Geraldine Thomas is the director of the Chernobyl Tissue Bank and one of the world’s foremost experts on radiation and its health effects. In this episode, Robert talks with Thomas about why people are excessively fearful of radiation, how fear of radiation can be more dangerous than radiation itself, her many visits to Fukushima, and why we must have more nuclear energy if we are to have any hope of reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
Robert Bryce 0:05
Hi, and welcome to the power hungry podcast. I’m Robert Bryce. On this podcast we talk about energy, power, innovation and politics and my guest. Today I’m pleased to welcome Dr. Geraldine Thomas. She’s on the faculty at Imperial College London, and she is the director of the Chernobyl tissue bank. Welcome, Jerry. Geraldine. How should I address you?
Geraldine Thomas 0:26
I’m done, Jerry.
Robert Bryce 0:27
Okay, thank you. Well, I’m glad. Glad that we can, we’re able to set this up. So we’re going to talk about your work on on radiation and human health and the effects of radiation on humans. And you have a long CV and many different titles, my customers to let guests introduce themselves. So if you don’t mind, give me a very brief introduction on who you are.
Geraldine Thomas 0:54
Yeah, well, I’m, I’m well, my title is Professor Jerry Thomas. But everybody just knows me as Jerry. I was originally a pharmacologist. And then I was working in toxicology for a while. My boss happened to be the independent pathologist who was sent off to Ukraine and Belarus, to see whether the reports that we were getting out saying there was an increase in thyroid cancer was actually genuine. He’s he was the top European expert on thyroid cancer at the time. And my research work up to that had been looking at fyra tumors in animals. And all of a sudden, in 1992, when it became pretty obvious what was going on out there. We then got involved in the human side of foreign cancer. And really, we’ve taken it from there.
Robert Bryce 1:41
So you’ve been involved in the in the Chernobyl tissue banking, collecting tissue samples from humans who’ve had surgery or other things who’ve been in the radiation or the fallout area from Chernobyl, is that fair?
Unknown Speaker 1:53
That’s correct. Yeah. Yeah. So we started that, well, we started talking about it 92. But it took six years to get the money together and to get all the sponsors lined up to be able to fund the project. So we’ve really
Robert Bryce 2:06
almost 30 years of this than now.
Unknown Speaker 2:07
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. It’s, um,
Robert Bryce 2:09
it’s remarkable to you to even say that, I suppose.
Unknown Speaker 2:14
Yes, no, it makes me feel very old. Yeah, it is 30 years. And it’s interesting. You know, some of the people I’ve been working with, I’ve watched their children grow up, they’ve watched my children grow up. So yeah, it’s been a long time.
Robert Bryce 2:25
Well, so I really want to dive in. And I mentioned before we started recording that I first saw you on a 60 minutes Australia segment A couple of years ago talking about radiation effects at Fukushima. And I was genuinely taken aback by how forthright you were and and saying that very quickly, to summarize what you said that the radiation has had effectively no negative health effects on people, which is not the narrative that we’ve heard. And it’s not the narrative we hear from the people who are opposed to nuclear energy. But I want to jump right in because you spent most of your career studying radiation. And you said that we have a schizophrenia that was your line schizophrenia approach to it. So why is the danger of radiation so misunderstood?
Unknown Speaker 3:08
I think it’s partly because of a confusion with nuclear power with nuclear weapons.
Robert Bryce 3:13
And so the conflation of those two,
Unknown Speaker 3:16
and people think that if a nuclear power plant you see an explosion, a nuclear power plant is a nuclear explosion, like it is with a bomb, and nothing could be further from the truth. We use the term meltdown for a nuclear power station because it melts down it goes down once it doesn’t explode up, what you see is a hydrogen explosion, not a nuclear explosion. And I think I think that’s where the real problem is, it becomes conflated with issues around nuclear arms, often you find that people were left leaning politically, or anti nuclear arms. I mean, I must admit, I was anti nuclear when I started this, but I actually forced to look at myself and go, hang on, if all of this research that is coming out is true, then why are we so frightened of radiation, because at low doses, this isn’t having the effect that everybody would have you believe. And I was anti nuclear, partly because I’m left wing politically, I don’t believe in using of nuclear weapons. But I think once you’ve got them, you’re stuck with them. It’s like everything in life, you can’t not invent it once it’s been invented. So I really do genuinely think it’s a misunderstanding, particularly the doses that you get from radiation from a nuclear power plant accident, and the effect that’s going to have on health. And it wasn’t really I started working heavily on this that I was actually taken aback by thinking, well, I can’t support my own ideas, and the longer
Robert Bryce 4:38
and actually, the more you have to come you have to convert yourself.
Unknown Speaker 4:41
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, if you talk to a lot of people, they will when they actually see the real scientific evidence go, well, hang on. That’s not what I hear in the press in the media. And, well, why have I been misled for so long? And it actually is a really hardwired fear. I mean, my husband to the same degree as me, we had exactly the same education. And he’s still sits there and goes, Are you absolutely sure this is right? There’s something in the back of your mind that says, Are you sure because we’ve had so many years of being made to fear, even the smallest dose of radiation, that actually it takes quite a mindset reversal to be able to get your head around it. So I can understand why people struggle with it. I really can.
Robert Bryce 5:20
And you made the same the same point it was in a video you did for United Nations University. And I don’t know, as it looks like it was a couple of years ago. It’s something like 6000 views on YouTube. And you know, a few dozen comments. But if you explained why the that this is people have this fear and you you went into it about, we can’t taste it, we can’t smell it, we can’t see it. So there’s something of this, the specter of it, right, that that is that contributes to the fear. Is that right?
Unknown Speaker 5:53
Yeah, there’s been quite a lot of research on what makes people fearsome of something. And radiation ticks all the boxes, it’s got consequences that take a long while before you can see them. So you know, cancer takes a long while to develop. So you can be exposed to radiation, but it’ll be years before any effect is seen. So that’s one thing. You can’t taste it, you can’t smell it, you can’t see it, you can’t feel it. Really, really good reasons why we might not be able to do all of that, because we’re surrounded by it. So if it made you itch all the time, and you could feel it, it wouldn’t be very pleasant to live in a radioactive world. So
Robert Bryce 6:26
we’ll just stop you there. Because that idea and that was the other thing that you said that I thought were surrounded by it. And that’s the part that I think that I’m Imagine you’re familiar with the book, the film, Pandora’s promise, yeah. Where Robert stone went around the world and went to Fukushima and found that the radioactivity on a beach in the beach sand in Brazil was greater than it was at Fukushima. And I thought, there’s a marvelously clever way to use a dosimeter, to say, Okay, well, this is what I’m receiving now. And without saying anything, you would stand there with a dosimeter. And say, See, this is what I’m getting here. And it was remarkable. But it really reinforced that idea about the being surrounded part, which I think is critical to understand.
