Fear of Nuclear – Part 2

Guest essay by Roger Graves

In a recent post I discussed the exaggerated fears our society seems to have about nuclear power. One of the primary objections to nuclear power is the belief that all ionizing radiation, at whatever level of intensity, is harmful and carries a risk of cancer. This essay is concerned with the effects that ionizing radiation has on human beings, and in particular whether low doses are harmful.

First, let me say that, although I am a physicist, I am not a medical physicist and definitely not a cancer specialist. Many other, far more knowledgeable people have written on this subject, so what I write here should be considered largely as a summary of other people’s work.

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There are two schools of thought on the effect of ionizing radiation on human beings. The first holds that all ionizing radiation is harmful, and that any exposure to it, down to the smallest detectable amount, carries a risk of cancer with it. Doses are cumulative, so that only the total, lifetime dose is significant, not the rate at which it occurs. Cancer risks at low doses can be predicted by linear extrapolation from known risks at high doses. This is known as the linear no-threshold (LNT) hypothesis.

The second school of thought is that there is a threshold dose below which the cancer risk effectively disappears. Humans are thought to be largely insensitive to small doses of radiation, or even large doses received at low rates over a long period of time. Harm occurs only when high doses are received at high dose rates; dose rate and total dose are equally important. Furthermore, there is some evidence to suggest that moderately high radiation levels can have a beneficial rather than a harmful effect. This will be referred to as the non-LNT hypothesis.

The LNT hypothesis brings with it a number of practical problems. If any level of ionizing radiation is harmful, then we must undertake extraordinary measures to ensure that radiation levels are kept to an absolute minimum. This results in a general fear of nuclear power, together with massively increased costs for constructing nuclear plants because of the regulatory burden which accompanies this fear. In addition, it has created an atmosphere of distrust in medical procedures such as CT scans [1].

This essay is concerned with the validity or otherwise of the LNT hypothesis.

First, let us summarize the generally agreed facts:

  1. Ionizing radiation, by definition, has sufficient energy to strip electrons from atoms when it interacts with matter. If the matter in question is a human cell, the cell will presumably be damaged in some way.
  2. There is a correlation between large acute doses of ionizing radiation, of the order of 1 seivert (1000 mSv), and cancer rates. Acute doses are defined as significant doses received within a short space of time, and therefore at high dose rates as measured in mSv per hour. (A typical such dose would occur at rates of the order of several hundred mSv/hr or higher.) People who are subjected to large acute doses have a statistically greater chance of developing cancer at a later date than those who are not so subjected.
  3. Although cancer induction from radiation is believed to be a result of damage to genetic material (DNA) in cells, the process by which such damage then proceeds to cause cancers is not well understood.
  4. Large acute doses do not immediately give rise to cancer. (Very large acute doses will induce radiation sickness, but this is not cancer.) The onset of cancer from a large acute dose will not in most cases occur for several years or even decades. The relationship between ionizing radiation and cancer is therefore likely to be a complex one.

Organizational Survey

A detailed literature survey of the topic of LNT would be far too long for this essay, so instead I will provide an organizational survey. Major scientific and technical organizations can be presumed to thoroughly review any authoritative document released in their name, so one can assume that the whole weight of the organization is behind the opinions expressed in the relevant document. A representative list of organizations who have expressed opinions in this way is given in the table below. I do not claim that this list is exhaustive, but I believe it is reasonably representative of the major players.

Organization Relevant Publications Abbreviated Names LNT Stance
US National Academy of Sciences Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation (2006) BEIR VII [2] Pro
International Commission on Radiological Protection Low-dose Extrapolation of Radiation-related Cancer Risk (2005) ICRP-99 [3] Pro
United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation Report of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation to the General Assembly (2000, 2006) UNSCEAR-2000 [4]

UNSCEAR-2006 [5]

Neutral
Academie des Sciences (Paris) and Academie Nationale de Medecine (joint report) Dose–effect relationship and estimation of the carcinogenic effects of low doses of ionising radiation (2005) ASP/ANM-2005 [6] Anti
Electric Power Research Institute Evaluation of Updated Research on the Health Effects and Risks Associated with Low-Dose Ionizing Radiation (2009) EPRI-1019227 [7] Anti

US National Academy of Sciences

The US National Academy of Sciences report on the biological effect of ionizing radiation, commonly known as BEIR VII [2], is the major proponent of the LNT hypothesis. (More precisely, the report is BEIR VII Phase 2, published in 2006. An earlier version, Phase 1, was published in 1998.) According to this report:

“The [National Academy of Sciences] Committee concludes that the current scientific evidence is consistent with the hypothesis that there is a linear, no threshold dose-response relationship between exposure to ionizing radiation and the development of cancer in humans.”

The BEIR VII report does not state categorically that the LNT hypothesis is correct but merely that the data appear to be consistent with the LNT hypothesis. The report does not rule out the possibility of a threshold, but considers it unlikely.

International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP)

The International Commission on Radiological Protection publication 99 [3] states that “ … while existence of a low-dose threshold does not seem to be unlikely for radiation-related cancers of certain tissues, the evidence does not favour the existence of a universal threshold. The LNT hypothesis, combined with an uncertain DDREF [dose and dose rate effectiveness factor] for extrapolation from high doses, remains a prudent basis for radiation protection at low doses and low dose rates.”.

While this is not exactly a whole-hearted endorsement of LNT, it does indicate support for it.

United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR)

UNSCEAR produces a regular series of Reports to the General Assembly of the UN. These are produced by an international team and are weighty, authoritative reports. The two reports that have the most bearing on the LNT hypothesis are the 2000 [4] and 2006 [5] reports. Their general tone appears to be neutral. For example, in UNSCEAR-2000, Vol II, Annex G we find:

“… even very extensive studies, which have taken considerable resources, have demonstrated that it is not practical to obtain information on radiation effects at doses much below about 20 mGy for chromosome aberrations, 100 mGy for cell transformations, and 200 mGy for somatic mutations. The exact form of the response for cellular effects at low doses must therefore remain unclear.”

I take this to mean that UNSCEAR, as an organization, has no opinion on whether the LNT hypothesis is correct or not.

[Note – for the present purposes, gray (Gy) and seivert (Sv) are equivalent units. There are significant differences between them, but these can be ignored for the time being. See https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/phys_agents/ionizing.html for further information.]

Academie des Sciences (Paris) and Academie Nationale de Medecine (joint report)

The French Academie des Sciences (Paris) and the Academie Nationale de Medecine issued a joint report in 2005 entitled Dose-effect relationship and estimation of the carcinogenic effect of low doses of ionising radiation. According to the English-language abstract [6]:

“The aim of the Joint Report of the two French Academies is to discuss the validity of the linear non threshold (LNT) dose-effect relationship for assessing the detrimental effects of small doses such as those delivered by X-ray examinations (0.1 mGy to 20 mGy). The conclusion of the report is that extrapolation with LNT could greatly overestimate those risks.”

The abstract goes on to say:

“Epidemiology has not evidenced cancer excess in humans for doses below 100 mSv.”

and:

“Experimental animal data have not evidenced a carcinogenic effect for doses below 100 mSv. Moreover, dose-effect relationships are very seldom linear; most of them are linear-quadratic or quadratic. A practical threshold or hormetic effects [see below] have been observed in a large number of experimental studies.”

A longer summary of this report is available in an internal US Nuclear Regulatory Commission document [8] describing a presentation made to them by the French Academy. According to this document:

“The French Academy presenters stated that effects at low doses should not be extrapolated from effects at high doses because damage repair mechanisms at the cellular level can be quite different. Further, extrapolating observations at the cellular level to the tissue, organ, or organism level is also uncertain.”

Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)

The EPRI released a report in 2009 entitled Evaluation of Updated Research on the Health Effects and Risks Associated with Low-Dose Ionizing Radiation [7]. The report was simply a literature study, but included more than 200 peer-reviewed publications on the health effects of low doses of radiation, with emphasis on the most recently available information. It came to the conclusion that:

1. “Recent radiobiological studies in the low-dose region demonstrate that the mechanisms of action for many biological impacts are different than those seen in the high-dose region. When radiation is delivered at a low dose-rate (i.e. over a longer period of time), it is much less effective in producing biological changes than when the same dose is delivered in a short time period. Therefore, the risks due to low dose-rate effects may be over-estimated.”

