Health risks of nuclear reactors highlighted by unfolding Japan nuclear disaster

MEDIA STATEMENT, Melbourne, 14 March 2011: The unfolding tragedy in Japan has highlighted the dangerous reality of nuclear power and its potential severe health consequences, said the Medical Association for the Prevention of War (MAPW) and International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICANi) in a joint statement today.

“Our thoughts are today with the hundreds of thousands of traumatised inhabitants of the Fukushima district - now fleeing the radioactive plume over northern Japan - whose experience of horrendous natural disaster has been amplified by avoidable man-made catastrophe,” said Dr Bill Williams, President of MAPW and board member of ICANi Australia.

“The situation in Japan is still unstable and unpredictable, and authorities are scrambling to avoid further catastrophic developments. The events have already alerted the world to the dangers of nuclear power and will certainly be a game changer in terms of international perceptions of nuclear power.”

“The medical effects of the nuclear reactor malfunction can be anticipated in two categories.”

“Firstly, high level contamination especially to workers and emergency responders, can lead to acute radiation effects- vomiting diarrhoea, bleeding, infection, convulsions, coma, deaith.”

“Secondly, lower level contamination impacts are much harder to identify. It requires a longer lag time, which may take years or decades - rather than hours or days - to assess. Exposure to radioactive materials is initially through inhalation, but then via the food chain and thus ingested.

“After the Chernobyl accident, thousands of people developed thyroid cancers because of radioactive iodine ingestion, mostly thru cow's milk contamination. The habitat in parts of Europe is still excessively radioactive from Cesium deposition 25 years ago.”

“While Geiger counters as demonstrated on news reports will identify people with higher level exposures, but there is no capacity for individual monitoring of lower levels of internal radiation exposures ... these will be estimated AFTER the event.”

“Now is the time to reduce our global reliance on nuclear power, to boost the roll-out, research and development of genuinely sustainable energy energy sources,” said Williams.

For further comment contact Bill Williams - 0428 616 245
For further media enquiries contact James Norman - 0415 248 768

Key MAPW resources on health risks of radiation and nuclear power, include:

For more MAPW resources, go to Nuclear Chain on the left menu, and check also  sub-headings including radiation, nuclear power and nuclear accidents