Unknown Speaker 7:05
Yeah, I mean, I think people think that it’s something that’s been invented. And it is not actually it’s been it’s been here throughout time. And you know, we are our species is built up, you know, it has evolved through being exposed to radiation all the time, you can’t avoid it, it’s on the earth, it’s in everything you eat, is in everything you drink. When you go swimming in the sea, you’re exposed to uranium dissolved in the sea, which people sort of go god that’s really terrifying. No, it’s not. It’s a natural background, but it’s a very low dose background. So, you know, again, it’s a bit like the, you know, the old argument between the pharmaceutical industry and drugs that come from nature. And people thinking that anything that comes is natural is automatically Good for you. Well, as a pharmacologist and as toxicologist, there’s some pretty nasty toxins out there in nature. But it is it is there is something really hardwired into into our psyche that says, if it’s natural, it’s fine. If man makes it must be evil,
Unknown Speaker 8:03
comes from well, so
Robert Bryce 8:04
how do we come over overcome that that hard wiring? I mean, isn’t it? I mean, you’re been part of this part of an education effort. But frankly, I think the education effort has been very limited. And this largely failed, I would say, and I don’t mean that as a slam to you. But I’m just thinking about this over several years, we’re still inundated with this fear mongering, particularly from the anti nuclear environmental groups that any dose is dangerous. So what how do we overcome the hard wiring as you put it?
Unknown Speaker 8:36
I think I think it’s quite difficult to overcome it. But I think it’s important to remember that we weren’t always fearful of radiation. We actually used to welcome it. And in fact, if you go back in history, you can find things where people advertised things, ointments, everything that contained radiation, because it was thought to be good for you. I think the real issue came during the Cold War. When everybody was made. I’m an I’m a child of the Cold War. I remember, it was like you were made to be absolutely terrified of radiation, because it was going to end all of life on this planet.
Robert Bryce 9:11
And we had, we had fallout shelters, and we heard about nuclear winter. And this was part of the, you know, I’m not gonna ask how old you are, but I’m sick. I just turned 16
Unknown Speaker 9:20
the same age as me. So you’re
Robert Bryce 9:22
right. And I remember in grade school, we would have the duck and cover thing. We had the fallout shelters in the basement of the school. And that was what we were, that was what we were attuned to that, well, the recipes are gonna come and you know, they’re gonna bomb us. And that’s it. Right. But so, so that’s interesting. I didn’t think about it in terms of the Cold War. But that’s an interesting point, because, right but people would go to the cure, take the cure at hot springs that had natural radiation. This was part of what was considered healthy. And that’s
Unknown Speaker 9:49
what I find really strange. I mean, the two the two cultures that really have trouble with radiation are the German and the Japanese. Now the Japanese you can understand and because of atomic bombs, but I Actually, if you go places, Japan, there are some springs and they say we have added radon to this and you’re going, Oh, I don’t understand. But but it’s because radon is natural, and therefore it’s good. Yeah. Well,
Robert Bryce 10:14
so let me jump back to that because one of the things that bringing this to the pandemic, the studies around the benefits of vitamin D in sunlight for resistance, potentially, I mean, this is a lot of speculation around Coronavirus. But that’s one of the things that has been discussed openly that sunlight maybe provide some prophylaxis toward Coronavirus. I don’t know whether that’s true.
Unknown Speaker 10:36
Yeah, I don’t think there’s any evidence for that. Yeah, I know you have a problem with COVID. It goes because it’s so new, we really haven’t got any scientific evidence to back it up. And actually, it’s a bit similar to radiation story, too, in order to do the science to get an understanding of COVID, it takes a long while this is not going to be something we really understand properly for decades, it’ll be faster with that actually, than with something like radiation where you have to wait 2030 years before you see an increase in cancer if you’ve been exposed to radiation. And it’s that vacuum that you have before the science kicks in that I think is potentially very dangerous. So you get lots of people speculating, but without a scientific basis to it. And unfortunately, once those beliefs and the our beliefs, not scientific evidence has taken hold, it then becomes extremely difficult to shake.
Robert Bryce 11:24
And that’s, that’s interesting, because now, I mean, we talked about this, I, you know, we had some connectivity issues when we first connected just a moment ago. And I said, Well, can you go to the offices, you know, we’re, we’re on lockdown. Well, so just a quick aside, then, is that the public policy now Boris Johnson has implemented a lockdown in Britain, which could be ruinous for the economy further, further, more ruinous? I mean, is that is that policy coming before science? What how do you how do you view that?
Unknown Speaker 11:54
Well, actually, the science, which is predominantly focused on the risk of the virus, is actually saying, No, we should lock down we should protect the most vulnerable. And you can be really hard nosed that look at this and say, Well, actually, it’s only those who’ve got underlying health conditions, and I put my hand up, I’m diabetic, so I am one of those have a certain age hand up, I am 16. So I’m also more at risk. But you can you can argue, well, actually, it’s not deleterious to young people. Yeah, in terms of those who were like most likely to die from it is definitely older groups and those with underlying conditions. Now as a society, we should be doing everything we can do to protect them. There is another issue actually, which I think is more important, I think is more what is driving the policy at the moment, it’s not just COVID-19, that is going to kill people. If we submerge our health service, with people who have COVID, because they need oxygen, they can’t be treated in the community, they need to be in hospital. So they’re not going to necessarily die from it. But if you don’t give them oxygen, then they’re gonna have a problem. You need to treat those people. But if you fill up all hospitals, with people who need treating for COVID, you’re then going to not have to spare beds to deal with people who come in with accident and emergency. So I think it’s more it’s less about protecting people from getting COVID. The second lockdown is more about protecting the health service from being overwhelmed. And therefore other people who don’t have COVID dying, because there’s no room for them at the end. So that I think is is is is the more direction we’re going in at the moment. But it is devastating on local economists. You know, most of us have now discovered we can work from home and work actually fairly productively from home. But it’s devastating on the travel industry, it’s devastating on our hospitality industry, right. And you know, we are losing jobs hand over fist, and somebody has to keep the money flowing in because people can’t be certainly left with no money. So longer term, this is going to have a major effect on everybody’s economy, not just the British one. But you know, places like Britain, where we’ve got down twice, we are really starting to suffer. My generation won’t suffer that much. It’ll be the younger generation who end up having to pay for this to higher taxes and things like that. But it’s it’s interesting, because you’re therefore focusing on one race. Now the politicians can’t focus on the one risk. If they do that, then the economy is just trashed. So trying to get the politics of that rat, right and balance the various risks. Well, I’m glad I’m not Boris Johnson at the moment. And it’s not very often that you’ll hear me say that, because I’m not any politician has my sympathy in this
Unknown Speaker 14:25
Unknown Speaker 14:26
Getting that balance right is really difficult. And, you know, it comes it’s also back towards, you know, nuclear power and radiation getting the balance of risks is right, nuclear could really help us with climate change. There is a risk from climate change. Nuclear can be quite expensive, but actually, if you believe the economist is not expensive as people think, but it’s balancing all those different risks to give you something that can move your economy forwards is very, very difficult.
