Hiroshima to Fukushima

by Helen Caldicott,
speech delivered in Albequerque, NM
20 March 2011
available from Alternative Radio

Helen Caldicott, an Australian-born pediatrician, is a world-renowned environmental activist. She was the founding president of Physicians for Social Responsibility, an organization which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. She is the author of Missile Envy, If You Love This Planet, and Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer.

I think what I should do as a doctor and a pediatrician is to walk you through radiation and internal emitters and what it means. It wasn’t developed in New Mexico. The first nuclear fission reaction took place, actually, at the University of Chicago, but the nuclear weapons work was all done first in Los Alamos. Robert Oppenheimer chose a school that was isolated and formulated Los Alamos Labs. I’m not going do uranium mining now, because things are so complex, I have to try and teach you about nuclear power, Fukushima, the medical effects, Chernobyl, and then I’ll go on to the labs and Sandia and Kirtland Air Force Base here in Albuquerque and all the rest.

Basically, there are five sorts of radiation. There are X-rays. Hands up, those whose have never had an X-ray. You’ve never had your teeth X-rayed? You don’t need your teeth X-rayed every year. That’s ridiculous. My ex- husband was a radiologist. They make a lot of money. If you’ve got a very sore tooth, you might need an X-ray to diagnose an abscess or whatever. Never have an unnecessary X-ray. Doctors take too many. CT scans give you a hell of a dose. My daughter, who is a doctor, persuaded me, because I’ve got some heart disease, to have a CT scan recently. And I had it, and then they found some stuff in my liver which they thought might be cancer, so she took me in the next day to have another one. And I got a total of 22 rems, which is a hell of a dose. I was really freaked out. And she said, “Mom, don’t worry. You won’t live long enough to get cancer.” So I was very reassured. That’s daughters for you.

Radiation is basically cumulative: each dose you receive adds to your risk of getting cancer. Never go through those X-ray machines at the airports. That’s absolutely medically contraindicated. In fact, I have whole body searches. And I don’t care what cavities they search, I’m not going to have an X-ray.

The biggest irradiators of the public at this time are the medical profession. Often they don’t really know what they’re doing. The New York Times has just had an excellent series of articles where people have been irradiated incorrectly. The technicians haven’t gradated the machines accurately, and have been actually giving CT scans to neonates. Babies are very, very sensitive to radiation, because as the cells divide, the genes are replicating, and so they tend to mutate. Fetuses are thousands of times more sensitive, and pregnant women are walking through those X-ray machines and their babies. One X-ray to the pregnant abdomen doubles the incidence of leukemia in that child. Similar work was done by a wonderful woman called Dr. Alice Stewart, whom the AEC tried to discredit for years and years, but she was proven to be right.

So be careful and be tough with your doctor. I know that we tend to be godlike, and we’re a bit arrogant and we don’t always communicate with you adequately. But ask why you’re having an X-ray and be tough. If you’ve got pneumonia, you need an X-ray. The risk is minimal, the benefit is great. But each dose you get adds to your risk of getting cancer. And there is no radiation that is safe, despite the fact that people on television all over the world are saying the doses are too low to have any significance. You already get background radiation from the rocks on the Earth, from the sun, from radon. And I can’t remember the figure, but I think it’s about 30% of cancer we already see is induced by background radiation.

When the Earth was very, very hot, no one could survive. As it cooled down radiologically, life forms developed, and then mutations arose from the radiation. And that’s how birds developed wings and fish developed lungs and the like. They’re called that advantageous mutations. It takes billions of years for an advantageous mutation to survive. Almost all other mutations are deleterious, inducing genetic disease, like cystic fibrosis, which is my specialty. One in 25 Caucasians carry that gene. We all carry several hundred genes for diseases in our cells and in our reproductive cells. So any more radiation increases the incidence of those diseases. But it takes up to 20 generations for an abnormal, deleterious mutation to express itself. The National Academy of Sciences produced the BEIR 7 report, “Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation,” which said no radiation is safe; every dose you get adds to your risk. We’re seeing a lot of cancers partly because the scientists at Los Alamos and in Nevada absolutely dowsed America with fallout from testing weapons at Nevada. How dare they? I’ve got the maps and the levels of radiation, and they’re really very high.

Why are we seeing an epidemic of cancer? Well, it’s partly because of that, but it’s also partly because we live in a chemical cocktail of 80,000 chemicals in everyday use, most of which have never been tested for carcinogenicity. And the chemical companies have made sure that the regulations say that we have to make sure the chemicals are dangerous. They don’t have to prove that they’re dangerous or safe before they cast them out. So we use in them our sinks and our kitchens and our bathrooms and in our carpets and in our curtains. Many plastic bottles have bisphenol A, which is carcinogenic, so never use a plastic bottle and never drink water out of one. Drink it out of the tap. That’s if you’ve got some water to drink out here.

