In New Brunswick, a coalition of groups including the Passamaquoddy First Nation, Atlantic Sierra Club, Conservation Council of New Brunswick and International Institute of Concern for Public Health began working with community groups for decommissioning Point Lepreau to protect the public from the economic, security, safety and public health problems from the use of nuclear energy.
Councillor Dick Killam of Kings County, Nova Scotia, suggested that New Brunswick “mothball this white elephant” and expressed grave concerns that contamination from an accident at Lepreau would “be devastating for human habitation” and “wipe out future food production” in the Annapolis Valley.
Norm Rubin of Toronto-based Energy Probe describes the Point Lepreau reactor as “an inherently hazardous unit with a bunch of add-on safety systems.” International German media has been reporting widespread public protests and opinion that refurbishing old reactors is unsafe and irresponsible, while German officials recently announced a decision to abandon nuclear power entirely.
Health Canada dismisses the presence of radioactive isotopes in its cross-country radiation monitoring as “very minute” and “extremely difficult to measure against normal background radiation.” We expect the New Brunswick readings taken at the Point Lepreau nuclear station to already be high because the area surrounding all nuclear power plants have high levels of background radiation.
Health Canada is saying that radioactive isotopes found in Canada are from Japan, but there is no certainty. In north-eastern North America, decades of public controversy has cast doubt over the safety of reactors at Point Lepreau, Vermont Yankee and Indian Point New York. Iodine-131 could be coming from a number of sources, or all of them, at one time or another.
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has stated that there is “no health hazard to Canadians” from the “infinitesimal amounts” of radioactivity from Japan being found in Canada. However, no amount of radioactivity is too small to harm the body. Even trace amounts, if absorbed internally, will kill or permanently damage living cells. Every exposure to ionizing radiation can cause harm and it is not possible for the body to perfectly repair cells that are damaged at the atomic level by radioactivity.”
Public health statements by New Brunswick, Health Canada and the Prime Minister are ignoring independent health information. The International Institute of Concern for Public Health (IICPH) believes that the public is being misled.
Since the Japan disaster, radioactive iodine attributed to the Fukushima accident has been detected in milk, seaweed and rainwater around Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Ontario, British Columbia, Maine, Michigan, Washington and California. Canadian limits for allowable radioactive exposure are based on an historically flawed, non-medical model of assessment.
The International Institute of Concern for Public Health considers the radioactive fallout from Japan in air, food and water to have created increased and serious risks to people, especially babies, children, pregnant and fertile women and men. There is no safe level of exposure to ionizing radiation.
The biggest problem for the public is that both government and journalists are being given misleading information about the effects of low level radiation on health. There is a big difference between effects from the medical use of radiation, commercial scanners and such and the effects from repeated internal contamination from radioactive fallout from a nuclear disaster such as the one underway in Japan. The public has not consented to being exposed to additional radioactivity from nuclear power plants. Governments that minimize the health risks are failing to provide reasonable protection for their citizens.
IICPH will continue to release independent information from a public health perspective and work to balance the information available to the public. Independent medical opinion and evidence must be considered in policy and decision making. In practical terms, the nuclear industry cannot be allowed to establish or police their own “acceptable” levels of emissions or accidental releases.
We must protect our air, lands and waters from contamination with strong legislation and without being influenced by special interest groups. If the Nuclear Safety Commission is failing to distance itself from the nuclear industry, it is no longer carrying out its purpose, to protect public health and safety and it is therefore time to call for outside regulation.
Willi Nolan has worked with Dr. Rosalie Bertell and the International Institute of Concern for Public Health for 15 years. A community activist and human rights advocate, her passions are the best interests of the Institute and Mother Earth.