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WHO should objectively inform public of nuclear danger

IPPNW Germany has warned for many years that collusion between the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) prevents them from protecting the public from the risks posed by nuclear power. The physician's organisation and Nobel Peace Laureate strongly criticises the IAEA for inadequately informing the public on the situation at the Fukushima nuclear complex and the WHO for downplaying potential health consequences resulting from a meltdown. IPPNW believes that telling people the truth about the dangers of radiation helps them to make informed decisions about what to do, a lack of trust in information policy leads to fear and panic.

IPPNW calls on the WHO to amend the agreement made with IAEA in 1959 to make it clear that, while cooperating with the IAEA, they will independently research and inform the public on issues concerning the health effects of ionising radiation. In particular, the differing roles of the two organisations should be made explicit in the agreement. Dr. Angelika Claussen says, "The public requires independent and extensive information on health effects of the use of nuclear energy. The WHO response to Fukushima is completely inadequate and implies a collusion with IAEA to downplay the risks posed by nuclear power". WHO closed down its office in Helsinki in 2001 that had the job of responding to such a nuclear health emergency and did not replace it.

"It is, for instance, vital that people know that radiation has a much greater effect on women, children and embryos than on young men", says Dr. Claussen. IPPNW calls on the WHO to recommend that women, children and especially pregnant women be evacuated from the region immediately.

The physicians organisation has researched extensively on the health effects of the Chernobyl catastrophe and arrived at very much higher mortality and morbidity statistics than the WHO has published. The IAEA states that no more than 50 deaths directly resulted from the nuclear catastrophe and WHO is of the opinion that 9000 people will die from effects of the release of radiation from Chernobyl. The UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) confirmed these statistics again in Februrary 2011. However, Dr. Alexei Yabolokov, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, has collated data and the findings of numerous inquiries into the health and environmental effects of Chernobyl and comes to a very different conclusion. He believes that the radiation from the accident will have claimed between 900,000 and 1.8 million lives in the period of time it is present in the biosphere. Up until now, between 112,000 and 125,000 of the estimated 830,000 "liquidators" have already died.

IAEA's main objective laid out in Article II of its statute of 1957 is to promote nuclear power. Dr. Claussen strongly criticised the head of IAEA Amano for his statement in reaction to the Fukushima catastrophe. "At a time when spent fuel is on fire and nuclear reactors are exploding, there is no sign of even the tiniest willingness to rethink IAEA's promotion of nuclear power. I can only call that pure ignorance."

Amano reacted to the news of the catastrophe at the Fukushima plant by saying: "This is not an accident by design or by human error. This is an accident caused by natural disaster that is unprecedented. And also the fact that we had this accident due to the tremendous national power does not change the fact we need the stable source of energy and we need to mitigate the negative impact of climate change." Claussen comments: "Nuclear energy only has a share of 2,48% in the world wide energy consumption. A 2% technology cannot save the climate."

IPPNW is calling on the IAEA Board of Governors to update its statute and make its number one priority the protection of the public from the risks posed by the civilian and military use of nuclear energy. This should include adequate safety measures for nuclear installations while they are in operation, the closure of dangerous nuclear installations and enhanced safequards to protect against the diversion of nuclear materials and technology for military use.
IPPNW is organising a large Congress from April 8th to 10th in Berlin entitled "Chernobyl: 25 Years After - Nuclear Timebomb". Alexei Yabokov will be speaking at this congress, as will the radiation expert and former WHO staff member Keith Baverstock, who will speak on the relationship between IAEA and WHO.

Contact: Xanthe Hall, Tel: +49-30-698074-12, e-mail, German section of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Physicians for Social Responsibility (IPPNW), Koertestr. 10, D-10967 Berlin, www.ippnw.de