decades later. The incubation period for cancer is long — between five to 60 years.
Already mentioned. Radon comes from geological sources. Due to its half-life, concentrations are always very low and are only a problem if there is very poor ventilation in an area where it can collect. It would never be a problem on playing fields.
Also, notice Caldicott’s common appeal to fear for the safety of children. It seeps into schools and playing fields. Wouldn’t it also seep into biker bars, strip clubs and prisons?
2. Radium, an alpha emitter, is also a uranium daughter whose toxicity lasts for 16,000 years, and concentrates thousands of times in the food chain, including fish, fruit and vegetables. It is absorbed from the gut, and, like calcium, deposits in bone where it can induce bone cancer or leukemia.
Yes, it’s dangerous, if you have it in high concentrations, which you never would except where it has been intentionally refined or in some rare geological occurrences. Incidentally, this stuff, like all uranium daughters is already found in the enviornment.
Many uranium daughters also emit gamma radiation like X-rays– which can induce cancer or genetic mutations in the sperm and eggs to be transferred to future generations causing diseases such as diabetes, mental retardation or cystic fibrosis.
Now this is absolute bullshit that really demonstrates either a complete lack of understanding of genetics and mutation or just outright dishonesty.
Yes, it is possible that ionizing radiation could cause genetic mutations and that if these mutations occure in the sperm or egg that they could result in mutations being passed on to offspring. However, bringing up diseases as specific as diabetes or cystic fibrosis is insultingly ignorant of how the process works.
No long-term scientific peer-reviewed epidemiological studies of Port Hope have ever been conducted. However a number of partial studies suggest an increased incidence of cancer including lung cancer in women, brain cancer in women and children, childhood leukemia, arterio-vascular disease in women, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, nasopharyngeal cancer and others. The population has never been tested for radium or uranium excretion in their urine.
That is a bold faced lie. There have been at least eight major peer-reviewed studies conducted by Health Canada on the health of the region. There have also been reports by Health Canada and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission on available scientific data of both the health of the community and measurements of potential environmental toxins.
Information on the extensive scientific documentation can be found here.
I have no idea what “partial studies” she is talking about. It may well just be a lie.
At the beginning of the nuclear age, the relationship between radiation and genes was little understood. Subsequently the “acceptable safe levels of exposure” have been substantially decreased seven times.
The above statement is absolutely false in several respects. For one, the fact that ionizing radiation caused genetic damage with the potential for cancer development has been well established since before the 1930′s. The Linear non-threshold model that anti-nuclear activists love so dearly is based on presumptions made in the earliest days of nuclear research.
Furthermore, there is no single “acceptable safe levels of exposure.” The maximum exposure that is considered acceptable for a patient undergoing cancer is different from the maximum acceptable exposure for patient undergoing medical imaging, which is different from the maximum workplace radiation in the nuclear industry which is different from the maximum acceptable exposure for a member of the public as a result of materials disposal. Furthermore, the regulations as to what is considered “acceptable” vary vastly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
In the 1950s, the World Health Organization recognized the potential risk but, remarkably, was prevented from conducting research into the human health effects of radiation by a 1959 agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Again, simply not true. The WHO has conducted research and so have numerous other private and public agencies.
There is not and has never been any agreement preventing the WHO from researching the effects of ionizing radiation. The entire text of the 1959 agreement between the WHO and other UN organizations can be found here. The section on the IAEA begins on page 62. The agreement simply states that the WHO and IAEA will work together to exchange information on the health effects of ionizing radiation and that the two agencies will cooperate in the release of information or policy statements.
You can read the whole thing if you want (it’s only about three pages long). It’s pretty clear that the only intent of the agreement is to avoid the problem of the two agencies stepping on each other’s toes in areas where their jurisdictions may overlap. Some have claimed that this means that the WHO could not do any research or release any statements on radiation without the consolation or permission of the IAEA. That is simply not the case
Incredibly, relevant research simply has not been done to date.
Except it has.
Port Hope stands today as the canary in the coal mine and our generation has been turning its back on a potentially deadly threat to the human species.
If port Hope is the Canary, then it is happily singing and swinging in it’s little birdcage.
Nuclear waste is forever radioactive, and forever is a very long time. Action must be taken before it’s too late.
Too late? I thought you said the sky was already falling.
Helen Caldicott is founding president Physicians for Social Responsibility. Dale Dewar is executive director of Physicians for Global Survival.
Actually she seems to spend most of her time self-promoting and founding various organizations that cater to her own sense of ego. “Physicians for Social Responsibility” is not about social responsibility at all. It’s a single-issue anti-nuclear special interest. Caldicott loves to talk about being a doctor and caring for patients, but she has not practiced medicine in decades and has made her living entirely by lying about nuclear energy.
Dale Dewar is a wanna-be with an even more pathetic organization, which is also a single-issue organization that equates nuclear energy to nuclear weapons and has absolutely nothing new to add to the discussion.
Yes, I call Caldicott a liar here and that’s because she is. It’s not an ad-hom attack, but rather a statement of fact. She has made statements that are clearly and provably false. A baker is one who bakes, a driver is one who drives, and a liar is one who lies. She lies and therefore is a liar.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 9th, 2011 at 10:48 pm and is filed under Bad Science, Enviornment, media, Nuclear, Obfuscation, Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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