2. “From an epidemiological perspective, individual radiation doses of less than 10 rem [100 mSv] in a single exposure are too small to allow detection of any statistically significant excess cancers in the presence of naturally occurring cancers.”

The EPRI, having connections to the nuclear power industry, might fairly be called a biased source. Nevertheless, this is an authoritative report which cannot be lightly dismissed.

Report Comparisons

We appear so far to have a ‘he said/she said’ situation, in which one group of reports says one thing (LNT is true), while another says the opposite (LNT is false). Is there any way in which a decision can be reached, one way or the other?

One problem with this whole area is that we are generally dealing with very small cancer risks. According to UNSCEAR-2006 [5], “ … the lifetime risk of death from all solid cancers together following an acute dose of 1 sievert [1000 mSv] is estimated to be about 4.3–7.2 per cent, and for leukaemia 0.6–1.0 per cent.” The LNT model would then give solid cancer rates in the range 0.4-0.7% for a 100 mSv dose and 0.04-0.07% for a 10 mSv dose; presumably the non-LNT model would give significantly less, if any at all. Since these are excess rates, i.e. rates over and above natural cancer rates, there would need to be a very large population sample indeed before there was any chance of detecting them against the natural background rate.

In this context it is worth noting that twenty years after the Chernobyl nuclear accident, a major statistical examination of almost the entire population of Europe was unable to detect any additional cancers [9].

The BEIR VII report is, in effect, the standard-bearer for the LNT hypothesis. However, it has a number of flaws in it, and has been criticized by experts with far more knowledge of the subject than myself (e.g. [1][9][10][11]). What follows are the flaws in BEIR VII that occur to me as a generalist in this area.

First, limited data sources. BEIR VII relies for its data to a great extent on studies of atomic bomb survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Such people would generally have had large acute doses. Extrapolating from this to small, chronic doses is not necessarily scientifically valid. Furthermore, ethnicity and environment factors come into play, since natural cancer rates for 1940’s Japanese and 2000’s Americans are not necessarily the same.

Second, natural background radiation. BEIR VII deals very poorly, in my opinion, with natural background radiation. According to BEIR VII:

“ … the BEIR VII lifetime risk model predicts that approximately 1 person in 100 would be expected to develop cancer (solid cancer or leukemia) from a dose of 0.1 Sv above background … Lower doses would produce proportionally lower risks.”

The dose of 0.1 Sv (100mSv) is not specified as a single event, and therefore presumably could be an acute dose (all at once) or a chronic dose (received over a long period of time). On this basis, people living in a high background rate of, say, 10 mSv per year above average would receive this additional 100 mSv every ten years.

There are many places on our planet where the natural background radiation level is significantly higher than the average value of 2.4 mSv per year. Examples of this are Karunagappally in Kerala State, India, and Yangjiang in Guangdong Province, China, both of which have deposits of thorium-bearing minerals. Studies of cancer rates have been made at both places [12][13], and have concluded in both cases that cancer rates were no higher than in places with much lower background levels.

Both the Karunagappally and Yangjiang studies are mentioned in the BEIR VII document (table 9-4), yet are rejected as evidence on the basis that the studies were ecologic rather than epidemiological studies. To quote BEIR VII:

“These studies did not find higher disease rates in geographic areas with high background levels of radiation exposure compared to areas with lower background levels. However, these studies were ecological in design and utilized population-based measures of exposure rather than individual estimates of radiation dose. Thus, they cannot provide any quantitative estimates of disease risk associated with the exposure levels found in the areas studied.”

I have been involved in many studies in many areas of science and engineering in the course of a long career, and one thing I have learned is that one takes the available data in whatever form it is offered. Indeed, it is rare that real-world data will be in precisely the form one might want for the purposes of a particular study. Rejecting data simply because it is not in an optimum form strikes me as merely an excuse to reject data that does not fit whatever hypothesis the study is proposing.

Third, radiation hormesis. BEIR VII appears to dismiss radiation hormesis out of hand.

Hormesis is a biological phenomenon whereby a beneficial effect, such as improved health or stress tolerance, results from exposure to low doses of an agent that is otherwise toxic or lethal when given at higher doses. (Many prescription drugs exhibit hormetic behavior.) Radiation hormesis is the phenomenon whereby low radiation doses can have a beneficial effect.

BEIR VII states:

“At this time, the assumption that any stimulatory hormetic effects from low doses of ionizing radiation will have a significant health benefit to humans that exceeds potential detrimental effects from radiation exposure at the same dose is unwarranted.”

Radiation hormesis is a difficult subject to research on an epidemiological basis because one would not normally expect a civilized state to subject its citizens to large-scale experiments to determine the level at which radiation doses become harmful. However, quite by chance, this occurred some years ago in Taiwan.

Some time around 1982 a container of cobalt-60 was accidentally mixed with steel scrap and was melted down and made into steel reinforcing rods, which were then used to construct a number of buildings in Taipei City and nearby counties [14]. These included 180 residential buildings containing about 1700 apartments, plus various schools and small businesses. About 10,000 people occupied these buildings for extended periods. The apartment buildings in particular were occupied for a minimum of 9 years, with some residents living there for up to 20 years.

The radioactive state of the buildings was gradually discovered, beginning in 1992. People living in the most contaminated buildings were estimated to have received a mean annual dose of 525 mSv in 1983, and a cumulative dose of up to 4000 mSv over the 20-year period from 1983 to 2003. (Cobalt-60 has a half-life of 5.3 years, so the radiation level would decrease by a factor of two every 5.3 years.) The averaged dose for all 10,000 affected people was 74 mSv in 1983 and 600 mSv cumulatively from 1983 to 2003 [15].

According to the data models given in ICRP-99 [3], during this 20-year period there would have been an expected 232 cancer deaths from natural causes in this group of 10,000, plus a further 70 deaths from radiation induced cancer, for a total of 302 deaths. The observed number of cancer deaths in this group over this period was 7, or 2.3% of the expected death rate. Similarly, in this population group over 20 years there would have been an expected 46 cases of children born with some form of congenital malformation, such as Down’s syndrome or cerebral palsy. The observed number was 3, or about 6.5% of the expected rate [15].

While a reduction in the expected cancer death rate of, say, five or ten percent is within the range of normal statistical variation, a reduction of nearly 98% verges on the improbable. Similar considerations apply to the 93.5% reduction in birth defects. Almost certainly something intervened in this group to cause these startling reductions, and while one cannot definitively state that it was due to the elevated radiation background, it is difficult to see what else it could have been.

The Taipei data points towards some form of radiation hormesis: people exposed to moderately large doses of radiation on a chronic basis are healthier than those not so exposed. It is not conclusive proof, since this is a single (albeit large-scale) incident, but it is in direct contradiction to the BEIR VII linear-non-threshold hypothesis.

It is interesting that BEIR VII makes no mention whatsoever of the Taipei incident, even though it must have been known to at least some of the authors.

Conclusion

I, along with a number of much better qualified authors, do not find the LNT hypothesis altogether credible.

Possibly the best summary of the deficiencies of the LNT model is given by Sacks et al. [10]:

“The overriding fallacy embodied in the LNT model is that it ignores the fact that the body responds differently to radiation at high versus low acute doses and dose rates, as has been demonstrated in many studies: high-dose exposures are associated with inhibition of protective responses and extensive damage to the organism, while at low doses the body eliminates the damage through a variety of protective mechanisms, evolved in humans from eons of living in a world bathed in natural background radiation.”

A useful analogy here is our relationship to alcohol. While our bodies can metabolise a moderate amount of alcohol, too much at any one time will result in unwanted effects such as intoxication and hangovers, and a gross overdose can result in potentially fatal alcohol poisoning. Both dose rate and total dose are determining factors in the effect of alcohol. For example, although I am a moderate drinker, if I were to drink in one session all the alcohol that I normally drink in a year, I should probably die from alcohol poisoning.

Perhaps the last word should go to Sacks et al [10]:

“Radiation science is dominated by a paradigm based on an assumption without empirical foundation. Known as the linear no-threshold (LNT) hypothesis, it holds that all ionizing radiation is harmful no matter how low the dose or dose rate. … Belief in LNT informs the practice of radiology, radiation regulatory policies, and popular culture through the media. The result is mass radiophobia and harmful outcomes, including forced relocations of populations near nuclear power plant accidents, reluctance to avail oneself of needed medical imaging studies, and aversion to nuclear energy—all unwarranted and all harmful to millions of people.”


