What’s in that fish you caught?
Dr Robert Mann never ducks a scrap.
He is the co-author of the NZ Government submission to the World Court in the lawsuit against French nuclear testing in the Pacific and a founding committee member of the New Zealand Foundation for Peace Studies.
Now retired as a university lecturer in biochemistry and environmental studies, he’s been a scientific adviser to our Cabinet ministers.
He served for eight years on the Environmental Council Working Party on Energy and 11 years on the Toxic Substances Board.
Inevitably, he’s got Fukushima in his sights. And he’s not the only one. Japan’s Tepco company officials regularly suggest all is well at Daiichi, saying radiation effects are mostly localised and things should go back to normal in the foreseeable future.
But scientists and journalists have concluded the situation is critical, getting worse and increasingly dangerous to humanity.
One fact: Fifteen tuna caught off the coast of California, all had radiation contamination above and beyond normal Cesium-134 and cesium-137, which the fish were contaminated with.
Cesium does not sink to the ocean floor. It contaminates the sea at all levels where fish swim through it, ingest it, or eat organisms that have already ingested it.
Interestingly, the scientists who tested the fish didn’t expect to find contamination and were sadly proven wrong. Read this lineup of Robert Mann’s deep concerns – and other expert opinion.
Robert Mann: ‘‘ From the start of my activism against 2,4,5-T (1971) I have steadily intoned my slogan – lack of evidence does not equal proof of safety.
‘‘Yet domination of public discourse on Fukushima pollution continues along the older lines – out of sight, out of mind and what you don’t know won’t hurt you.
‘‘Will the New Zealand media ask the National Radiation Laboratory (an arm of the Ministry of Health) what radioactivity tests of New Zealand marine organisms and surf spray are being made around our coast?’’ He’s right. If not, why not? ‘‘In the early 1970s, possible contamination of South Pacific foods, marine and land was a main ground of scientists’ objections to French nuclear tests just south of the equator.
‘‘As a scientific leader in that campaign, I’m appalled at the failure, so far, of the New Zealand media to investigate the fate of Fukushima pollution. Some fish, like tuna, swim thousands of miles in the Pacific.’’
Dr Ken Buessler is head scientist at Woods Hole in Massachusetts, one of the world’s top ocean science institutions. He’s been studying groundwater and ocean samples in and around Fukushima.
His verdict: ‘‘What we don’t really know is how fast and how much is being transported across the Pacific. Numerous models show that, while the ocean dilutes radiation, pockets and streams of concentrated radiation may still hit the West Coast of North America.’’
And California State Long Beach biology professor Steven Manley: ‘‘People should know the amount of radioactive material in kelp. I think the amount will be small but small doesn’t mean insignificant.
‘‘It’s imperative that we monitor this coastal forest for any radioactive contaminants arriving this year in the ocean currents from Fukushima.’’
Many government officials have, unfortunately, fallen for what one expert has called ‘‘voodoo science’’ – promoted by the nuclear industry, that ‘‘you get more radiation from eating bananas or from background radiation’’.
The response when Ken Buesseler took his concerns about failure to monitor to US departments – Energy, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection – they all said it’s not their responsibility, it was a health and safety issue.
I wonder what the Wellington version of that sidestep is?
Ask your MP for his/her view.
Nuclear nightmare: Staff and media get ready to inspect the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant this month – three years after it was crippled by the 2011 tsunami that triggered the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.