Robert Bryce 14:52
Well, I’m glad you mentioned that because I think that’s it’s right on point, the risk assessment problem, the risk assessment challenge, and you made a very interesting Point to about in that United Nations University video, you said that we can detect radiation very accurately and down to very minute minute amounts of a 10th of 111 hundredth of a millisieverts, I guess is the lowest that dosimeter will go. And that just but that just because it can be detected, I think this was the point you’re making was, Oh, yeah, we can detect it. But just because we can detect it doesn’t mean it’s dangerous. And and so there is somewhat as I’m thinking about a lot about it, there’s this somewhat of a similarity in terms of the assessing the risks of COVID. and assessing the risks of radiation. And that invisible doesn’t take effect right away, I, you know, I’m just riffing here. But
Unknown Speaker 15:41
I know that if you plot the two things, you come up with all those Fear Factor points that I was mentioning, on the psychological research that’s been done COVID ticks, every single one of those radiation ticks every single one of those. And actually, you can see why politicians might want to make people scared of COVID, in order to make them compliant with the rules. But you have to be careful, you don’t make them too scared. Otherwise, they’ll never come out to their houses again. And it’s a bit like that with radiation. If you make people scared of it, they’ll follow the rules that you’ve put in place. But if they’re not scared, they’ll just do whatever they want to do.
Unknown Speaker 16:15
Unknown Speaker 16:16
getting the balance there of fear. And truth is also quite difficult.
Robert Bryce 16:21
The fear of the truth, and then the risk of that, that specter that unseen on smellable on untouchable risk, right or the that thing, back in 2011, you wrote a piece in The Guardian in which you talked about the risk of radiation after Fukushima. And you said that the media was exaggerating it and, and I wanted this part was was really key to me, you said radiation risk must be put into context, the consequences for the most exposed group of atomic bomb survivors was an average loss of life expectancy significantly lower than that caused by severe obesity or smoking. So you’re saying that the people at Fukushima or and Nagasaki, were at higher risk from smoking or obesity than they were from radiation poisoning.
Unknown Speaker 17:08
It’s many, many people, you have to be careful in that obviously, you’ve got a large number of people exposed, so that those who were actually closest to the epicenter will have had a very large dose. So and actually, people think it was the radiation that killed most people, it wasn’t it was the blast. And that’s the big difference between an atomic bomb and a nuclear power station atomic bomb is designed to cause maximum damage to infrastructure and to humans. So what you want is a massive explosion and a large physical blast of energy. So you design it in that way, you don’t want that for a nuclear power station. So the design is totally different. The physics is the same, but the design and engineering that goes around it is totally different. So in the areas that were closest to the epicenter, yes, a lot of people died of blast injuries, and about 20,000 people probably died of radiation poisoning from very high doses. And we’re talking of, you know, at least a see that many people had higher than that. But the one thing about radiation is is the what they call the inverse square law. So if you move 10 meters away from an epicenter, where the explosion happens, your dose decreases by 100. So you can see how if you were more than about two to two kilometers outside that Epicenter, actually your doses were very considerably lower. Many people about 45% of the people who are in the cohort study that we look at these things with, about 45% of them actually got doses of lower than five millisieverts, that’s about twice your average dose per year if you live in the UK, for example. But people think it was it was all high dose. Actually, no, it wasn’t most of the people who survived got a reasonably low dose of radiation. So that’s why the effect overall in the cohort is only about four months loss of life
Robert Bryce 19:01
as well. And that’s just it’s an amazing fact and one that I’d never seen before. And that was why I wanted to call that up or mentioned that, but you also in that in that later on, and it’s where I first came across your name and your work was in a piece on 60 minutes, Australia in 2018. And you were talking about, you said that no more than 160 people will die from radiation poisoning due to Chernobyl and that there were absolutely no radiation, cancer, thyroid cancer, okay. Okay. So
Unknown Speaker 19:35
he actually the the effect on the local population,
Robert Bryce 19:39
and that there have been no deaths from radiation in it due to Fukushima. So why is that fact not getting more attention? I mean, these are these are remarkable truths about Fukushima. And yet that I mean, we’re now and I’m going to ask you about this idea of of dumping some of the radioactive water in the ocean and in Japan, but But why is this not getting more focused? Why is it not getting more attention about this this accident, Fukushima?
Unknown Speaker 20:06
I think it’s because people didn’t know who to go and talk to. And so you have people who come out the woodwork who are very anti nuclear, who will give you loads of facts and figures that bear no resemblance to anything scientific. And I think the other problem is, you have people who will, who don’t understand about health effects. If you’re looking at a health effect over a long period of time, many things change the way people live their lives change the way you record incidences of different diseases changes over time. So if you’re really going to understand the long term health effect, you have to take all that into account and you can’t just pluck a finger of death. So you can’t go to the death registry and say, Oh, look, all these people died of cancer and say that was all due to a radioactive exposure, you have to be aware of what else causes cancer. I mean, when you talk about health, it’s extremely complicated. So I can see why some people would not understand that you just can’t go to war figures, you have to understand the complexities of a health effect much more. I think it also doesn’t sell newspapers, of course, to say actually, there’s nothing here to see. And it was it was interesting, I was called into the BBC, literally on the sort of Monday I was on the on the BBC sofa for breakfast time. And I sort of spoke to the presenters afterwards. And I said, Look, this is not the story, that you’re not going to see any effects from here. And I said, Oh, it looks down. Well, it obviously didn’t, it went on and on and on. But really, and truly, people wanted it to be something. And it isn’t anything. and a half of the problem is is exposure to journalists. And actually what happens in that explained your
Robert Bryce 21:45
exposure to journalists is more dangerous than exposure to radiation,
Unknown Speaker 21:49
Robert Bryce 21:51
There’s an indictment of my profession.