Roger Graves is a physicist and risk management specialist who, much to his chagrin, is not associated with big nuclear, big oil, or big anything else.

References

1. http://www.aapm.org/meetings/amos2/pdf/59-17320-63249-582.pdf

2. https://www.nap.edu/catalog/11340/health-risks-from-exposure-to-low-levels-of-ionizing-radiation?gclid=CjwKEAiAoaXFBRCNhautiPvnqzoSJABzHd6hJ46HFKCLegFlVcPzZ3ZLO8oOmXnaSrCbVXPzMALNzxoCkE_w_wcB

3. http://new.icrp.org/publication.asp?id=ICRP%20Publication%2099

4. http://www.unscear.org/unscear/en/publications/2000_2.html

5. http://www.unscear.org/docs/publications/2006/UNSCEAR_2006_GA-Report.pdf

6. http://www.inderscienceonline.com/doi/abs/10.1504/IJLR.2006.009510 http://www.epri.com/abstracts/Pages/ProductAbstract.aspx?ProductId=000000000001019227

7. https://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML0701/ML070160572.pdf

8. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ijc.22037/epdf

9. http://www.rrjournal.org/doi/full/10.1667/RR13829.1?code=rrs-site

10. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13752-016-0244-4

11. http://www.radiation-scott.org/EMS_2005_Poster_Web_version_B.pdf

12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19066487

13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11142210

14. http://articles.latimes.com/1994-06-12/news/mn-3195_1_suburban-apartment

15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2477708/

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411 thoughts on “Fear of Nuclear – Part 2

  1. not finding LNT entirely credible is not a reason to rush into expanding something that might have devastating consequences if you are wrong. There is a duty of care, and blithe disregard for the early and painful deaths of millions is, quite frankly, disgusting.

    • There are no “millions of deaths” to blithely disregard. Granite countertops, dental xrays, flying, climbing mountains, most basements, many bananas, walking outside on a bright sunny day, all expose one to levels of radiation, if lnt is correct, that are dangerous. So don’t blithely repeat a bunch of anti-nuke cynical lies, please.

      • there is a difference to being exposed to radiation form external sources, and eating/drinking/breathing radioisotopes. Tritium is especially worrying.
        If LNT is true, or worse, then there is a quantifiable increase in earlier deaths die to DNA damage from each release. The effects will be concentrated around the sites of release, and areas where the radioisotopes drift, with decreasing increases in cancers further away.
        it is very easy to forget the human element when dealing with %, on a world of 7 billion, and we, as scientists, need to hold on to our humanity in the face of it.
        Nuclear energy has not developed as expected. We don’t have the technological tools we thought we’d have to deal with the waste, and the world is increasingly dangerous due to the rise of extremism.
        It would be better to stick with coal and gas and oil until we can develop reactors that have less problematic waste, imo. I don’t know what the cost to human health is for using coal and gas, but we can see the costs of nuclear accidents in terms of gross effects on health, and estimate the less obvious as is done here. That estimation needs to be conservative.
        financially, the cost of clean up seems well beyond cost savings in using nuclear, but i’m not an economist. How much electricity did fukushima or chernobyl generate before they went wrong, and how much was that worth in comparison to the long term costs of containment and cleanup?

      • Bunk on you. You are ignoring the data and fabricating fear. The actual study results shows that low doses of radiation are at worst trivial hazards. And since nuke energy is far below even that I wonder if you are part of the cynical lies told by greedy big green hustlers.

      • He probably got that number from Alexey V. Yablokov’s book “Chernoble: Consequences of the Catastrophe for people and the Environment”. It predicted deaths of one million. The book was not peer reviewed, and panned by everyone.
        Maybe go it from Sister Dr. Rosalie Bertell’s very conservative estimate: 1,000,000 – 2,000,000 (Hey, you want to get noticed, you’ve got to have bigger numbers!). (https://www.scribd.com/document/50890761/Nuclear-s-Endless-Nightmare-The-Real-Chernobyl-Death-Toll)

      • Flow lr, your answer is non responsive. So all you can do is to ignore my answer and hide behind more false claims and hope no one notices.

      • Hunter, a dose needs to include information about what happens when the nuke is subjecting the body to Newton’s inverse square law. A banana and a radioactive particle are two different kinds of dose. This article only talks about a homogeneous dose.

        I want emphasise that information about the health effects from point sources of radiation are very hard to come by. There has to be a reason for that. As for asbestos, we can find enough information to raconteur for decades. The difference is stark.

      • Why is tritium “especially worrying?” It emits alpha particles that are stopped by the first layer of tissue. Nuclear plant workers in the Candu plants have had considerable body burdens of tritium, yet no one has detected an increase of cancer in those workers.

      • remembering to keep it about people, not %, tritium is worrying because it enters the food chain very quickly, and it is known to cause DNA damage to fetus and sperm.

        here’s a random paper that took 5s of googling to find: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4822198/

        “MicroRNA (miRNA) is defined as a class of evolutionarily conserved small noncoding RNAs approximately 22 nucleotides in length. The function of miRNAs is to suppress gene expression; therefore, they take part in many cellular processes, including DNA damage response and repair.4 MiR-34a is one of the direct target genes of p53, and the expression of ectopic miR-34a can induce apoptosis, cell cycle arrest, differentiation, or restraint of migration and invasion.5–8 In our previous study, we showed that miR-34a is downregulated after HTO exposure and further studied the functions of miR-34a to elucidate its role in mediating cell responses to HTO exposure.9 To investigate the correlation of radiation with CVDs, we examined the role of miR-34a in repairing DNA damage in HUVECs exposed to HTO. MiR-34a is known to have many target genes, of which c-myc is an important one as it plays a role during DNA damage and repair, after radiation. For example, one study showed that c-Myc suppression of DSB repair and V(D)J recombination occur through inhibition of the nonhomologous end-joining pathway.”

        here is another on tritium and tumor development in mice:
        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7629437/

        i’ll keep going on about it. exposure to gamma rays is profoundly different to exposure to alpha or beta emitters in food/water

      • Flow,
        Just compare the cancer rates in Denver with that of a similar sized city near sea level. They are statistically indistinguishable. Since people living in Denver are exposed to more cosmic radiation that people living near sea level, this disproves the LNT theory.

        And why exactly does it matter what the source of the radiation is? Your body doesn’t care.

        All of the current (and past) nuclear plants were base on 30+ year old designs. And even there there were few serious accidents. It is reasonable to expect that the newer designs, which are inherently safer, will have even fewer accidents. So there’s no reason to fear them. If people like you had been in charge of automobiles, trains, or airplanes 50 years ago, we wouldn’t have any today because extrapolating out future deaths using the current technology would have made them seem too dangerous.

      • “And why exactly does it matter what the source of the radiation is? Your body doesn’t care.”

        it matters. Gamma/xrays have a low rate of interation with whatever they are passing through. beta and alpha far higher. Being exposed to radiation itself is nott necessarily a bad thing, as i am learning here, it may even be a good thing.

        However, the extent of damage that can be caused by having alpha or beta decay occur in a cell is much greater.

        It is the accidents that matter, the dispersal of the isotopes.

        As many have pointed out, we really don’t know the risks, and that is a bad place to work from. We need better information, more studies. We also need a way of cleaning up, other than throwing billions of tons of concrete at the problem

      • Paul Penrose and others,

        People living in Tibet don’t resemble post-apocalyptic survivors and I have not heard of any reports indicating anomalous rates of cancer. As a group, they probably experience much higher life-time doses of cosmic rays than any other people on Earth, including airline pilots. If the LNT hypothesis had any credibility, then the people of Tibet should be notable for the price they pay for living on the top of the world. They don’t even seem to be evolving at a different rate than other people, thus mutations don’t seem to be a burden they carry..

        Life began its evolution at a time when the background radiation on the surface of the Earth was much higher than it is today. I would be surprised if evolution didn’t provide us with a mechanism for coping with the low-level background radiation from potassium, uranium, and thorium, as well as cosmic rays. Cockroaches, an ancient form of life that may be among the first insects to populate dry land, reputedly have a high tolerance even for gamma rays, let alone less penetrating alpha and beta radiation.

        Lifetime doses don’t make sense because we don’t die with the same cells we are born with. If a cell isn’t damaged, or the body is able to repair the damage, then it is a moot point how much radiation the body received up to that point in time. Furthermore, it is only the more penetrating gamma and cosmic rays that would seem to have the potential for doing damage to critical internal organs and cause cancers other than skin cancers that can be excised surgically. Therefore, the type of radiation would seem to be at least as important as the dose rate and total dose in considering the potential risk.

