The
Nuclear-Free Future
Award

in the Category


LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT

is presented to

HELEN CALDICOTT

AUSTRALIA

Berlin
10 April 2011

Helen Caldicott

In 1971 Helen Caldicott, a young physician, alerted the Australian media to the effects of fallout from nuclear tests in the Pacific The French were still blasting nuclear bombs into the atmosphere, eight years after such testing had been banned. It was Caldicott’s first campaign.

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After the above-ground tests had ended, she wanted to focus on her newly founded cystic fibrosis clinic and bringing up her children. But the next toxic pollutant was just around the corner: uranium mining.

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In 1971 Helen Caldicott, a young physician, alerted the Australian media to the effects of fallout from nuclear tests in the Pacific The French were still blasting nuclear bombs into the atmosphere, eight years after such testing had been banned. It was Caldicott’s first campaign. After the above-ground tests had ended, she wanted to focus on her newly founded cystic fibrosis clinic and bringing up her children. But the next toxic pollutant was just around the corner: uranium mining. “With three children of my own I was determined to do what I could to prevent children developing leukemia, other malignancies, or genetic disease from exposure to uranium or its fission products. She and her husband moved to the United States in 1975 where Helen began to lecture on the medical dangers of the nuclear fuel chain. “I was saying things that some people didn’t want to hear.” Despite the nuclear industry propaganda that nuclear power was safe and clean, her message got through to many, backed up by medical facts and figures.

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In 1978, Helen Caldicott met in Boston with other physicians who agreed with her that nuclear power was a medical issue. They revived the organization “Physicians for Social Responsibility.” In 1979, one day after Three Mile Island, the New England Journal of Medicine ran an advertisement from PSR which enumerated the medical dangers of nuclear power and called for nuclear disarmament, the phase-out of nuclear reactors and a moratorium on new ones. PSR’s membership exploded.

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“Nuclear Madness,” Caldicott’s first book, became an almost instant classic. Describing the insidious influence of the nuclear power industry and the US government’s complicity in medical “experiments” using nuclear material, the author called on people to fight against that madness, both for their own sake and for that of future generations. Helen Caldicott, a highly gifted speaker, motivates people to act by stirring their moral outrage, empowering them. Her calls for anti-nuclear action include the films Eight Minutes to Midnight and If You Love This Planet (Academy Award 1983).

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In 1979 NATO’s Pershings and cruise missiles escalated the nuclear arms race. “This was much worse than I had envisaged”, she wrote. “I now knew that my efforts at alerting
people to the dangers of nuclear war must be redoubled. I felt somewhat desperate.”

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“A Desperate Passion” – the title of Caldicott’s autobiography – turned Helen Caldicott into a leading figure of the Nuclear Freeze movement in the U.S. and in Europe. She inspired anti-nuclear campaigns by physicians in eight European countries; in 1980 they founded International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. Five years later, IPPNW won the Nobel Peace Prize.

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Helen returned to Australia in 1987, making it her base of operations as she continues her energetic globetrotting. Helen is one of the world’s few antinuclear campaigners who addresses all aspects of the nuclear fuel chain: uranium mining, nuclear power, nuclear weapons and depleted uranium weapons with a special focus on the health dangers posed by ionising radiation. She doesn’t back down from power, often directly lambasting politicians in her books, films, TV appearances and lectures. She tells us: “What I feel so strongly about – if you decide to do something you can do it. You can change the world and I did help change the world.”

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Helen’s Nuclear-Free Future Lifetime Achievement Award marks no end to her activist committment – but rather jewels her long and on-going career with yet another
exclamation point.