Transcript: Dr. Helen Caldicott (nuclear power, security), Aug 11 2006
Dr. Helen Caldicott is the author of "Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer".
Thom Hartmann interview with Dr. Helen Caldicott 10 August 2006
[Thom Hartmann] Dr. Helen Caldicott is with us in the studio right now. She has a new book out, "Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer". And Dr. Caldicott, with all the bloviating going on about terrorism and the terrorist threat and, 'Holy cow! They might bring a little liquid on an airplane', that's really not the big threat, is it?
[Dr. Caldicott] No, the real nuclear terrorists in the world are Russia and America. Of the 30,000 hydrogen bombs today in the world, Russia and America own 97%. And they've still got thousands of them on hair-trigger alert, ready to go at the press of a button by Vladimir Putin or George Bush. So serious is it that Yeltsin in 1995 in January got within ten seconds of blowing up America when the Russians made a mistake and thought a Norwegian weather satellite was actually a first strike attack by the United States.
And the U.S. still has a policy to fight and win a nuclear war against Russia which means the end of life on Earth. Both of them have enough weapons to overkill every person on Earth twelve times. That's a Pentagon term: you kill them, they stand up again, you kill them, they stand up - overkill. So no one's talking abut this, and this is the real, real threat that faces us every day.
[Thom Hartmann] And for those people who are hysterical or concerned or, I mean, there's some legitimate concern I suppose, of asymmetrical attacks, people who don't have nuclear technology, who want to exploit nuclear technology, the real threat to the United States, or perhaps the greatest threat to the United States is not somebody smuggling 2oz. of nitroglycerine onto an airplane; the real threat is sitting in the cooling towers and the cooling pools.
[Dr. Caldicott] Yeah, you've got nuclear targets all over the country. You've got 103 nuclear power plants and beside them, huge pools of very, very radioactive nuclear waste sitting there. In a reactor is as much long-lived radiation as at least the explosion of 1,000 Hiroshima weapons. But besides them in the cooling pools - they call them swimming pools euphemistically - is as much as 30 times as much radiation.
You need a hand-held rocket to bust the cooling pool, let the water out, and that material will melt down and just contaminate forever huge areas of this country, let alone flying a plane into a nuclear power plant. So in fact, if I was a terrorist, I could easily melt a nuclear plant down within hours. I mean, they're just sitting ducks. And no one takes any notice of this. And since 9/11 the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has not increased security at any of the nuclear power plants, can you believe?
[Thom Hartmann] And yet, in the 9/11 Commission report they pointed out that Mohammed Atta originally was thinking of flying one of those planes into Indian Point's nuclear reactor because it would have contaminated hundreds of miles around New York City including New York City and he ultimately decided not to because he was certain that they must be protected by surface to air missiles.
[Dr. Caldicott] Yeah well, they're not. And you know.
[Thom Hartmann] And they're still not.
[Dr. Caldicott] No. In my book I've described a melt down at Indian Point coming from the Union of Concerned Scientists over 6 hundred, 700,000 people would die if the wind's blowing in the right direction. Can you imagine the roads in Westchester clogged and gridlocked with people trying to get to the kindergartens to pick their children up, inhaling radioactive material, tasting this metallic smell in their mouth, dying within weeks with their hair falling out, bleeding and vomiting to death. And then the stuff gets to Manhattan. The Stock Market closes. No one would ever live there again. I mean, this is a very realistic scenario.
[Thom Hartmann] And it need not even be. We're talking with Dr. Helen Caldicott. Her new book, "Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer", and I eventually want to get to nuclear power here, as well. I guess we are, indirectly.
[Dr. Caldicott] Yeah.
[Thom Hartmann] It's not even, you wouldn't even necessarily need an airplane to do it. You were talking a little earlier about the experience you had last week with a boat.
[Dr. Caldicott] Well, you know, there was nearly a melt down the other day in Sweden. They lost their external electricity supply. Don't forget global warming's happening and I think there was a storm or something so their electricity went. Of their 4 emergency generators, 2 failed to start, and for 20 minutes or more no one knew what was happening, like at Three Mile Island or Chernobyl, and they said it's the closest anyone's come since Chernobyl to a major melt down.
[Thom Hartmann] Why was this not headlines in the United States? Why is it that I am learning this from you now and I didn't hear it in...
[Dr. Caldicott] I'm just laughing at you. Why don't you report the world news in a way that everyone understands? I have to say, I just flew in from Australia yesterday and we do get the world news. We get the BBC. We get Radio Deutsche Welle. We hear what's actually, we see the dead babies in Lebanon and in Iraq, you know, on the television. Why are you being protected, so to speak, from the truth that's happening in the world? That's very serious.
