(Nov. 21, 2010) In a recent essay, CBC Sunday Edition host Michael Enright talks about Energy Probe’s belief that the radiation fears dogging residents of Port Hope are unfounded.
For a while there, a long time actually, we thought we were safe from the fallout.
Then, this week it happened. A full meltdown in Caldicott Reactor Number One.
There is no known containment facility that can control a Caldicott meltdown. And it happened right here in Canada in the lovely little town of Port Hope, Ontario, population 16,000. Well, the epicenter was in Oshawa a few miles away, but the people affected live in Port Hope.
Helen Caldicott is an Australian pediatrician. She has been, for more than three decades, the world’s most prominent and most articulate warrior in the battle against nuclear power.
Any kind of nuclear power.
She has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize several times and has more international honors than she can carry.
Port Hope, is a quiet, pretty little town on the north shore of Lake Ontario, 100 kilometers east of Toronto.
It’s a peaceful place, home to the great and the good, a healthy middle-class and scores of upstanding citizens.
The most upstanding of course, the fabulous Farley Mowat.
Dr. Caldicott visited Port Hope and environs on Tuesday to talk to the townsfolk about radioactivity.
Since 1932, Port Hope has been processing and refining uranium.
El Dorado Nuclear used to be the uranium company and processed the material that was part of the Manhattan Project which created the first atomic bomb.
Unfortunately nobody was paying much attention to radioactive soil in those days and the waste material was simply buried all over town.
A 10-year-project to remove the soil is well underway.
In her talk, Dr. Caldicott scared the bejabbers out of people.
Among other things, she said that Port Hope is a nuclear time bomb ready to explode with massive cancer epidemics, thousands of sick children and genetic mutations that will doom future generations.
She also said that Canada’s Candu reactors are being used to make nuclear weapons and that the Port Hope company Cameco, is actively and secretly involved in the proliferation of said weapons.
She called their facility, “a secret diabolical factory.”
Her solution to the calamity was simple and straightforward – leave town.
The 16,000 residents should immediately pack up and move.
When settled elsewhere they should then sue the federal government in a class action, for criminal negligence.
She added that Port Hopeans should educate themselves, buy buying and reading her book. She held up a copy.
Never mind Chernobyl. According to Dr. Caldicott, “I can’t think of any place more dangerous than Port Hope.”
Back in the Seventies on As It Happens, I used to interview Dr. Caldicott from time to time. I found her to be a woman of limitless determination and energy.
Back then she went around the country, around the world, directing most of her criticisms at the United States.
During one conversation I asked her why she never criticized the Soviet Union.
She replied: “The Russians aren’t the problem. The Americans are the problem.”
How serious is the nuclear situation in Port Hope?
Energy Probe is the NGO which, 35 years ago, raised concerns over the dangers of radioactive soil and were instrumental in getting the government to clean up the town.
Energy Probe saw to it that Port Hope became: “The most researched and monitored community in the world.”
It is now persuaded that radiation levels in the town are benign.
There have been 30 environmental reports and 134 epidemiological studies done on the town.
All of them showed that radioactivity levels and health outcomes are no different from any other communities.
In fact, background radiation levels in Port Hope are lower than those in Banff.
The good doctor made her speech, signed a few books and left.
Behind the townspeople were left confused and frightened, and some of them very angry.
But a goodly number supported Dr. Caldicott.
One life-long resident said she agreed with Dr. Caldicott that Port Hope is an extremely dangerous place to live.
The woman is 81.
Michael Enright, CBC Radio, November 21, 2010