Why hasn’t John Howard appointed any medical
scientists to the committee to investigate nuclear power, when the real
problems associated with the nuclear fuel cycle – from mining to
reactors to radioactive waste – are the medical consequences,
overwhelming in their profundity?

The mining industry and politicians
in both major parties, with the cooperation of the easily-duped and
ill-formed media, have managed in recent years to label anyone who
addresses radiation-induced cancer and genetic disease and their
relation to nuclear power as “emotional “. That’s a form of cheap
marginalisation which should no longer be tolerated.

A large medical literature demonstrates that over 30% of US
uranium miners have died of lung cancer from radon gas inhalation. It is
also known that uranium miners ingest carcinogenic radium, and male workers’ testicles
are irradiated by gamma rays which can genetically damage their sperm.

Uranium fissions in a reactor to a series of isotopes,
making it one billion times more radioactive. Amongst them are caesium 137 ,
which lasts 600 years and is known to induce brain and muscle
cancers; strontium 90 (600 years), causing bone cancer and leukaemia; and
plutonium (250,000 years), causing bone, liver, lung, blood and testicular cancers
as well as severe congenital defects.

A 2006 study (The Other Report on
Chernobyl) found that 40% of the European land mass post-Chernobyl is
contaminated with these and other isotopes, which bio-concentrate in
the food chain by orders of magnitude.

Nuclear reactors and waste facilities are
terrorist targets. A Union of Concerned Scientists study has estimated that a
meltdown – whether accidental or terrorist-induced – at the
Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, located 35 miles from Manhattan, would kill nearly one million people
from acute radiation sickness and cancer, and render New York City
uninhabitable. And now we are being told by ANSTO
that up to five reactors are needed on Australia’s east
coast.

Fifty-two thousand tonnes of intensely radioactive
waste sits – with nowhere for it to be safely transported and stored – in
cooling pools beside 103 US reactors because the much vaunted Yucca Mountain storage scheme has
collapsed. Is it Australia’s
destiny to receive this waste? It’s a safe bet that
Bush and Howard discussed this possibility during the PM’s
recent visit.

Only a reckless, morally bankrupt, cynical, and
scientifically ignorant government would endanger the health of the
Australian population in this way.