Tag Archives: Helen Caldicott

GE’s Toronto Uranium Secret


“Ask more questions about what’s around you. Demand truthfulness, full disclosure, and safety. Keep the uranium in the ground.” – Dr Helen Caldicott

The nuclear industry sponsors its own science to trivialize the doses of exposure to the public, they say it is within acceptable limits – but radiation is deadly. Uranium is a toxin, and connected to both waste, pollution, and weapons along the nuclear fuel cycle

Many did not know that GE Hitachi plant at Lansdowne & Dupont processes uranium powder into fuel pellets for the province’s CANDU reactors. GE Hitachi intentionally kept residents of the neighbourhood in the dark. However, now the people know, and they are very concerned. Here is the story by Saul Chernos published in nowtoronto.com

GE’s West-End Secret

By SAUL CHERNOS

Fifty years later, uranium pellet factory still a mystery to locals.

I’ve known for a while that the four-storey grey GE building at 1025 Lansdowne harboured some process tied to our waste-oblivious nuclear industry, but it’s stayed off my radar – just as it seems to have for other enviros.

But recently I learned that an activist fresh from a drawn-out battle against a similar GE facility in Peterborough had relocated to T.O., and was starting to campaign.

I figured I’d better learn more. So one afternoon earlier this month, I joined Zach Ruiter of Safe and Green Energy Peterborough as he went door to door informing locals of something it appears they didn’t know: the GE Hitachi plant north of Dupont has been processing uranium into fuel pellets for the province’s CANDU reactors for the last 50 years.

Invariably, it hit those living across the street like a bombshell. Ruiter explained that uranium dioxide powder supplied by Cameco Corp. in Port Hope is processed in the plant into hard ceramic pellets that are then transported to GE Hitachi in Peterborough, where they’re slipped into rods and fuel bundles for reactors.

And it looks like the operation will continue for another 10 years. In early 2011, both the Lansdowne facility and the Peterborough one received a joint licence renewal following Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission hearings in Ottawa.

The fact that something radioactive is going on in the neighbourhood is greeted with astonishment and scepticism. “That sounds weird. I don’t believe it,” said a man walking a yellow lab on Brandon.

I admit I also felt seriously underwhelmed. There are no visible markers on the building and fence indicating the presence of radioactive or dangerous materials. Just signs warning about video surveillance.

Without noise or obvious signs of pollution, GE Hitachi’s uranium business has been low-key. The building is not on Toronto Public Health’s online ChemTRAC database list of places where toxic substances are used. Some enviros are aware of the site, but are up to the gills with nuclear waste and power plant issues.

When I contact GE Canada, company spokesperson Kim Warburton tells me GE Hitachi’s Signage meets Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) requirements and doesn’t need to go further “because we use uranium that is not enriched.

”Uranium powder, she says, “is safe to handle with standardized controls and does not emit a significant amount of external radiation either on- or off-site.

”Many who follow nuclear issues, however, remain wary. Gordon Edwards of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility observes that “the industry generally has a policy of keeping as low a profile as possible. No news is good news.

”The problem, he says, is that uranium dioxide powder can potentially become airborne in fugitive emissions from windows, doors and cracks and other areas not fully sealed. “Radioactive material, when it’s inhaled, adheres to the lungs, irradiates the lungs and causes damage,” he says. “The real question is why such a facility is even in a residential area. It should be in a special designated area and surrounded by an exclusion zone. The plant should be planning to move.”

A few days after my tour, I drop into a Dupont Improvement Group meeting and talk to member Richard Mongiat, who’s lived three blocks from the plant for a decade. It has “always been a mysterious building,” he tells me. “I knew it was attached to GE, but I’ve never really known what’s been going on there.

“There were a ton of toxic plants,” Mongiat says, referring to the area’s industrial past, and contrasting several ongoing Brownfield cleanups with quiet, unobtrusive, neatly manicured 1025 Lansdowne.

Ruiter says he isn’t surprised by the lack of local awareness. In 2010, when he intervened in the CNSC licence renewal hearings, he noticed that while there were nearly 50 objections from Peterborough residents, there were none from T.O.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 20

The same thought seems to have occurred to CNSC, the regulator. In transcripts of the 2010 hearing, CNSC member Alan Graham asks GE Hitachi president Peter Mason if those near the Lansdowne site are aware of the presence of radioactive material.

“We do have a website where we post information. We also keep people within half a kilometre informed of what we are doing,” Mason replies. “We have a long history of dialogue with the residents there.”

The CNSC ultimately deemed GE Hitachi’s public engagement efforts to be adequate.

(In Peterborough, the stakes were higher. GE Hitachi initially sought to process low-enriched uranium there, but then withdrew the plan.)

GE’s Warburton tells me the company liaised regularly with a residents’ group until the organization disbanded in the early 2000s. In advance of the 2010 hearings GE Hitachi placed notices in a Toronto daily and on its website. “There was no door-to-door or drop for the neighbours,” Warburton added.

A leaflet GE delivered door to door in 2008, advising of a planned emergency exercise, did not mention the plant’s function. In 1999, a fire in the vent stack caused the evacuation of some neighbouring properties.

“There are so many other fights going on that this one hasn’t gotten as much attention as it should,” Greenpeace Canada nuke campaigner Shawn-Patrick Stensil tells me.“

The GE Hitachi facility is part of the nuclear supply chain. This fuel chain is high-risk for Toronto.

Do you know what is happening in your neighborhood? Ask more questions. Speak up and go to meetings. Silence can literally equal illness or death. Keep uranium, thorium and other harmful elements and ores in the ground where they belong.