Unknown Speaker 21:53
But it’s interesting, most of us would never go near a journalist because you can’t trust them. That’s, that’s a sort of scientific idea of what a journalist does, you must be really careful. And so your advice, don’t speak to them. But actually, that’s the wrong thing to do. And the BBC journalist, we spoke to him in the green room, said, well, where have you all been, we didn’t know how to get hold of you. So they’ve suddenly got a whole load of nuclear academics. And I would never have met most of the people that I met on various TV studios, because they work in a totally foreign discipline. I didn’t even know that Imperial had a huge department of nuclear engineering before the accident, because I work in the hospital, which is not on the main site. And I think, to speak to them. So you can you can see how I mean, you know, we’re all scientists, we should know each other. But you know, journalists trying to find a bonafide scientist, when they don’t know where to start, it’s quite difficult. In some countries, you’ve got science media centers, now science Media Centre in the UK was very good, actually. But they, they didn’t know who I was, for example. So my introduction to all of this was my, my line manager, my boss getting on the phone on a Sunday morning saying, Jerry, they need to speak to somebody about radiation, you know, about radiation, get on there. And that was it. That was my media training. It I think it’s partly this disconnect, that if you’re a journalist, you want to find somebody who’s all authoritative. But how do you know who that is? Sure. Can’t find the scientist, you can talk to the media. And then you know, it’s not everybody can talk to the media, right? We were lucky in the UK, we now have a network of people. So if there’s a problem with a nuclear issue, we can ring somebody else who we know in the various universities and sort of say, look, this, this is not my area of expertise, but it’s yours. Can you deal with it? And that network is very effective. And I think that that is the thing that we learned most out of Fukushima was that it’s no good saying or don’t want to talk to the journalist, if you don’t talk to the journalist, they will find somebody to talk to. And it isn’t necessarily somebody who knows anything about what they’re talking about.
Robert Bryce 24:00
So you had to improve your outward focused work.
Unknown Speaker 24:04
Yeah, yeah. And it also it’s quite difficult in the nuclear industry doesn’t speak to anybody. Right? It’s actually they would rather not say anything, then say something, then they might get wrong. And so there’s a problem there, and nobody trusts industry anyway. Right. So you can understand why their voice wasn’t heard very much.
Robert Bryce 24:22
So let me ask about this something in another segment that you mentioned in the 60 minutes Australia interview, you said that the thing that you’ve learned from Chernobyl and Fukushima, was that it actually wasn’t radiation that’s done the health damage to the people in the surrounding areas. It’s their fear of radiation, there’s been far more psychological damage than there has actually physical damage because of the two accidents. My question once wants to be, you know, quoting Roosevelt or paraphrasing, the only thing we have to fear about radiation is the fear itself.
Unknown Speaker 24:58
Yes, more or less That is, you know, at low doses of high doses, you need to be careful with them. But low doses, actually, you’re making it worse by being frightened of it. And ironically, we had actually just finished a special edition of a journal, because it was the 25th anniversary of Chernobyl of the same year that the Fukushima accident happened. And so we just finished that. And in the editura, we’ve written the one thing we did not learn properly from Chernobyl was how to communicate the real health risks, that was all written down in the editorial being printed at the time, Fukushima happened. And so many of us sort of turned around and said, We can’t let this happen again, we have to actually get out there
Robert Bryce 25:39
and and talk to people and be more proactive about understanding the issue. Yeah,
Unknown Speaker 25:46
I was really, really cross with some of the headlines I thought, and I’ve worked in Japan since 2000. So you know, I knew a lot of the people out in Japan, they’re all very good at what they do. their academic structure is very different from the west. And so they find dealing with the media attention quite difficult. And you sit there and and you think this is mad, we can’t let this happen. Again, because they’re just the media headlines are appalling, absolutely appalling. And if I’d been a Japanese out there, I would have been petrified that we were all going to die. Given that, you know, they’d also had two atomic bombs dropped on them. And the thought is, this is this is really cruel. And I actually told quite a lot of the journalists that I have to admit them. And I got very friendly with Rupert Winfield Hayes is the BBC journalist while we’re out there, who was great, he actually came in to talk to me for a whole hour. And I said, Look, you know, some of the things you’re saying, and just making the whole thing worse, and he was really good. And he said, You know, I’ve never had the opportunity to sit down talk to anything like this before.
Robert Bryce 26:47
Hmm. Well, that’s great. Well, I’m pleased that you’re doing it. And I’m pleased that we could connect because it’s, it’s educational for me, but I think it’s also important now, you know, my view on nuclear is very clear. If you’re anti nuclear and anti carbon dioxide, you’re pro blackout. We, you know, if we’re going to be serious about reducing emissions, we have to have dramatically greater investment in nuclear energy. But unfortunately, it’s not happening. Now. I want to come back to the decision on size we’ll see in just a moment. But you mentioned being in Japan. So when was the last time we were you were at Fukushima?
Unknown Speaker 27:19
Oh, a couple of years ago. This is this is only the second year since about 2011. I’ve not been out there multiple times. And obviously this year, I can’t travel at all last year. I don’t think I went last year either. But I’ve been I mean, I’ve been out there loads and loads of times I was I was out there quite a lot before because I was already working with the Japanese. But I’ve been around the past session five times, I think.
Robert Bryce 27:44
And you said as I recall, on the 60 minutes Australia that you’d be happy to go back and eat the food and that there’s the you don’t have any fear of being there. But so is there are they going to repopulate? Are people going to be allowed to move back in
Unknown Speaker 28:00
most places, there are a few areas that are still restricted. But part of the problem is, you know, it wasn’t just a nuclear power plant accident, there was also the damage from the tsunami, and, you know, the earthquake. And what they did was they fixed the areas where there was less radiation first. So they repair all the infrastructure. I mean, you know, pipes and things, you know, gas pipes and sewage pipes and things like that got broken as a result of the the earthquake and the tsunami. So you have to fix the infrastructure before you can move people back. And you do that in the areas where it’s easiest to work in. And obviously, those are the areas that weren’t exposed. But they’re slowly but surely moving people back. Now, some people will never go back because they were evacuated. They’ve made lives elsewhere. They’re not going to go back, but many people have gone back. And also mean that site round there. Now, because it’s being decommissioned. There are lots of good jobs. There’s a major research facility there as well. So part of the problem is you have to get the jobs and the infrastructure. Right, and then people will return.
Robert Bryce 29:03
Sure. But that’s not the case of Chernobyl, that area is still depopulated. Is that right?
Unknown Speaker 29:08
Yes, and no. And there is officially an exclusion zone around it. But people are actually working on the site and have been ever since the accident. So it isn’t completely devoid of people. But a lot of a lot of the elderly people move back in. Because it was there historically, their family lands, you know, and they’re very attached to their land there. And and you can go back in there are a lot of people living in that in that zone already. And a lot of people living on the periphery of that zone as well.