So X-rays. They’re nonparticulate. So when the technician says, “Breathe in, hold it,” and runs out of the room and hides behind lead glass and it goes click, then you are irradiated, but you don’t become radioactive. It’s like irradiating food: it doesn’t become radioactive; it just passes through. And in that instant genes can be mutated.

The next one is gamma radiation, which is, like X- rays, nonparticulate, being given off by radioactive materials. What they’re doing at Fukushima, because all the monitors that normally monitor radiation are offline because either the tsunami damaged them and destroyed them or they were turned off, they’re running around with Geiger counters. A lot of the isotopes released from Fukushima give out gamma radiation—and I’ll give you an example of a few—but many do not. Because they’re either alpha emitters—an alpha emitter is an atom that emits two protons and two neutrons, and it’s large in mass. You can hold an alpha emitter, like uranium or plutonium, in your hand and it doesn’t penetrate the layers of dead cells in the epidermis to damage living cells. However, if you inhale plutonium into your lung, just a microgram, a millionth of a gram, it just irradiates a tiny volume of cells, because alphas do not travel far, but the dose is so high that almost all the cells in that volume are killed. But because radiation decreases with the square of the distance, on the periphery some cells survive. And the regulatory genes are mutated. Therefore, plutonium is a very potent carcinogen.

They want to set up a plutonium factory up at Los Alamos. And there is plutonium in the ravines up there, that drain into the river. And the Indians who live out there, many are exposed to plutonium. In fact, Glenn Seaborg, who discovered plutonium, said it’s the most dangerous element we know. Actually, there are more dangerous ones, like Americium, which is in all our smoke detectors. But when they injected plutonium into beagle dogs, they didn’t find a dose low enough that didn’t give all the dogs cancer, and that might be 10-9 grams, picograms.

Then there is beta radiation. It is just an electron emitted from the unstable atom. And they all do the same thing. Then there are neutrons, and they developed the neutron bomb, I suppose, up at Los Alamos. That’s the ultimate capitalist weapon. There’s very little blast, so not many buildings are destroyed, but it gives such a blast of neutrons that the brain swells in a fixed box and people develop ataxia, they develop seizures and severe headaches and die within days of acute encephalopathic syndrome. But the buildings actually become radioactive, because if you irradiate calcium and iron and all the rest, they become radioactive. They’re called activation products. So that’s radiation.

How does radiation cause cancer? In every cell of the body there’s a pair of genes—and I’m being simplistic because it’s getting quite complex now, genetics—called regulatory genes that control the rate of cell division. And if one is hit by X-ray—I got that one—or by an alpha particle missed all, it’s random. The gene itself mutates and biochemically the DNA molecule, and you don’t even know it’s been hit by radiation. It sits latently and cryptogenically for any time from 5 to 60 years. That’s the incubation time for cancer. That’s the ace that the nuclear industry had up their sleeve. Because if I sneeze on you, in two days you’re sneezing, you’ve got a cold. The measles, mumps, chicken pox, whooping cough, it’s three weeks’ incubation. But for cancer it’s long, silent, and cryptogenic. And when the cancer arises and you feel a lump in your breast, and then you think, Oh, god, and you go to your doctor and they do a biopsy and it’s cancer, it doesn’t wear a sign saying what it was caused by.

The only way you can work out if irradiated populations have a high incidence in cancer, their normal populations who are not irradiated, is to take the whole group—and that’s what America did with Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the Hibakushas—and compare on them to a nonexposed group. And you have to do autopsies on all of them, because our death certificates are very inaccurate. We get up in the middle of the night, we have woken up, we have to listen to the heart of a dead person and sign the death certificate. And because we’re tired and lazy, we might say they died of pneumonia, but actually they died of an underlying cancer.

The Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission studied the Hibakushas for years but they never treated them. And now they’re still dying of cancer. And they didn’t study them for a year, so many people died and were not included in the survey. But five years after the bomb dropped there was an epidemic of leukemia, and 15 years later solid cancers started appearing. And they’re still rising as I speak. Different cancers have different incubation times. Now we’re seeing cancers of the bone marrow and the genitourinary tract. Breast, thyroid, lung were pretty early. Little girls who were irradiated who had no breasts but nubbins of breast tissue later on had a very high incidence of breast cancer. So that’s how we got our data.

