More lies and conspiracy theories from Geoff Russell.
Russell claims in New Matilda in March 2016 that the “livestock industry is a major source of funding” for Friends of the Earth (FoE) “so it isn’t surprising that they give Australia’s greatest source of climate warming (the meat industry) a free ride …”
FoE doesn’t get any funding from the livestock industry or anyone or any organisation connected to the livestock industry. And the claim that FoE gives the meat industry a free ride is an unhinged, untrue conspiracy theory.
Liars and deranged conspiracy theorists will always be with us. The blame rests with those who give them a platform – in this case New Matilda.
Lies, dangerous lies and WMD
Some of Russell’s misinformation is harmless, e.g. his incessant, dishonest attacks on environmentalists. But some of his misinformation is dangerous, no more so than his attempts to deny and trivialise the obvious connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons proliferation.
Here’s a link to a detailed article which debunks misinformation from Russell and others on the nuclear power/weapons problem:
Here are a few snippets from that article:
Nuclear advocate Geoff Russell states that we have been 100% successful at preventing further use of nuclear weapons since World War II and that a “rational person would conclude that preventing nuclear wars and nuclear weapons proliferation is actually pretty easy, otherwise we wouldn’t have been so good at it.” He further notes that “ladders are more dangerous than nuclear electricity plants, and cars are more dangerous than ladders.”
So perhaps ladders and cars should be classified as Weapons of Mass Destruction? Nuclear weapons are unique in their destructive potential − even more destructive than ladders. As former US Defense Secretary Robert MacNamara said: “In conventional war, mistakes cost lives, sometimes thousands of lives. However, if mistakes were to affect decisions relating to the use of nuclear forces, there would be no learning curve. They would result in the destruction of nations.”
Russell states: “The proliferation argument isn’t actually an argument at all. It’s just a trigger word, brilliantly branded to evoke fear and trump rational discussion.” One of the rabidly anti-nuclear organisations evoking fear and trumping rational discussion is the US State Department, which noted in a 2008 report that the “rise in nuclear power worldwide … inevitably increases the risks of proliferation”. And the anti-nuclear ideologues at the US National Intelligence Council argued in a 2008 report that the “spread of nuclear technologies and expertise is generating concerns about the potential emergence of new nuclear weapon states and the acquisition of nuclear materials by terrorist groups.”
Russell argues: “Over 90 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions come from countries which already have nuclear reactors. So these are the countries where the most reactors are needed. How is having more reactors, particularly electricity reactors, going to make any of these countries more likely to build nuclear weapons? It isn’t.”
The premise is correct − countries operating reactors account for a large majority of greenhouse emissions. But even by the most expansive estimate, less than one-third of all countries have some sort of weapons capability (they possess weapons, are allied to a weapons state, or they operate power and/or research reactors). So the conclusion − that nuclear power expansion would not lead to a large increase in the number of countries with access to nuclear resources and expertise − is nonsense.
There is another thread to the argument. It is true that the expansion of nuclear power in countries which already operate reactors is of little of no proliferation significance. It is of still less significance in countries with both nuclear power and weapons. Incremental growth of nuclear power in the US, for example, is of no proliferation significance. That said, US civil nuclear policies can (and do) have profound proliferation significance. The US-led push to allow nuclear trade with India has dealt a cruel blow to the global non-proliferation and disarmament architecture and to the NPT in particular. And the US government’s willingness to conclude bilateral nuclear trade agreements without prohibitions on the development of enrichment and reprocessing is problematic (and conversely, the agreement with the United Arab Emirates, which does prohibit enrichment and reprocessing in the UAE, is helpful).
What nuclear conspiracy theories?
Jim Green, Climate Spectator, 23/4/2013
Conspiracy theories conjured up by nuclear advocates are mostly harmless fun. But not when they involve trivialising the suffering of victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Political demagogue Lyndon LaRouche is the most colourful of the conspiracy theorists. Here’s his take on the anti-nuclear movement: “This utterly depraved, dionysian cult-formation found its echoed, more violent expression in late 1980s Germany, where the anti-nuclear, fascist rioting reached near to the level of outright civil war …”
Australia’s Leslie Kemeny (think Lord Monckton) agrees: “Radical green activism and global terrorism can form dangerous, even deadly, alliances. The ‘coercive utopianism’ of radical greens, their avid desire for media publicity and their hidden socio-political agendas can produce societal outcomes that are sometimes violent and ugly.”
Kemeny believes the anti-nuclear movement is “supported by immense funds from affluent right-wing interests” and is also tied to the “political left”. Go figure. With such a grab-bag of extreme − and extremely contradictory − views, Kemeny might be considered a good candidate for Bob Katter’s political party … but he’s already joined Fred Nile’s.
A recent convert to nuclear conspiracy theories is Adelaide-based nuclear advocate Geoff Russell. Russell has no time for the euphemisms of ‘dionysian cult-formation’ or ‘coercive utopianism’. He gets straight to the point: nuclear critics are responsible for all of the death and suffering resulting from the Fukushima nuclear disaster and much else besides. Ouch.
