tv Earth Focus LINKTV June 15, 2017 6:00pm-6:31pm PDT
>> today on "earth focus," nuclear r power: the downside. miles benson reports on where nuclear insurance falls short, and dr. helen caldicott on the health effects of nuclear radiation. coming up, on "earth focus." >> an earthquake and tsunami struck japan's fukushima nuclear power plantnt. three reactors suffered a meltdown. >> the japanese government has raised the crisis level at the fukushima daiichi nuclear power plant from 5 to 7. >> the confirmed death toll continues to climb.
>> hundreds of thousands fled the radiation. many are still unable to return home. property damages and cleanup costs may run over $250 billion. >> the operator of the disabled fukushima daiichi nuclear power plant has agreed to make provisional damage payments to residents living around the plant. >> what if it happened in the united states? who would pay? a catastrophe like fukushima could erase all existing insurance protection under federal law. it makes the u.s. liability compensation system look grossly inadequate. there are 104 nuclear power plants in the u.s. spread across 31 states. they produce 20% of our electrical power. they all carry some insurance against a nuclear accident, but the combined total coverage is only $12.6 billion. beyond that, americans would be uninsured...
or as the insurance industry puts it, naked. >> if you have to evacuate a very large city, or tens or hundreds of thousands of people are displaced and that there are very large areas of land that e rendered uninhabibitable fo tens to hundreds of years, , th- it gets to ththe point where it- yoyou know, the estimatition of thee damageses and the costs toe government become inestimable, incncalculable. >> nuclear accidents are costly. some experts say an extreme event here could cost as much as $500 billion or more. >> my colleagues and i did a number of estimates based on the spent fuel catching f fire
at r reactors, and some of these estimates s went into o the huns oof billions of dollars. >> so why is the liability y cap for insurarance only $12.6 billn if the acactual cosost of a disr could be far greater? > now, clearly aftfter fukus, $12 billllion doesn't lolook lie nearlrly enough. >> raising the cap would be costly. the nuclear industry says $12.6 billion is enough because nucuclear power is safe and the probably of a major accident low. >> i think that the amomount of covererage is a adequate. we hae seen that the three mile island accident, the amount was far below the amount of coverage provided. we have no other experience in the united states of an accident that t would reah the level of $12.6 billion,n, and none is expepected, given te stronong safety standndards enfd
by the u.s. nuclear regulatory mmission. >> we have a very strong regulatory process, a set of regulations. we do inspections. we have a strong enforcement process to handle when regulations aren't being followeded, and those things all combine--you know, help to give usus continued assusurance that nuclear power is safe. >> after fukushima, steps were taken to review safety at u.s. nuclear plants. >> right now we are a little bit more than 2/3rds of the way through a 90-day review that we're doing to see if there are any immediate short-term issues that need to be addressed to deal with the events at fukushima. >> fukushima reinvigorated this discussion of how n.r.c. consididers land contaminatition, economic conseqequences w within itits regulatory framework and alalso if the n.r.c. would like to do anything differently in the future. >> we're always looking for ways to improve the regulatory process and w w we regulatate
the civilian uses of nuclear materials. >> but some experts are concerned about safety and regulations. today, u.s. nuclear power plants are aging. built to last 40 years, more than half are at least 30 years old. >> if we're going to have nuclear p power, then we believe it has to be as safe and secure as possible. and d we've been lg coconcerned that neneither in te united statates or othther couns is the regugulatory infrastructe adequate to make sure nuclear plants arare safe. >> i think that there is reasonable assurance t that we're never going thave a catastrophic accident of the magnitude of what happened in japan. >> but that doesn't mean it couldn't happen. you know, it can be the black swan event: low probability of occurrence but high impact. >> today, 6 million americans live witithin 10 m miles of f a nucuclear plalant and 1 120 miln live within 50 miles. but nobody can buy private insurance against damage to their property
because of a radiation leak or other consequences of a nuclear accident. [majesestic musisic playining] the nucleaear industryry was bon the 1950s0s when ththe u.s. government was determined to promote the civilian use of nuclear energy. president dwight d. eisenhower had a dream: he called it "atoms for peace." >> so my country''s purpose is to help us move out of the dark chamber of horrors into the light,t, to find a way byby whih thehe minds of men,n, the hopes oof men, the soulsls of men everywherere can move forward toward peace a and happiness and well-bebeing. it is s not enough to take t ths weapon out of thehe hands of the soldiers. it must be p put into the hands o of those who will kw how to strip its military casing and adapt it t to the arts ofof peace.
