Beyond Nuclear International

Nukes and the bigger picture

Billions wasted on nuclear weapons could save the world’s children

By Kehkashan Basu

Kutupalong – a beautiful, lyrical name. It could possibly describe a flower, a river, or an exotic bird. In fact, it is none of these three. Its claim to fame or rather infamy comes from the fact that it is the world’s largest refugee camp. Not only is it the largest refugee camp on our planet, with a population of 1 million and counting, it is also the most densely populated. It took just six months to double in size when Rohingya refugees fled Myanmar, according to reports from the World Food Program. Tens of thousands of makeshift tents packed together on a hilly terrain, it offers refuge to over a million refugees.

A two-hour drive from Cox Bazaar in Bangladesh, Kutupalong was a sleepy unknown hamlet until a few years ago, when the Rohingya crisis escalated in neighboring Myanmar. On the ground the camp is sprawling, chaotic, and unimaginably crowded. If you were looking for a definition of misery, this is it!

I spent last Christmas with my team at this camp engaging with hundreds of Rohingya children, soaking in the latent energy they possessed and trying to be the catalyst that would ignite their passion into a meaningful avenue of growth and development. For these children, every day is a struggle for survival. Sanitation and hygiene do not exist. It’s an unbelievably moving sight which no words or pictures can describe.

British nurses treating Rohingya children suffering from diphtheria in Bangladesh.

Dying children could be saved with food or medication costing less than 1/10th of the cost of one Trident submarine. (Photo DFID)

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Chernobyl has blown up twice

TV series success has pro-nukers panicking

By Linda Pentz Gunter

As we contemplate somewhat ruefully how someone heretofore best known for scripting The Hangover (parts 2 and 3) has managed to loft the truth about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster into the stratosphere, whilst we have slogged for decades to get the issue attention, there is some comfort to be had.

Yes, Chernobyl has blown up twice — first the reactor and now the eponymous 5-part HBO/Sky miniseries — and the nuclear industry and its pundits are absolutely freaking out. They have gone into Mega Propaganda Overdrive because the drama was so popular they are terrified that millions of people will now realize that nuclear power is Actually Dangerous.

The pro-nukers have even resorted to saying that the Chernobyl series is “fiction.” No one is calling two other recent dramas — Bohemian Rhapsody or Rocketman — fiction. Both films might have taken a little liberty with their subjects’ lives — rock stars Freddy Mercury and Elton John respectively— but these stories are not “fiction.” Chernobyl created a composite character out of many for Emily Watson to play, to streamline the action and lend clarity to the story. But Chernobyl wasn’t fiction, either. It was a dramatization of real events.

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A race against time

Tilman Ruff’s life mission is to help rid the world of nuclear weapons

By Robert Fedele

In 2007, Associate Professor Tilman Ruff and a small group of antinuclear activists founded the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) in Melbourne. In 2017, the global nongovernmental organisation captured the first Nobel Peace Prize born in Australia after years drawing attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and driving a historic UN prohibition treaty. In June 2019, Ruff, and fellow ICAN co-founder, Dimity Hawkins, were awarded Order of Australia Honours for their advocacy on nuclear disarmament.

Tilman Ruff’s life’s mission to help end nuclear weapons traces back to growing up in Melbourne in the 1980s living with the genuine fear that nuclear war could strike at any moment.

His family background passed on a profound awareness of the impacts of war.

“My family were German Christians living in communities in Palestine,” Professor Ruff explains. “My great grandparents married there. They were in turn displaced, imprisoned, and quite a few of them were killed in both World Wars and then brought to Australia as prisoners and locked up until 1947.

“So the indiscriminate trauma, loss, madness and horror of war and its terrible legacy across generations was something I heard from my grandmothers and my old people all the time.”

Tilman and Dimity

ICAN was born in Australia. Two of its founders, Tilman Ruff (left) and Dimity Hawkins, shared the Nobel Peace Prize. (Photo: ICAN Australia Twitter)

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Executed for being an anti-nuclear activist

The incredible unknown story of “nuclear martyr” Nikos Nikiforidis

On March 5, 1951, 22-year-old Nikos Nikiforidis was executed in Greece because he was promoting the Stockholm Antinuclear Appeal (1950). Honoring his death, Greek IPPNW and PADOP organized an event this March in Athens to commemorate him and his courage. Below is an amalgamation of two presentations given about Nikiforidis at that event.