How does he arrive at those conclusions? One part of the intellectual contortion concerns the role of environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth. To the limited extent that environment groups influence energy policy around the world, the result is a greater role for renewables, less nuclear power and less fossil fuel usage. But for Russell, being anti-nuclear means an implicit endorsement and acceptance of fossil fuels and responsibility for everything wrong with fossil fuel burning.
That contorted logic will come as a surprise to Friends of the Earth campaigners risking life, limb and heavy penalties in their efforts to shut down coal mines and ports; and to everyone else engaged in the fossil fuel and climate problems in many different ways.
A second intellectual contortion concerns the cancer risks associated with radiation exposure. Russell’s view is that long-term exposure to low levels of radiation “does sweet fa”. In a submission to a South Australian Parliamentary Committee, he writes: “Let’s suppose that if 1000 people drink a glass of wine a day then eventually 10 will get cancer due to that wine. I just made those numbers up, they are to illustrate the method … So how many people will get cancer if a million people drink 1/1000 of a glass per day? The anti-nuclear logic … estimates 10,000 cancers. The population is consuming 1000 times the alcohol that produced 10 cancers, therefore there will be 10,000 cancers.”
Russell gets his simple calculations wrong by three orders of magnitude − three more than you’d expect from a self-described mathematician. In any case the link between wine and cancer tells us precisely nothing about radiation.
Russell and science are at odds on the question of the cancer risks associated with low-level radiation exposure. The 2006 report of the Committee on the Biological Effects of Ionising Radiation (BEIR) of the US National Academy of Sciences states that “the risk of cancer proceeds in a linear fashion at lower doses without a threshold and … the smallest dose has the potential to cause a small increase in risk to humans.”
Likewise, a 2010 report by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation states that “the current balance of available evidence tends to favour a non-threshold response for the mutational component of radiation-associated cancer induction at low doses and low dose rates.”
It’s a big step, but once you’ve convinced yourself that radiation is harmless, a world of possibilities present themselves. Scientific estimates of the Chernobyl death toll range from 9,000 to 93,000, but Russell claims the Chernobyl death toll was “three tenths of a half of a sixth of bugger all” or “a few dozen deaths”. Another step gets you to this: “It is far worse than flippant to risk the destabilisation of the unusually benign climate of the past 10,000 years because of a few dozen deaths. That’s nutter stuff.”
Likewise, early estimates of the long-term Fukushima cancer death toll range from 130 (pdf) to 3,000, but if radiation is harmless the radiation-related death toll will be zero. Or as Russell bluntly puts it, Fukushima was “deathless“.
Russell claims the performance of the Fukushima nuclear power plants in the face of the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami was “a spectacular success and one of the biggest unreported good news stories of the decade.” And it was indeed a spectacular success except for the explosions, meltdowns and fires.
Russell wants us to contrast the Fukushima nuclear accident with “actual suffering” from the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami. Tell that to the family and friends of the Fukushima farmer whose suicide note read: “I wish there wasn’t a nuclear plant.”
The Fukushima disaster has caused an immense amount of suffering, particularly for the 160,000 evacuees who remain homeless two years after the disaster. The Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) − established by an Act of Parliament − notes that evacuees “continue to face grave concerns, including the health effects of radiation exposure, displacement, the dissolution of families, disruption of their lives and lifestyles and the contamination of vast areas of the environment.” The nuclear disaster is also responsible for nearly half of the estimated 1,632 indirect deaths associated with the evacuation from the 3/11 triple-disaster.
Importantly, the NAIIC report − along with every other report into the Fukushima disaster − is clear that whereas the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami were Acts of God, Fukushima was an Act of TEPCO. Russell and like-minded apologists fudge or ignore the distinction. The NAIIC report states that the Fukushima disaster was “a profoundly man-made disaster that could and should have been foreseen and prevented” if not for “a multitude of errors and wilful negligence that left the Fukushima plant unprepared for the events of March 11.”
That wilful negligence is responsible for all the suffering and deaths associated with the evacuation and ongoing dislocation; radiation exposure likely to lead to a cancer death toll ranging from 130 to 3,000; and economic costs that will total several hundred billion dollars.
Russell has another intellectual contortion to perform. If radiation is harmless, there is no need for an exclusion zone to be maintained around Fukushima. Sometimes he goes so far as to say the initial evacuation was “unnecessary” − though of course he never said any such thing in the immediate aftermath of the nuclear disaster.
So why is the evacuation zone still in place two years after the nuclear accidents? Russell argues: “The panic whipped up by the anti-nuclear movement completed the devastation began by the tsunami and prompted an unnecessary evacuation that killed people.” And still more bizarrely, “the people who are still living in temporary housing in Japan should be running a class action against the anti-nuclear movement for its role in the wasting of so much money when there are serious needs to be met.”
Russell never explains how NGO views (which he misrepresents) translate into government policy. As best as one can work it out, environment groups pump “radiophobia” into the ether and governments (and radiation scientists) absorb it by osmosis − hence the “unnecessary” Fukushima exclusion zone. Either that or shamanic transmutation.