But there are literally thousands of studies showing that radiation causes cancer. So it takes a single alpha particle to hit a single gene in a single cell to kill you, okay? That’s what nobody understands who is on television today talking about Fukushima. That’s just simple radiation biology. I learned it in the first year of medical school.

There are cells that are more important than the somatic body cells, and they are the sperm and the eggs. In every sperm and egg there is half the number of genes, so when they unite, you’ve got a normal diploid number of genes. And they carry all the genes. We’re human because we have human genes, although 99.2% of our genes are the same as the chimps’, so I still think we don’t know much about genetics yet at all. Anyway, there are 2,600 genetic diseases now described. Most are recessive. So here’s a quiz. Two parents had blue eyes and they had a brown-eyed baby. Where did the brown eyes come? Y es, the milkman. You’ve got it. And because it takes 20 generations sometimes for recessive genes to get together, like cystic fibrosis, like diabetes, like phenylketonuria, like inborn errors of metabolism, we’ll never see it. But what we do know is that a man called Muller years ago irradiated Drosophila fruit flies, that reproduce very quickly over a year and you get many generations. He irradiated them once and developed genes for a crooked wing and the like. That gene was passed on generation to generation. It was obviously dominant. I saw a family at Children’s Hospital in Boston once, there were two parents. One was an achondroplastic dwarf, very short arms and legs, big heads and normal trunk. Five of the six children were achondroplastic. So it’s a roll of the dice every time, whichever genes you get.

What we’re going to see over time, as radioactive waste accumulates from nuclear power and weapons—there is a huge amount of waste at Hanford, Washington, and Savannah River. It’s almost unbelievable. As it leaks, as it’s leaking now over time, there is no container that can contain radioactive material for greater than 100 years. Plutonium has a half-life of 24,400 years, and it’s around for half a million years, some say a quarter of a million. It doesn’t really matter. We think Jesus was antiquity, and he only lived 2,000 years ago. You only need 5 pounds to make yourself a nuclear weapon, and each reactor makes 500 pounds of plutonium a year. That’s why, as we export nuclear power all over the world, because it’s the latest, we’re exporting nuclear weapons. Proliferation. That’s wicked. So that’s a basic lecture in genetics.

I’m not going to go through the whole of nuclear power. Suffice it to say that nuclear power is supported by a vast industrial infrastructure, which creates huge amounts of CO2 and CFC gas and global warming. I outline that in the first chapter of my book, Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer to Global Warming. But, don’t you know, it’s clean, green, and sustainable. When I debated with generals about nuclear war, really, they hated the Russians and the Communists, but they knew that one nuclear bomb on a city would vaporize hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people. So they were honest. But when I debate with the nuclear power people, they are notoriously dishonest. That’s what really upsets me, for if I was dishonest in medicine, I would be deregistered. I would be killing my patients. Science is science is science.

The first thing is, their number one lie, it causes global warming in its own right. All I’m going to do is go along to the nuclear power plant. I won’t talk about mining uranium. In Australia we have 40% of the world’s uranium and we’re being wicked exporting it, because we’re exporting cancer, leukemia, genetic disease, and nuclear weapons. Remember what Einstein said when he discovered E=MC2? He said, “The splitting of the atom changed everything, all reality, save man’s mode of thinking.Thus we drift towards unparalleled catastrophe.” And you see it up there with those blokes at Los Alamos, you see it at Sandia. I addressed thousands of nuclear scientists at Sandia years ago and described bombs dropping and the medical effects of nuclear war. And they lined up in queues to ask me questions and they said, “That was very good.” They said they needed to hear this. They, not me.

A nuclear power plant has typically 100 tons of uranium packed into it in the form of fuel rods, which are like curtain rods, half an inch thick and 12 feet long. They’re made of zirconium, and I’ll get on to that in a minute. So 100 tons of uranium are packed into the reactor core. And between the uranium are rods of boron, which moderates the flux of neutrons, because uranium is always giving out neutrons. And as they’re slowly lifted out, the whole mass, 100 tons, reaches critical mass. It doesn’t explode like a nuclear weapon, but it starts shooting out neutrons everywhere, breaking apart the large uranium atoms, producing 200 new elements, all of which are medically extremely dangerous. Some last seconds and some last millions of years. What happens is, you’re releasing E=MC2. Energy equals the mass of the atom times the speed of light squared. We’ve captured the energy of the stars, which is totally inappropriate for our poor little fallible brains, moral or not.

