Healthy Living
Paul Zimmerman on Nuclear Radiation Health Hazards      
Hallo, conscientious viewers, and welcome to Healthy Living. On March 11, 2011, a massive, 9.0-magnitude earthquake with accompanying tsunami struck Japan’s east coast, causing widespread destruction. Among the facilities seriously damaged was the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear-power plant complex.

The resulting explosions and reactor meltdowns at the plant released large amounts of radioactive material into the atmosphere, surrounding land and the Pacific Ocean, raising grave concerns about the short and long-term health effects from the nuclear disaster. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, a US-based science advocacy organization, the radioactive isotopes which pose the largest cancer causing risk following a nuclear power accident are iodine-131 and cesium-137.

On today’s program we present an interview with American author, independent researcher and lecturer on radiation safety Mr. Paul Zimmerman, who will discuss some of the very serious health concerns related to this power generation method. He is the author of “A Primer in the Art of Deception,” a book about the dangers of depleted uranium weapons and human exposure to nuclear radiation.

Nuclear plants use fission to produce power from highly concentrated forms of uranium or plutonium fuel. Under normal circumstances, the fuel and fission by-products from a generating station are contained within a support structure called the core. But if the core becomes damaged, massive amounts of radioactive material may be released into the atmosphere or leak into the ground.

What happens with nuclear power is that human beings concentrate radioactive material; they bring it out of the Earth, they put it together in a concentrated form which doesn’t exist in nature. Or they run it through nuclear reactors and create a tremendous amount of waste.

And it’s because of this concentrated material it has to be isolated from life, and anytime that it escapes its confinement and comes in contact with life there’s biological hazard, whether it’s animal life, plant life, or human life. And so the technology’s only effective if it can be contained. And we see enough examples where containment fails and then people suffer.

Volumes of research clearly demonstrate that contact with radioactive material can cause severe health conditions. The government of Japan has imposed a 20-kilometer “no-go” zone around the Fukushima plant to protect citizens from radioactive contamination. This means no one is allowed to live in the zone and people cannot enter this area unless they have special permission.

There’s no doubt that fission products have been released into the environment. Fission products are a result of nuclear reactions. And it’s either from the reactors themselves or from the waste-storage ponds of the used reactor fuel. But if fission products are being released, you’ve got a very hazardous situation. And particularly the inhalation of that material creates a threat to health, even in low doses.

But there’s a lot of information from a similar accident from Chernobyl that very low doses created illness in the population, particularly childhood leukemia in children that were still in the wombs of their mothers developing when the mothers were exposed to this kind of radiation. Or there were high incidence of infant birth defects. There’s a tremendous amount of study that was carried out in Russia and the Ukraine that testifies to this.

What happens when radioactive materials enter the food supply?

One of the most important things often not recognized is that the human body is an accumulator of radioactivity from the environment. So they might pick up a little from this vegetable and a little from this water, and from the milk that has entered the food chain through animals eating contaminated feed. And it’s all being concentrated in our bodies. And so the dose that a human being ends up accumulating might be very significant.

As Mr. Zimmerman explains, one of the challenges in determining the health effects of exposure to nuclear materials is that they may not be evident until decades after contact.

Some of the workers that have responded to the (Fukushima) accident, trying to keep the reactor, the waste, the used fuel rods covered with water, they are taking a very high radiation exposure. And those people might suffer acute radiation syndrome and feel it very quickly. In terms of longer term pathology, we're not going to know for a long time how many people are going to develop thyroid difficulties because of the absorption of iodine-131 into their bodies, or more long-term in terms of cancer rates.

So this is one of the insidious problems with nuclear energy, because of the way radiation affects the human body in non-deterministic ways. It takes years or decades to get a picture of the health problem. And by that time, the world has moved on. And they don't take it quite as seriously as they would if they could evaluate the hazard right now.

In 1986, in what is considered the worst disaster in nuclear power generation history, a plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine exploded, causing huge amounts of radioactive material to be released into the atmosphere, contaminating humans and animals, agricultural products and soil in Belarus, Russia, Ukraine and most of Europe. A recent study suggests that Chernobyl’s overall impact on human health was much, much more severe than is commonly understood.

