To the Editor of the International Herald Tribune
(I refer to IHT for Wednesday, October 24, 2001, page 4, bottom righthand
column, Briefly, For the Record)
A Reuters news dispatch cites "scientists attending a cancer conference in
Lisbon" who reminded us yesterday of "nearly 2000 cases of thyroid cancer"
attributed to the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident.
It is unfortunate that space did not permit you to add:
1. that thyroid cancer is relatively benign; if discovered and treated early,
mortality is low. After the Chernobyl accident, almost all patients were
successfully treated; about ten have died.
2. that there would have been many fewer thyroid cancers (perhaps none) if the
local Soviet authorities had:
- immediately broadcast the news with instructions to stay indoors with
windows and doors closed (this was not done until 36 hours had passed);
- immediately announced a ban on the consumption of fresh milk and locally
produced fresh fruits and vegetables (after 7 days);
- immediately distributed stable iodine, as sodium or potassium iodide
capsules, with instructions to swallow it immediately: this would have
saturated the thyroid gland with stable iodine to prevent uptake of
radioactive iodine. (The American offer to supply stable iodine was refused.
Chernobyl was a terrible accident and it should not be forgotten. However, it
is counterproductive to recall it again and again, to shake it like a
Hallowe'en spectre, and so to innoculate the public against nuclear energy,
for nuclear energy is far cleaner for the environment than energy obtained
from burning coal, oil and gas; much safer for the public and especially for
the workers in the energy industry; and indeed cheaper.
A faithful reader
Berol Robinson Telephone: (from France) 01 46 26 02 05
1, rue du General Gouraud (from elsewhere) + 331 46 26 02 05
F-92190 MEUDON, France eMail: berol[at]ecolo.org
(The writer is an American physicist - PhD Hopkins '53 - and an
environmentalist. Until retiring he was a science officer at the Paris
headquarters of UNESCO. He is a member of the French not-for-profit
international "Association des Ecologistes Pour le Nucleaire," and
correspondent for the United States. Visit the website at <www.ecolo.org>)