Tremendous heat is produced when you withdraw the rods, and the heat boils the water. The water turns to steam, and it’s taken to a turbine, which generates electricity. So all a nuclear power plant is designed to do is to boil water. It’s like cutting a pound of butter with a chainsaw. And, as Einstein said, “Nuclear power is a hell of a way to boil water.” I worked with many of the blokes who worked in the Manhattan Project: George Kistiakowsky and Jerry Wiesner and Philip Morrison and many. They were so guilt-ridden about Hiroshima and Nagasaki that they thought if they could harness atoms for peace, they could die in relative peace. Well, they didn’t. They died guilt-ridden. Because they knew damn well the dangers of nuclear power.

Nuclear power plants need a million gallons a minute of cooling water circulating through them to keep them cool, from the sea or from a lake or from a river. This goes back relatively radioactive, not very, but relatively. But what happens is that the algae concentrates Ci tritium or strontium-90, thousands of times and the crustaceans concentrate it thousands of times, then the little fish, then the big fish. And we stand at the apex of the food chain. You can’t taste, smell, or see any of these things, and you don’t know the food is radioactive. So the solution to pollution by dilution when it comes to radiation is fallacious, biologically speaking.

What happens is that this circulation, the electricity to run the pumps, is not provided by the nuclear reactor, it’s provided by external power. And because of the earthquake, the power was lost, not just to the reactors, those six reactors built on an earthquake fault, but to many millions of people in Japan. So the pumps stopped. However, every reactor has big diesel generators as large as a house. And they had been—often they don’t work in an extreme situation, but they got drowned by the tsunami, so they didn’t work. So all the cooling to the reactors stopped. Yes, the boron rods went down as they should and stopped the fission reaction. But these rods are terribly, terribly hot, and so they had batteries which last for 8 hours. But they ran out of batteries. So what happened is that four of the reactors—I think it’s four—got into trouble and lost their cooling water. Two started to melt down.

What does a meltdown mean? Their heat is so intrinsic that if they’re not continually cooled, the zirconium cladding reacts with water to produce hydrogen, which collected in the building above the containment vessel, and it exploded. So I think three reactors had explosions, or four. But the containment vessel was okay, except I think reactor 4 or 3 has a crack in the containment. The water is leaking out, and they won’t be able to fix it.

On the roof of the reactor are the cooling pools. Every year they remove 30 tons of fuel rods, because they’re so full of these fission products they’re inefficient. And they’re so hot that if you stand next to one fuel rod for a couple of seconds, you get such a gamma dose of radiation, you will die within days with your hair falling out, vomiting and bleeding to death. Those men going to those reactors are all going to die. They’re dead men walking. My heart goes out to them. But the people living nearby could be getting large doses, too. The fuel pools were designed not to hold much because they were going to be transferred a waste storage facility. But there are none in the world. Nuclear power has been running since, what, 1954, when Eisenhower opened the first reactor. They’re put on racks. But because they’re running out of room, they’re reracking the rods closer and closer together, which means, in fact, they could reach critical mass themselves and burn and explode.

Two of the reactors lost their cooling water, so the zirconium reacted with air and it burnt. So there have been fires. And as it burns, the fuel rods are exposed, and so they can start melting. A real meltdown happens when the reactor runs out of water—and a couple have—and the zirconium collectors and the pellets of uranium—they’re like pieces of chalk—collect in a mass at the bottom, and they melt their way through the bottom of the reactor into the earth. It’s called the melt-through-to-China syndrome, hence the name of the film that Jane Fonda was in.

So what they’re doing, they’re pouring seawater in. They can’t get into the containment vessel because it’s a fixed system. They’re pouring it over the reactor core to try and cool it. Seawater makes these reactors unusable forevermore. As my son just pointed out to me in Boston, if one of them melts down, that’s the end, and they’ll all go.” I said, “What do you mean, Will?” He said, “No one will be there to fix it. They’ll all go.” That had not occurred to me. The ramifications are so vast.

So a meltdown in a cooling pool. There’s 2 to 20 times more radiation in the cooling pools, of course, than there is in the reactor itself. These reactors are about 40 years old. I know the GE guys who designed them. They resigned in 1976 because they were so dangerous, Bridenbaugh, Hubbard, and Minor. No one took any notice. But in fact, the reactors weren’t too badly damaged in the earthquake. It was actually the tsunami that did most of the damage. But the earthquake destroyed the electricity. They’ve rehooked some electricity up, but it won’t make any difference now. The pumps, apparently, are all damaged. A meltdown in a cooling pool will release 2 to 30 times more radiation than in the core itself. When you fission uranium, it becomes one billion times more radioactive than the original uranium. There is as much long-lived radiation in the core as 1,000 Hiroshima bombs. So the stuff is going up into the air and into the stratosphere. And in the stratosphere the winds go from west to east. And what’s east of Japan? You are. Already it’s spreading. The water in Tokyo apparently has radioactive elements in it, and they’re finding radioactive iodine and other things in the spinach and the like. So it’s already happening.