>> nuclear power was to benefit mankind, , but the free-mararket insusurance industry wasas unwig to cor r nuclear accicident risk because it was immmmeasurablbled potential economic damages were incalculable. so to encourage and p protect ininvestment in nuclear power, congress passed the price anderson act in 1957, which created an insurance pool and capped the amount of liability a commercial nuclear power plant would face should a disaster occur. >> well, the thinking that went into the creation of the price anderson a act back in the fifts was that in the event of a cacatastrophic accidentnt, no se utility would be able, from a a financial standpoint, to withstand that kind of a loss. but it was always designed prprimarily with the view w thae accident would probably be the destruction of the physical facility itself, and it wasn't ever thought about, you knowow,
a catastrophic accident that went far beyond the plant's geographic borders and into the surrounding community. >> when price anderson was first adopted, there was $60 million of ininrance and d $500 million of united s states goverernment indemnity. the a act was later amended to provide that all of ththe money wowould come from private sourcrces. at the preset time, the first tier is composed of insurance of $375 million. if that were not adequate, then each operator of the 104 nuclear power plants would be assessed about $111 million. this totals about 12.6 billion. >> anything beyond that would-- is not covered by insurance, and it would be up toto congress to decide whether they wanted to approprpriatehe--the fufunds. >> if we start talalking about $400 or $500 bibillion, there is
no way that any politician is going to votote for the e publio take on that kind of liabitity. >> you cannot tellll congress tt in the future at some t time, they're gonna haveve to pass a w to provide manyny, manyny more billionons of dollars in case of a nuclear a accident. that's a fairyry tale. >> i think we have a $16 tririllion deficit right t . it would obviously probably y he to be into some kind of deficit finanancing with major implications fofor the economy and for maybe even the value of the dollar in thehe worst casasf scenenario in the world economy. >> the way it works is that many of these reactors are now owned by multi-tiered holding companies that have layers and layers of what they call limited liability corporations beneath them, and each l.l.c. basically represents a reactor and has no other assets. the whole concept
of a limited liability corporation by virtue of its definition is to shield the parent corporation from liability. what happens under these corporate structures is that if such an accident of such great magnitude were to occur, these limited liability corporations could probably ddeclare e bankruptcy and shield the parent corporation that leaves the taxpayayer holding te bag to pay for the liability. >> only congress with the president's approval can raise the mandated level of insurance coverage against nuclear accidents. there's been no sign they intend to do so, and the nuclear industry is quite happy with that. >> it's sort of shohort-term greed, that whahat drives the industry more ththan anyththings mamaking as m much money as quiy as possssible and as long a as possible without t curring anany large e expenses that wouldld ct
intoto their profifits. it's tht simple. >> two years after fukushima, costs continue to pile up. it will probably be decades before the full scocope of the expenses is known. japanese government officials admit that the overall consequences are too broad to fix an accurate price on the disaster. cleanup and property damage claims by homeowners, businesses, including 80,000 farms, are already running 5 to 10 times higher than initial expectations. tepco, the tokyo corporation that operated the nuclear plant, is now virtually bankrupt. japan's leadaders are struggling to continue payouts to tens of thousands of their citizens who may never be able to return to homes contaminated by radiation. adding to the financial burden now are collapsing property values in contaminated areas and
related increases nationally in the costs of alternative coal, gas, and oil. and then there is another human dimension: the slow future unfolding of cancer cases in those exposed to contaminants, particularly chihildren. in february, 2013, a world health organization report said that radiation from fukushima posed minimal health risk to the general population of japan. but the w.h.o. acknowledged that emergency workers at the plant who inhaled high doses of radioactive iodine face an increased risk of developing thyroid cancer, and that children exposed as infants in areas closest to the power plant have a slighthtly elevated risk of contracting l leukemimia, br, or thyroid cancer in their lifetimes. critics say that the health impacts of fukushima are far from insignificant and will increasingly be evident over
time. one of the harshest of these critics is longtime antinuclear activist dr. helen caldicott, a pediatrician and author. she offered a far more dire view o of fukushima's s heh impact soon after the disaster. dr. caldicott, fukushima--is it possibible to forecast the heaah conseququences to the japananese people, and on what scale are they likely to o materirialize? >> well, it's a guess, really, but i have been following itit extremely closely every day since the thing started. and i must say that two days after it began, i got this horrifying, horrifying vision and feeling ththat this was like descending into hell, and that there's nonothing anyone c could do abot or willll be able to dodo abouti and the e results s are irreversible. . i thoughght huns of thousands would die as a
