Bridging Wormwood and Happy Island Vol.4: Inquiries to M. Fernex

Pr. Michel Fernex is a Swiss medical doctor from the Medical Faculty University of Basel. Born in Geneva in 1929. Member of Physicians for Social Responsibility and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). He worked at the World Health Organization (WHO) as member of the Steering Committee on Tropical Diseases Research for 15 years. In 1986, facing the reality of the WHO which attempted to downplay the consequences of the Chernobyl accident instead of helping the population, it compeled him to demand the independence of the WHO from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Since 2007 he has been a leading campaigner of Independent WHO. With Solange Fernex, his wife and member of the French Green Party, Vassily Nesterenko, founder of the Institut Belrad, and film director Wladimir Tchertkoff, he also founded in 2001 the NPO Children of Chernobyl Belarus (Les Enfants de Tchernobyl-Belarus) to support the Institute Belrad as well as the independent recherches of the consequences of Chernobyl accident.


Q1. What were the policy measures undertaken by the IAEA in Chernobyl after the nuclear disaster in 1986?


In Chernobyl, the IAEA arrived soon. Together with Prof Pellerin, delegate from the WHO, they proposed to change the established limits of protection for external irradiation for professional workers in atomic industries and apply them for the population, ignoring that families living in contaminated areas were soon to suffer more from internal irradiation than external. The Soviet Union refused to increase the limits of 5 to 10 or even 20 mSv/year, which would delay the evacuations and would have increased risks for radio-induced diseases. The risks of cancers are only a small part of pathologies occurring, as we learned from Chernobyl.

They did not encourage the distribution of stable iodine to the children, which was recommend by Baverstock, doctor at the WHO. They did not accelerate the evacuation of populations at risk, but waited until the irradiation reached higher doses. They minimized the risk for the population. They financed the Ministry of Health to discourage independent research.


The French lobby arrived later than in Fukushima, with an NGO, the CEPN with M. Lochard, representing Electricité de France with 56 atomic reactors, the CEA which developed the French Bomb, and Areva which builds atomic power plants, stores atomic waste in La Hague, and sells uranium, plutonium and MOX. In the UN hierarchy, the IAEA remains on the top, other agencies have to follow. Even the FAO has to agree, when limits have to be imposed for food.


Their goal is to reduce the costs of the catastrophe and to reduce the impact of Chernobyl on the further sale of atomic power plants.


September 1987, the provisional report of Chernobyl was decided and announced while the second Vienna Conference on Chernobyl, organized by the IAEA. This review has included tens of deaths due to acute radiation already recorded and predicted 4000 deadly cancers in the years to come. Between 2003 and 2005, a group of UN agencies and representatives of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, three countries the most affected by Chernobyl, formed the Chernobyl Forum, to prepare a complete report of the consequences of the disaster. The report was published in 2005 in various versions by UN agencies. The medical section, whose publication was carried out by the WHO, confirms the provisional figures of the Conference in 1987 and updated the number of the death due to acute irradiation: about fifty people.


Thyroid cancers were finally admitted in 1996, for children, but this cancer for them is easy to prevent and to treat. The main cause of diseases and death was the fear of radiation, radiophobia. For the IAEA, internal radiation is of minor importance, congenital malformations are difficult to prove.


Q2. What were the consequences of these policies of IAEA to the local people in Chernobyl?


The consequences of the IAEA was changing due to the end of the Soviet Union, which was replaced by the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Belarus. The less contaminated country was Ukraine, which gives periodically reports on the health situation to the French Government and to the press, for instance April 25 2007:


7 % of the territory was contaminated, this represents 3.5 million inhabitants, including 1.3 million children, who were severely irradiated in 1986. In January 2005, 2.949.106 citizen are to be considered as victims. 84.75 % living in radio-contaminated regions are ill. Among the 160.000 persons who were evacuated, 89.86 % are ill. In 2004, of the liquidators (who were 150.000 from the Ukraine), 94.2 % were ill, the majority invalid.


The number of victims in the two neighboring republics were much higher, but global reports are rarely available. The 800.000 liquidators were recruited in all new republics of Russia and Siberia, they had surely similar health problems.