By Maria Arvaniti Sotiropoulou and Panos Trigazis 

Under present conditions, it seems inconceivable that a 22-year-old fighter for the anti-nuclear movement was arrested, sentenced to death by court martial and executed in Thessaloniki, on a charge of collecting signatures under the Stockholm Appeal for the abolition and prohibition of all nuclear weapons. But Nikos Nikiforidis was the first person (and perhaps also the only one) in the world to suffer such a fate. 

At that time, the cold war was at its height on the international stage, and Greece was geographically on the border of the two worlds, the prevailing doctrine of its foreign policy being the “threat from the north”.

The Stockholm Appeal was adopted on March 15, 1950 by a world peace conference and accompanied by a campaign that collected more than 50 million signatures worldwide.  Below is the text of the Appeal:

We demand the outlawing of atomic weapons as instruments of intimidation and mass murder of peoples. We demand strict international control to enforce this measure.

We believe that any government which first uses atomic weapons against any other country whatsoever will be committing a crime against humanity and should be dealt with as a war criminal.

We call on all men and women of goodwill throughout the world to sign this appeal.”

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Nuclear power is not the answer in a time of climate change

Woolsey Fire just a precursor to future climate-related radioactive releases

By Heidi Hutner and Erica Cirino

In November 2018, the Woolsey Fire scorched nearly 100,000 acres of Los Angeles and Ventura counties, destroying forests, fields and more than 1,500 structures, and forcing the evacuation of nearly 300,000 people over 14 days. It burned so viciously that it seared a scar into the land that’s visible from space. Investigators determined that the Woolsey Fire began at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, a nuclear research property contaminated by a partial meltdown in 1959 of its failed Sodium Reactor Experiment, as well as rocket tests and regular releases of radiation.

The State of California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) reports that its air, ash and soil tests conducted on the property after the fire show no release of radiation beyond baseline for the contaminated site. But the DTSC report lacks sufficient information, according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. It includes ‘few actual measurements’ of the smoke from the fire, and the data raises alarms. Research on Chernobyl in Ukraine following wildfires in 2015 shows clear release of radiation from the old nuclear power plant, calling into question the quality of DTSC’s tests. What’s more, scientists such as Nikolaos Evangeliou, who studies radiation releases from wildfires at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research, point out that the same hot, dry and windy conditions exacerbating the Woolsey Fire (all related to human-caused global warming) are a precursor to future climate-related radioactive releases.

With our climate-impacted world now highly prone to fires, extreme storms and sea-level rise, nuclear energy is touted as a possible replacement for the burning of fossil fuels for energy – the leading cause of climate change. Nuclear power can demonstrably reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Yet scientific evidence and recent catastrophes call into question whether nuclear power could function safely in our warming world. Wild weather, fires, rising sea levels, earthquakes and warming water temperatures all increase the risk of nuclear accidents, while the lack of safe, long-term storage for radioactive waste remains a persistent danger.

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Why women should oppose nuclear power

Pregnant women don’t get x-rays. There’s a reason

By Linda Pentz Gunter

It may come as no surprise to learn that it was women who first raised the alarm about just how dangerous radiation exposure might be to humans, but especially to women and their children. As the late Walter Wolfgang, a co-founder of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), recalls in Carol Turner’s book, Corbyn and Trident: 

”Around the time of Britain’s first atomic tests many women in particular became concerned about the health dangers of radiation, its effect on unborn children and so on. This was much discussed in scientific journals at the time, and found a reflection in political magazines such as Tribune and New Statesman. Through opposition to testing, people became aware of the problem with nuclear weapons. Then politicos such as myself got involved, concerned about Britain’s foreign policies and international relationships. There was a coalescence between the two that led to the foundation of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.”


Dr Alice Stewart (third from left) with Edinburgh doctors and nurses. (Photo: Wellcome Trust/WikiCommons)

What is surprising is that, decades later, we still find ourselves trying to impress these truths upon the public, and even on reluctant women politicians. After all, it was back in the 1950s that these dangers first became apparent, through the pioneering work of a woman, Dr. Alice Stewart, who died 17 years ago, on June 23, 2002 at 95.

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