Now I’m going to tell you about the various isotopes. I’m only going to choose four of 200. You’re all intelligent. Go to the Internet, Google it, look up the periodic table, and look up the radiation that each element gives out—beta, gamma, alpha, and the like—and look at their half-lives. The half-life of a radioactive element is such that radioactive iodine has a half-life of eight days. So in eight days half of the radiation has decayed. In eight more days, half of that has decayed, in eight more days half of that. So it’s six weeks before it becomes relatively benign. What gland does iodine go to? The thyroid. We use it in medicine, actually, to diagnose cancer, radioactive iodine. And if you’ve got cancer and it’s spread, we give you a high dose of radioactive iodine—it’s called a drink—and we hope it migrates to all the metastases of the thyroid so it kills them with high doses of gamma radiation. The patient is radioactive for six weeks afterwards. We used to discharge them from hospital and just send them home, and they’re excreting in their urine, their feces I-131. But now they’re being a little more careful. I-131 I just talked about. Half-life eight days, six weeks it’s around for.

The next one is strontium-90. You all know about that because America and Russia and China dowsed the whole of the northern hemisphere with strontium 90 and the like in the 1950s and 1960s. The two AMSs at the equator don’t tend to mix, so we got irradiated by the British and the French. I led the movement against the French nuclear tests in the Pacific and Australia. And the Australians don’t like the French anyway: they think they’re arrogant, and they have no right to come down and damage our hemisphere, and our water was radioactive. So people stopped buying French perfume, French wine, the postal workers wouldn’t deliver French mail. It was a massive uprising. Seventy-five percent of people rose up spontaneously and said, “Those bloody French.” We took them to the World Court, the International Court of Justice, and they were forced to do tests underground. I’m getting warmed up.

Strontium 90 is a beta and a gamma. It has a half-life of 28 years, it’s around for 600 years. It’s a calcium analog, so it goes—where does it go? It goes to bone. It’s the femur. And it deposits just a little bit, irradiating osteoblasts, which are the bone-forming cells. And one of them can be mutated and used later. The patient develops a really sore lump on their leg. And it’s diagnosed, they’ve got osteogenic sarcoma. It spreads really rapidly to the lung and the like. Teddy Kennedy’s son Edward had one, lost his leg. Or it can cause leukemia, because the white blood cells are formed in the bone marrow, and if they’re irradiated—“leukemia” means white blood—the blood becomes full of immature white blood cells and there is no room for the platelets. So the patient dies either of massive hemorrhage or infection, like AIDS patients die.

Caesium-137 is a potassium analog. Potassium is ubiquitous, in every cell of the body. Its half-life is 30 years, it’s around for 600 years. It’s a beta and a gamma. It causes brain cancers and cancers in many organs. It’s concentrating in food. I want you to look at this map. And this, of course, is Europe and Russia. And here’s Chernobyl, pertinent today. The very dark red areas are areas of exclusion zones, and no one can live there because it’s so radioactive. The wind changed 360 degrees in the first 24 hours after Chernobyl melted. Gorbachev didn’t tell the world until 10 days later. They all obfuscate. The radiation was first picked up in Sweden by some monitors. They got a hell of a dose—Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, right across Europe. This is only caesium-137, but it’s indicative or symptomatic of many other isotopes, about 100 or more, that got out of the reactor, including one-third of the plutonium. So one-third of 500 pounds is what? Nearly 200 pounds. Austria, Italy, Greece. Turkey got a hell of a dose.

Do you get the picture? That’s what’s happening now in Japan. Suddenly I realized, five nights ago, before I came here, I thought, Oh, my God. If those reactors really melt down, that’s sort of the end of the northern hemisphere. In Australia we haven’t got any radioactive stuff, just a little bit from French and British tests. We only sell uranium. We don’t like having nuclear power because it’s too dangerous for us. We just sell it so everyone else can have the benefits. We’re wicked. I think it’s time to start using proper English. It’s time to stop being polite and using euphemisms.