Robert Bryce 29:36
Sure. So we’ll just before we go away from this issue of Chernobyl, you you mentioned as well, I think it was in the United Nations University video that you had more radiation on the airplane flight to Japan than you did at Fukushima. What was it you said? You said not. Point not Oh, seven? No, not No.
Unknown Speaker 29:58
No seven Yeah, yeah, that’s that’s a standard flight, you know, going over the pole, which is what we use the route we would usually take. I took my daughter and her boyfriend, or Ben boyfriend, who’s a chef into the power plant with me because they came over in 2016. And I said, Look, can I bring them as well, just to see what their reaction is, of course, you’ve got a dose Ms. And I can say they were really disappointed that they’re sick. I’m wondering, because it was it didn’t even register on the dosimeter. And yet they knew what the dose had been when they came over on the plane, as
Robert Bryce 30:33
well. And that was a point that I think the journalist on 60 minutes Australia made as well, he made that same very same point that that the airplane flight, he was getting more more radiation. So what about that issue? Oh, and you also made this point that the dosage of radiation from a CAT scan or CT scan those that X ray radiation is greater than the the radiation that that someone who’s moved back to Chernobyl would get over 25 years? Yeah, that’s
Unknown Speaker 31:04
the population that stayed there. And is it not actually within the exclusion zone, but the regions that were not evacuated, that still had quite a reasonable dose of radiation. Most of what they’re suffering from is cesium, the idea is gone within three months of it coming out of the plant, because you’ve got such a short physical half life. But the cesium stays around for 30 years is its physical half life. And it wasn’t really until I understood this my sort of slide given by an epidemiologist friend of mine, that I got my head around why we weren’t seeing effects of cesium causing cancers in that region. And it’s because it has a long physical half life for the short biological half life. So the actual dose you get to your tissues is miniscule. So it
Robert Bryce 31:56
doesn’t bio accumulate is that it
Unknown Speaker 31:58
does Yeah, it doesn’t biochemists and get stuck anyway, it goes everywhere, cesium, it’s like sodium, it goes everywhere in your body. So it doesn’t stay there. But But you excrete it very quickly. So if it has a long physical half life and a short by a lot of shorter biological Half Life, the dose you get from taking in the cesium is very little. Sure. And the calculation that was done that was in Elizabeth Carter’s report in 2006, was that the dose over the period from 1986 to 1995, I think it was, is about 10 millisieverts for those who remain residents and resident in those areas. And that corresponds to about the dose of a whole body CT scan. So one single whole body CT scan, you know, how long that takes will give you the same dose as spread out over 20 odd years.
Robert Bryce 32:50
So, you know, it’s just it’s just an incredible I mean, an incredible fact. I mean, you know, I look, I, you know, I that’s one of my jobs, I think is I have to make the complex, complex things simple. And I have to make, make those comparisons, readily available and understandable, right, so that a complete novice understands them. I think about my mom, right, my late mother, what would she understand this the first time And that, to me is the key if I can make that. And I think that that comparison, yeah, you got a CAT scan, you got more more radiation than the people near Chernobyl over 25 years, and you didn’t end up 20 minutes?
Unknown Speaker 33:26
Yeah. Well, I mean, I rang up a colleague of mine who runs the nuclear medicine site and says, Can you give me the dose for a whole body CT scan? Because I think it’s around about this, but you know, I need to get it from somebody who really knows. And he said, Yeah, and I said, that would explain a lot of things. That’s why we don’t say anything because the doses are so low. And even if you were a resident in Pripyat, so Ronnie by the, the place when the the the accent hammers the feet attend for the for the pan itself. They got about 30 millisieverts they got three CT scans effectively. That’s all they got. Well, that’s from cesium now, we have to be careful, you don’t underplay the role that iodine is had. Sure, I mean, as a much shorter physical half life and a biological Half Life about 100 days. So it’s physical half lives about eight days, and it’s biological half life span 100 days. Now the problem with it is it does concentrate in a particular tissue in your thyroid gland in your neck. And if you’re young and exposed to radio it, then it does increase your risk of thyroid cancer, which is eminently treatable, but it’s still a cancer. So when I’m talking about the donor, and that word by itself is scary.
Unknown Speaker 34:37
But what I’m talking about 10 millisieverts, I’m talking about the doses from the Long live cioms not the ideal, so, but it’s only the kids. And then there’s the other important thing, so the kids that are affected by being exposed to radio idea, you and I are far too old. Our siren will still concentrate it but it doesn’t grow any longer.
Robert Bryce 34:56
Unknown Speaker 34:57
And the problem is people think that exposure Equals mutation equals cancer. It ain’t that simple. It’s exposure, mutation, and then growth. So in the chance side, it’s still growing. So you’re increasing your chances of getting other mutations in that already affected group of cells that have been exposed to radiation. And that
Robert Bryce 35:20
exposure mutation, Greg,
Unknown Speaker 35:23
Robert Bryce 35:24
I see, okay,
Unknown Speaker 35:25
and that’s, that’s why children are affected, not adults. So anybody over the age of 20 really doesn’t show any increased risk. And actually, it’s the very youngest, those between naught and five that have the highest risk of getting fired cancer after exposure to radio writing.
Robert Bryce 35:40
And as you’re saying these things, I’m thinking to myself, okay, well, this explains in part why, I mean, this is fairly complex, right? It’s not, there’s nuance here. And and journalists don’t do nuance. They never never known nuance, right? That’s not that’s not I need a soundbite. I need this. I have this many words, and I have to fit it in here. But you’re talking about different isotopes with different half lives with different effects that new accumulation, non accumulation, and that gets complex and that complexity. I guess, that’s one of the things that in, frankly, I’m doing my podcast and talking with different guests about things about it. Well, I interviewed Bjorn Lomborg, and he was talking about Yeah, you you have to account for the complexity or, or other climate scientists say, well, you have to account for the complexity of the system. It’s, you can’t just say, well, it’s this because of that. No, there’s a lot of factors involved here. So let me let me I mentioned I wanted to get to this idea about the Japanese, disposing of moving some of the water that is accumulated at Fukushima. Now, according to a report that I saw, there was about 1.2 million tons of water that have now accumulated on the site.
