Nuclear Power is Not the Answer to Global Warming or Anything Else
The authoritative book by Dr Helen Caldicott
Acclaimed author and activist Naomi Klein states about the latest book by Helen Caldicott: "Dr. Helen Caldicott has the rare ability to combine science with passion, logic with love, and urgency with humor", and Ms Klein just summarises a minute particle of Dr Caldicott's acclaim.
Regrettably, in Howard's Australia, and with a Labor opposition given to a "me-too" pandering and a half-hearted understanding of the potential of its true role as an opposition party, Caldicott is these days more acclaimed in other countries than at home.
Sydney Morning Herald reporter Erin O'Dwyer recently observed that Caldicott, someone who addressed in 1982 one million people in Central Park, New York on nuclear disarmament, was shouted down and heckled in 1998 when she addressed a protest against Sydney's Lucas Heights reactor.
It is absolutely essential, that her voice forms part of the equasion now that we have the nuclear debate "we have to have" according to John Howard, and her latest book resulted in the nomination of the Inaugural Australian Peace Prize.
"In a world where dark and dangerous forces are threatening our planet, Helen Caldicott shines a powerful light. This much-needed book reveals truths that confirm we must take positive action now if we are to make a difference."
Dr. Helen Caldicott has the rare ability to combine science with passion, logic with love, and urgency with humor
About the Author
The world's leading spokesperson for the antinuclear movement, Dr Helen Caldicott is a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, the recipient of the 2003 Lannan Prize for Cultural Freedom and the inaugural Australian Peace Prize awarded by the Peace Organisation of Australia, 2006.
A medical doctor, she has devoted the past thirty-five years to an international campaign to educate the public about the medical hazards of the nuclear age. Dr Caldicott is a bestselling author and divides her time between the central coast of New South Wales and Washington, DC, where she is President of the Nuclear Policy Research Institute.
Helen Caldicott has been my inspiration to speak out
Dr. Caldicott is one of the most articulate and passionate advocates of citizen action to remedy the nuclear and environmental crises
2003 Lannan Cultural Freedom Prize Citation
The time to take Caldicott's measured and wise words to heart is now
About the book
In this revealing examination of the costs and consequences of nuclear energy, world-renowned antinuclear spokesperson Helen Caldicott uncovers the facts that belie the nuclear industry propaganda: nuclear power contributes to global warming; the true cost of nuclear power is prohibitive, with taxpayers picking up most of the tab; there's simply not enough uranium in the world to sustain nuclear power over the long term; and the potential for a catastrophic accident or a terrorist attack far outweighs any benefits.
Title: Nuclear Power is Not the Answer to Global Warming or Anything Else
In a world torn apart by wars over oil, many politicians are increasingly looking for alternative sources of energy-and their leading choice is often nuclear. Among the myths that have been spread over the years about nuclear-powered electricity are that it does not cause global warming or pollution (i.e., that it is "clean and green"), that it is inexpensive, and that it is safe. But the facts belie the barrage of nuclear industry propaganda:
Trained as a physician, and - after four decades of antinuclear activism - thoroughly versed in the science of nuclear energy, the bestselling author of Nuclear Madness and Missile Envy here turns her attention from nuclear bombs to nuclear lightbulbs. As she makes meticulously clear in this damning book, the world cannot withstand either.
The world's leading spokesperson for the antinuclear movement, Dr. Helen Caldicott is the co-founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility, a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, and the 2003 winner of the Lannan Cultural Freedom Prize. She divides her time between Australia and Washington, D.C., where she recently established the Nuclear Policy Research Institute.
We should not be exporting uranium because you are exporting cancer
Not recognised among Australia's 100 most influential people, anti-nuclear campaigner Dr Helen Caldicott still stands tall on the world stage, Erin O'Dwyer writes. 'We've gone backwards decades under Bush and Howard'
Sydney Morning Herald
LIKE all our best intellectuals, Helen Caldicott is better known in the United States than at home.
In 1982, she silenced a crowd of 1 million people who gathered in New York's Central Park to hear her speak on nuclear disarmament.
But in 1998, when she addressed 1000 people in Engadine protesting against Sydney's Lucas Heights reactor, Caldicott was shouted down by hecklers.
It was a similar story last week when The Bulletin magazine listed 100 of the most influential Australians. Cookery writer Margaret Fulton and pop star Kylie Minogue made the cut. Helen Caldicott, the world's leading anti-nuclear voice, did not.
Yet she has been named as one of the 100 most influential women of the 20th century by the Smithsonian Institution, and she was nominated in 1985 for the Nobel peace prize.
Perhaps it's tall poppy syndrome. Perhaps it is sexism. Or perhaps Caldicott is unsung here simply because we have stopped listening to her message.
