Nobel Peace laureates say no to nuclear power —as industry recoups losses

A group of Nobel Peace laureates called in an open letter April 21 for all countries to pursue safer forms of renewable energy rather than going ahead with plans for nuclear development in light of the current disaster in Japan. “It is time to recognize that nuclear power is not a clean, safe or affordable source of energy,” said the letter written by laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, José Ramos Horta, Betty Williams, Mairead Maguire, Rigoberta Menchu Túm, Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi and Wangari Maathai. “We firmly believe that if the world phases out its current use of nuclear power, future generations of people everywhere—and the Japanese people who have already suffered too much—will live in greater peace and security,” said the letter which has been sent to 31 heads of state whose countries are currently heavily invested in atomic power production, or are considering investing in nuclear power. (Indian Express, April 21)

Pavel Vdovichenko, a survivor of the Chernobyl disaster, is traveling to Tokyo to speak at a protest marking the anniversary of the April 26, 1986 accident in the Ukraine. Vdovichenko says those exposed to radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant will spend the rest of their lives with “with a bombshell waiting to explode” in the form of cancer and other dire illnesses.

“The Fukushima accident is like the twin brother of Chernobyl,” said Vdovichenko, 59. “People in the two places have to suffer long-time hardship. People in Chernobyl suffered from cancer after the accident. A similar thing may happen to Fukushima.”

A generation after the Chernobyl disaster, experts still disagree on the true extent of the effect on health, with estimates ranging from tens of thousands of fatal cancers to far fewer. Vdovichenko lived—and still lives—in Bryansk, 180 kilometers from the plant and one of the areas worst affected by the catastrophe. The former history teacher founded Radimichi for the Children of Chernobyl, a support group for the most vulnerable victims.

“Companies went bankrupt,” Vdovichenko said of the aftermath of the disaster. “Agriculture has fallen apart. There is nowhere to work. People had no choice but to eat berries and animals from the woods and fish from the rivers and lakes, which were all contaminated.”

He also said people who were resettled from the areas closest to Chernobyl faced discrimination from others who thought radiation was contagious. “People did not want to come close to people from the contaminated zone,” he said, adding that students from the region were ordered to study at desks isolated from others in their classrooms.

In Japan, the government has urged citizens not to discriminate against the nuclear evacuees, following reports that some hotels had turned people from the Fukushima area away and that children had been bullied. (Channel News Asia, April 26)

Amid all this, the nuclear industry and its propagandists are struggling to recoup losses. The Financial Times April 23 ran an editorial entitled “Time to revive, not kill, the nuclear age,” forseeing dire consequences if the world abandons the purported 14% of its energy derived from nuclear power.

The Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has induced its workers to accept a 25% pay cut to help cover the costs of the Fukushima disaster. “Most union members didn’t object to a pay cut, considering the situation at the company and the effect on society from the nuclear accident,” said Koji Sakata, secretary general of the Tokyo Electric Power Workers Union. (Bloomberg, April 25)

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