Unknown Speaker 36:48
He surprised I’ve seen it,
Robert Bryce 36:51
and that they have to put it somewhere. And the only really viable place is in the ocean. And so there’s been this resist this outrage from the usual suspects. Greenpeace, of course, but also some fishermen saying no, no, this is not what we want. Is this a good idea? Should they go ahead and move that water? Or do they just the only option they have,
Unknown Speaker 37:13
they should have been doing it before. I mean, if you go to the site, you’ve got loads and loads of basically barrels of water, huge, great barrels of water. Now, it isn’t the water that’s come straight out of the reactor, they have cleaned it up, they’ve taken away most of the new clients. And basically, what you’ve really got left in there is tritium when you can’t strip tritium out of water because it’s a form of hydrogen. So you just can’t do that. But tritium is a very, very weak beater emitter, it has a half life of about 12 years, and
Robert Bryce 37:42
a week, a week, a beta beta,
Unknown Speaker 37:46
Asian American beater in English a week
Robert Bryce 37:49
after beta emitter, which means what I’m sorry, forgive me,
Unknown Speaker 37:52
which means actually the energy is produced from radiation, okay? It’s there is because beta emitter is going to have different energy levels. Okay? So it has to be fairly weak, okay. But it didn’t really doesn’t actually make any difference because it has a half life of about 12 years. Now, if you think if you take a quick drink of water, how quickly do you have to go to the toilet after that?
Robert Bryce 38:17
A few hours.
Unknown Speaker 38:18
So that gives you an idea of the biologic biological half life. So your biological Half Life is way less than 12 years, you don’t have to wait 12 years to have a pee after you’ve had a glass of water.
Robert Bryce 38:32
So in short, you’re saying that the Japanese government should have done this a long time ago, and there’s very little risk of putting this radioactive water into the ocean.
Unknown Speaker 38:42
I used to really annoy them because like, when I get round I, you get to ask questions. So I used to say, okay, so if there’s another earthquake and these splits, what are you going to do? How are you going to handle the public communication around that? And they never could really give me an answer. Because you can imagine what the media would have done if they’ve been an earthquake, and they’ve been splitting that and uncontrolled releases Pacific because it would have found its way to the Pacific, because the playfulness, like so on the ocean is at the bottom. So you would have found its way there. But you can imagine the the fury from the meteor around that and from Greenpeace and people like that. So for me, there should have always been a plan to release it to the ocean.
Robert Bryce 39:23
And should, should have been, should have been done. It should have been done already.
Unknown Speaker 39:28
Yeah, absolutely. And it also the other thing is if you think about dilution in the Pacific Ocean, it’s not a small body of water, right? This is a massive body of water, you’ll get a huge dilution effect. And since the concentration is would be related to the dose that you would have, you know, it’s obvious that which is the place it should have been, but there is a huge issue with the fishermen around there because they’re scared that nobody will buy their food. Uh huh. Now, I’ve been to Fukushima Prefecture and it is the has the most fantastic Rice’s the best one Rice growing place in in Japan, it grows huge grape peaches. And their economy was completely flattened because nobody wanted to buy the food because they were sure it was all contaminated and you think, contaminated anyway, because it’s grown in the soil and the soil, whether they’ve been in a nuclear accident or not, the soil is still red, they’re active. And I went to one village, and it was really good, because they actually got a cesium detector, I think it did come from Belarus, actually, they’ve actually got the cesium protected from somewhere, so that they could grow their own produce, they could take their produce in, measure any radiation in it, and then decided whether they want to eat it or not. And I said to the guy, has anybody ever brought in anything? That is above the limit? Is it No. And he said, but this just gives them the confidence to be able to go and eat their own food. And so I think if you if you were able to say, look, we have measured it, and it is this, then it will be fine. But unfortunately, there is a stigma to
Robert Bryce 41:01
things. Sure. And and that’s gonna take a while, maybe a long time to over again.
Unknown Speaker 41:07
Yeah, I mean, I spoke to one of the wives of the fishermen there. And you know, they used to go and get their own fish, and cheese, she had young children. And she said, we’ll go out on the boat. And she said, I just take one of the radiation monitors with this missus, if it doesn’t beat, then I know, it’s fine. And we’ll eat the fish. Because their attitude was, well, if I’m going to feed my children, I have to go and catch it myself. And so that’s what they were doing. If you give them a coping mechanism, people will be quite happy with it. But when you have headlines saying, you know, oh, you’re going to poison your children, you’re going to die from this and that and the other. You can see why people would not want to find the project. And it’s a real shame because it’s delicious food. It really is. It’s really fresh, like most Japanese food, really fresh, well treated, you know, superb. Right? I have a lot of sympathy for them. But if you know if we could just stop people big fear mongering, we could solve that problem for him. Well, so
Robert Bryce 42:01
speaking of fearmongering, how culpable is Greenpeace on this?
Unknown Speaker 42:06
I don’t like knocking green environmentalists. But I wish they’d look at the science. You know, if they actually look at the science and forget their political leanings and their biases, and we all have to do it. We all have unconscious biases, you know, you have but you have to look at the scientific facts. One of the things I think that they don’t understand is this whole idea of dose, physical half life and biological half life. So they think that anything that is, and a lot of people think there’s anything that is long lived has a long physical Half Life is really, really dangerous,
Robert Bryce 42:42
right? Nothing could be further from the truth, which I which is the story we get about the waste? Oh, well, it’s radioactive for 10,000 years, Well, okay, but we can put it in the ground and leave it there and not touch it, and it’s gonna be fine. And yet, they’re still now numerous states here in the United States, including California that have laws on the books that prohibit the installation of new nuclear plants until the waste issue is resolved. Well, it’s it seems to me it’s clear, it’s not a scientific problem. It’s a political problem. We have, like we have Yucca Mountain which is already in the hole is in the mountain. That’s all ready to go. But the political issue is what’s keeping the the waste from being handled properly, properly. Stored disposed when you choose your name, choose choose the word.
Unknown Speaker 43:28
Yeah, I mean, I mean, ironically, the nuclear industry is actually the one industry that does know what to do with its waste. You know, I come from the South Wales Valleys. And, you know, my grandfather was a coal miner. And you you went down there when I was a kid, everything was black, because they just let the waste from the coal pits on the top of the mountains. And eventually one of those slid and buried the school, which is the Aberfan disaster that happened in 1966. You know, so, to me, the nuclear industry is actually thinking ahead and going, Okay, we know this is going to be a problem is a public acceptance problem. But there’s also a national security problem because the one problem with things like plutonium and uranium is you can not only make power from it, you can make bombs from them. Sure. Best thing to do with that is to put it somewhere that’s safe and secure. And you know, quite a few of us are talking about GDS and our own country’s geological disposal systems in our own country. But you know, that this whole idea that it’s going to be radiation seeping out to them is complete and utter rubbish, their design so I think the Swedish and the Finnish one has been designed so that you get a dose of if you lived on top of it. And I know in the UK, you certainly will not be able to live on top of where the geological disposal facility ends up. You get a dose of naught point naught, one for seabirds, and it is millisieverts sorry millisieverts, which is actually 100 of your dose of radon that you get every year from just wandering around the planet.
