August 30, 2012

SF Bay Area PSR member Patrice Sutton and President Dr. Bob Gould attended the IPPNW World Conference in Hiroshima Japan and subsequently participated in an “eyewitness” delegation to Fukushima. Afterward, they participated in a press conference in Tokyo. Ms. Sutton spoke on a panel along with Tillman Rush, IPPNW Co-President; Jeffrey Patterson, Immediate Past President of Physicians for Social Responsibility; and Arun Mitra, President of the Indian Doctors for Peace and Development. Below is Ms. Sutton’s statement from the press conference.

Read IPPNW’s press release on the World Congress August 24.

Read IPPNW’s recommendations released August 29.

Statement of Patrice Sutton, MPH
San Francisco-Bay Area Physicians for Social Responsibility

At the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) Press Conference at Japanese Diet (Parliament) on August 29, 2012

I am deeply humbled by our journey to Fukushima and full of gratitude to the people of Japan who have welcomed us into their lives and provided us with the opportunity to witness the health impacts of the nuclear disaster at Fukushima.

Our delegation has listened to the experience and perspectives of a diverse cross-section of Japanese society, including local leaders, community members, scientists, advocates, physicians, academics, shopkeepers, an organic farmer and government officials.

Our journey took us through the beautiful Japanese countryside that is, paradoxically, the entry point for observing the local and devastating impacts of a nuclear power disaster.

I will be forever changed by this journey.

I came to Fukushima knowing the science that describes the health impacts of exposure to ionizing radiation. I left knowing that a nuclear power plant explosion breaks apart more than DNA. I saw that a nuclear power plant explosion also breaks apart the social fabric that binds families and communities.

I saw that the adverse health consequences of the nuclear catastrophe at Fukushima touch all aspects of daily life and that these consequences will unfold over time.

Some of the adverse health consequences of the nuclear disaster can be observed now. These adverse health impacts include jobs that have either disappeared or involve extreme danger, especially for vulnerable populations who must trade their futures for a present paycheck. Today’s health impacts can be seen in the dislocation of families, the separation of children from their parents, the separation of the elderly from the young who are their source of joy and hope, the separation of friends and co-workers based on false beliefs that stigmatize people. The scientific evidence is clear that these social consequences of exposure to ionizing radiation are powerful determinants of health.

Other adverse health impacts will come later. The science is clear that there is no safe level of exposure to ionizing radiation, and that even small doses spread among large populations will predictably lead to excess cancers and other illnesses in the years to come. It is also critical to remember that as one official put it, “The accident is not completed.” There is a serious and on-going chance of catastrophe at Reactor # 4 where spent fuel rests on a foundation that is highly vulnerable to the next earthquake.

Finally, as scientists and health professionals we know that the nuclear power disaster at Fukushima will ultimately be paid for by future generations. The capacity of the land to produce healthy food for generations to come has been severed in some areas. The mounds of blue plastic that cover the radioactive waste in Fukushima are inter-generational problems for which we do not have a solution.

Turning on a light to read to our children at bedtime should not require that we sacrifice the health of future generations. This is a false choice. There are safer solutions to our global need for energy.

Our delegation leaves Japan reinvigorated in our efforts to prevent the tragic public health impacts of the nuclear power catastrophe at Fukushima.

We believe there is only one pathway to prevention … to bring a global end to our reliance on nuclear energy. After the nuclear disaster in the U.S. at Three Mile Island the American Public Health Association, the largest public health association in the world, called for a moratorium on building nuclear power plants and urged that we re-direct our efforts to sustainable solutions to energy production. The subsequent tragedies at Chernobyl and Fukushima only underscore our need to urgently seek a new pathway to energy conservation and production.

We leave Japan committed to helping to usher in an era in which energy production sustains rather than harms our children, our families and our communities now and for generations to come.

Thank you.