        As with the question about AGW, there is a lot of hand-waving and jumping up and down shouting concerns about possibilities, rather than probabilities. It is ironic that Liberals are the ones who promote the unscientific and conservative Precautionary Principle!

      • The LNT hypothesis was adequately rebutted (by a physicist, which Dr. Graves will appreciate, I’m sure) back in 1995: Bernard L. Cohen, Health Physics, Feb. 1995, Vol. 68, No. 2, pp 157-174. It is available online here: http://www.phyast.pitt.edu/~blc/LNT-1995.PDF

        This addresses Mike’s so-called “hot particle” issue as well, because the only way we receive radiation from radon is by inhalation. It is a pure alpha emitter. Alphas are stopped by the skin and have negligible range in water (we are mostly water). Alphas are little subatomic cannonballs, doing far more damage than gammas, a fact reflected in their 20x dose multiplier for calculated effective doses.

        To summarize, Cohen examined lung cancer rates (publicly reported) against average indoor radon concentrations (also reported) for 1600 counties across the USA, and plotted that against the LNT line extrapolate from the higher-dose exposures of uranium miners. At low concentrations, the observed rates were up to 20 standard deviations (!!!) below LNT expectation. In other words, for radon at least, LNT is busted, period. Cohen carefully tested against a large number of possible confounders, and couldn’t find anything which came close to explaining so large a discrepancy.

        BEIR chose to ignore this on the grounds that an “ecological” study, which does not track individual dose and response, is invalid. But as Cohen points out, LNT is itself an ecological hypothesis! If linearity holds, then 100 people at dose X and 50 people at dose 2x should should exactly the same number of cancers. We don’t need to know who got what dose, only the average exposure of the population.

        Although the data appear to show a protective effect from 1 to about 4 pCi/L (the EPA action limit, ironically enough), Cohen was careful not to claim that, which would require knowing individual doses. All he claims is that LNT cannot be correct. AFAIK this claim, while widely ignored, has never been refuted.

        Then, more recently (2011), came this work, which refuted LNT by direct experiment, and which was (again ironically) published by the same National Academy of Sciences which embraces LNT via the BEIR:

        http://newscenter.lbl.gov/news-releases/2011/12/20/low-dose-radiation/

        Neumaier et. al., “Evidence for formation of DNA repair centers
        and dose-response nonlinearity in human cells”, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 108

      • “Flow Ir In February 22, 2017 at 3:26 pm
        there is a difference to being exposed to radiation form external sources, and eating/drinking/breathing radioisotopes. Tritium is especially worrying.”

        Flow lr In:
        Your alarmist rants make old wives tales sound rational.

        Tritium? ³H?
        Tritium is naturally found in regular water. Your drinking water can and likely does contain tritium.
        Tritium is found in exit signs, high end watches and other products.
        Tritium’s radiative emission is strictly beta (β-decay), a very weak emissive particle that is stopped by paper, skin, foil, etc.

        At that last link, I used a link to the emission varieties for carbon.
        Radioactive carbon isotopes are ubiquitous on Earth. All living creatures are based on carbon chemistry and scientists have been using carbon extracted from fossils to gauge the relative age of the fossils.

        Separating tritium from water is an impossible task, so modern physicists manufacture their own from water.
        All hydrogen, carbon and other elements are changed into ionized elements when cosmic rays and other energetic particles intersect with the element.
        The entire Earth is bathed in radiation every day, from the sun and from space; constantly creating a fresh supply of radioactive compounds.

        Bananas contain some radioactive potassium-40.

        Granite and crushed gravel from quarries across the USA have imbedded uranite (uranium ore). That is a major source of radon in many areas. Larger uranite samples can be found in many of the granite blocks.

        Granite bedrock and imbedded masses are throughout the water supply aquifers. Again, the same water people have been drinking since man’s origin.

        Taking a flight on an airliner exposes people to substantial radiation as there is much less air and water vapor at higher altitudes to deflect or absorb cosmic radiation.

        Watching the aurora borealis is watching radiation enter our atmosphere along the Earth’s magnetic poles. Yet, populations living near the poles have lived without disasters for millennia.

      • Flow Ir In,

        The author may not be a Medical Physicist, but I am. I can say that overall he summed up the issue nicely.

        Let me correct a few misconceptions you seem to have. First off, there is not necessarily a difference between damage from external vs. internal (ingested) radiation other than where the damage occurs. External sources can be just as dangerous.

        The distinction between external and internal is more a function of the type of emission that occurs. Alpha particles are not nearly as dangerous in an external exposure as the skin (or even clothing) absorbs most of the energy… but ingested they can be quite lethal. Gamma (photon) emissions, however, are pretty much equally dangerous in either form, and so too can beta emissions be dangerous externally (even though more dangerous internally). So, relative concerns about external vs. internal depend on the isotope (or source) being discussed because different isotopes can have different emission spectra.

        If you think that external gamma (photon) radiation isn’t dangerous, I invite you to hang out in one of our linear accelerator vaults for a few hours. Trust me, you won’t like it.

        Second, you claim that “tritium is worrying because it enters the food chain very quickly, and it is known to cause DNA damage to fetus and sperm”… when in fact all ionizing radiation can produce DNA damage… that’s why it’s potentially dangerous.

        You are confusing the rate at which various ionizing radiation deposits its’ energy with the rate at which your cells can be damaged. It’s true, that for a single cell, being exposed to an alpha particle poses a significantly higher risk vs. beta and gamma. But it’s not true for a multi-cellular organism, because although a single cell is less at risk with low LET radiation, there are many more cells put at risk because the effective path is so much greater… so overall the risk to the organism is about the same (give or take).

        Basically, by ignoring the penetrating power of beta and gamma rays, you mis-state the overall risk, which is roughly equal, and more dependent on the energy and quantity of the emission and not the form.

        And for the record, a significant portion (maybe even a majority) of the Medical Physics community views the LNT theory as problematic.

      • you’ve completely straw manned me there, Anton.
        Nothing that you have said i’m confused about am i actually confused about. You are essentially describing the same issues that i’ve been describing.
        Perhaps the bit you missed was me talking about the attempt to quantify the variant risk of the alpha and beta emitters, once incorporated into a cell by the use of a simple “20x” multiplier, when compared to gamma radiation. Its odd that LNT is dismissed (on good grounds) but then an identical concept is used to dismiss the risk of in-cell decay. I also quoted papers that put 1000x as a more meaningful multiplier for alpha emitters

      • “flowirin February 23, 2017 at 5:51 pm
        i’ve already addressed your points.”

        I missed where exactly, you address that radionuclides are common in nature, in water and in the food we eat. Or any of a number of other points.

        Instead, I think you skipped reading and tried to blow my comment off.

        Your link to the https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ is a study performed on rodents using water doped with far more tritium than you ever encounter.

        A rather classic laboratory design case where even sugar, salt and even plain pure water can reach toxic amounts in a diet. That does not make tritium any deadlier, just that researchers are in a hurry to develop results.

    • Nuclear energy measured in TerraWatt Hours is four times safer than Wind Power, and Solar Power. The irony is that Molten Salt Reactors were recommended to be the design for all civilian nuclear energy; due to the inherently safe design. egeneration.org

      • ATheoK,
        You said, “Granite and crushed gravel from quarries across the USA have imbedded uranite (uranium ore). That is a major source of radon in many areas. Larger uranite samples can be found in many of the granite blocks.” And here I thought that most of the uranium was tied up in the zircon crystals. It is well known that granitic pegmatites will concentrate uraniium as uraninite and in columbite/tantalite. However, I’m unacquainted with large quantities being common in typical granites. Perhaps you could provide me with information on just which intrusions have these “larger uraninite samples” you refer to so that I could collect some.

      • “Clyde Spencer February 23, 2017 at 9:27 pm
        ATheoK,
        You said, “Granite and crushed gravel from quarries across the USA have imbedded uranite (uranium ore). That is a major source of radon in many areas. Larger uranite samples can be found in many of the granite blocks.” And here I thought that most of the uranium was tied up in the zircon crystals. It is well known that granitic pegmatites will concentrate uraniium as uraninite and in columbite/tantalite. However, I’m unacquainted with large quantities being common in typical granites. Perhaps you could provide me with information on just which intrusions have these “larger uraninite samples” you refer to so that I could collect some.