Robert Bryce 44:55
But But you you say those numbers and I’m thinking okay, not point not and one four was Okay, now we’re at one 1,000th of a thousandth of a Siebert. Yeah. So it’s just that. But again, I think that one of the issues here is that that mathematical, the numeracy of the general public, right and understanding what those numbers mean, and how you impute risk to those tiny, tiny bits of those tiny numbers, tiny doses, but I’ll just interject one point, which was Michael Shellenberger in my duck in that new documentary that I made with my colleague, Tyson, Culver Jew. So electricity explains the world, he says, on film on the on camera, that nuclear is the only form of energy that contains all of its own waste. And I thought, it’s brilliant. I never thought of that before. But it’s true. And that the waste it doesn’t go anywhere they know right where it is, and having been on nuclear power plants, Well, okay, you have a dry cask, it’s out in the parking lot. It’s not going anywhere, and it’s not hurting anyone. It’s just fine, right there. But still this idea? Oh, well, it’s waste. And you know, and the word waste and it’s going to be radioactive forever, I think is, is is part of what
Unknown Speaker 46:04
not right? I mean, that, that, again, is a misconception, this idea that it’s going to last forever, it’s not going to last forever. And the diagrams You see, or a log function, usually, as well, actually, most of the radiation will have gone in the first hundred years, right. But interestingly, things like solar panels contain cadmium, which is a highly toxic mineral. Now, what’s going to happen to the waste from those, and cadmium is not going to go away in the environment. It isn’t like radiation, it doesn’t decrease with time, it will only increase. And so yeah, what why are we so concerned about the racing waste from nuclear and, and for me, waste is only something for which you cannot find a current use. Haha, doesn’t mean I mean, if you think about plastics, plastics will waste until now when we reuse them. Right? Well, so who’s to say, use some of that in the future?
Robert Bryce 46:58
So you mentioned you’re from Wales, I’ve been watching. I’ve written quite a lot about the wind industry and the and the expansion of renewables. And I let me ask the question directly. So you’re Welsh, what is the what’s been? What’s the situation in Wales? With regard to high voltage transmission lines and wind projects? what’s the what’s the, on the ground? What is the what are the locals doing in regard to that?
Unknown Speaker 47:23
I can’t really tell you is I live in Wales. I can’t really answer that one. I mean, it you know, there is, we’re lucky in the UK, we do have onshore wind, and offshore wind, and it can contribute. But it can’t really decarbonize enough. And so, but a lot of people are worried about when particularly you’ve got bird reserves and things like that, because of the dangers to the birds and than they are nobody wants a power cable crackling over their head. So you can see there is quite a bit of pushback now on a lot of the wind farm developments. Sure. Oil landscape and be it can be quite noisy. It’s not that noisy normally, but also people feel that it’s not right for you know, an environment is really there for nature.
Robert Bryce 48:12
So your your, from our discussion, I’m taking it you’re you’re you’re very pro nuclear energy,
Unknown Speaker 48:18
I don’t think we have much of a choice if we want to decarbonize properly and not, I’m not just thinking of decarbonizing our electricity grid, that is one thing. But if you want to produce hydrogen, which is going to really fuel our transport systems more than electricity, and you want something that’s there all the time you think about electric cars when you want to charge them at night, oh, sun doesn’t shine at night. And I can’t always guarantee that I’m going to get wind blowing either even in the UK, which is a very windy place. True. So you know that there are several reasons you’re going to need nuclear one is it’s not intermittent. The other thing is, is actually produces large amounts of energy, which you could use to D to do electrons electrolysis and produce hydrogen. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with CO citing hydrogen plants, next to nuclear plants. And that last 20% of decarbonisation is going to be difficult. Right. And Finland will not solve that problem. Neither will sober.
Robert Bryce 49:13
Sure, sure. So the sizewell c decision seems to be quite an important one, then in terms of UK energy policy, and the government saying, well, it may take an equity stake, it’s a it’s quite a large plant 3.2 gigawatts. Yeah. EPR that I that the French would build. Now, Who would have guessed that the French and the British would be allies now in terms of, of energy infrastructure, but nevertheless, I mean, it does seem that Britain has almost if it’s going to reach its co2 emissions reductions targets, it really doesn’t have a choice. Is that Is that a fair assessment?
Unknown Speaker 49:47
It’s not a choice. No one has a choice. Actually, if we’re if we’re really honest about this. I think the Germans have actually nicely shown us what happens when you concentrate on renewables only
Robert Bryce 49:57
good of them. emission good good of them. To do that the energy vendor has been incredibly problematic. I mean that, you know, their their electric rates have skyrocketed, they there and there’s large scale resistance widespread rather resistance to wind projects and to transmission projects.
Unknown Speaker 50:15
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think I think that the problem is that if people it’s not that it’s wind, and it’s energy production, it’s, it’s an infrastructure project. And I think you have the same problem with nuclear. I don’t think actually, people are anti nuclear in the same way that they were in the UK, but they just don’t want one of those big things in my garden, that’s gonna, you know, cause havoc with the local traffic, etc. I live on the big HS two route that’s being constructed at the moment and sort of, you know, about 500 yards from my house, I’ve got a vent shark going in. Now, I can hear it all night. They don’t switch things off overnight. And there’s light pollution from it and things like that. We’re lucky we they’ve built an other roads. And we don’t have any problems, because we’ve got fairly narrow lanes around here. But I can totally understand why people don’t want big infrastructure projects in their backyard. You know, Hinkley Point C is right on the coast. And they’ve been able to bring quite a lot of things in on the coast. And I think they’ll be able to do the same thing in sizewell C as well. But it’s still a big infrastructure project. And people and these are rural environments as well, unfortunately, you build nuclear where it’s nice. Actually, ironically, people say, Well, you know, what does it do to local nature? Well, virtually all of our nuclear power plants have scientists special scientific interest next to them. Yeah, guns. Next is a prime example for that. So this whole idea that they can’t coexist with nature is not true. But unfortunately, while you’re building it, of course, you’re going to cause problems. But once it’s there, it’s going to be there for 60 odd years. And you’re not going to do anything else do it, it’s going to be there it’s going to operate. And just so you’ve got plenty of time for nature to come back. Right. Whereas with something like a wind farm, you’re going to have to change it every 25 years, not because he won’t stay there for 60 years. Right. So you know, people are not they’re just thinking of the immediacy, they’re not thinking of the potential long term. And the other thing to say, of course, this is areas where you’ve actually got nuclear plants in your guaranteed jobs for probably two or three generations. Because there’s a building, there’s the operational, and then there’s the decommissioning, and those are high paid jobs, they’re stable jobs, and they keep your community going. And I know people in North Wales were very upset that the replacement for will can’t go on, because the backers have dropped down because it would have guaranteed that they would have kept their community and in good high paid jobs. And
Robert Bryce 52:41
I’m sorry, I wasn’t familiar. What was the name of that project
Unknown Speaker 52:44
will die. It’s in Anglesey on the north of Wales. There is a nuclear plant there. And they were hoping to rebuild there but unfortunately the consortium has fallen apart so it looks
Robert Bryce 52:55
okay. Yeah, well, I your point on the nuclear plants as well taken and they’re closing the Indian Point nuclear plant in New York, right just north of New York City and having been in Buchanan, New York, and seen the village and is heavily dependent on the on the power plant. And, and good paying jobs. And as you say, generations of families working there, but but just the resiliency of the plant itself and its durability. I remember one of the engineers walking around and he said something to the effect of I continually admire the people who designed this place because it’s been running for decades, and it can run for decades longer. But it’s being prematurely shuttered. So well. We’ve been talking for about an hour. So I don’t want to keep you all day here. But it is interesting that Britain appears to be re embracing nuclear energy. But I looked at I looked you up again, in preparing your you were last year, named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for emphasis to science and public health. So it sounds impressive. What does that mean?
