WAND webinar


Neisen Laukon will join Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s (NAPF) Rick Wayman during a WAND (Women’s Action for New Directions) webinar scheduled for August 6th. Laukon, a Rongelapese woman who resides in Springdale, Arkansas, will give a first-hand account of the impact of nuclear testing. Laukon also spoke during Nuclear Remembrance Day 2014: Reflect. Honor. Educate. hosted by MEI on Feb. 28th.

The title of the Webinar is: “The Nuclear Zero Lawsuits: Why the Tiny Marshall Islands Took On the Nuclear Nine”

Laukon lived on Rongelap as a child when the United States used the Marshall Islands as their Proving Grounds to test atomic and nuclear weapons. The largest detonation, Castle Bravo, which was tested on March 1, 1954, was a 15 megaton blast–the largest weapon ever detonated by the United States–that sent irradiated coral dust throughout the Marshall Islands. Though nearly every atoll was directly affected by Bravo (and by other tests such as Castle Yankee and Castle Union, among others), the inhabited atoll of Rongelap bore the brunt of the worst fallout.

After having already suffered radiation burns and illness, the Rongelapese were removed from their atoll by the U.S. military. They received healthcare, but also became the unknowing subjects of Project 4.1, a secret study to measure the effects of radiation on humans. Laukon was part of the control group. She was also one of the Rongelapese who were returned to their atoll in 1957 by the U.S. military. Laukon describes life on Rongelap where the residents suffered constant illnesses.

Wayman is the Program Director for NAPF, the organization that serves as the primary consultant to the RMI regarding the Nuclear Lawsuits. Information about the lawsuits may be found at the Nuclear Zero website.

Radiation causes genomic instability

Radiation causes genomic instability

Our paper is available on the web as a free download, so you can see what we wrote and follow up the 80 or so references we used to construct the case.

Most of the evidence is from effects reported in countries contaminated by the Chernobyl accident, not only in Belarus and Ukraine but in wider Europe where doses were less than 1mSv. Other evidence we referred to was from the offspring of the nuclear test veterans.

In a study I published in 2014 of the offspring of members of the British Nuclear Test Veterans Association (BNTVA) we saw a 9-fold excess of congenital disease in the children but also, and unexpectedly, an eight-fold excess in the grandchildren. This raises a new and frightening spectre not anticipated by Herman Muller.

In the last 15 years it has become clear that radiation causes genomic instability: experiments in the laboratory and animal studies show that radiation exposure throws some kind of genetic switch which causes a non-specific increase in general mutation rates.

Up until these genomic instability discoveries it was thought that genetic processes followed the laws of Gregor Mendel: there were specific dominant and recessive gene mutations that were passed down the generation and became diluted through a binomial process as offspring married away.

But radiation scientists and cancer researchers could not square the background mutation rate with the increased risks of cancer with age: the numbers didn’t fit. The discovery of the genomic instability process was the answer to the puzzle: it introduces enough random mutations to explain the observations.

It is this that supplies the horrifying explanation for the continuing high risk of birth defects in Fallujah and other areas where the exposures occurred ten to twenty years ago. Similar several generation effects have been seen in animals from Chernobyl.

Neonatal mortality in the nuclear bomb era

So where does that leave us? What can we do with this? What can we conclude? How can this change anything? Let’s start by looking at the effects of the biggest single injection of these radioactive contaminants, the atmospheric weapons tests of the period 1952 to 1963.

If these caused increases in birth defects and genetic damage we should see something in the data. We do. The results are chilling. If babies are damaged they die at or shortly before birth. This will show up in the vital statistics data of any country which collects and publishes it.

Radiation causes genomic instability

The expected backgound is shown as a thin blue line. Also superimposed is the concentration of Strontium-90 in milk (in red) and its concentration in the bones of dead infants (in blue). The graph shows first day neonatal mortality in the USA; it is taken from a paper by Canadian paediatrician Robin Whyte (woman) in theBritish Medical Journal in 1992. This paper shows the same effect in neonatal (1 month) mortality and stillbirths in the USA and also the United Kingdom. The doses from the Strontium-90 were less than 0.5mSv.

This is in line with what we found in our paper from Chernobyl and the other examples of human exposures. The issue was first raised by the late Prof Ernest Sternglass, one of the first of the radiation warrior-scientists and a friend of mine. The cover-ups and denials of these effects are part of the biggest public health scandal in human history.

It continues and has come to a venue near you: our study of Hinkley Point showed significant increased infant mortality downwind of the plant at Burnham on Sea as I wrote in The Ecologist.