result of fukushima with cancer or leukemia, and--but it will also affect future generations down the timescale, both from the fact that the food and the ground in large areas of japan is heavily contaminated with isotopes that last for hundreds of years. so they re-concentrate back in the food chain continuously, so you never get rid of the things. the other thing is that once you've got some cesium-137 in your brain or your muscle or your ovary or your testicle or any of the other several hundred elements, they stay in a little place in your body irradiating a few cells with a a high dose. so you don't get a lowow dose; thohose cells get a high dose. so from two perspectives, the accident kind of never ends. it doesn't end inin your body--maybe one dy you might excrete these elemenents, but you might not-- and that the food chain remains contaminated for hundreds or thousands of years. and we'll
start seeing lung cancer and leukemia i think 2 to 5 years from now, and then solid cancers will start appearing 15 to 16, 17 years later. so the ace up the sleeve is--of the nuclear industryry is the incubation tie for cancer. it takes a lg time for cancersrs to develolop onceu have inhaled or been exposed to these radioactive elements, and no cancer identifies its origin. and so there is already a level of cancer in society, but it's going to increase dramatically. >> what do people neneed to know about nuclear power in the united states that thehey are nt being told? >> everything. it t just makes e fefeel nauseated d to think thae industry is spending hundreds of millions of dollars s saying tht nuclear p power is clean, green, sustainable, and cheap, and all of those are lies. and i-- you know, i get very sick of scientists or people who lie about scicience. if i lied about
medicicine, i wouldld be deregistered. i would be damaging my patients. it i is totally inappropriatete and immoralal to lie about scieienc. nuclear power, a, produces large quantities off global warmingngs because it relies on a massive industrial infrastructure. there's mining, enriching, two huge coal-fired plants to enrich your uranium, building huge reactors, knocking them down in 30, 40 years, storing radioactive wastes for half a million years. i mean, none of that is taken into account, so nuclear power adds substantially to global warming. t that's lie number one. two, it's not cheap because it's all paid for by tax dollars.....except when the reactor's built, and even then ththe utilities d don't pay any insurance. if there's an accident, you taxpayers s pick t up. the utilities s make moneyey selling electricity. that's all. they don't have to build the reactors; it's all subsidized and paid for. i mean, no other industry has that sort of subsidizatioion, and do you know
why? because it's the prododigal son of the weapons industry. and when nuclear power was begun by eisenhower in the fifties, "atoms for peace," the weapons industry said, "we require nuclear power as a sort of trojan horse, camouflagag to hide behi," and thehen everyone said it was sasa. the japanese didn't want nuclear power after nagasaki and hihiroshima, but ty were talklked into o it. so it'a really wicked, wicked indudustr. and any couountry that hahas a reacactor, be it s syria, sasaui arabia--you name it, , they have a bomomb factory. because each reactctor makes 500 pounds of plutonium a year, plutonium lasts for half a a millionon ye, and all you need is 5 poundnds o make yourselflf a nuclear weapo. so by selling nuclear power abroad, which america is heavily into, it isis causing proliferation of nuclear weapons-s--which it says it's n,
but it is--and that could trigger a global holocaust between russia and america who still target each other with thousands of nuclear weapons. >> does the average doctotor understanand the full risksks involved with radiation and nuclelear power plants? >> no. we're not tataht about the mededical implications of nuclear r power in medical schools. we d did get some curricula going--physicians for social responsibility in the eieighties in medidical schools- about nuclear war, but also nuclear powewer. it's a very, vy interesting subject but one about w which most doctorors are fairly ignorant. i would suggest, though, that all doctors obtain a copy from the new york academy of sciences on chernobyl that was published lalast year, and therere they trtranslated 5,00000 articles sm slavic, from russian, into english that were published in the russssian medical and scientific literature. over a
million people now have already died as a result of chernobyl-- it's only 25 years old. over a million, and that has s been covered up by the b blasted u.n, by the international atomic energy agency--how dare they-- and the world health organization. this is the biggest c covr-up in ththe histy of medicine. i have e never read anything like this in my life, and i i've been a doctor since i was 23. >> the nuclclear regulatory commission has asked the national academy of sciences to do some research on incidents of cancer in the vicinity of nuclelear plantnts all over the ununited states. is that going to be a a helpful study, , do yu think? >> yes and no. the national academy of sciences has conducucted for 7 consecutive occasions a thing called the biological effects of ionizing radiation, and they put out a report recently, number vii, and it was a good report and it said no radiation is safe, radiation