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The Nuclear Sacrifice of Our Children by Dr. Helen Caldicott


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By Helen Caldicott

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When I visited Cuba in 1979, I was struck by the number of roadside billboards that declared ”Our children are our national treasure.”

This resonated with me as a pediatrician, and of course it is true. But as Akio Matsumura said in his article, our children are presently being sacrificed for the political and nuclear agenda of the United Nations, for the political survival of politicians who are mostly male, and for “national security.”

The problem with the world today is that scientists have left the average person way behind in their level of understanding of science, and specifically how the misapplication of science, in particular nuclear science, has and will destroy much of the ecosphere and also human health.

The truth is that most politicians, businessmen, engineers and nuclear physicists have no innate understanding of radiobiology and the way radiation induces cancer, congenital malformations and genetic diseases which are passed generation to generation.  Nor do they recognize that children are 20 times more radiosensitive than adults, girls twice as vulnerable as little boys and fetuses much more so.

Hence the response of Japanese politicians to the Fukushima disaster has been ludicrously irresponsible, not just because of their fundamental ignorance but because of their political ties with TEPCO and the nuclear industry which tends to orchestrate a large part of the Japanese political agenda.

Because the Fukushima accident released 2.5 to 3 times more radiation than Chernobyl and because Japan is far more densely populated than the Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, and because one million people have died within 25 years as a result of Chernobyl, we expect to see more than one million Japanese casualties over the next 25 years.  But the incubation time for cancer after radiation exposure varies from 2 to 90 years in this generation.  These facts also apply to all future generations in Japan that will be exposed to a radioactive environment and radioactive food.

It seems that the people in charge in Japan are busily ignoring or covering up these ghastly medical predictions and deciding in their ignorance that people can return to live highly contaminated areas or else remain living there.  Even areas of Tokyo are recording dangerous radioactive isotopes that originated in Fukushima in house-dust, in plants, and in street soil.

Thyroid cancers related to Chernobyl started appearing only three to four years post-accident (over 92,000 have now been diagnosed).  Yet only 12 months post-accident in the Fukushima Prefecture, 36% of 38,000 children under 18 have been diagnosed by ultrasound with thyroid cysts or nodules (most of these lesions should be biopsied to exclude malignancy). This short incubation time would indicate that these children almost certainly received a very high dose of thyroid radiation from inhaled and ingested radioactive iodine.

These results bode ill for the development of other cancers because hundreds of other radioactive elements escaped which are now concentrating in food, fish and human bodies and inhaled into the lungs.  Some elements are radioactive for minutes but many remain radioactive for hundreds to thousands of years meaning much of the Japanese food will remain radioactive for generations to come.  Nuclear accidents therefore never end.  40% of the European landmass is still radioactive and will remain so for millennia.

So what should happen in Japan? These are my recommendations.

  1. All areas of Japan should be tested to assess how radioactive the soil and water are because the winds can blow the radioactive pollution hundreds of miles from the point source at Fukushima.
  2.  Under no circumstances should radioactive rubbish and debris be incinerated as this simply spreads the isotopes far and wide to re-concentrate in food and fish.
  3. All batches of food must be adequately tested for specific radioactive elements using spectrometers.
  4. No radioactive food must be sold or consumed, nor must radioactive food be diluted for sale with non-radioactive food as radioactive elements re-concentrate in various bodily organs.
  5.  All water used for human consumption should be tested weekly.
  6.  All fish caught off the east coast must be tested for years to come.
  7.  All people, particularly children, pregnant women and women of childbearing age still living in high radiation zones should be immediately evacuated to non-radioactive areas of Japan.
  8. All people who have been exposed to radiation from Fukushima  – particularly babies, children, immunosuppressed, old people and others — must be medically thoroughly and routinely examined for malignancy, bone marrow suppression, diabetes, thyroid abnormalities, heart disease, premature aging, and cataracts for the rest of their lives and appropriate treatment instituted. Leukemia will start to manifest within the next couple of years, peak at five years and solid cancers will start appearing 10 to 15 years post-accident and will continue to increase in frequency in this generation over the next 70 to 90 years.
  9. All physicians and medical care providers in Japan must read and examine Chernobyl–Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment by the New York Academy of Sciences to understand the true medical gravity of the situation they face.
  10.  I also suggest with humility that doctors in particular but also politicians and the general public refer to my web page, nuclearfreeplanet.org for more information, that they listen to the interviews related to Fukushima and Chernobyl on my radio program at ifyoulovethisplanet.org and they read my book NUCLEAR POWER IS NOT THE ANSWER.
  11. The international medical community and in particular the WHO must be mobilized immediately to assist the Japanese medical profession and politicians to implement this massive task outlined above.
  12. The Japanese government must be willing to accept international advice and help.
  13. As a matter of extreme urgency Japan must request and receive international advice and help from the IAEA and the NRC in the U.S., and nuclear specialists from Canada, Europe, etc., to prevent the collapse of Fukushima Dai-ichi Unit 4 and the spent fuel pool if there was an earthquake greater than 7 on the Richter scale.As the fuel pool crashed to earth it would heat and burn causing a massive radioactive release 10 times larger than the release from Chernobyl. There is no time to spare and at the moment the world community sits passively by waiting for catastrophe to happen.
  14. The international and Japanese media must immediately start reporting the facts from Japan as outlined above. Not to do so is courting global disaster.

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Re-posted from Reader Supported NewsAugust 28, 2012

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Dr. Helen Caldicott is a pediatrician specializing in cystic fibrosis and the founding president of Physicians for Social Responsibility, which as part of a larger group that was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985. Please visit her website.

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