The IAEA remains the international authority, the promotor of atomic industry, the central international lobby supported by the five atomic power countries, which are selling atomic power plants.


At a lower level, but also dangerous, there is the CEPN with Lochard. His project ETHOS has failed in Chernobyl : the children became more and more ill, and more severely ill. In the final report, they censured the medical report of the paediatrician, because the project was accompanied with the deterioration of health of the children.


Q3. In order to respond to these policies of IAEA, what would you suggest the people in Fukushima to do?


The world considers Japan as having among the best medical schools or Medical Faculties. In 2012, the Nobel Price winner for genetics was from your country. Therefore, we hope that independence and truth will again become a reality in Japan. Presently, the activities in Fukushima are managed by pseudo-experts selected by the atomic lobby, leading to unethical, political, spectacular enterprises.


The population, the victims need again independent medical help. Medicine should be supported by honest scientific research dealing with the present problems in Fukushima as well as in several neighbouring also partly contaminated prefectures.


The population must require radiologically clean foodstuffs. The poorest country of Europe distributed clean food, free of charge, to the school canteens of highly contaminated regions. After about 8 years the government changes, and since the President stopped the precious help, more health problems occurred. By the way, the Ethos project in Stolyn, 100 km from Chernobyl, had disastrous consequences on the health of the children, as shown by the paediatrician of this district. That's why, in the final Ethos-report (established by Dr. Jacques Lochard), the medical chapter was censored: the aggravation of all health parameters being actually the only reason. Lawyers know the ethical rules to respect in a medical research, the first one being "informed consent". The laws come from Nuremberg Code, established soon after the war, and new texts came out from Helsinki.


For a giant research on thyroid pathologies, the families need to be fully informed about the aim of the trial, about all the tests which will be performed, with scientific objective. They may give their informed consent, but they are free to stop collaborating, without any justification.


What is undertaken is not curative medicine, which is needed for most of the children. The parents, the mothers, should have the possibility to consult the paediatrician of their choice for the children. In this field, the population could act and speak, and publish what they consider as illegal (with the help of the lawyer who is supporting the irradiated children population of Fukushima.)


Physicians must wake-up; start having courage; start studying the consequences of low-level radiation. Study the literature. Act as physicians.


I saw the picture of Fukushima women handing out their proposals to the IAEA staff and urging them not to enter their land. It shows the courage of women, which is the strength of their country now and tomorrow.


Michel Fernex  Medical Doctor

Dec 15, 2012: a Fukushima women's campaign against the high level conference co-organised by the IAEA. They handed out their porposals to the IAEA staff and urged them not to underestimate the impact of Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Dec 15, 2012: a Fukushima women's campaign against the high level conference co-organised by the IAEA. They handed out their porposals to the IAEA staff and urged them not to underestimate the impact of Fukushima nuclear disaster.

What is the International Atomic Energy Agency?

In 1956, the United Nations (UN) needed a structure to promote the atomic industry in all countries of the world.


The President of the USA wanted to restrict the atomic arsenal to USA, Soviet Union, UK, China and France: the 5 nuclear powers (P5). The counterpart of this privilege was to provide "Atom for Peace" to all nations which accepted to limit the development of nuclear weapons. The IAEA was created by the UN, and placed at the top of the UN hierarchy, depending only on the Security Council with its 5 permanent members: USA, Soviet Union, UK, China and France.


The IAEA's statutes define their principal objective as "to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world." In other words, the IAEA became the promotor of an enormous commercial project: P5 would have the opportunity or obligation, to sell to all counties of the world, as many atomic power plants as possible. The IAEA was the commercial lobby supported by the P5.


The lobby does not like major accidents which could delay the proliferation of atomic power plants. In case of accident, the IAEA comes immediately to explain that the incident is small, nearly without risk for the population. The population has to stay at home for some time, and all problems will soon be solved. The radioactivity causes no harm to the people. Only the fear of radiation can be harmful. The authorities have to follow the same policy, minimizing the risk, lying as the IAEA does.

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