All nuclear power plants routinely release radioactive gases and water contaminated with radioactive isotopes. When a nuclear plant has a serious accident — as occurred at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima — orders of magnitude more radioactivity is released into the environment. Uranium mining also releases harmful radioactive isotopes and leaves behind radioactive waste. The 1979 uranium tailings pond spill at Church Rock, NM — 90 million gallons of liquid radioactive waste and 1,100 tons of solid mill waste — was the largest accidental release of radioactive waste in US history and permanently contaminated the Puerco River. Radioactive releases occur all along the uranium fuel chain, beginning with uranium mining and culminating in radioactive waste “management.” All of these releases — whether large or small (because there is no “safe” dose) — impact human health with varying degrees of severity. And yet most of the time, these impacts are poorly understood, hushed up, or even dismissed. When discoveries are made — such as increased rates of leukemia in populations living near nuclear power or reprocessing plants — there is an immediate effort by industry, often supported by governments, to undermine, challenge or negate such findings. The fact remains, however, that both the immediate and long-term damage done to human health — which can last for generations — is the single, most compelling reason not to continue with the use of nuclear power and the extractive, polluting industries that must support it. The Radiation and Harm to Human Health chapter of the Beyond Nuclear anti-nuclear handbook, is available now for download and printing as a standalone booklet. In it, we endeavor to both explain and synthesize the many ways that radioactivity released through the nuclear power sector damages human health, especially the most vulnerable members of our population — women, pregnancy, babies and young children.
Beyond Nuclear 3rd Oct 2018 read more »