How are farmers to know if their fields are radioactive? Radioactivity is not discernible through our usual senses of taste, hearing, sight, smell, or touch. The Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor, five miles from Massachusetts and New Hampshire borders in southern Vermont, emits radiation that impacts the health and safety of all three states.
“Each day, a nuclear reactor releases more than 100 chemicals into the air,” states Joseph Mangano, national coordinator of the Radiation and Public Health Project. “These chemicals, which are created only in nuclear weapons and nuclear reactors, are radioactive and cause cancer by damaging cells. After entering the body through breathing and food, each chemical affects the body in a different way. Iodine 131 attacks the thyroid gland, strontium 90 seeks out bone and cesium 137 disperses throughout soft tissues. The fetus and infant with undeveloped immune systems and rapidly diving cells are most affected.”
Radioactive elements from a nuclear reactor enter water of adjoining rivers or lakes or are released into the air. Airborne releases can land in agricultural fields hundreds or even thousands of miles away from their source. Unwitting organic farmers or their customers have little knowledge that foods certified “organic” are actually grown on contaminated soil. Ingesting contaminated crops or animal products can cause leukemia, thyroid diseases, cancers, heart disease, infertility, Down Syndrome, spontaneous abortions, immune deficiency diseases, and congenital birth defects which will be passed on to succeeding generations.
Rosalie Bertell, a cancer research scientist, has spent much of her life studying low-level radiation including ten years writing a comprehensive book entitled, No Immediate Danger: Prognosis for a Radioactive Earth. She states that there is a general nuclear illiteracy in the U.S. and “. . . only scientists are fully aware of the subtle cumulative nature of damage from low-level radiation.”
In the 2005 Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation report, the National Academy of Sciences state that there is no safe level of exposure to radiation. However, the public is kept in the dark about ongoing radioactive emissions, the dangers they pose, and the health consequences suffered by exposed populations. Federal and local governing agencies tend to protect corporate interests rather than public health. There are little accountability and few avenues for public input.
At stake are another twenty to forty years of relicensing for every reactor in the country. Forty-seven have already applied and received this extension from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. A broad-based coalition needs to unite and say a resounding NO to nuclear power and a hearty YES to sustainable, safe, locally controlled energy options that will allow farmers to have truly organic crops.
Resources: Nuclear Power is Not the Answer by Helen Caldicott, 2006 Insurmountable Risks: The Dangers of Using Nuclear Power to Combat Global Climate Change by Brice Smith, 2006 (publ. IEER)
Deadly Deceit: Low level Radiation, High Level Cover-up by Gould and Goldman, 1990.
Author Hattie Nestel lives in Athol, Ma. 25 miles from Vermont Yankee. She works with Citizens Awareness Network, CAN@NUKEBUSTERS.ORG to shut down Vermont Yankee.