is cumulative, and, yes, i trust them. there's a huge push by the industry to prevent really decent research being done, but in a way, it's unnecessary because the german government-- and the gerermans are very precise with their data-- examined, i think, 16 old reactors and looked at children under the age of 5 who lived within 5k of the reactors, and they had more than double the incidents of leukemia--children are 10 to 20 times more radiosensitive than adults--more than double the incidents of leukemia and a high incidence of solid cancers. and the closer they lived to the reaeactor, the h higher the incidence of malignancy. now, that study is absolutely classical--you can't find anany holes in it at all--d in a way, it doesn't need to be repeated. the data's there. >> it's not just cancer, itit's dedeformed children as w, isn't it? >> if a fefetus, a normal,
genetically chromosomally normal fetus is exposed to a tiny bit of plutonium that lodges in its brain, veveloping brain, it can kill the cell that's gonna form the right half of the brain or the left arm. that's called teratogenesis, damage of a normal fetus, and that's what ththat drug thalidomide did when women took it for morning sickness and their babies were born with no arms or no legs. it does that. it also--plutonium in particular, which is highly mutagenic--lodges in the testicles. so it has a predilection for testicles, and i it lodgdges next to the spermatogonia, the cells that form the sperm, the precursors, and d it's an alpha emitter, highly mumutagenic. so it can mutate genes in thehe spe to induce genetic mutations and genetic disease down the generations. now, there are two sorts of mutations, dominant-- so if you have a baby with a dominant mutation like brown eyes, the baby will have brown
eyes, or dwarfism-- achondroplastic dwarfism is dominant--but most mutations are recessive like blue eyes. you have to have two genes to have blue eyes. because if you have a brown-eye gene and a blue-eye gene, you're going to get brown eyes. or cystic fibrosis is recessive, or diabetes or many, and it takes up to 20 generations for recessive mutations to express themselves. so we're talking about eons of timeme for expression of genetic disease--that's the second thing. the third thing is if the man's got plutonium in his testicles--and every mamale in e northern hemisphere has a tiny load in his gonad--it's from weapons testing days, and plutoniumum is still falling ou. and the man is cremated,d, the smoke goes up the e chimney with the plutonium,m, so you can breathe it in, another man can, and it's ad infinitum because plutonium has a half-life of 24,400 years and laststs for a long time. but the other thing is that thee body thinks
plutonium is iroron--it's an irn analogue--so it's stored in the liver, where it causes liver cancer. it's stored in the bone marrow to cause--to produce hemoglobin in the red blood cells, but it causes leukemia or bone cancer. it crosses the placenta into the developing embryo--which lets nothing through it, incidentally, except plutonium and a few other nasties. it's stored in the testicle, too. so it't's a ubiquitous, really dangerous isotope, and from the time they discovered it in the manhattan project, they knew its dangers. >> does plutonium come only from nuclear weapons testing, or is there a risk of it escaping from nnuclear pow plalants as w well? >> it's not emitted by y power plaants routinely. routinely, power plants emit radioactive elements all the time. tritium-- they cannot prevent triritium esescaping--highly carcinogegen. it's--hydrogen--radioactive
hydrogen, h3, highly carcinogenic. that's probably what's causing the cancer in the kids living around the reactors in germany. carbon-14, highly carcinogenic. xenon, krypton, argon are all emitted, and they say, "oh, it's just routine," like i could d say, "oh, you've just got a routine cancer, don't worry about it." that sort of thing. plutonium dodoesn't escae unttil there is an accident like a meltdown or an explosion like fukushima or chernobyl. three mile island had a meltdown. i remember when i first read a book about nuclear power and it was called "poisoned power" by dr. gofman and tamplin, my hair nearly fell out on the desk. i'd never read anything so dangerous...and i still got along with it. i can't tell you how indignant as a physician i feel about that, having helped so many children die of cystic fibrosis, the commonenest fatal gegenetic disease of chihildhoo, which will be increased by
plututonium, having helped children die of leukemia. what are we talkiking aboutut? how precious isis life? we going to kill people? >> so going forward, dr. caldicott, what would you like to sesee done? >> i want an informed democracy. that's what jefferson said, "an informed democracy w will behave in a responsible fashion," and it's like i have to inform a patient. say i have to tell you you've got pancreatic cancer. i have to tell you what it means, where your pancreas is, how it operates, where the cancer could metastasize, what sort of treatment you might need, the side effects of that, what your prognosis is. you must be educated--that's the practice of medicine. now, the earth is in the intetensive care unit, acuty clinically ill, and we all must understand what is happening, what the pathology is, the pathogenesis, because we all are, in fact, physicians to a dying planet.
reyes: receiving a free education is a constitutional right of every child in haiti. so why do most go to private school? i'm elaine reyes in washington, dc, and this is "americas now." [students speaking creole] reyes: first up,p, in haiti, moe children attend private schools than they do public. and the highgh pce of tuition, booksks, and uniforms makes t the cost fr parentnts steep. we'llll take ak at how a new e education systemm may help l lessen the strarain. then, latin americans are among somef the mo innovated entrepepreneurs in siliconon va, but there is fear the shifting political l landscape in the u..