"In the '70s and '80s, Australia was very anti-nuclear," she says. "And I used to be very well listened to in Australia in the '70s and '80s. But we've gone backwards decades under the Bush Administration and under the Howard administration and it's been quite devastating."
This month Caldicott publishes her sixth book - Nuclear Power Is Not The Answer To Global Warming Or Anything Else (Melbourne University Press). It comes as the nuclear energy debate heats up amid increased awareness that Australia has about 40 per cent of the world's recoverable uranium resources.
Caldicott hopes the book will penetrate the political untruth that nuclear energy is a safe, green alternative.
"[People] think that it is the answer to global warming," she says, "but in truth it adds to global warming. It does not fix it."
Caldicott's message has always been simple. Nuclear energy leaves a toxic legacy to future generations because it produces not only global warming gases but also massive amounts of toxic carcinogenic radioactive waste. It is also far more expensive than other forms of electricity generation and can trigger proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Even worse, radioactive elements in nuclear-powered countries are already leaking - into the ground, into rivers and oceans, and into the food chain. Already 40 per cent of Europe's landmass is radioactive after Chernobyl, and increasingly so are its food supplies. Alarmingly that includes human breast milk.
Caldicott warns that as more people are exposed, cancers such as leukemia will become more common. So will genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis. "We should not be exporting uranium because by exporting uranium, you are exporting cancer," she says.
A pediatrician who specialised in cystic fibrosis, Caldicott first grabbed headlines protesting against French nuclear testing in the 1970s. She used her profile to mobilise trade unions and elicited an ACTU resolution to ban uranium mining.
After migrating to the US in the late '70s with her then husband Bill Caldicott, she became a faculty member of the Harvard Medical School. There she mobilised doctors and established Physicians for Social Responsibility with 23,000 influential members. It became one of the US's most powerful anti-nuclear lobby groups and won the Nobel peace prize in 1985.
Caldicott had resigned from the leadership group amid political power play and did not attend the ceremony. Yet she refused to let that devastating experience stop her. She went on to teach at leading universities and was honoured with countless awards and honorary degrees.
Three years ago, she established the Nuclear Policy Research Institute in Washington, known for its high-powered scientific symposiums. She has just been named as the inaugural winner of the Australian Peace Prize.
The journey hasn't always been easy. On the eve of her 50th birthday, Caldicott's marriage ended. All her anti-nuclear work was "ashes in my mouth".
She includes the break-up when asked about her personal milestones. She also includes the births of her six grandchildren. This is because, as a pediatrician, Caldicott's motivation has always been her children, her children's children and children everywhere. "It's one of the reasons I do the work I do," she says. "I practise global preventative medicine."
This year Caldicott will turn 68. She is slowing down, spending less time on the world stage and more time with family at her Central Coast hideaway. But she refuses to go quietly, and has mastered the art of working smarter not harder.
Now, instead of rallying unionists and doctors, she maintains a contact book of the world's top opinion leaders and journalists. Three times during our interview she quotes Thomas Jefferson about a functioning democracy requiring an informed citizenry.
"In the old days it was grass roots and this time it's tree tops," she says. "I'm getting older and it's more efficient to educate the media because through them you get to millions of people."
Caldicott's motivation might always have been her family, but these days she is careful to spend more time with them.
The best example is the night Madonna called to chat about the medical dangers of nuclear power.
Caldicott was preparing a lamb roast for her family and said: "Madonna, I can't take your call right now. I'll have to talk to you later."
"My family has never forgiven me," she says with a laugh.
"But my children were resentful that I wasn't around much and I do think about that. I wish I had been.
"On the other hand, I was wanting to make sure that they had a future. Nothing you do comes without consequences."
A dangerous liaison
Australia's alignment with America is "dangerous" because the US now has a policy to use nuclear weapons on non-nuclear states with impunity, an anti-nuclear campaigner said last night.
Dr Helen Caldicott, founder of the Nuclear Policy Research Institute, said this was the first time the United States had adopted such a policy.
America expected Australia "to fight alongside them in Iraq and probably against China if Taiwan becomes independent", she said. "America has 34 US bases in Australia. If there was an outbreak of nuclear war between Russia and America, we are targeted."
Australian-born Dr Caldicott was speaking in Melbourne where she was awarded the inaugural Australian Peace Prize by the Australian Peace Organisation.