        When I went to mindat, apparently uranite is not acceptable as a spelling anymore. Uraninite is considered the correct spelling.

        Any of the crushed rock quarries around Richmond. I have seen uranite in granite several times. Sign up for trips with the Richmond Gem and Mineral Society for access.

        I didn’t notice any zircon crystal surrounding 1cm uranite specimens, I saw in the granite.

        Tantalite, tantalum and columbite are found in Amelia County, VA. Perhaps in other locations too.

        Radiation? “aerial radiometric surveys, stream sediment sampling and other surface measurements. The results of these studies helped set the foundation for mapping the distribution of uranium-enriched bedrock in Virginia.”

        “NURE aeroradiometric data showing color-shaded eU (ppm).
        Source: USGS OFR 2005-1413″

        I don’t have a picture for uraninite in granite wall from Virginia.
        Here is a Mindat photo of granite Ruggles New Hampshire where uraninite has been found:

        The earliest discovery of the famous gummite specimens from this locality was announced by Benjamin Shaub in 1936: “Recent work in mining for feldspar at the Ruggles’ pegmatite has exposed numerous uranium-bearing … minerals.”

        Aerial radiometric surveys are likely available for most of the Eastern States.

        Radionuclides are the norm in our lives, not the exceptions.

        Granite, as immense magma intrusions concentrate many minerals.
        Concentrate is rather a nonspecific generic when every magmatic granitic intrusion concentrates minerals available within the melt, including rare earths and heavy metals.

      • Kinda funny story. I had to develop a property for a client a few years ago. A well was needed as the property was way beyond the municipal water supply.. After taking taking water test to find out if the water was okay ( the neighbor was on a well also so we knew there would not be a problem, but hey you do what the client wants)we found out there were traces of radioactivity, PANIC,
        He was a dentist that guess what?// Bases all his decisions on X-rays.

      • You need to watch more movies. Hollywood has shown us the truth, and that truth is that all radiation – except solar, is bad. (Solar radiation is necessary for those marvelous tans.) Where on earth did you get your education?
        Nucular radiation is the worst radiation – worse than nuclear, even,. We had a president who knew all about the dangers of radiation, and how to dispose of it, because he was a nucular physicist. And other presidents after him sang the same tune. I didn’t learn about this form of radiation until after I graduated from university- from listening to the president. Presidents are also great sources of science education,.Better than some university professor. My major was physics, and they completely ignored nucular radiation. They focused on nuclear. To this day, I haven’t asked why.

      • You can’t see, touch, feel, hear or taste the radiation. It borders on black magic. That’s what the fear is about. LNT has been a pile of bovine scat from the beginning.

      • If anyone would like to try some real fear (Not fake fear), try inhaling some Depleted Uranium Oxide particles first. Breathing in some granite dust is not a hot particle and amounts to humour on the nuclear fear index.

      • LNT has been pretty much debunked when it comes to exposure to chemical carcinogens, but it unfortunately is still the standard by which all chemicals are judged.

      • Mike, all you are doing is declaring that exposure to a lot of radiation will have a bigger imact than exposure to a small amount of radiation.
        No one has ever disputed that.

      • Kalifornia: The sun is BAD too. Why do you think we all have to slather pounds of suncreen on before we can walk outside? Heard of melanoma, the dread outcome of not using suncreen? (/sarc)

      • Kalifornia Kook (redundant),
        Actually, I think Carter was a nuclear engineer, not a nuclear physicist.

      • “Mike from Au February 22, 2017 at 7:30 pm
        If anyone would like to try some real fear (Not fake fear), try inhaling some Depleted Uranium Oxide particles first. Breathing in some granite dust is not a hot particle and amounts to humour on the nuclear fear index.”

        Radon, released by granite originates from uranite particles; the basic ore component for uranium.

        Granite with seriously high uranite concentrations is a deadly radiation source. It is relatively easy to find larger, i.e. easily seen, uranite mineral samples in granite exposures.
        But most folks would perish from silicosis long before granite radiation caused terminal illnesses.

        It’s all part of the natural background radiation.

        Opals, quartz varieties, e.g. amethyst, citrine, agate, etc., topaz and many other gems are naturally radioactive with slightly higher than background radiation.

    • Substantial levels of radiation are already used internally for medical diagnosis. Heart stress test use Tc-99 and expose the patient to acute absorbed doses of 5.85 mSv. An abdominal CT scan typically exposes a patient to 10 mSv and angioplasty can run as high as 57 mSv. Treating thyroid disease can use a dose of 540 MBq (million counts per second) gamma emitting I-131 to expose the thyroid to over 100 Gy equivalent to about 100 Sv of gamma concentrated in the thyroid. Family members of thyroid patients can be exposed to up to 5 mSv just by being close. There may be some increased cancer to these patients, however the small increase is lost in the already large number of cancer patients.

      • I131 for thyroid treatment, at 100mCi does produces about a 27% increase in secondary cancers.

        Br J Cancer. 2003 Nov 3;89(9):1638-44.
        Second primary malignancies in thyroid cancer patients.

        Rubino C, de Vathaire F, Dottorini ME, Hall P, Schvartz C, Couette JE, Dondon MG, Abbas MT, Langlois C, Schlumberger M.

        Unite INSERM XUR521, Gustave Roussy Institute, 39 rue Camille Desmoulins, Villejuif 94 805, France.

        The late health effects associated with radioiodine ((131)I) given as treatment for thyroid cancer are difficult to assess since the number of thyroid cancer patients treated at each centre is limited. The risk of second primary malignancies (SPMs) was evaluated in a European cohort of thyroid cancer patients. A common database was obtained by pooling the 2-year survivors of the three major Swedish, Italian, and French cohorts of papillary and follicular thyroid cancer patients. A time-dependent analysis using external comparison was performed. The study concerned 6841 thyroid cancer patients, diagnosed during the period 1934-1995, at a mean age of 44 years. In all, 17% were treated with external radiotherapy and 62% received (131)I. In total, 576 patients were diagnosed with a SPM. Compared to the general population of each of the three countries, an overall significantly increased risk of SPM of 27% (95% CI: 15-40) was seen in the European cohort. An increased risk of both solid tumours and leukaemias was found with increasing cumulative activity of (131)I administered, with an excess absolute risk of 14.4 solid cancers and of 0.8 leukaemias per GBq of (131)I and 10(5) person-years of follow-up. A relationship was found between (131)I administration and occurrence of bone and soft tissue, colorectal, and salivary gland cancers. These results strongly highlight the necessity to delineate the indications of (131)I treatment in thyroid cancer patients in order to restrict its use to patients in whom clinical benefits are expected.

    • This health reports is about homogeneous ‘whole body’ doses and not the kinds of doses from ‘point sources’ that are ingested/inhaled that are common in nuclear accidents. In this case, Newtons inverse square law applies. The cells that are closest to the radioactive particle are hammered with radiation while cells that are further away are getting a much smaller dose.

      Research about ‘point sources’ of radiation are very rare indeed, and this is odd because it precisely these radioactive particles that are ingested inhaled when depleted uranium ordinance is used or when nuclear goes wrong in general

      • Mike from Au: I try to be generous in responding, but there is no other response here than you simply have no idea what you are talking about. The inverse square law applies to all radiation. What I think you might be trying to say is that when radioactive material is incorporated in the body (any pathway – ingestion, inhalation, injection), there is a potential for a larger biological effect. That is true for material that emits alpha radiation, much less (but somewhat) true for beta radiation, but absolutely does not apply for particles emitting gamma radiation. Alpha radiation is 2 protons and 2 neutrons (basically a He-4 nucleus), and is physically very large compared to beta radiation (an electron) or gamma radiation (a massless photon). As someone else pointed out these difference are taken into account in the conversion of Grays to Sieverts, which normalizes (somewhat crudely) dose from any source, internal or external.

      • Thanks Barbara: some errata.
        Radiation of any kind is increasingly homogeneous when further away from the source. Yes.
        Is the health report and your health report about homogeneous radiation doses. Yes
        Does the study incorporate a cloud of point sources in the form of extremely radioactive, easily ingestible hot particles? The blindingly obvious answer is ‘no’.
        Do nuclear power plants have Nuclear Wardrobe Malfunctions? Very much so. All the time. Yes.