[Thom Hartmann] It is, it is very serious, it is very problematic.
[Dr. Caldicott] And Americans can take anything and they should know what's happening, being the most powerful country on Earth.
[Thom Hartmann] And to bring us back to nuclear power for a moment, a nuclear power plant need not be brought down by a lack of physical electricity.
[Dr. Caldicott] No, all you need to do is cut the external electricity supply and the generators, emergency generators don't always work. I mean, if I was Timothy McVeigh, and I had a little speedboat - and I was outside Indian Point the other day on Bobby Kennedy's boat - I could have driven a little power boat full of explosives, fertilizer explosives, into the cooling pipes that suck in a million gallons of water a minute from the Hudson. Two cooling pipes, each a million gallons, burst the pipes and within a couple of hours those reactors would melt down. I mean, they are absolute sitting ducks. I don't know…
[Thom Hartmann] You weren't intercepted by the Coast Guard when you were there?
[Dr. Caldicott] Nobody appeared. There was absolute silence and we got quite close to the plant.
[Thom Hartmann] Amazing.
[Dr. Caldicott] So I don't know why it hasn't happened already. I mean, they all should be shut down tomorrow, if not today.
[Thom Hartmann] Shut down.
[Dr. Caldicott] Shut down. Only 20% of your electricity comes from nuclear power. You could save 25% of the electricity you currently use by turning off your lights. Nobody should use clothes driers. You should hang your clothes outside in the sun to be dried by that reactor in the sky. In the winter hang them up by your furnace, they dry in a flash. That would save nearly as much power as the nuclear energy industry produces. Don't use dishwashers. Put in some water in your sink - don't keep running it - water with a plug and wash your dishes which I do every day.
[Thom Hartmann] The way we learnt how to do as kids. Yeah.
[Dr. Caldicott] Yeah, I know. Every day, you know, there are so many. Turn off all your lights. Have only one light on in the room in which you are working and do not have any other lights on in the house. Turn off all your VCRs, those blinking lights, all night, turn them off. They suck a lot of juice out of the grid. And then, you can provide the whole of the electricity you need from wind power, solar power, geothermal, co-generation. It's all here. And I'm about to write a road map to provide you with clean non-global warming electricity with no nuclear power. The technology's here. All you need is to get your politicians to represent you and do the right thing.
[Thom Hartmann] Yeah, and well said. We're talking with Dr. Helen Caldicott. Her new book, "Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer". Dr. Caldicott, we have about a minute before we have to take a break and then we can continue our conversation, but Australia, you're Australian.
[Dr. Caldicott] I am.
[Thom Hartmann] And I've spent a fair amount of time in Australia.
[Dr. Caldicott] Yeah.
[Thom Hartmann] It doesn't seem to me that Australia is that far apart from the United States in terms of our mutual addiction to oil, let's say.
[Dr. Caldicott] We've got a very bad prime minister called John Howard. We've got rude names for him in terms of his relationship with George Bush. But he is totally run by the coal industry and coal is producing global warming, and by the nuclear industry because we've got 40% of the world's richest uranium. He's cut down any research on solar, and we're a country bathed in sun, a huge continent.
[Thom Hartmann] So much so that, so much so that a third of it is unusable because there's too much sun!
[Dr. Caldicott] I know, and then they closed down a wind farm that was to be built because there was an orange-bellied parrot. They've seen one in a hundred years, or something, and said, "Well, you know, one could be killed every hundred years". I mean, the thing is so corrupt. And I've just launched my book over there. And I testified before John Howard, he's the prime minister, his commission on nuclear power the other day and they're physicists. And they said, "Well we don't necessarily agree with you", and I said, "I just gave this lecture at Harvard, to my alma mater, the other day, and the doctors were absolutely stunned by the information. I'm not wrong, I'm right.
[Thom Hartmann] Yeah.
[Dr. Caldicott] Yet to make a physicist understand in medicine is not easy unless they themselves get a malignancy, and then they get it.
[Thom Hartmann] More with Dr. Helen Caldicott in just a moment.
[Thom Hartmann] Dr. Helen Caldicott is in the office, or in the studio here with us. "Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer", her new book. Dr. Caldicott, in May of 1986, I flew into Frankfurt, Germany and I remember walking down, it was raining, and I remember walking, I got off the plane, and I had not, you know, I was like not connected to the news in last 24 hours and got off the train and was walking to my hotel and the city was empty. It was a ghost town, because it was raining. And I got to the hotel, and as soon as I got in the guy said, "You're going to want to take your coat off and rinse it off when you get upstairs", and I'm like, "What's the problem?" and he said, "The cloud is going over from Chernobyl right now and everybody is hiding inside". We went on to live in Germany that year, '86-'87, and I used to walk through the supermarket with a Geiger counter. And you walk by the mushrooms or the milk, and it would go 'rrrrrrrrrr', like that. What are the consequences to we the people of this planet and to the rest of animal life as well of the byproducts of nuclear power?
