Two Billion At Risk: The Threat of Limited Nuclear War

by Robert Dodge and Ira Helfand

b2ap3_thumbnail_Screen-Shot-2013-12-12-at-12.24.00-AM.pngAs physicians we spend our professional lives applying scientific facts to the health and well being of our patients. When it comes to public health threats like TB, polio, cholera, AIDS and others where there is no cure, our aim is to prevent what we cannot cure. It is our professional, ethical and moral obligation to educate and speak out on these issues.

That said, the greatest imminent existential threat to human survival is potential of global nuclear war. We have long known that the consequences of large scale nuclear war could effectively end human existence on the planet. Yet there are more than 17,000 nuclear warheads in the world today with over 95% controlled by the U.S. and Russia. The international community is intent on preventing Iran from developing even a single nuclear weapon. And while appropriate to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, there is precious little effort being spent on the much larger and more critical problem of these arsenals.

Despite the Cold War mentality of the U.S. and Russia with their combined arsenals and a reliance on shear luck that a nuclear war is not started by accident, intent or cyber attack, we now know that the planet is threatened by a limited regional nuclear war which is a much more real possibility.

A report released Tuesday by the Nobel Laureate International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and its US counterpart Physicians for Social Responsibility documents in fact the humanitarian consequences of such a limited nuclear war. Positing a conflict in South Asia between India and Pakistan, involving just 100 Hiroshima sized bombs— less than 0.5% of the world’s nuclear arsenal— would put two billion people’s health and wellbeing at risk. The local effects would be devastating. More than 20 million people would be dead in a week from the explosions, firestorms and immediate radiation effects. But the global consequences would be far worse.

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'Trust Us': World's Most Perilous Nuclear Operation Set To Begin

With effort to remove fuel rods from Fukushima's Reactor 4 expected any day, few trust TEPCO's assurances

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Nuclear fuel rods are seen in the spent fuel pool inside the No.4 reactor building at Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)'s tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture. (Credit: REUTERS/Tomohiro Ohsumi)

Published on CommonDreams.org - Jon Queally, staff writer

"No one here trusts Tokyo Electric."

That's how Reuters, quoting former local resident Ichiro Kazawa, concludes their latest reporting on the pending and enormously dangerous operation scheduled to begin inside the crippled Reactor 4 building at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

As Common Dreams has previously reported, the operation to remove the fuel rods from Reactor 4 has nuclear experts sounding every alarm bell they can find in order to draw attention to the potentially devastating results if something goes wrong with the effort.

And as Kazawa's comments make clear, very few find trust in the promises coming from the plant's owner, the Tokyo Electric Company (or TEPCO).

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Fuel removal of Reactor4 pool to start next week – No quake should occur for 13 months


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We're trying our best to obtain the true facts around the Fukushima disaster and the next steps about the removal of the fuel rods from the elevated pool in Reactor4. This article is relayed from the Fukushima Diary, one source of news we trust on that matter. The article source is here and the translation is as good as it gets, considered that the brave activist is from Japan.

Tepco is going to start removing the fuel assemblies from reactor4 pool next week. They will take 13 months to remove over 1500 fuel assemblies one after one, which is over 5,000 times much as Hiroshima bomb (based on Cs-137). They built 6 teams specially trained for this task. One team consists of 6 members. 1 member is from Tepco, but 5 members are from some other company, which Tepco conceals the name of and the reason of the concealment is also concealed.

The removed fuel is to be carried to the common usage pool. It’s not clear what to do with the fuel assemblies after transferring to the common pool. Reactor4 spent fuel pool is covered with the crane building, so we cannot see the crane picking up the assemblies from live camera.

What makes it more dangerous than the daily fuel removal is the fact that the pool is full of debris. They vacuum the small pieces of the debris over the assemblies but still it’s likely that the crane accidentally picks up a piece of debris when it grabs an assembly. In that case, it’s possible that the assembly is dropped.

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