      • @ Barbara Hamrick February 22, 2017 at 8:52 pm

        Barbara: I believe we interacted a lot when I was a Sr. HP with UCLA’s radiation safety office. For others here, Barbara is a very competent Health Physicist. Barbara: if you are interested in contacting me, email me: larrygrimm (at) Comcast.net My compliments to your postings here. I’ve been commenting on WUWT re radiation issues for many years. It is good to see another HP posting here. Sometimes we have a lonely battle trying to educate the world.

        PS: dang, I did not come to this article until late this evening. However, Barbara is doing a great job of explaining things and the article is very good in presenting the pros and cons of the contentious (it IS contentious in the Health Physics world) science of low dose radiation effects. Not noted in the article is that BEIR VII backed off considerably from previous BEIR reports in its support of the LNT theory. I facetiously have come to believe that support of the LNT theory is primarily by those whose jobs depend on keeping people scared – notably the regulators. – Larry Grimm

      • That’s just not true. There’s a lot of research on inhaled uranium compounds. Use Google Scholar, and put in “inhalation uranium oxides.” Or, visit the US Transuranium and Uranium Registries site (https://stage.ustur.wsu.edu/). They are devoted to this research specifically.

    • It’s probably not worth even discussing. You don’t have control over who builds and operates most of the fission reactors in the world.

      Example:
      Mainland China has 36 nuclear power reactors in operation, 21 under construction, and more about to start construction. (World Nuclear Association)

      Over 60 power reactors are currently being constructed in 13 countries
      (World Nuclear Association)

      Interesting little chart on this Bloomberg page:
      http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-02-20/china-nuclear-ambitions-seen-stalled-by-next-generation-reactors

      Really folks… the horse is out of the barn.

      • Yes. Which is why trying to scare people is just counterproductive. Research into what really happens would be very, very useful, instead of pushing fear. As noted in the article, there are real-life “labs” that give us some information. Chernobyl could have been very useful if fear hadn’t shut down all research into human reactions. We need know to know what to do WHEN something happens, not IF.

    • As a former member of the International Society for Radiological Protection, the British Nuclear Energy Society, and editorial board of the Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, I do have some expertise to make a judgement on LNT. I support it. And not because I ‘believe’ in the hypothesis, but because it is prudent to accept it, rather than undertake the risks associated with an assumption that there is a threshold that might later be proven wrong. This is what one commentator below calls a humanitarian response. Consider the X-raying of pregnant women – it was widespread, and supported by ICRP (on which radiologists themselves were representatives). When excess leukaemia was found in the children of x-rayed women, the practice was banned – but not without huge resistance from ICRP.

      Furthermore, it is scientifically impossible to adequately confirm the hypothesis at very low doses because the statistical tests do not exist – natural background fluctuations will mask any impacts, and it is almost impossible to study the effects of background fluctuations because of other competing factors, the long follow-up times, variability of populations etc. The example given of hormesis in Taipei – one would have to know whether the population in the flats was otherwise selected – for example, by age (e.g.most likely if young people moving into the city) – simply quoting numbers of cases is not adequate. This is why BEIR and other committees are set up – and BEIR has a very good track record compared to other committees – especially UN groups (who suffer the same kind of systemic errors in constitution as IPCC!!!).

      You might then argue – if the science cannot determine the risk, then lets take it! That was the thinking behind proposals to dump all the world’s radioactive waste in the ocean deeps. It was also the thinking that built reactors which are not fail-safe – on the argument that if they failed 1 in a million years, and resultant high doses (ie cancer casualties) were divided by that factor, the risk was negligible! As scientists we have not only a duty of care – we also have a duty to respect the very real fears of the general population who have learned to distrust authority. Would we want to advocate absolute trust of scientific authority? With the UN at the top of that pyramid? I think not.

      • How long do we cling to LNT even as the evidence builds that it is wrong?
        The thinking is that sticking to LNT is a no-cost option. But there is huge costs. We are diverting resources from things that will help people in order to solve problems that we don’t know even exist. (Worse, there is growing evidence that it doesn’t exist.)

      • Peter Taylor: As you know, there are an overwhelming number of studies which show that low doses of radiation will have a beneficial effect on a biological population (not well shown in humans, but evident in scores of other biological entities). You also know that there is a finite chance that a few individuals in the population may get a negative result from a low dose. The question is: do we do what is best for those few individuals and go with the LNT, or do we do what is best for the greater percentage of the population which will likely benefit and go with the threshold theory? It is obvious that the threshold theory would save more lives than the LNT. So do you support the few individuals or the greater population?

      • Peter – the problem I have with this approach, which is basically the application of the Precautionary Principle, is that there is no possibility of ever proving something is “safe” in an absolute sense. “Safe” only exists as a relative term. When exposure is so low that effects cannot be distinguished from natural occurrence of disease, then there is an “effective threshold.”

      • “Precautionary Principle” means “Zero Risk” to the Chicken-Little Whingers, many of whom it wd seem have a primary and Hobbit-like wish to return to the “good ‘ol times (Ha!). Society as it is today would still be in the Stone-Ages if Grok refused to stick his head out of his cave to go hunting for food in case a rock fell on his head on his way out.
        I submit that homo-spaiens’ tolerance to risk is — mathematically — a curve trending asymptotically with time to zero. We are at the greatest risk of ALARPING ourselves into extinction.
        YOU CAN’T HAVE PROGRESS WITHOUT RISK .
        YOU CAN’T LIVE A LIFE WITHOUT RISK …. go to the supermarket and that bill-board might fall-over and get you.

      • Peter Taylor,
        As Chauncey Starr so eloquently pointed out, people’s willingness to take risk is tempered by their perception of the benefits. That is why society tolerates such a high death rate from automobiles. Life is not without risks and even crossing the street carries some calculable risk. The important thing is that the population should be told the truth about the risks and then they should be free to make choices. Guidelines and recommendations should be provided, based on the best known information. Being conservative on the recommendations is not “humanitarian,” it is patronizing. As scientists we have a duty to present the best estimates that are available to us. It is up to politicians and the electorate to decide how to use that information.

      • ” The important thing is that the population should be told the truth about the risks and then they should be free to make choices. Guidelines and recommendations should be provided, based on the best known information. Being conservative on the recommendations is not “humanitarian,” it is patronizing. ”

        this exactly.

      • The Precautionary Principle is not about ‘zero’ risk. Nor is it ‘anti-science’. It arose because of a mismatch between the nature of Law and the nature of Science. For most the the history of environmental science and monitoring, it was assumed that toxic substances could be released without harm because they could be diluted by oceans or atmosphere to below some supposedly acceptable threshold of harm. Few asked ‘acceptable to whom’ – that issue of the locus of control and the benefits of a particular polluting activity. For example, why should Ireland accept risks arising from fish contaminated by British dumping of radioactive wastes in the Irish Sea when they have no direct benefits from the British nuclear programme (both civil and military)?

        However, the main issue relates to the nature of ‘proof’ where harm is concerned. Science does not deal with proof, only hypotheses that can be tested and capable of being falsified. The Law, however, often demands proof. So – consider the situation where an industrial discharge contaminates a regional sea (e.g. mercury in Liverpool Bay and the Irish Sea; or caesium-137 from Sellafield nuclear operations affecting the Norwegian Sea and fisheries). Prior to the Precautionary Principle, the burden of proof in international law would require Norway or Ireland to gather data and make a case for ‘harm’….a combination of extensive monitoring and toxicity studies on dose levels. That is expensive and ultimately fruitless because the scientifically accepted method of investigation was to construct the ‘null hypothesis’ – ie the discharges have no effect, and attempt to refute it. Clearly, if nobody can afford the relevant studies, not enough data can be assembled to refute the hypothesis and therefore it stands.

        This situation has led to some extremely damaging environmental errors: number one must be the the licensed discharge/dispersal over several decades of CFCs, then held to be the ‘least toxic substances known to man’. Lab technicians claimed you could wash your dishes with the stuff. Only one scientist suspected they could impact the ozone layer and he was not listened to. Add to that mercury levels in fish – off the coast of Israel, for example; or organochlorines dispersed into Arctic food chains, and later found to have immuno-suppressant and gender-bending effects.

        By the late 1980s there was a growing body of evidence to show that the so-called ‘assimulative capacity’ approach was failing. Firstly, the environment was not as predictable as the models maintained – toxics were accumulating in unforeseen ways; secondly, new data on toxicity was emerging, but AFTER the toxins had been released en masse. This showed the LIMITS of science and prediction.