[Dr. Caldicott] Well, at the moment, 40% of the European land mass is still radioactive.
[Thom Hartmann] As a result of Chernobyl.
[Dr. Caldicott] Yeah. There are 300 farms in Wales, in Britain, who grow lambs, and the lamb is so full of Cesium 137 that causes brain cancer and muscle cancer, they can't be sold on the market. The mushrooms are still radioactive. Because what got out was Strontium 90 that lasts for 600 years, bio-concentrates in the food chain like the grass hundreds of times and then in the milk hundreds of times, then in the human lactating breast hundreds of times, then in babies. And babies are 10 to 20 times more sensitive to radiation than adults; they get cancer much more readily. And this stuff lasts and it causes bone cancer or leukemia. So, you know, this food will be radioactive for 600 years. I do not buy European food because I don't know what batches are radioactive and what are not. Caesium 137 lasts for 600 years. So, and it's concentrated continually in the food.
And you can't taste like Hershey's Milk Kiss and say, "I can taste the Strontium 90 in this?" Why? Because there was a major melt down at Three Mile Island, Hershey's is 13 miles as the crow flies from Three Mile Island. There's been a huge cover up. We don't know how much radiation got out. But in my book, "Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer", I've got a lot of stuff from the whistleblower from the Hershey's lab describing how they powdered the milk for 6 weeks or 2 months so that the radioactive Iodine would decay. But then, what about the Strontium that lasts for 600 years and the Plutonium that lasts for half a million years? And a lot of that apparently got out too.
So, you see, we didn't evolve so our senses - taste, smell or sight - could pick up radiation and so you don't taste it. And when you get your breast cancer or the child gets a leukaemia it doesn't wear a little sign saying what made it. So it's a cryptogenic silencing and the incubation time for cancer is not 2 days like if I sneeze on you and you get a cold. It's 5 to 60 years. And that's why the nuclear industry are able to get away with what they do, because it's hard to tell which cancers are caused by what except there are now clusters of cancer in people living around nuclear power plants.
[Thom Hartmann] I remember when we lived in Germany, the original limit in milk was 5 Becquerels per liter and then they raised it to 50 Becquerels per liter and then they raised it to 500 Becquerels per liter because they didn't want to stop selling milk. We just sopped drinking it.
[Dr. Caldicott] That's just a general measurement of radiation, be it Strontium or Cesium.
[Thom Hartmann] Right.
[Dr. Caldicott] And I suppose Europeans were scared out of their wits at first, and then after a couple of years you adjust, because you've got to eat. Now in Australia we have totally non-radioactive food and we should be advertising that to a radioactive Europe and say, "Eat our clean food". But we also want to sell our uranium.
[Thom Hartmann] That's right.
[Dr. Caldicott] And by pushing uranium we're pushing cancer, because it gets fission in the reactor, becomes one billion times more radioactive and then, bob's your uncle, that's radioactive waste that lasts for half a million years.
[Thom Hartmann] We have...
[Dr. Caldicott] So, we're cancer pushers in Australia.
[Thom Hartmann] Yeah, and in the United States. We have about 30 seconds left here, Dr. Helen Caldicott, her new book, "Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer", what can we do?
[Dr. Caldicott] Well, educate yourselves. You know, Jefferson said an informed democracy will behave in a responsible fashion. Read my book, "Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer". You'll get everything you need. Then you've got enough information to debate and beat George Bush on television any night. Mobilise yourselves. If you're a doctor, get the medical profession, I'll come and speak at your annual conference. If you're a Jehovah's Witness I'll come there. This is a medical issue. It's not political; it's medical. Close down every single reactor in America. Become the world's leader for sanity and survival and get into alternative energy. It's all there. You can do it. You're a good democracy if you use it.
[Thom Hartmann]Spoken like a prophet, or prophetess. Dr. Helen Caldicott, "Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer" is the book, and is there your web site, what's?
[Dr. Caldicott] Yeah, nuclearpolicy.org and there's a huge amount of information on that. That's my institute, Nuclear Policy Research Institute.
[Thom Hartmann] Nuclearpolicy.org.
[Dr. Caldicott] Yep.
Thom also interviewed Dr. Caldicott on his KPOJ program on the same day.