Futurepast VP Steve Corker Visits Taiwan for Radiation Health Effects Hearings
ARLINGTON, Va., June 1998–Futurepast’s Vice President Steve Corker visited Taipei, Taiwan, April 9-13 to provide public testimony on the experience of residents living downwind from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state. Corker made the trip with Trisha Pritikin, also a downwinder, at the invitation of the Taiwanese Environmental Protection Union, the Homemakers Union Foundation and the Taiwan Association of Radiation Safety.
Corker and Pritikin testified at a public hearing conducted by Republic of China legislator Chi-mai Chen, MD, MPH on April 10. They also addressed medical professionals, met with Taiwanese victims of radiation exposure and participated in a conference held on the occasion of the twelfth anniversary of the nuclear accident at Chornobyl, Ukraine.
At the Chornobyl conference, Corker and Pritikin shared the experience of Hanford downwinders in the United States. Both have had serious health problems which they now link to childhood exposures to radiation from Hanford. Veiled in official secrecy for forty years, useful information about releases only began to emerge publicly in 1986. The disclosures came after concerned citizens in the northwestern USA brought intense pressure to bear on US authorities. In response citizens decided to establish a Hanford health archive.
Corker is president of the Radiation Health Effects Archive, located at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. Pritikin, who currently resides in California, is a member of the Board of Directors.
The Taiwanese press gave extensive coverage of the visit of the two Hanford downwinders. Corker and Pritikin taped a radio interview and the local China News newspaper devoted an entire page to their story. Interest was high due to what the China News described as Taiwan’s “unholy trinity of nuclear debacles–waste storage, irradiated homes, and the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Kungliao.”
One purpose of Corker and Pritikin’s trip to Taiwan was to establish lasting links with local radiation victims.
“We hope that our visit will help to give Taiwanese radiation survivors a bit more credibility,” Corker told the China News. “Through our experience we hope to be able to raise people’s consciousness and empathy about the problems of (radiation) survivors.”
Yang Ming University Professor Dr. Chang Wu-shou, who oversees medical treatment for Taiwanese exposed to Cobalt 60 through contaminated building materials, asked Pritikin and Corker how the US government might handle the problem of irradiated houses.
Corker and Pritikin acknowledged the often intimidating and immovable stature of government bureaucracies, particularly those that are nuclear-related. However, both Americans insisted that people in a democratic country such as Taiwan are only as helpless as they choose to be.
“Citizens, even if uneducated and unsophisticated, can be very powerful if organized,” Pritikin emphasized. “People have to be organized if they expect to be heard.”