Mayak Russia, Cumbria Scotland, Pennsylvania USA, Ukraine and Belarus, Fukushima and tragically, many more places on EARTH, radioactivity from splitting atoms has escaped containment contaminating air, soil, water, food, people.
These catastrophic sacrifice zones may seem few and far away -- but every single nuclear reactor in operation (more than 450 worldwide) releases radioactivity to air and to water and generates types of waste that end up buried in unlined trenches which is the result of splitting atoms simply to generate heat to boil water (yes, that is what a nuclear power reactor does).
If radioactivity were safe, this spillage of radioactivity would be ok. The fact is there is no amount of radioactivity that is safe, particularly if it is elements that end up in our food, our water or our lungs and so irradiate us from the inside. Of 104 nuclear energy reactors in the USA, 100 have caused contamination of the local ground water, and every radioactive waste dump in the USA has leaked.
That ionizing radiation is dangerous not a radical position. The USA National Academy of Sciences has affirmed this finding -- no safe dose of radiation -- in its reports on the Biological Affects of Ionizing Radiation -- the 7th report was published in 2006. The US Environmental Protection Agency states that there is no safe dose in the US Safe Drinking Water standards, and the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) exists to limit emissions and doses, and drive them as low as possible. Nonetheless, the NRC standards are the most permissive "protection" standards in the USA -- similar standards exist worldwide -- allowing as many as 1 in 286 men and 1 in 200 women exposed to DIE of cancer. Children who are exposed are at even greater risk.
Unbelievably the level allowed today in schools in Fukushima Prefecture is 20 times higher than the level referenced here! Some suggest it will result in a 1 in 4 cancer rate from one year of exposure.
Other diseases caused by ionizing radiation include infertility, spontaneous abortion, miscarriage, birth defects (both heritable and non), decrease in immune function and auto-immune disorders.
It is only recently that data has shown that women are so much more likely to get sick from radiation exposure. In a large group of people who were exposed to radiation (the study of Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors) for every 2 men who have gotten cancer at a given level of exposure 3 women have gotten cancer. The death rate is also similarly higher for women.
We do not know why this difference exists, but it may be due to the greater concentration of reproductive tissues in the female body, since these are known to be more vulnerable to radiation. Another factor is the somewhat smaller body mass (across the large group) of women.
For more info on these points, see:http://www.nirs.org/radiation/radhealth/radhealthhome.htm
There are MANY options for our energy future. We do not need nuclear energy -- but we do need to start speaking up since women and children do not know that we are at higher risk from this VERY risky technology. Protecting us will only protect men better -- and that is fine.
Many people think that nuclear is the only option to burning coal. This is a false dichotomy! For a complete exploration of a Carbon-Free, Nuclear-Free future, see my friend Arjun Makhijani's work :
Mary Olson, Nuclear Information and Resource Service (www.nirs.org)
Asheville, North Carolina USA