The
Nuclear-Free Future
Award

in the Category


EDUCATION

is presented to

BARBARA DICKMANN and
ANGELICA FELL

IRAQ

Berlin
10 April 2011

Barbara Dickmann und Angelica Fell

The crummy thing about the Krümmel nuclear power plant is the disinformation policy – those featherweight press releases reassuring the public that plant operations are proceeding normally and that no radiation has escaped into the atmosphere. Then, when a journalist tries to piece together a picture of what’s truly going on, he or she encounters a centrifuge of PR forces machined to avert any nuclear industry mishap.

..
In 1992, the Schleswig-Holstein Minister for Social Affairs, Günter Janssen, authorized a scientific commission to investigate the cluster of childhood leukemia cases arising near the Krümmel Nuclear Power Plant in Geesthacht by Hamburg.

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The alarming frequency of this cancer of the blood that develops in the bone marrow had unsettled parents living across this thinly populated region, a concern that found its way into local newspapers. Radiation expert Professor Dr. Edmund Lengfelder, a member of the commission, recalls: “After a few years, in which we took a number of probes and analyzed all the possible material environmental factors, we detected a number of unacceptable radiation irregularities.”

..

Government and industry experts countered: such irregularities can have no impact on the incidence of leukemia among the children of the region. “Immune deficiencies” were singled out as the primary risk factor, even as the commission laid out its chromosome analyses and findings detailing radioactive contamination in plant fibers and house dust.

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The media accepted the immune deficiency story. It wouldn’t have mattered whether the greatest spike of childhood leukemia in all the world was raging along the Elbe – the theme didn’t break the interest barrier. Parents and children of the region were left alone with their angst, forebodings, and disquieting statistics.
Or almost.

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“Generally we know all the facts, but still go on like before.”

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Two journalists from German ZDF Television, Barbara Dickmann and Angelica Fell, began investigating the equivocal nature of the industry’s answer. Their film, Und keiner weiß warum (“And No One Knows Why”), prevented the cancer clusters surrounding Krümmel from being dismissed as unlucky coincidence – the explanation the atom lobby and some people in government were trying to peddle. Immediately, Dickman and Fell were mobbed by a whirlwind of defamatory attacks and slanders unlike anything investigative reporters have ever experienced in Germany.

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The quality of their journalistic work, however, enabled Dickmann and Fell to sovereignly weather the storm. The pair continued with their theme, following among other stories a nationwide children’s cancer study examining areas surrounding nuclear reactors: “The study confirms that there is a correlation between the nearness of a dwelling to a nuclear power plant at the point of time of diagnosis and the risk, before the 5th year of age, to contract cancer or leukemia” (German Federal Office for Radiation Protection).

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There is reason to doubt whether this unambiguous find-ing would have seen the light of day were it not for the work of Dickmann and Fell. What is doubtless is that these two veteran investigative reporters have few peers in German public broadcasting. It takes an enormous amount of cour-age, drive, to illuminate the dusky shadows in which the nuclear industry thrives.

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The Nuclear-Free Future Award for Barbara Dickmann and Angelica Fell should be understood as a challenge and encouragement to the next generation of journalists (perhaps all too worried about viewership quotas): yes, truth can make a lasting difference.

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– Wolfgang Heuss