It is June 2008 – I was 59. I am sitting at my desk at work and I discover a lump in my neck. It wasn’t a small lump so it must have been there for a while. Long story short, thyroid cancer resulted in the removal of my thyroid gland and 13 lymph nodes.
However, removal was not the end of it. To get rid of any remaining cancer cells, as with the same procedure that was used on victims following the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station disaster, I had to ingest a pill laced with Radioactive iodine (I-131); an isotope of iodine that emits radiation. Apparently iodine (1-131) is one of the contaminants that is released in nuclear reactor accidents, but it is safer in higher doses where it will destroy thyroid cancer cells.
The sight of a physician dressed in a protective suit and mask providing me with a pill out of a small leaded box with a pair of tongs was like something out of a science fiction movie. Three days in isolation followed in which I was occasionally measured with a Geiger Counter to see how hot I was. 8 years later I am still cancer free with 2 years to go before a final clearance. Thyroid cancer was just an inconvenience. The only after affects are a daily dose of a thyroxine hormone pill which I take automatically each morning and some occasional heat intolerance. I very rarely think of or am aware that I actually had cancer.
Many cancer patients receive forms of radiation treatment and thanks to scientists there are now many different types of that treatment for different cancers. None of these treatment would be available without nuclear medicine. Many ailments are diagnosed using nuclear imaging. On average a person will have at least one procedure involving nuclear medicine in their lifetime. Nuclear Research Reactors are paramount in the production of medicinal isotopes. Electricity produced by nuclear fission, the splitting of the atom is another of the uses of radiation. It is estimated that a kilogram of nuclear fuel is one million times more powerful than kilogram of fossil fuel. There are little if any green-house gases emitted from a nuclear power station although there is the problem of storing nuclear waste.
It is not widely known that there are now 67 Nuclear power stations under construction world- wide in 13 countries such as India, China, Russia and the UAE. Despite many people’s misgivings, there is a slow build- up of nuclear power stations. The USA’s Clean Power Plan includes that new nuclear power plants can contribute to State’s carbon reduction targets.
Nuclear power is not the flavour of the month in Australia. Yet, research indicates that deaths attributed to fossil fuels well outstrip deaths caused by nuclear power. Solar and wind power are the safest of course, and in reducing atmospheric pollution these sources of energy should be advanced. Solar energy and wind power could be developed in conjunction with the more reliable nuclear power as obviously the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow.
Australia has uranium in abundance. Apparently we have 31% of the world’s total. We export the stuff to many countries in the world. This exported uranium produces about 15% of the world’s electricity supply. We export uranium and we use it for nuclear research and medicine at our one nuclear power station in Sydney, but we do not use it for our own power generation. Surely it is time to move forward and use our uranium to produce clean energy in our own country and join the rest of the world.
Note: My sister has also had thyroid cancer. Most thyroid cancers are the result of exposure to radiation.
Disclosure: I have had shares in a junior uranium mine with overseas resources for many years. (These are now worth 5 time less than they were prior to Fukushima).
Do you agree with Michael?
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