(Nov. 18, 2010) Editorial from the Toronto Star on the controversy surrounding anti-nuclear activist Dr. Helen Caldicott’s speech about Port Hope’s radiation levels.
Port Hope received a public death sentence this week. Now, its 16,000 residents are trying to climb out of the shallow grave dug for them by Australian anti-nuclear activist Dr. Helen Caldicott.
In a drive-by execution, Caldicott proclaimed Port Hope to be beyond hope, a nuclear graveyard that must be evacuated of its people. She lashed out at nuclear industry “wickedness” and at “medically corrupt” research. Then she collected her undisclosed speaking fee and left town. Even the organizers of Caldicott’s visit felt ambushed by her bombastic rhetoric about nuclear-tainted soil, which isn’t grounded in research.
Legitimate questions can be raised about Port Hope’s nuclear legacy — the byproduct of decades of refining in an era of laxer safety standards. But one visit to Port Hope hardly qualifies Caldicott to draw such alarmist conclusions. Port Hope’s low-level radioactive soil has been studied extensively since the 1970s, when public concerns gained momentum. Energy Probe, an NGO that has campaigned for 30 years to enforce safety standards in Port Hope, now notes that there is no scientific evidence of a danger to what may be “the most researched … and monitored community in the world.”
Government agencies have co-ordinated 30 environmental and 13 epidemiological studies, all of which show Port Hope’s radioactivity levels, and the health outcomes of its residents, to be no different than other communities. Its background radiation levels are lower than Banff’s. Public consultations have culminated with a 10-year plan to dig out more than 1.2 million cubic metres of soil and transfer it to a covered mound away, at a cost of at least $250 million.
There is always room for scientific debate. But that’s a far cry from the “medically corrupt” conspiracy theories peddled by Caldicott.