DEMOCRATS leader Senator Lyn Allison will present the inaugural Australian Peace Prize to Helen Caldicott at a cocktail party in Melbourne tonight, coinciding with the launch of her new book Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer. The Peace Organisation of Australia chose Caldicott because of her "commitment to raising awareness about the medical and environmental hazards of the nuclear age". Caldicott has been named one of the most influential women of the 20th century by the Smithsonian Institute, although she didn't make the cut in the 100 most influential Australians named last week by The Bulletin magazine. Other nominations for the prize included High Court judge Michael Kirby and former foreign minister Gareth Evans.
Campaigner attacks nuclear inquiry's credibility
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Reporter: Kerry O'Brien
KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: Twenty-five years ago, Australian doctor Helen Caldicott was one of the most powerful and compelling figures on America's public stage. She founded a movement of more than 20,000 physicians and scientists against the nuclear arms race, and even her enemies had to acknowledge the potency of her appeal.
DR HELEN CALDICOTT: Don't believe what they're saying, watch what they do.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
KERRY O'BRIEN: In one disarmament rally in New York's Central Park in 1982, something like a million people turned out to hear her speak. But the end of the Cold War was pretty much the end of the movement, and the one-time Nobel Prize nominee eventually retired to the NSW Central Coast. Yet in recent years, she's sought to rekindle the spark of protest. And now, as the Australian Government launches its inquiry into the feasibility of nuclear power here, she's already moved to attack its credibility, with her own launch in Melbourne this week - a book called Nuclear Power is Not the Answer. I spoke with Helen Caldicott at her home near Gosford.
Helen Caldicott, can I begin with, I suppose, the most obvious question. You had an enormous following in the early 80s. The impetus of your campaign tended to peter out as the threat of nuclear holocaust dissipated. You retired to your coastal garden and to spend more time with family. Why the comeback?
DR HELEN CALDICOTT, ANTI-NUCLEAR ACTIVIST: Well, I, too, thought that the risk of nuclear war would just dissipate and go away and the main movers and shakers would get rid of the nuclear weapons and for a while there in the 90s, no-one really knew which direction it was going to take. And then Clinton was elected and Clinton didn't have the courage to take on the Pentagon. He was scared of them. He just let the matter lie. And now America and Russia still target each other on hair-trigger alert with thousands of nuclear weapons. And I'm trying to set up a conference with the Pentagon at the moment and the White House and the Russians to talk about the fact that we could be blown off the face of the earth tonight. And it's more serious now than it was at the height of the Cold War.
KERRY O'BRIEN: And yet, you found it very hard to reignite the spark this time round, haven't you? Why?
DR HELEN CALDICOTT: Because people think the risk's gone away. They're practising psychic numbing. Thank God it's all finished, we're friendly with the Russians. But the fact is the Russian early warning system doesn't work and by accident or by terrorist intrusion they could blow up the world tonight.
KERRY O'BRIEN: On nuclear power, on which your book is about to be launched, you say the arguments against nuclear power are overwhelming. You're not shaken by the fact that some highly-respected global warming campaigners say that the threat of greenhouse is so great that the risks of nuclear power are outweighed by the benefits that nuclear power on a large scale would deliver on greenhouse.
DR HELEN CALDICOTT: What are the benefits it would deliver? The fact is that the nuclear fuel cycle from A to Z, mining, milling, enriching, building the reactor, storing the waste for half a million years, produce a lot of greenhouse gases. So nuclear power, in fact, adds to greenhouse warming, does not detract, does not negate it, adds to it substantially.
KERRY O'BRIEN: But once a nuclear power station is built, it is then not adding to greenhouse, correct?
DR HELEN CALDICOTT: No, but you've got to make the fuel, Kerry. You've got to enrich the uranium, you've got to dig it up and the quality of uranium will be declining rapidly over time and it's going to produce, use a huge amount of fossil fuel to enrich it. So soon, in a decade or two, a nuclear power plant will produce as much CO2 as a similar sized gas-fired plant. So the argument is fallacious, but the nuclear industry is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to convince people that nuclear power is the answer to global warming, which it's not.
KERRY O'BRIEN: But some highly credible scientists, eminent scientists, are swayed by the argument.
DR HELEN CALDICOTT: Name them. Which ones?
KERRY O'BRIEN: Well, I'll tell you. James Lovelock is a powerful environmentalist and scientific voice, isn't he? When he calls for a massive expansion in the world's nuclear energy programs because he believes it's the only option left to stem the rapid advance of the greenhouse threat, I mean, is he dumb on this?
DR HELEN CALDICOTT: He's off the tracks. I've spoken to James Lovelock several times. He thinks that oxygen causes cancer, although he's a medical scientist. And he said, "Look, the way to heat my house is to put nuclear waste in my basement". So he wasn't open to reason or understanding. He's right on greenhouse warming, absolutely. He's totally wrong on nuclear power. And nuclear power from a medical perspective will, over time, induce epidemics of cancer and leukaemia and genetic disease forever more. And if he's a medical scientist he should indeed be concerned about that.
