Industry and Government

A cozy relationship … the fox is guarding the henhouse

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is responsible for licensing and inspecting civilian nuclear facilities in the U.S. However, the NRC too often relies on reports from the industry itself in monitoring for trouble, and is too lenient in sanctioning violators. Metropolitan Edison, the utility responsible for the accident at Three Mile Island, paid a fine of only US$45,000 (1).

“This co-dependent relationship between the industry and the NRC is stronger than the SEC and their relationship with Wall Street,” (2) said Robert Alvarez, a former advisor in the Department of Energy and now a senior scholar on nuclear policy at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington.

In The Origins of Nuclear Power, author Lee Clarke explains that nuclear power began with government agencies (the Atomic Energy Commission and the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy), which struggled to create the industry so that military nuclear capabilities would advance.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has as its stated mission to “foster the efficient and safe use of nuclear power”, “protect people and the environment from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation” and safeguard against “the spread of nuclear weapons”. Check back for more information on how the IAEA uses restrictive definitions to conceal the deadly effects of nuclear power.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is supposed to be responsible for the health of people worldwide and has authority over the member states. According to its “Principles for Engagement with the private sector“, 8 November 2010, WHO should be independent of any commercial interest. However, WHO downplayed the health effects of Chernobyl; and “in 23 years, no social or medical programme, worthy of the name, has been set up in the contaminated areas of Chernobyl.” (Independent W.H.O.) Why? One cited possible reason is Agreement WHA12.40 between WHO and IAEA. Among other things, it says:

on 28th May 1959, WHO signed an agreement with the IAEA, which states that neither of these agencies may take a public position that could harm the interests of the other.

(“World Health Organization: Basic Documents”, 2007, pages 62-66)

The World Nuclear Association (WNA) has recently been lobbying for a massive increase in nuclear generation: some 1,000 GW of nuclear capacity by 2030. This is not surprising since the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists calls the IAEA “nuclear power’s biggest cheerleader”. (Sourcewatch)

The IAEA is closely aligned with the nuclear industry. The Director General of the IAEA from 1981 until 1997, Dr. Hans Blix, is a Chairman of the Council of Advisors to the WNA. And the Director General of WNA, John Ritch, is the former US Ambassador to the IAEA.

It seems the IAEA actually does everything it can do to conceal the deleterious effects of nuclear power. The IAEA insists on a group of extremely restrictive definitions as to what qualifies as a radiation-caused illness statistic. For example, under IAEA’s criteria (3):

    • If a radiation-caused cancer is not fatal, it is not counted in the IAEA’s figures.
    • If a cancer is initiated by another carcinogen, but accelerated or promoted by exposure to radiation, it is not counted.
    • If an auto-immune disease or any non-cancer is caused by radiation, it is not counted.
    • Radiation-damaged embryos or fetuses which result in miscarriage or stillbirth do not count
    • A congenitally blind, deaf or malformed child whose illnesses are are radiation-related are not included in the figures because this is not genetic damage, but rather is teratogenic, and will not be passed on later to the child’s offspring.
    • Causing the genetic predisposition to breast cancer or heart disease does not count since it is not a “serious genetic disease” in the Mendelian sense.
    • Even if radiation causes a fatal cancer or serious genetic disease in a live born infant, it is discounted if the estimated radiation dose is below 100 mSv [mSv= millisievert, a measurement of radiation exposure. One hundred millsievert is the equivalent in radiation of about 100 X-Rays].
    • Even if radiation causes a lung cancer, it does not count if the person smokes — in fact whenever there is a possibility of another cause, radiation cannot be blamed.
    • If all else fails, it is possible to claim that radiation below some designated dose does not cause cancer, and then average over the whole body the radiation dose which has actually been received by one part of the body or even organ, as for instance when radio-iodine concentrates in the thyroid. This arbitrary dilution of the dose will ensure that the 100 mSv cut-off point is nowhere near reached. It is a technique used to dismiss the sickness of Gulf War veterans who inhaled small particles of ceramic uranium which stayed in their lungs for more than two years, and in their bodies for more than eight years, irradiating and damaging cells in a particular part of the body.

A history lesson: How & why the nuclear industry fought for 23 years against stockpiling Potassium Iodide near our nuclear plants.

… in September 2005, the IAEA presented a report claiming that ultimately some 4,000 deaths can be expected as a result of the world’s worst nuclear accident at Chernobyl in 1986. The IAEA digest report, “Chernobyl’s Legacy: Health, Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts,” was based on a three-volume, 600-page report which incorporated the work of hundreds of scientists, economists and health experts, assessing the 20-year impact of the largest nuclear accident in history. The conclusions of the IAEA digest were not substantiated by this report. Indeed they were contradicted by them. — Sourcewatch

We now know that the number of deaths connected directly to Chernobyl is 985,000. Over 5000 published articles and research findings were compiled in the book, Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe. The book was published by the New York Academy of Science, and the authors are Alexey Yablokov of the Center for Russian Environmental Policy in Moscow, and Vassily Nesterenko and Alexey Nesterenko of the Institute of Radiation Safety, in Minsk, Belarus.

(1) “Three Mile Island accident”: Activism and legal action, Wikipedia

(2) Counterpunch

(3) Victims of the Nuclear Age by Rosalie Bertell