Eminent anti-nuclear advocate and former Byron Shire resident Dr Helen Caldicott had an urgent warning for Australians last night: our uranium is killing children all over the world, even without a nuclear accident.
Dr Caldicott, a world-renowned authority on the medical effects of radiation from nuclear energy, told a packed Byron Bay Services Club room of around 200 people there was one way to stop the nuclear madness slowly killing off millions of people through accidents and weaponry: keep uranium in the ground.
The Nobel Peace Prize nominee and founding president of Physicians for Social Responsibility says Australia has a moral responsibility to stop exporting uranium, which was fuelling the deaths of millions of people.
The audience agreed, applauding her loudly when she said the one way to save the planet was by ‘not digging up our uranium and coal’, both of which are huge contributors to global warming.
Dr Caldicott is a popular and historic figure in the Northern Rivers. In the early 1990s when she lived in Byron Shire she turned politics in the country on its head when she stood for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in the federal seat of Richmond in the 1990 election.
She blew away long-term incumbent and leader of the National Party, Donald Blunt, with her huge support, pushing Labor’s Neville Newell across the line.
Dr Caldicott has since left the small arena of local politics on her bigger mission to educate as wide an audience as possible on the dangers to human health and the environment of the nuclear industry and weapon proliferation
The physician and prolific author spends her time between Australia and Canada, where she lectures widely and gives many talks on the subject.
Last night, Dr Caldicott spoke passionately about the threat posed by the nuclear industry and cancer-causing radiation and about the effects of exposure to everyday sources of nuclear radiation, such as medical uses and airport security X-rays and food irradiation.
She talked in detail about how over a million people died in the 25 years after the Russian nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, about birth defects, mutations, leukemias.
She warned about effects from the latest disaster at Fukushima in Japan last year, which is still unfolding and where she says that, like Chernobyl, cancers from the nuclear fallout will only start showing up after four years.
Dr Caldicott says the Japanese accident, sparked by a tsunami, was three times as bad as Chernobyl and is an ongoing medical and ecological catastrophe.
It will likely kill three million people in the same period from a wide range of radiation-caused cancers and illnesses caused by radiation fallout and contaminated food and water.
She railed against not just the irresponsibility of scientists and medical professionals who stay silent about the dangers, but governments, the industry and mainstream media, who are complicit in keeping the real truth about the industry from people everywhere.
But it’s Australia’s role in feeding the global nuclear-energy and weapons hunger by selling off uranium, and the legacy it’s leaving the planet, that came into sharp focus and criticism by Dr Caldicott.
Last month, Dr Caldicott joined the ‘Lizard’s Revenge’ nuclear protest at Roxby Downs in South Australia against the Olympic Dam uranium mine, where she also talked to locals at nearby towns about the dangers of living near such a facility.
Warmly welcomed by Byron locals last night, she opened her talk by saying ‘there’s a real buzz here; I can feel that the Australian body politic is turning and you’re indicative of that’.
Take it back
‘So we’re gonna take back our country from the people who are currently running it, from the multinational corporations taking all our natural resources and taking our money offshore, and we have sycophantic government officials who really represent the United States and the foreign corporations, apart from the Greens,’ she said to loud applause.
‘So it’s time we had a revolution and we had the guts the New Zealanders have had when they banned US nuclear warships from their harbours years ago; it was said they’d be in serious trouble but nothing actually happened to them,’ Dr Caldicott said.
‘They’re brave and they’re only three million; we’re 22 million. Surely we have the guts that New Zealanders have.’
Dr Caldicott said much of the uranium in the Fukushima nuclear reactors ‘is our uranium, so we’re killing them’.
‘Uranium is much worse than exporting heroin, much worse; heroin damages the user but this stuff will damage people for the next million years,’ she said, before explaining in detail how and why.’
She also warned about the dangers of extensive exposure to cancer-causing X-rays, especially with new security X-ray machines set to be installed at Sydney Airport next month.
She urged the audience to ‘deluge’ federal transport minister Anthony Albanese with letters to tell him ‘we’ll not walk through those X-ray machines’.
She said children were 20 times more sensitive to nuclear radiation than adults because their cells were more prone to genetic damage.
She has treated many radiation-poisoning patients in her long career and witnessed the trauma of people, especially children, dying from it and ‘sat with them’ as they succumbed.
Dr Caldicott said uranium used in weapons by the US in Iraq was most likely Australian and continued to slowly kill adults and children there.
Dr Caldicott’s talk was followed by the screening of a short film about the Roxby uranium protest by award-winning Byron-based documentary filmmaker David Bradbury, called Business As Usual.
He was followed by two young Japanese peace activists spreading the word about the dangers of nuclear radiation and weapons.
Pico sang a song she wrote after the Fukushima tragedy, called One Minute for Peace, while her friend Saya made an emotional plea for people to help her project called Fukushima Children, which aims to help children affected by the disaster.
Dr Caldicott urged people to inform themselves by reading her books on the vital topic, including the well-known Nuclear Madness.
For more info on her work visit helencaldicott.com.