KERRY O'BRIEN: No-one can doubt Tim Flannery's scientific and environmental credentials. He says James Lovelock has a point on nuclear power. Flannery, too, is coming to see nuclear power as possibly a lesser of evils with regard to greenhouse in Australia.
DR HELEN CALDICOTT: You don't replace one evil with another, Kerry.
KERRY O'BRIEN: If it's the lesser of evils?
DR HELEN CALDICOTT: It's not the lesser of evils. The generation of nuclear power is the only electricity generation that can destroy a city. There are two huge nuclear reactors 35 miles from Manhattan. They were targets for the 9/11 terrorists. If one of those goes and the wind blows towards Manhattan, that's the end of the financial capital of the world.
KERRY O'BRIEN: If all the arguments against nuclear power are as overwhelming as you assert, particularly the economic arguments like the need for massive government subsidies, surely those arguments have to win the day? In which case, what have you got to worry about?
DR HELEN CALDICOTT: Yeah, it's a good point. I mean, Wall Street is very reluctant to invest in nuclear power. Standard & Poor's now - they are very allergic to it. And really, it's a socialised industry. The Energy Bill of 2005 in the US allocated $13 billion to subsidise nuclear power. It can't operate without huge government subsidies. So it's a socialised industry and a capitalistic society. And if the government keeps subsidising it, then I guess they can build a few reactors but certainly not enough to make any difference to global warming, not that they will anyway in the long term.
KERRY O'BRIEN: You attack the nuclear industry for propagandising, but haven't you been guilty of setting out to manipulate your audiences over the years in the way you have sold your case, at times, dare I suggest, to harangue, generate fear, to push your arguments to the limits, to enlist the public to your cause?
DR HELEN CALDICOTT: How?
KERRY O'BRIEN: I've seen you give speeches to audiences.
DR HELEN CALDICOTT: And?
KERRY O'BRIEN: I would say promoting fear by painting very fearful cases of the picture that you paint of a nuclear holocaust, the picture that you paint in this interview of nuclear accident, isn't that pushing at emotions?
DR HELEN CALDICOTT: Kerry, I don't want the only life in the universe to be destroyed and it's possible to do that now and it makes me scared and I'm a paediatrician having taken the Hippocratic oath. All the world's children are potentially my patients. I'm practising global preventative medicine. And so I have to speak the truth. And if it makes people frightened...you know, it's hard to speak this stuff, because it's boring, you know, and if you've got an audience and you're giving them fact after fact, they sort of go to sleep. So you have to be an actress, too, to wake them up and get them to face reality. Like getting a person to stop smoking. I've done that lots of times by scaring them and they hate me. But you know what, they stop smoking. This is practising preventative medicine.
KERRY O'BRIEN: Coming back to your personal motivation. You say in retirement you became depressed, did you honestly ask yourself whether a part of that depression was simply that you missed the fray?
DR HELEN CALDICOTT: Partly and partly because I'm pretty intuitive to my detriment. And I know what's happening, I can see what can happen in the future. I'm not good at denial, I'm not.
KERRY O'BRIEN: You've talked before about the personal cost to your family of your years of campaigning. What's been the worst of that personal cost?
DR HELEN CALDICOTT: I lost my marriage.
KERRY O'BRIEN: Worth it?
DR HELEN CALDICOTT: It's hard to know, really, isn't it? I mean, it was my destiny to do this work and it kind of still is. I knew from a child that I would do something like this.
KERRY O'BRIEN: But isn't that - look, I'm not suggesting that this is so in your case, but when a person talks about their destiny, isn't there a little bit of a danger in that that you kind of can persuade yourself to all sorts of things because you say it's your destiny?
DR HELEN CALDICOTT: I couldn't not have done it, Kerry. I read On The Beach when I was 15. And that was the turning - I lost my innocence. I lived in Melbourne. I could feel the bombs exploding shortly after that. We could destroy life on earth. Then I did medicine at the age of 17, I learned about genetics and radiation. It was so obvious to me and Russia and America were blowing up bombs in the atmosphere and the fallout was falling down and Linus Pauling said children would get leukaemia and cancer, medically it's obvious. Now, I could practise medicine, I could have stayed at Harvard and done really well. I had a great boss. But I could see beyond pouring stuff into test tubes and treating individual patients. What was the use of caring for my patients so carefully if, in fact, they had no future?
KERRY O'BRIEN: And so here you go again?
DR HELEN CALDICOTT: Yeah.
KERRY O'BRIEN: Helen Caldicott, thanks for talking with us.
DR HELEN CALDICOTT: Thanks, Kerry.