The Question of “trust”
an extract from TORCH-2016 by Dr. Ian Fairlie, commissioned by Global 2000 and Friends of the Earth Austria, published 7th March 2016.
In 2005 the IAEA/WHO (2005) stated:
“What the Chernobyl disaster has clearly demonstrated is the central role of information and how it is communicated in the aftermath of radiation or toxicological incidents. Nuclear activities in Western countries have also tended to be shrouded in secrecy. The Chernobyl experience has raised the awareness among disaster planners and health authorities that the dissemination of timely and accurate information by trusted leaders is of the greatest importance.”
While this statement is undoubtedly correct, it raises the vexed question of public trust in governments and international agencies which for many people does not exist after Chernobyl and Fukushima.
To re-establish that trust will be difficult. At a minimum, it will require the following to happen:
First, for concerned governments to make clear to their citizens that they will consider safer energy options that do not have the potential for another Chernobyl or Fukushima.
Second, for a dialogue to be created between agencies such as IARC, IAEA, WHO and national governments on the one hand and various NGOs/health charities on the other to enable exchanges of views on radiation risks and energy policies. Unfortunately, no such dialogue exists at present.
Fourth, UN agencies in this area, IARC,WHO, UNSCEAR, IAEA should be required to have independent scientists from NGOs and health charities as members of their main Committees. This does not occur at present. Also these agencies should be required to consult on their draft reports, including the convening of meetings with environment NGOs and independent health charities. This also does not occur at present.
In addition to providing timely and accurate information, government health authorities and disaster planners need to improve their preparedness for future accidents by means of the following:-
- providing stable iodine to all citizens within at least 50 km of all nuclear reactors
- pre-stocking emergency levels of clean water supplies, long-life milk and dried food supplies
- distributing information leaflets to the public explaining what to do in the event of an emergency and explaining why precautionary measures are necessary
- detailed planning of possible evacuations
- constructing and staffing permanent emergency evacuation centres
- carrying out emergency evacuation drills
- planning subsequent support of evacuated populations
- planning how to help those who choose to remain in contaminated areas
- increasing the mental health training of primary physicians and nurses
- moving the site of care to primary care settings, and
- informing citizens that these measures have been taken
It may be argued that these measures are unnecessary and/or too expensive. However TORCH 2016 shows that they are indeed necessary. Governments which choose to promote potentially dangerous energy policies should also fund the necessary precautions in case of accidents.