The last but not least that I will describe—and then I’m going to get on to weapons—is plutonium. I’ve told you a little bit about that. Plutonium-239 is made when uranium-238, which is ubiquitous in the reactor, captures a neutron. This is great gear, because that’s what you make bombs from. At the height of its popularity America made 77,000 hydrogen bombs. That’s these bloody labs up here in Sandia and Los Alamos. And do I resent them. How dare they set up the world to be extinguished overnight? And it still holds true, and I’ll tell you why in a minute.

Plutonium has a half-life of 24,400 years. It’s an alpha emitter only. It has to get inside your body. It’s not absorbed too well from the gut, except in neonates, whose gut is immature. And it’s absorbed in chlorinated water better than in ordinary water. But it gets into the lung. It’s an iron analog. Iron is ubiquitous in hemoglobin. So it gets into the lung, and it may cause lung cancer—it does—but macrophage as white blood cells come and pick it up and take it to the mediastinal lymph glands, where it can cause leukemia or lymphomas. It’s stored in the liver, because liver stores iron, where it can cause liver cancer. It goes to the bone, because that’s where the hemoglobin is made, where it can cause bone cancer or leukemia. It crosses the placenta into the developing fetus, where it can kill a cell that’s going to form the right side of the brain or the left arm. And that’s called teratogenesis—damage of a genetically normal fetus. The placenta lets virtually nothing through, but it lets plutonium through because it thinks it’s iron.

It has a predilection for testicles. And every male in the northern hemisphere has a tiny load of plutonium in his testicles. It tends to deposit next to the seminiferous tubules, which are made of the spermatogonia, the precursors of sperm, where it irradiates the cells. And as the genetic mutations are induced, thus they pass on generation to generation. Meanwhile, if the man is cremated, which is contraindicated because it adds to global warming—I’m going to be buried in a cardboard coffin to feed the worms—the plutonium goes up the chimney, so another man can breathe it in. You can see there will be an exponential increase in genetic mutations. And we’re not the only ones who have sperm. All animals have sperm. And all plants have genes and can get cancer and deformities. So that’s plutonium. I said 500 pounds are made every year in the reactor.

Now the bombs. We led the movement, the Physicians for Social Responsibility. And millions of people in America got really alarmed about the medical effects of nuclear war because we taught them what it was.

I’ll just describe. Your city is targeted with at least—well, I would say probably 10 hydrogen bombs. The Russian bombs are really big. Los Alamos is targeted with a lot. New York is targeted with 10 H-bombs—I wrote an article with Bob McNamara about that—Washington probably with many more. You see, there is such a redundancy of nuclear weapons, and they use junior officers to work out the targeting strategy, never a senior officer. It was like pin the tail on the donkey—“Well, we’ll drop it on here.” They target factories, they target—in fact, in my book, The New Nuclear Danger, one general said, “We target whatever the enemy holds most dear.” And he said, “If indeed the enemy holds most dear grandmothers, that’s what we target.” That is obscene. And I’m a grandmother. That’s how they think. They’re killers.

American society is totally geared to killing. You spend a trillion dollars a year on weapons and killing and death. Not life. You don’t even have a free medical care system, and we do in Australia. My friend broke her kneecap, shattered into eight pieces. She went to hospital, best orthopedic surgeon in Sydney, anesthetic, hospital for 10 days. It cost her $700. You are crazy not to have free medical care. And it’s socialism. But guess what? Jesus was a socialist. Jesus said, “It’s more difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.” You have been brainwashed and you’ve been socially engineered. You’ve got to not reduce the spending of the Pentagon but stop it. No one is going to attack you. Except the Russians might by accident.

Now, let me tell you, there are about 23,000 hydrogen bombs in the world and atomic. Of that, Russia and America have 97%. So who is the real rogue state? Who is the axis of evil? Russia and America. And it’s all about testosterone. I called my book years ago Missile Envy, à la Freud, and the generals hated it, but they all had a copy on their bookshelves because they knew it to be true. Anyway, we led the freeze movement, and Gorbachev, bless his heart, allowed the Berlin wall to fall. It had nothing to do with Ronald Reagan, whom I met with for an hour and a quarter in the White House and held his hand and established a doctor-patient relationship with him because he got quite anxious. He knew nothing. He said, “People who work for the nuclear weapons freeze are either KGB dupes or Soviet agents.” I said, “But that’s from last month’s Reader’s Digest.” It was verbatim. And his daughter Patti told me that’s the only thing he ever really read. He was a nice old man. He would have been a good chicken farmer. I estimated clinically his IQ to be about 100, because you have to estimate an IQ of the patient to make sure they put their suppository in at 7:00 a.m. and that they take their tablet. You have to work out how intelligent they are. And I came out saying I thought he had impending Alzheimer’s, and he did. So that’s Reagan. He spent more money than all past presidents combined on weapons. And that’s all in national defense.