There was a book recently published in New York (USA) by the Academy of Sciences. And in that book, "Chernobyl: Consequences to People and the Environment," they said that between 1986 and 2004, 985,000 people died as a result of Chernobyl. They did deep research, and consulted 5,000 sources while they were preparing their report.

The Chernobyl disaster prompted many research studies on its health consequences. Scientists have concluded that, among other deleterious effects, exposure to radiation is linked to increases in thyroid cancer, severe mental retardation in newborns and genetic damage in humans, animals, and plant life.

A tremendous amount of research has come to light since Chernobyl. And it’s proven that the risk factors that are published by the radiation protection agencies are inadequate. They do not accurately represent the health detriment that’s produced in a population that’s exposed to radiation.

The fuel used in nuclear plants is also an extreme threat to human health.

There’s a tremendous amount of research that’s been done on the toxicology of uranium. How hazardous is it? And how does it affect the human body and how does it affect the cells? And things that were never known before are coming to light in terms of the radiation emitted from uranium. And, research has shown that uranium is genotoxic.

It’s toxic to DNA. It is mutagenic. It causes mutations in DNA. It’s cytotoxic. It causes adverse functioning in cells. It’s teratogenic. It has the capacity of affecting fetal development. And it’s also a neurotoxin. So anybody that brushes aside uranium saying, “Ah, it can’t be hazardous,” is not keeping up with the modern research.

Even living in the vicinity of a nuclear power plant can affect one’s health. Research by the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection shows that children living within five kilometers of nuclear-generating stations are more than twice as likely to get leukemia as those living farther away. And Mr. Zimmerman has another concern about nuclear plants; the spent fuel remains toxic and highly dangerous for extremely long periods.

Iodine-131, which is escaping from the reactors in Japan, the half-life of that radioisotope is approximately eight days. And they say generally that if you count 10 generations of radioactive decay, it decays to harmless levels. So for radioactive iodine, after 80 days it will no longer be hazardous.

But now if you take something like plutonium, plutonium has a half-life of 24,000 years. So if you're waiting for it to decay for over 10 generations, you're talking about 240,000 years that it has to be isolated from life in order to be completely safe. And now the major fuel in a nuclear reactor is uranium- 238. And that has a half-life of four and a half billion years. And so you’re going to have to wait 45 billion years before the uranium is totally harmless.

Given the spent fuels remain a gigantic bio-hazard for a length of time that is beyond comprehension, how do we keep not only ourselves, but those that will live on Earth long after us safe from these substances?

Then the question also becomes the disposal of radioactive waste. And I think it's a bit of a folly to believe that human beings can think thousands of years into the future, that they know what's going to happen in such a way that they can keep that radioactive waste from escaping into the water, escaping into the environment, and affecting generations of people that we can't even imagine yet. So we create all this waste and we have very imperfect ways of anticipating what's going to happen to it. But it's going to be lethal to all living creatures wherever it escapes.

The byproducts from nuclear power generation jeopardize not only our own lives, but also those of our animal co-inhabitants.

Once again, the question has to be asked, “Do human beings have the authority or the right to release dangerous, radioactive material into the environment that we share with all other creatures? Though human beings might be protected from radiation that’s washed into the ocean, what about the fish? Are we stewards of the Earth, protecting the Earth? Or is the garbage that we release into the world affecting life in ways that we don’t even think about?

We're poisoning our common planet and poisoning our fellow human beings. And we're destroying values and cultures in the belief that our way, our technological way is the way of the future.

What is the solution to the life-threatening problems that are caused by nuclear-power plants? Immediately switching to safer, greener sources of energy is the only option.

We have to find a sustainable way of living and more appropriate technology. I’m very curious to see what’s going to happen in Japan after this event. Choices have to be made about lifestyle, what kind of lifestyle do you want to live? And is it worth having energy production that can do what is happening now in Japan. Is it worth that to continue? So maybe the Japanese can be the conscience of the whole world, because they’re now having more intimate experience with what it means to be contaminated.

Many thanks to you, Paul Zimmerman, for your diligent research, and providing the public with a clearer understanding of the highly hazardous health effects of nuclear power. May your important work continue to help shift our world to sustainable power sources that are in harmony with planet Earth.

For more information on Paul Zimmerman and his book, “The Primer in the Art of Deception,” please visit:

Enlightened viewers, thank you for your presence today on Healthy Living. May humanity always embrace only what is good and beneficial for our world.

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