To accuse greenies of being responsible for the death and suffering resulting from Fukushima places Russell alongside LaRouche, Kemeny and other comedians and demagogues. But there’s nothing funny about his distinction between the easily-preventable Fukushima nuclear disaster and “real problems“, or his distinction between the suffering of Fukushima evacuees and “actual suffering“, or his description of the Fukushima disaster as “benign“. Those statements are disgusting and disgraceful.
Jim Green is the national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth, Australia.
Two years from Fukushima and we know the truth
Jim Green, 11 March 2013, The Punch
Today is the second anniversary of the Fukushima disaster and it promises to be another silly-season for Australia’s nuclear apologists. They have form. While the crisis was unfolding in March 2011, Ziggy Switkowski advised that “the best place to be whenever there’s an earthquake is at the perimeter of a nuclear plant because they are designed so well.” Even after the multiple explosions and nuclear meltdowns, Adelaide-based nuclear advocate Geoff Russell advised: “If you are in a quake zone and have time to seek shelter, forget hiding under door jambs and tables, find a nuke.”
Even as nuclear fuel meltdown was in full swing at Fukushima, Adelaide University’s Prof. Barry Brook reassured us that: “There is no credible risk of a serious accident… Those spreading FUD [fear, uncertainty and doubt] at the moment will be the ones left with egg on their faces. I am happy to be quoted forever after on the above if I am wrong … but I won’t be.” Eggs, anyone?
Last year, Brook and Russell insisted that the Fukushima disaster was “deathless“. Yet the World Health Organization released a report last week which takes us a step closer to understanding the likely death toll. To quote from the report:
In terms of specific cancers, for people in the most contaminated location, the estimated increased risks over what would normally be expected are:
• all solid cancers – around 4% in females exposed as infants;
• breast cancer – around 6% in females exposed as infants;
• leukaemia – around 7% in males exposed as infants;
• thyroid cancer – up to 70% in females exposed as infants (the normally expected risk of thyroid cancer in females over lifetime is 0.75% and the additional lifetime risk assessed for females exposed as infants in the most affected location is 0.50%).
For people in the second most contaminated location of Fukushima Prefecture, the estimated risks are approximately one-half of those in the location with the highest doses.
The report also references a section to the special case of the emergency workers inside the Fukushima NPP [Nuclear Power Plant]. Around two-thirds of emergency workers are estimated to have cancer risks in line with the general population, while one-third is estimated to have an increased risk.
Indirect deaths must also be considered, especially those resulting from the failure of plant operator TEPCO and government authorities to develop and implement adequate emergency response procedures. A September 2012 Editorial in Japan Times notes that 1,632 deaths occurred during or after evacuation from the triple-disaster; and nearly half (160,000) of the 343,000 evacuees were dislocated specifically because of the nuclear disaster. A January 2013 article in The Lancet notes that “the fact that 47% of disaster-related deaths were recognised in Fukushima prefecture alone indicates that the earthquake-triggered nuclear crisis at the Fukushima power plant caused extreme hardship for local residents.”
The claim by Barry Brook and Geoff Russell that Fukushima was “deathless” has no basis in truth.
Russell wants us to contrast the Fukushima nuclear accident with the “actual suffering” from the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami. Tell that to the family and friends of the Fukushima farmer whose suicide note read: “I wish there wasn’t a nuclear plant.”
The Fukushima disaster has caused an immense amount of suffering, particularly for the 160,000 evacuees who remain homeless two years after the disaster. The Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) − established by an Act of Parliament − notes that evacuees “continue to face grave concerns, including the health effects of radiation exposure, displacement, the dissolution of families, disruption of their lives and lifestyles and the contamination of vast areas of the environment.”
Importantly, the NAIIC report − along with every other report into the Fukushima disaster − is clear that whereas the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami were Acts of God, Fukushima was an Act of TEPCO. Brook, Russell and like-minded apologists fudge or ignore the distinction. The NAIIC report states that the Fukushima disaster was “a profoundly man-made disaster that could and should have been foreseen and prevented” if not for “a multitude of errors and wilful negligence that left the Fukushima plant unprepared for the events of March 11”.
The nuclear apologists’ indifference to science and logic, and their indifference to human death and suffering, are stronger arguments for a nuclear-free Australia than anything I could come up with. A large majority of Australians share my distrust − a 2011 poll found that just 12% of Australians would support a nuclear plant being built in their area, 13% would be anxious but not oppose it, and 73% would oppose it.
Jim Green is the national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth and editor of the World Information Service on Energy’s ‘Nuclear Monitor’.
Edited version of this letter published in Crikey 11/3/2013
Very generous of Crikey to let Geoff Russell to have two fulminating pro-nuclear rants in the same week (‘Greener pastures’, Crikey letters, 8/3). In his latest offering he opines that China is “gearing up to produce small modular reactors by 2020 or thereabouts”. This is the standard ‘look over there’ tactic of the nuclear zealots. What is actually happening in China, as Russell well knows, is that dozens of ‘Generation 2’ reactors are under construction or in planning − reactor technology that wouldn’t be licenced in the West. Regulation is a joke, staff training standards are inadequate, press freedoms are non-existent, and whistleblowers − if they’re lucky − are imprisoned.
Friends of the Earth