Day 16 review:

The effects and threats of radiation was the key topic investigated in today’s Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission public session.

Topic 11 covered a range of views, with a particular focus on the risks and possible effects posed by radiation on human health and the environment.

The first witness was international expert on health risks of radiation, Dr Helen Caldicott. With a medical degree from the University of Adelaide Medical School, Dr Caldicott has since worked in several countries, and in 1978 was the founding president of Physicians for Social Responsibility, which was awarded the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize. In 1978 she also founded Womens’ Action for Nuclear Disarmament. In 2002, Dr Caldicott founded the Nuclear Policy Research Institute (NPRI). Dr Caldicott is currently the President of The Helen Caldicott Foundation which arranges forums through which to provide information to the public on the risks of nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. Dr Caldicott is a pediatrician and a fellow of the Royal Australian College of Physicians, a Diplomate of the American Board of Pediatrics and a member of the American Thoracic Society. Her key themes discussed were:

  • The nature and extent of the biological effects of radiation
  • Sources of radiation in the nuclear fuel cycle and the nature of the risks they present to human health

The second witness today was Dr Carl- Magnus Larsson, from the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA).

ARPANSA is the Commonwealth Government’s primary authority on radiation protection and nuclear safety. Dr Larsson commenced as Chief Executive Officer of ARPANSA in 2010. Prior to that Dr Larsson worked in senior positions at the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority. He has coordinated multinational European Commission-supported research projects (FASSET and ERICA. both on environmental assessment and protection) and has been a member of the OECD-NEA Radioactive Waste Management Committee (RWMC) and the chair of the RWMC-Regulators’ Forum. He is the Australian Representative to the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) and was the Chair of the Committee between 2012 and 2015. He discussed:

  • The effects of radiation on both people and the environment
  • Sources of radiation in the nuclear fuel cycle and the potential impact of those sources on both people and the environment
  • Standards and strategies for protection against the harmful effects of radiation

The afternoon session involved hearing evidence via video link from Berlin, from Professor Geraldine Thomas, a Professor of Molecular Pathology at Imperial College London. Professor Thomas established the Chernobyl Tissue Bank which provides infrastructural support for thyroid cancer diagnosis and research into the molecular mechanisms that underpin the increase in thyroid cancer seen after the Chernobyl accident. She has published extensively on the molecular pathology of thyroid cancer and is author of a number of reviews of the health effects of radiation exposure following nuclear accidents. She was invited to speak at the Expert Meeting on the Health Effects of Radiation held in Fukushima in September 2011,and was invited by the UK Chief Scientist’s Office to jo in the UK-Japan dialogue on nuclear energy in 2012. Her key topics included:

The nature of the exposure to radiation that could result from a nuclear accident

  • Key findings made by the Chernobyl Tissue Bank’s research and their implications
  • Communication of those findings to the public

Video and transcripts of each session will be uploaded into the Public Sessions archive.

The next Public Session is on Friday, October 30 and will cover Topic 4 – Low carbon energy generation options. Click here for topic and witness list.