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Why we cannot trust the International Atomic Energy Agency

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IAEA director Rafael Grossi has claimed the release of tainted Fukushima water will determine the future of nuclear energy (Image by Dan Jensen)

The head of the world's atomic energy watchdog has been understating the dangers of nuclear reactors, writes Noel Wauchope.

IT'S JUST so simple. Would you have faith in a doctor who advised a medication, when you knew that his main job was to promote and sell that medication?

Today, as Japan starts to pour the tainted water from the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe into the Pacific Ocean, we should take note of a recent statement by Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA):

‘...the future of nuclear as an alternative energy source relies on the success of the Fukushima release.’

You see, whether or not Japan's release of Fukushima nuclear wastewater is dangerous is not the main point. Nuclear authorities around the world have been releasing radioactively tainted water into the seas for a long time. They used to just dump barrels of nuclear waste.

Then in 1993, ocean disposal was banned by international treaties. (London Convention (1972)Basel ConventionMARPOL 73/78). But that applies only to containers of waste, not to liquids emptied via pipelines. The industry and its promoter, the IAEA, want this situation to be complacently accepted worldwide. The Fukushima decision is a key milestone in that process of acceptance.  

It all really goes back to 1956, when the IAEA was created, in order to create a more friendly face to nuclear science, rather than being just for nuclear weapons. Its role was to promote the peaceful use of nuclear power and also to regulate the industry — a conflict of interest from the start.

This became problematic for another United Nations agency, the World Health Organisation (W.H.O.). On 28 May 1959, an agreement was signed between the IAEA and W.H.O. which began the uneasy situation in which the IAEA took over the prime role in radiation research.

Article I (3) states:

‘Whenever either organisation proposes to initiate a programme or activity on a subject in which the other organisation has or may have a substantial interest, the first party shall consult the other with a view to adjusting the matter by mutual consent.’

This has resulted in the IAEA taking the lead role as watchdog over the information about radiation health effects distributed to the public, while the W.H.O. has become confined to contributing to medical care and public health assistance.

The result of this agreement was especially obvious after the Chernobyl disaster, where IAEA (not W.H.O.) took the lead in reporting radiation health effects. The IAEA, enforcing the philosophy of the International Commission for Radiation Protection (ICRP), denied that any of the catastrophic health problems in the exposed population were related to radiation.

Grossi has been adept at downplaying the dangers of nuclear reactors. For instance, regarding the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia plant in Ukraine: “The problem there is war, the problem is not nuclear energy,” Grossi said. In this way, he quietly glosses over the reality that any nuclear reactor could become a military target at a time of conflict.

This is all getting pretty serious now. It really is time for the world to ask questions about this conflict of interest. Should the control of information about health and environmental effects of the nuclear industry be transferred to some agency that is not committed to promoting that industry?  

Read more by Noel Wauchope at and

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