The Coast Guard can protect you, and you’ve got friendly countries to the north and south. It’s such rhubarb that you’re sold. It’s ridiculous nonsense. Nonsense. And it’s all patriotism. “We’re the greatest country on earth.” No. What about Australia? We’ve got kangaroos, we’ve got koalas. What about that? We’ve got the most poisonous snakes in the world and the most poisonous spiders. And we’re very racist towards the aborigines. But we’re okay. We’re sort of like you guys.

When George the First got in, he was pretty good. He eliminated a lot of nuclear weapons unilaterally to support Gorbachev. And then we got William Jefferson Clinton. He had no spine and no guts. He had no courage to take on the Pentagon. And we handed him nuclear abolition on a silver platter. Everyone in the world wanted it. He had a partner in the Kremlin called Yeltsin who was such a hardened alcoholic, he probably had Korsakoff’s syndrome and Wernicke’s encephalopathy, which you get from drinking too much alcohol. Clinton could have got on Air Force One with a document flown to Yeltsin and said, “Sign here, Boris. We’re going to eliminate nuclear weapons in five years.” He did not. They are all still on hair-trigger alert. We could be blown up tonight, and I’ll tell you how in a minute. That’s his legacy.

Do I resent him for that? I’ve spent my life trying to get rid of these bloody things, and I’ve given up medicine, which is my true love. It’s like being a nun. My vocation is medicine. Yes, I’m practicing global preventive medicine, but it’s boring, and I have to give the same speech again and again. “Come on, children, 1+1=2.”

The other thing is that there is a precedent for abolition. Reagan and Gorbachev met in Reykjavik, Iceland, in 1987. This is a fascinating story. There is a little house—and I was taken to it when I went to Iceland—and they evacuated the area a mile radius around and they had men with machine guns all around. So here’s Reagan and here’s Gorbachev and here’s Shultz in the next room with Shevardnaze, the foreign minister. Reagan came prepared with nothing. The Russians came with a plan to abolish nuclear weapons. Richard Perle, called the Prince of Darkness by the Pentagon, there was no room for him. He was up in the bathroom sitting on the lavatory with a board on the bath writing numbers on bits of lavatory paper because he had no paper. They came totally unprepared. So Gorbachev would suggest something, then Schultz would find out, and he would run up and talk to Perle. Meanwhile, in the basement were the KGB. They were imbibing their vodka, and of them chucked a match into the wastepaper basket. And it caught flames and nearly burnt the house down with Reagan and Gorbachev.

Reagan and Gorbachev agreed to abolish nuclear weapons, but they got stuck on Star Wars. You know, they had this yellow thing over America, boink, boink, and the missiles were diverted. It would never work. It was Reagan’s fantasy and Teller’s idea. Gorbachev was obstinate, because he knew it wouldn’t work, too. So he should have said to Reagan, “Okay, have your Star Wars. And we’ll do it.” So we missed the opportunity. Schultz was devastated. He came out and he said, “We did this, and we did this, and we did this.” And then he said, “And we did this.” It turned Schultz into a statesman. Two mere mortals over a weekend in a little house almost agreed to abolish nuclear weapons between the major superpowers.

America’s got about 2,500 nuclear weapons on hair- trigger alert. So does Russia. We don’t really know the figures. But they’re hydrogen bombs. I’m going to describe one bomb dropping on Albuquerque. Sometimes on NPR, you hear, “Wooooo. This is a test of the emergency broadcasting system.” They would say, “This is not a test. Get to the nearest fallout shelter. You’ve got 5 minutes.” Because once the weapons are launched, they take 30 minutes to go from launch to land. The other country’s satellite picks the attack up, they launch their weapons, and it’s over in one hour. The bomb will land on you at 20 times the speed of sound, so you won’t hear anything. It will explode with the heat inside the center of the sun like is captured in a nuclear power plant. It will dig a hole three-quarters of a mile wide and 800 feet deep, turning you and the buildings and the earth below to radioactive fallout in the mushroom cloud.

Five miles from the epicenter everyone will be turned into gas and vaporized. In Hiroshima a little boy was reaching up to catch a red dragonfly in his hand against the blue of the sky. There was a blinding flash and he disappeared and left his shadow on the concrete pavement. Never before had we been able to leave shadows of human beings. His shadow is in the Hiroshima Museum.

Twenty miles out everyone will be dead or lethally injured. People will be turned into missiles, sucked out of buildings at 100 miles an hour, incurring the most dreadful fractures, head injuries, and the like. There will be third- degree burns. People will be lying in what is left of the streets thinking, Why didn’t I stop this? They’ll all die.

