By Xanthe Hall*
Nuclear Power and the Bomb are inextricably linked through an atomic chain. The nuclear era began in Germany, so we have a specific responsibility to end it sooner rather than later.
BERLIN (IDN) – We talk about abandoning nuclear energy or abolishing nuclear weapons. But this is not enough. They are only the visible products of a whole chain of production that binds us – the nuclear chain. This chain does much more damage than we are aware of.
At the front end of the chain is uranium mining – providing the same source for both nuclear energy and nuclear weapons.
Next comes enrichment. Centrifuge technology enriches uranium and it is only a question of the enrichment grade that defines whether the uranium can be used for producing electricity or weapons.
Regardless of what we believe or not, we can never be 100% sure of what it will be used for. Look at Iran, an example that shows what role mistrust and tension play in the use of such technology. The combination of enrichment and political conflict could lead to war.
A by-product of enrichment is the production of uranium weapons from depleted uranium left over from the process. These weapons have often been used – for instance, in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan – with terrible consequences for health and the environment.
Next in the chain comes the nuclear reactor. Not only can it produce electricity, it also makes plutonium, which can be seperated out from the spent fuel rods through reprocessing.
Nuclear weapons are made either with highly enriched uranium or plutonium.
As long as nuclear weapons exist, they can be used. Either in war – as in Hiroshima and Nagasaki – or for nuclear tests.
At the back end of the chain is waste or fallout.
All of these links in the chain are dangerous for health and the environment, principally through the radiation they emit. All of the links produce either waste or fallout, that remain in the environment for hundreds of thousands of years. The nuclear chain is far from being free from CO2 emissions. The claim that nuclear energy can somehow save the climate is a patent lie.
Ionising Radiation is Bad for your Health
Hiroshima, Chernobyl, Semipalatinsk … whether it was the dropping of the atomic bomb, a nuclear meltdown or atmospheric nuclear testing – the affected populations all show a similar clinical picture, depending on which isotopes were released.
Thyroid cancer, carcinomas, colon cancer, lung cancer, bone cancer, leukaemia (particularly in children), liver cancer, genetic anomalies and many other diseases.
All of these diseases will more than likely show up as long-term effects of the Fukushima disaster.
Germany is seeking a withdrawal of US tactical nuclear weapons but is finding it difficult to achieve due to alliance obligations in NATO. The abandonment of nuclear energy has also been decided upon, and yet remains insufficient, as radiation knows no borders.
This is why IPPNW prescribes a holistic therapy. It is time to think in global categories and to take on the whole nuclear chain, and not only parts of it. Therefore, we call for:
A global ban on uranium mining.
Indigenous peoples around the world suffer the most from the effects of uranium mining. Their human rights are being violated, their environment destroyed. Uranium should stay in the earth.
No more nuclear transports.
Whether it be yellowcake from Niger, Australia or India to Europe or nuclear waste from Germany to Russia, it should stop.
An end to the production of fissile materials.
We don’t just mean a “cut-off” of production for military use, as many states demand, but also for civilian use. In Europe, we welcome the decision to close Sellafield in the UK and call for Le Hague reprocessing plant in France to be shut down.
The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty should finally enter into force.
Nine nations are still holding out, among them the USA and China.
A treaty banning and abolishing nuclear weapons (Nuclear Weapons Convention).
Negotiations need to begin now! Join the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear weapons ICAN.
A global energy shift.
This should aim towards regional energy autonomy. With more renewables, increased efficiency and reduced consumption, we can succeed.
Good energy policies are policies for peace – there will be no wars over the sun or the wind. [IDN-InDepthNews – October 27, 2011]
*Xanthe Hall has worked as the nuclear disarmament campaigner at IPPNW Germany for over 18 years and is based at their office in Berlin, Germany. Xanthe was born in Scotland, grew up in England and studied Drama and Theatre Arts at Birmingham University. In the early eighties, she was a member of the West Midlands CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) executive committee responsible for Non-violent Direct Action and worked as a staff member for CND before leaving for West Berlin in 1985.
Xanthe co-founded the Abolition 2000 Global Network for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons in 1995. She also helped found the German Abolition national network: Traegerkreis “Atomwaffen abschaffen”. Xanthe is a member of the Executive Committee of Middle Powers Initiative and the Abolition Global Council. She is European Coordinator of the Parliamentarians for Non-Proliferation and Nuclear Disarmament and German 2020 Vision Campaigner for Mayors for Peace.