Tuesday, August 21, 2007



Imagine saying to a smoker: "You can continue to smoke as many packs of cigarettes as you like, just be sure to pop in for lung X-rays so we will know when you have contracted cancer or lung diseases".

Yet governments around the world build nuclear reactors wherever they want, polluting earth and water with highly radioactive materials and at the same time run extensive campaigns to promote "cancer awareness". Human beings are made to feel that their reproductive organs are ticking time-bombs that may succumb to cancers at any moment. And children and unborn babies become the highest statistics of cancers, filling hospital oncology wards.

The nuclear industry is becoming as familiar with lawsuits as the tobacco industry. And in fact the uranium mining process that produces fuel for nuclear reactors is second only to tobacco for causing lung cancers in its employees. Yet due to government investment (taxpayers' funds) the nuclear industry continues to demand and receive multi-million rand budgets each year in return for a minimal contribution of electricity, making it the most expensive form of energy on the planet.

Not only are the building and decommissioning costs of the nuclear industry astronomical, but the compensation figures that are paid to employees or nearby communities for fatal cancers they have contracted from this polluting industry also reach multi-million rand figures. Local residents in the Hicksville Long Island area in the US found that toxins from nuclear waste had leached into their water supplies. They brought a lawsuit against the company for increased cancer risks that was settled for $11 million. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation is now prosecuting lawsuits arising from this site in federal court.

US Senator, Charles Schumer said that treatment, medical monitoring and compensation are on the way for potentially thousands of workers. He said: "I will hold the Army Corps' of Engineers feet to the fire" and "the site should have been cleaned up yesterday", referring to his previous efforts in 2004 to achieve a full cleanup.

Gerard Depascale contracted a rare cancer while working for the Hudson News Group on this site and was awarded lifetime workers' compensation and medical benefits. An attorney said: "Over the course of the next 10-20 years, I believe we are going to see more cases of cancer and other illnesses related to radiation at this site".

New aid promised by Senator Schumer will be especially welcome to workers who were exposed to ionizing radiation and other toxins on the site and are now in fear of getting sick in the future.

So who benefits from nuclear reactors? Probably only the lawyers who file these lawsuits that are becoming known in the US as "toxic torts". The workers who are awarded the "compensation" may not live to spend any money.

Smoking cigarettes was thought to be harmless and done by almost everyone. Now that people are more informed, hardly anyone smokes. But if they do, it is their informed choice. This is a crucial difference between cancers incurred by smoking and those from nuclear waste - an issue of choice. Nuclear programmes have been enforced on many communities by governments who have invested far too much money in this old technology. It is not the choice of the community - as protests have shown. And unfortunately you cannot simply move into the non-nuclear room as you would choose a non-smoking area.

When people are informed of the many dangers to their health, they realize that it simply makes sense to stop nuclear programmes altogether in the same way they stopped smoking and choose the healthier alternatives of renewable energy sources.

Yours sincerely

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