Shadows of Fukushima By Michelle Pini
In Australia, we don’t have nuclear power, we just export our radiation for the joy and benefit of the rest of the world – it’s immoral. Dr Helen Caldicott
Dr Helen Caldicott is hard to ignore. Her breadth of knowledge and fervour for her subject seem limitless. She gesticulates often, her gaze is direct, and there is a practical sense of urgency in her voice.
An Australian physician and world-renowned anti-nuclear activist and educator, she makes time to be interviewed despite having just returned from a speaking tour of Japan and Denmark. If Caldicott is jetlagged, she shows no sign.
“Fukushima is bigger and much worse than Chernobyl,” she says emphatically. “Yet we are buying Japanese food imports, we are eating fish that are likely contaminated and there is no telling whether the atmospheric radiation cloud which hovered over Japan initially, will not end up here.”
We are discussing the 2011 events at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, described by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) as “the largest civilian nuclear accident since … Chernobyl.” (The Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant accident, 2014.)
As a 16 year old, Caldicott read On the Beach, a novel set in Melbourne about a nuclear war resulting in the obliteration of life on earth. “I kind of lost my innocence after that book and never felt safe again,” she says.
Caldicott then went on to study medicine and learned about the effects of radiation, mutations and cancers. “At the same time, Russia and America were testing bombs like there was no tomorrow – it was insanity,” she says, describing the events that have fuelled her obsession for so long. (Caldicott has campaigned against uranium mining and nuclear power for 43 years.)
“We don’t know where things are being grown, and because we can’t taste, smell or see radiation, nobody should be eating Miso soup or rice or anything else imported from Japan,” advises Caldicott.
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