        The Precautionary Principle was brought into international law (and I had a hand in that) firstly, 1) to redress the ‘burden of proof’ – instead of impacted communities having to prove harm, the polluter had to prove ‘no harm’; 2) to promote ‘clean production’ technology (I commissioned the first report on that for the UN conventions on ocean protection and helped develop the strategy). We readily showed that better technology existed, often cheaper, and that most toxic substances could be phased out or well-contained, in particular, if legislation followed the business cycle of capital renewal (ie we cut industry enough slack to reform itself).

        Finally – to those who rightly say scientists should limit themselves to outlining the consequences of choices and allow elected representatives to weigh costs and benefits – yes, in an ideal world. But most scientists are not independent souls working for the common good – they are employed by industries, and their industrial masters call the shots. Consider: several hundred nuclear power stations were licensed and built in the 1950-1975 time period but not a single house of representatives anywhere was told that a reactor core could melt-down! Or that nuclear wastes would be problematic. It was the Rasmussen Report in the US in 1975, and the UK Royal Commission in 1976, that first put these facts to parliaments. In 1985 I sat on the UK governmental advisory board for the management of nuclear wastes – and I told them, finding a site would be the biggest problem and they should plan for above-ground fail-safe containment. After 32 years – that advice still stands. The public weigh risks in a different way to technocrats and I have always believed in getting facts to the public so that they can make those judgements. The same cannot be said for most government and industry scientists with whom I have worked – they had to be persuaded or out-manouevred.

      • flowirin, the population has been told the truth. Just because people choose not to panic regarding non-existent risks, is not proof that they haven’t been told.

      • @ Peter, sorry I disagree. I have had many more times the usual amounts of X-rays, CAT scans, MRI’s than the average person.
        Because of them I lead a relative “normal” live after being injured and needing invasive surgery. With your thinking I would have been in a wheel chair ( or worse).
        But if you want “a safe place” ? please leave me out.

      • MRIs use radio waves to make hydrogen atoms flip their spin states in a magnetic field. not ionising. jsut FYI

      • The nuclear industry is possibly the dirtiest/most toxic industry on earth, and refuses to clean up after itself more often for purely economical reason. That is why spent fuel pools the world over and tailings dams are filling to maximum capacity. It is an industry that can never be toilet trained.

        From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tailings_dam

        A tailings dam is typically an earth-fill embankment dam used to store byproducts of mining operations after separating the ore from the gangue. Conventional water retention dams can serve this purpose, but due to cost, a tailings dam is more viable. Tailings can be liquid, solid, or a slurry of fine particles. Solid tailings are often used as part of the structure itself.

        Tailings dams rank among the largest engineered structures on earth. The Syncrude Mildred Lake Tailings Dyke in Alberta, Canada, is an embankment dam about 18 kilometres (11 mi) long and from 40 to 88 metres (131 to 289 ft) high. It is the largest dam structure on earth by volume, and as of 2001 it was believed to be the largest earth structure in the world by volume of fill.[1]

        There are key differences between tailings dams and the more familiar hydro dams. Tailings dams are designed for permanent containment, meant to “remain there forever”.[2] Copper, gold, uranium and other mining operations produce varied kinds of waste, much of it toxic, which pose varied challenges for long-term containment.[3]

      • Mike from gold,
        if you think that the nuclear industry is dirty, you should investigate the conditions in China involving the production of Rare Earth Elements that are used in the production of generators for wind turbines.

        The reason that the nuclear industry is storing spent fuel rods in the US is because they paid a tax to develop a long-term storage solution and the government was tasked with spending the money to create the disposal site. For various reasons, mostly political, but also geological, that storage site has not come online.

        Your complaint about tailings dams can also be applied to the coal industry, particularly with respect to coal ash.

        Your remarks are less than objective and complete. You come across as having an agenda that doesn’t include looking for the truth.

      • Peter says, “The Precautionary Principle was brought into international law (and I had a hand in that) firstly, 1) to redress the ‘burden of proof’ – instead of impacted communities having to prove harm, the polluter had to prove ‘no harm’;”

        and, that’s the problem in a nutshell, because no one can ever prove “no harm” from anything. Period. By this reasoning all progress should stop everywhere. I cannot even prove that remodeling my house will not cause harm to my neighbor. It is a ridiculous standard, both in theory and as applied. I’m not saying that we abandon protection of the public health and safety, but “no harm” is not a reasonable, practical or achievable standard.

      • Lets stop focusing on radiation for the moment and look at containment toxic waste created by refining processes in general.

        Maybe anthropogenic life on earth was put here so that future species will find innovative ways to feed and evolve from the concentrated waste products our species left behind??

        Chronology of major tailings dam failures.
        http://www.wise-uranium.org/mdaf.html

    • I too can hypothesis anything, and then declare that anyone who disagrees with me is evil.
      However if you want to do science, you look at the evidence.

  2. “”The onset of cancer from a large acute dose will not in most cases occur for several years or even decades.””

    …this is called wiggle room

    In other words they don’t know…and most likely something else gave you cancer

    • I was offered radiotherapy. doses of up to a sievert locally. 15% chance of unelated cancer in `15 years time.a sievert is, if given whole body, likely to result in severe radiation sickness and a good chance of dying.

      yet people living in ramsar get a sievert every10-20 years or so, naturally. It has no effect on cancer rates

      LNT is busted.
      Wade Allison is the goto man for the skinny

    • It’s a little more certain than that. It is well-established that there is a latency period for cancer to appear after exposure, but it varies with age at exposure, cancer site (e.g., leukemias arise earlier than solid cancers). While many organizations use a 100 mSv threshold as the limit below which we have too little knowledge to impute causation, in reality it appears to be higher (in the range of 200 – 500 mSv), and dependent on age, gender, age at exposure, type of exposure (e.g., inhalation of iodine 131 vs. whole body gamma irradiation vs. neutron irradiation, etc.), genetics and other factors.

      The primary problem in trying to identify a correlation in the low dose region is the high background of cancers (those occurring for all the myriad of reasons unrelated to radiation exposure). Currently, lifetime risk of cancer incidence in the U.S. population is around 40% (higher for men, lower for women): https://seer.cancer.gov/statistics/types/lifetimerisk.html.

      • Oops. Meant to add that the generic risk is generally assumed to be 5% per Sv, so in a population of 100 persons, 40 get cancer anyway. If you expose each of them to 200 mSv (0.2 Sv), you might get 1 extra cancer, and of course that might be a natural fluctuation, so it’s not easy to detect.

      • Barbara, where is the information concerning ‘point sources’ of radiation?
        For any dose study to be complete it needs to include information about the ingestion of hot particles. And yet, it is studies that are about non uniform doses from hot particles that are rare and required when discussing associated risks of a nuclear wardrobe malfunction.

      • Mike from Au: How would you test something like “point sources”?

        (Your cute use of “nuclear wardobe malfunction” is annoying. Was that your intent?)

      • Mike from Au,
        What the hell is a “nuclear wardrobe malfunction”? I just don’t see a connection to Janet Jackson or women’s breasts.

      • It’s a rather pathetic attempt at ridiculing those who don’t believe that nuclear power is going to kill us all.

      • Thanks Mark. The nuclear industry has toilet training issues and needs to deal with its accumulating toxic waste.

        From: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/05/burning-reactor-fuel-could-have-worsened-fukushima-disaster

        At U.S. nuclear plants, spent fuel is equally vulnerable. It is for the most part densely packed in pools, heightening the fire risk if cooling systems were to fail. NRC has estimated that a major fire in a U.S. spent fuel pool would displace, on average, 3.4 million people from an area larger than New Jersey. “We’re talking about trillion-dollar consequences,” says panelist Frank von Hippel, a nuclear security expert at Princeton University.

      • Mike from Au, you may be impressing your fellow 3rd graders with your juvenile attempts at humor. But out here you are among the big boys.
        Instead of laughing with you, we are laughing at you.
        Your pathetic attempts to distract with your wildly inventive stories and juvenile insults just doesn’t pass muster.
        Try growing up.

      • markW, your constant ad hominem and personal insults bring nothing to the conversation. We get it, you are better than most, and we should bow to your opinions. Can you stop being so incessantly rude now please, sir?

