Physicians for Social Responsibility Calls for a US Moratorium on New Nuclear Reactors, Citing Medical Risks
Warns Any Radiation Exposure Is Unsafe
March 19, 2011
- March 19, 2011 – Physicians
for Social Responsibility (PSR) today called for a nationwide moratorium on new
nuclear reactors in the United States and a suspension
of operations at the nuclear reactors with a similar design as those involved in the disaster in Japan, as well as those on fault lines. PSR cited the medical risks associated with
any level of radiation exposure regardless of how small. Lower doses result in less chance of harm
than higher doses, but any dose level can put an individual at risk.
“There is no safe level of radiation exposure,” said Jeff Patterson, MD,
immediate past president of Physicians for Social Responsibility. “The
direction of the wind and the amount of radioactivity released is going to
determine the extent of the impact on human health. If the wind changes
direction, a large release of radioactivity from the Fukushima reactors would
have far-reaching medical consequences in Japan. Medical treatment for
radiation is limited, at best.”
“One of the basic tenets of medicine is that if you don’t have a cure for something, you should prevent it
from happening in the first place,” said Alan H. Lockwood, MD, a member of the
Board of Physicians for Social Responsibility. “The only way to avoid nuclear
accidents is to not build nuclear reactors.”
According to the National Academy of Sciences, any exposure to radiation
increases a person’s risk of developing cancer.
In the case of the Japanese Fukushima reactors, the primary
radionuclides of concern are:
- Iodine-131, which
causes thyroid cancer when absorbed thru inhalation and ingestion.
- Cesium-137, which when ingested spreads throughout the body. Cesium-137 has the potential to get into the food supply. As a result of Chernobyl, Cesium-137 was taken up by lichen and plants, and animals which consumed those plants became
which is deposited in bone and teeth where it remains for decades; it causes
bone cancer, and leukemia.
which causes lung cancer and remains a severe
threat for thousands of years.
Medical treatment for radiation exposure is limited, at best. Iodine pills provide only limited protection
against the absorption of Iodine-131, and this is only one of several of the
radioactive isotopes that are released during an accident. It must be taken consistently and prior to exposure. In addition, iodine can cause serious health problems if not taken
properly and therefore it is not recommended unless
there is imminent threat of acute exposure.
The public health risk from a large radioactive release from U.S.
reactors in the United States is substantial.
“Using US government-supplied computer models, we showed that a core
meltdown at a nuclear reactor outside of Chicago (Braidwood) could kill tens of
thousands, cause hundreds of thousands to suffer from acute radiation sickness,
and would require the evacuation of over 6 million people,” said Andrew S.
Kanter, MD MPH, president-elect of PSR.
“To protect public health, the
United States must redouble efforts to make sure all reactors in the U.S. are
operating in the safest possible manner,” said Peter Wilk, MD, Executive
Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility.
PSR is calling on the Obama Administration to take the following
measures without delay:
- Suspend operations
nuclear reactors in the United States with a similar design as those in Japan and those on fault lines while a safety review
- Implement a
moratorium on new nuclear reactor licensing and design certification without
- Upgrade spent fuel
pools and harden onsite fuel storage for all operating reactors immediately.
- Reject the renewal
of any licenses for existing reactors until all the lessons of the Fukushima
accident are incorporated, including how to deal with station blackouts.
subsidies for new reactors, especially loan guarantees, and prioritize safe,
clean renewable energy sources that can meet today’s energy needs.
“The crisis in Japan proves that clean renewable energy is the safest,
most sustainable and viable
solution to meet our energy needs,” said Ira
Helfand, MD. “All forms of energy production have associated risks. Nuclear power risks are particularly
significant for public health. Problems include the build-up of radioactive waste, and the potential of
terrorist attacks, natural disasters, design flaws and operator error contributing
to unintended radiation exposures and resulting illnesses and deaths. Safe
renewable energy sources already exist that can meet our energy needs, such as
wind, solar, and geothermal, as well as energy efficiency.”
FOR SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY (PSR)
Physicians for Social Responsibility is the largest physician-led
organization in the country conveying both the health risks and threats to human survival posed by nuclear
weapons, climate change, nuclear reactors and toxic degradation of the
environment. Founded in 1961 by physicians concerned about the impact of nuclear
proliferation, PSR shared the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize with International
Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War for building public pressure to
end the nuclear arms race. PSR is dedicated to improving national policy formulation and
decision-making about security, energy and the environment through the combined
efforts of credible, committed health professionals and our active and
concerned citizen members. For more
information, go to http://www.psr.org.