And then a huge firestorm will spontaneously ignite of 3,000 square miles, burning absolutely everything—all buildings, even in the depth of the winter, covered in snow. The Pentagon never takes into account fires from nuclear war. And I just dropped one bomb. And then a huge cloud of toxic black smoke from all the bombs dropped will rise into the stratosphere and surround it with a cloud so thick it will block out the sun for years, causing nuclear winter, an ice age, and the end of life on earth.

If you watch the President as he’s walking, just behind him is an officer with a big suitcase, and that’s called the “football.” In the “football” are the codes for the president to start a nuclear war. What happens is the satellites pick up the attack, they radio it back to, I think, the Air Force base here, they then radio to the White House. The President gets told, and he’s got 3 minutes to decide whether or not to blow up the planet. Actually, the choices he has are, is it countervalue: do you bomb only the cities? Or is it counterforce: do you bottom the missile silos? Or do you do both?

In 1995 America launched a weather satellite from Norway, and the Russians saw it and thought, Oh, my God. So the first time ever, in the history of the nuclear age, Yeltsin opened his football. He had officers standing over his shoulder saying, “Press that button, Mr. President.” Thirty seconds before the end of that 3 minutes elapsed, the missile veered off course, and they knew it wasn’t an attack. That’s why you and I are still here. Those accidents occur not infrequently.

The weapons are all computerized. There are two men in each missile silo. In the Dakotas, you look down when you fly over them, and Colorado you can see them. Eighteen to 21 years old. “Shall I press the button, sir?” Each armed with a pistol, one to shoot the other if one shows signs of deviant behavior. What if the deviant one shoots the other one? The locks to turn the keys are 12 feet apart, but they worked out if you tie a string to one key, one man can turn both locks and start the annihilation. I’ve talked to some of their girlfriends. Some of them take drugs before they go on duty. We are fallible. What if President Obama develops a cerebral tumor and does some crazy things before the diagnosis is made? I’ve had patients, normal businessmen, who overnight had developed acute psychosis. I won’t go into it, but it’s very scary. The Chinese are hacking as I speak, sometimes into the early warning system of the Pentagon. They can hack into anything, these young kids. They’re very smart. And it’s all computerized.

I don’t know how long we’re going to go on. So is it a whimper or a bang? Do we have epidemics of leukemia, cancer, and genetic disease for the rest of time from radioactive waste infiltrating into the water and the food, or do we do it with a bang? And that’s these bloody labs up there.

And am I angry. It’s appropriate to be angry with people who are going to kill us all. They’re killers. And I’m pissed off, because I’m 73, I’ve devoted my life to this. We nearly got rid of the nuclear weapons. And then we got Clinton. How dare he? And I’m going to die knowing I didn’t succeed. And I think in medicine, us doctors, we like to cure our patients. And we’ve got these stupid politicians, all in Congress, who know nothing. They know no science, they’re scientifically illiterate. They’re retards. Some of them are sociopaths with no conscience, like Domenici. And Obama, I’m sorry, I’ve totally lost respect for him. I was hoping and hoping and hoping. He’s so intelligent. Now he is going ahead with nuclear power…

So what are we going to do? Do you know what a revolution is? Do you know what Egypt just did? Do you know what putting your bodies on the line means? Martin Luther King said, “If you haven’t got something worth dying for, you’re not really living.” What did Jesus do? Did he die for the principles he espoused, and did those principles live on 2,000 years? I’ve had eight death threats. I’ve run off the stage when people have threatened. What’s my life compared to evolution? I once said to Carl Sagan, “Are we the only life in the universe?” And he said, “Yes, I think we are.” What a responsibility we’ve got. We can’t be passive anymore. Don’t sit in front of those stupid computers and doing Facebook. They will change nothing. Take over the Congress. You own it. It’s your building, they are your representatives. And they’re out to lunch.

I thought about the farmers. There was a bill before Congress they didn’t like. They took hundreds of cows, pigs, and sheep, put them all over the steps of Congress and they made a filthy mess. They got their bill through. What about Babies Against the Pentagon? Releasing hundreds of naked toddlers into the Senate chamber as they are debating nuclear weapons and nuclear power. And they can clean up the mess, too, what’s more. Because they’re the symbols. But really it’s gone beyond anything we could possibly imagine. And I haven’t even talked about global warming and those bloody coal companies and the oil companies.

Rise up. It’s this country that has to save the earth. You have no right not to do anything.

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