Unknown Speaker 53:55
I tell my American colleagues, it’s an entry level honor. Yes, because they are hoping to I have the courtesy of No, you don’t
Robert Bryce 54:03
know. or any of that business. Is that
Unknown Speaker 54:06
not? Oh, no, no, no, no, not nothing like that. I did actually meet the queen, which was amazing. I live not far from Windsor.
Robert Bryce 54:15
The task about me or
Unknown Speaker 54:17
sorry, she didn’t. But it was it’s funny. You’re driving down there. And you could see the Royal standard was raised and you’re not told before The Investiture which member of the royal family will be conducting The Investiture. Oh, really? Oh my God is the queen and your your knees just go and she looks like my my mother in law who suddenly passed away but she just reminded me so much of my mother in law. She’s lovely. absolutely lovely. But going back to your question, and if you get different grades of these honors MBA is for people who’ve done a lot for their local community. ob is when you’ve done a lot for things nationally. So part of it was obviously what I’ve been doing, with the media etc around nuclear power. And helping out with communications in Japan. So, you know, you’re never quite sure why you’ve got it. You don’t know who’s nominated you. So it’s all very secretive. But it Yes, it was. It was really, really nice. And for my kids, it was the best thing ever. Oh, really happy because they could dress up and go to the castles.
Robert Bryce 55:22
So after all these years, you finally impress your children. Is that what you’re doing?
Unknown Speaker 55:25
Yes, yes, um, it’s quite difficult to impress my children. They keep me very grounded. Yes, I’m
Robert Bryce 55:30
well familiar. So just two last things then if you don’t mind Jerry and I’ve been neglectful in reintroducing you. My guest is Geraldine Thomas. She’s the director of the Chernobyl tissue bank. She is also a professor at Imperial, Imperial College London. If you want to follow up on her work, go to Chernobyl tissue. bank.com.
Unknown Speaker 55:52
Robert Bryce 55:53
So a couple of questions. I like to end my podcast with when I’m talking to my guest. What are you reading? What books are on your nightstand? Or what do you what are you? What are you reading fiction? What do you What are you reading?
Unknown Speaker 56:05
I actually don’t read very much. I used to read extensively. But I since I started to wear glasses, I find I don’t enjoy reading so much. So I tend to listen to the radio far more on radio four is, you know, radio four goes around me around the world. It keeps me sane around the world. You can listen to it. I mean, that’s the nice thing about the internet. You can listen to it everywhere. I’m sorry about the bangs in the back. It’s not gunfire, it’s fireworks. This is this is our celebration of not burning down almonds.
Robert Bryce 56:34
Not burning down. I’m sorry. What is that?
Unknown Speaker 56:37
Guy Fawkes Day? Yeah,
Robert Bryce 56:39
guy, Fox says yeah, sure, sure. And they
Unknown Speaker 56:43
apologize for the bangs in the background. So
Robert Bryce 56:45
no worries. Well, then. So we’ve talked a lot about the challenges that are facing people in your position. And we’ve talked a lot about the challenge here, the climate challenge, etc. What gives you hope?
Unknown Speaker 57:00
Science gives me hope. I think I think making sure that science is done properly, I think is our most important and probably biggest challenge going forward. I think that we are an incredibly gifted and well adapted species. And if there’s a problem, we will find a solution to it. I really do believe that. And although sometimes you may wish to bash people’s heads together, particularly political heads together, I honestly think that no matter what we as a species will prevail, and although we do damage this planet, and we can’t help, but you know, it is something that we do. But we are far more aware of it than when I was a child, for example. So I think there is hope that we are learning that it’s not just us on this planet. It’s everybody else and everything else. And we’re particularly you know, the interest in biodiversity and things like that. And ironically, lockdown, I think the biggest positive thing that’s come out of lockdown is everybody has been in their gardens. They been in their parks, they’ve walked outside. They’ve seen how how nature matters to us. And I think a lot of goodwill come out of that as well. So I think there is optimism, I think there is there is a route to be cheerful in life. I’m a little scared for my children about, you know what they’re going to see in the future. I’m not surprised by COVID-19. This was entirely predictable. It’s, it will, sadly, it’s one of the things that climate change could bring about is more infectious disease like this in areas of the world that we’re not used to seeing it. So I hopefully COVID has also given us a bit of a wake up here and made us realize what’s important in life and made us realize that actually infectious diseases could be catastrophic for our societies that as they are. So I think there’s lots of things to be optimistic about. But for me, the one thing that really matters is getting that science right, and making sure that we do listen to the scientists. But sometimes, you know, there has to be a balance between science and politics. Because scientists, by our nature are very narrow and big become focused in one particular area. We don’t always see what’s around us. Sure. So you have to have you have to have multi discipline, disciplinary approach if you really want to get to life.
Robert Bryce 59:24
Sure. Well, that’s great. That’s and that’s a great, great summary. So why don’t we put a stop to it there. My guest, Jerry Thomas. Thank you. It’s been a pleasure. Truly, very enjoyable conversation. Gerald. Dr. Geraldine Thomas is the director of the Chernobyl tissue bank, and a professor at Imperial College London. You can follow her work at Chernobyl tissue bank.com. Jerry Many thanks for being with me. Let’s stay in touch. I’m very I admire your work and I wish you luck with and for all of you in podcast land. Thank you for tuning in. Tune into another Episode of power hungry podcast. I’m gonna keep them coming with people like Jerry Thomas cuz I like this stuff. It’s fun. Okay, thanks again. Thanks again, Jerry.