      • Mark Further peruse the following.
        From: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/05/spent-fuel-fire-us-soil-could-dwarf-impact-fukushima

        “At most U.S. nuclear plants, spent fuel is densely packed in pools, heightening the fire risk. NRC has estimated that a major fire at the spent fuel pool at the Peach Bottom nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania would displace an estimated 3.46 million people from 31,000 square kilometers of contaminated land, an area larger than New Jersey. But Von Hippel and Schoeppner think that NRC has grossly underestimated the scale and societal costs of such a fire.”

      • Mike from AU: Could, could, could. And an asteroid COULD hit the earth in 20 minutes and end this whole juvenile diatribe.

      • Mike from gold,
        I strongly advise you not to inhale plutonium dust! For that matter, almost any dust in large quantities — coal, asbestos, silica, wood, flour, etc — will give you problems that may cause you to die before you develop cancer.

      • what have i been lying about?
        I’ve talked about the differences between gamma exposure and eating alpha and beta emitters, and the lack of knowledge of the relative harm. I’ve backed that up with studies showing mutagenesis and tumor formation from tritium exposure
        I’ve talked about the lack of ability to cope with accidents, beyond evacuation and concrete
        I’ve talked about how many pro-nuclear people dismiss risk, when the risk is not fully understood.
        I’ve talked about how the ‘super safe’ idea of nuclear power has been repeatedly shown to be untrue, and asked why we should not expect more accidents if we expand nuclear power
        I’ve asked that we remember to consider the personal, human, impact of accidents, and not hide behind statistics and percentages, on a planet of 7 billion. (where a 0.01% increase of a cancer is actually meaningful.
        I’ve asked for more studies and more data so we can better understand exactly what the dangers are.
        That’s been met with a lot of dismissive answers that show a lack of understanding of the issue, and frequent claims that the 20x ‘extra’ damage that a generic (if there is such a thing) alpha particle might cause cover the risks perfectly. A claim which is even less founded in reality than the LNT. Estimate i’ve read put it between 20x and 1000x, but again, we actually need some science. Human stem cells would seem a good place to start, since many are concerned with the generational problems of exposure. cf. the “chernobyl babies” (google). To constantly fall back to figures on adult or mice exposure to gamma radiation as the dismissal of concern tactic merely shows a blinkered and unscientific mindset. We want to understand, not create another scientism doctrine. Haven’t we learnt from AGW?
        I have not lied about anything. I might not be agreeing with you on the risk assessment, but that’s a long way from lying. If you have to drop to black and white interpretations like that, perhaps you need to get out of either your bedroom or your ivory tower and go spend some time in the real world. Science is about questioning, about testing, about expanding knowledge, not about cherry picking papers and building walls of ignorance.

  3. It strikes me that risk is made up of:
    •Severity of effect.
    •Probability of the conditions for the effect arising.
    •Probability of preventing the effect if the conditions do arise.

    Nuclear power has a ridiculously high severity of effect, if a problem occurs. Very bad!
    But the probability is low with modern nuclear designs and chances of prevention can be improved by design also. The severity doesn’t matter if it never happens.

    So this splits people into those who look at “Is the risk OK?” and those who have a “This is too far – we can never accept that chance”.
    As probabilities have long tails and, also, failure mode reduction has costs… both views are reasonable.

    That’s how we’ve got to this impasse. Can anyone see a way out?

    • Alas, it is ‘rare’ but when it happens it goes on for years and years with no real solution. Therefore, even if it is a once in 20 years event, over the next 200 years that is a lot of events and huge hunks of real estate that is uninhabitable.

      • The reason it has to remain uninhabitable is that any disturbance to the soil, or original surfaces at the time of the Nuclear Wardrobe Malfunction contain extremely radioactive particles and animals and plants are not in the habit of emptying vacuum cleaner bags, sweeping, and so on causing hot particles to become airborne again and so on.

        Perhaps with the advent of adult supervision nuclear accidents could be lessened, but this cannot be the case at the current level of collective maturity that human race is at. For example, the world is littered already with hundreds of aging nuclear reactor rust buckets that are too expensive to shut down and the garbage has not been emptied for decades.

        The idea that we need more nuclear when the existing mess continues to grow is the pinnacle of the megalomaniacal desire for power. Who will look after these nuclear mousetraps in the event of any kind of global unrest, during a war for example. Perpetual war is all the rage at the moment..??

      • Mike from gold,

        You said, “Perhaps with the advent of adult supervision nuclear accidents could be lessened,…” I don’t think that impugning the engineers who designed the reactors is warranted. In retrospect, using a graphite core for the Chernobyl reactors was not a good idea. Siting the Fukushima reactors near the oceans for cooling water was not a good idea in an area subject to tsunamis. But, a meteor could have hit Fukushima. We don’t have perfect foreknowledge. The largest loss of life that has occurred in power generation has come from dam failures, not nuclear reactors!

        You also said, without evidence or a sound argument to support it, “The idea that we need more nuclear when the existing mess continues to grow is the pinnacle of the megalomaniacal desire for power.” I would suggest that the problem is the burgeoning population that wants cell phone, computers, TVs, and electric vehicles. They don’t give a lot of thought to how their wants are met.

    • Nuclear power has a ridiculously low severity of effect, even if a problem occurs.

      the worst ever nuclear accident killed 56 people,Fukushima killed no one from radiation, nor will itt.

      On the scale of industrial accidents, that’s peanuts.

      The massive cost and disruption are not due to the accident, but the reaction to it by officials who dont understand the difference between arbitrary regulatory limits and actual danger.

      • I see, that explains why no one can live there, right? Do you realize this snappy answer to my remark looks rather odd? Where are all the volunteers who want to live next to a nuclear plant disaster? Not 100 miles away, but within spitting distance? So far, it is somewhere around no one on earth.

      • emsnews..
        ” Where are all the volunteers who want to live next to a nuclear plant disaster? Not 100 miles away, but within spitting distance? So far, it is somewhere around no one on earth”

        Clearly you have not researched the Ukrainian farmers who refused to leave the Chernobyl exclusion zone.

      • emsnews: Asked and answered. The fact that you do not like the answer will not change that answer.

        Mike from AU: You continue to offend with the cutesy term. I shall refer to you as a “nuclear phobia meter” from here on out. I think it’s cute, so I assume you will too.

      • emsnews,
        You think that nobody lives within 100 miles of Fukushima? Wrong! People are living just a few miles from the plant. Google “Fukushima exclusion zone”. Pictures from the exclusion zone around Chernobyl show a thriving ecosystem, not a dead wasteland. Do a little research before exposing your ignorance.

      • Mike from Au: I’m not sure I’m clear on what you’re trying to say. “Hot particle” does have a regulatory definition, but I’m not sure it means what you think it means, nor does it necessarily have the consequences you attribute to it. I’m going to assume you mean a very small (mass-wise) of radioactive material with very high activity (i.e., large number of emissions per time unit). The ingestion or inhalation of a hot particle will cause significant cellular damage in close proximity to its location, but will primarily cause cell death (rather than cell damage). Cell death does not contribute to increased cancer risk. Cell death can cause acute, deterministic damage, but the effect on the organ (and organism as a whole) is then dependent upon the volume of tissue effected. I have seen medical events with reported peak doses of 1,000 Gy (yes, 1,000 Gy), but the volume of tissue so irradiated was so small (on the order of cubic-micrometers) that there were essentially zero acute health effects expected or seen.

      • So the general gist Barbara of what you seen is as we already know. There is little next to no studies on ingested hot particles. that are irradiating on an ongoing basis, Thanks!!

        That was not as difficult as i expected.

      • So the general gist Barbara of what you have seen and revealed is as we already know. There are close to zero studies on ingested hot particles, that are irradiating on an ongoing basis, Thanks!!

        I hardly think there would be any funding in following around someone who had ingested particles of depleted uranium oxide for instance. It is understandable under the current global financial constraints for funding this kind of nuclear medicine research.

        And it is not only nuclear. Many of the risks associated with the nuclear industry are chemical also.

      • Barbara, I thank you for trying to educate Mike and Flow, But I am afraid you are up against “acolytes” Until they grow up don’t waste your time. ( Although I admire you for trying , I would have been in a good old Friday night tussle with them!).

      • how prejudice blinds people. I’m moderately pro-nuclear. I just can’t stand the whitewashing of the dangers

    • Doing something has risks. But not doing something also has risks. That is, the other options are never risk free.
      Many people tend to take the risks of option A, and compare them to a perfect world in which all risk has been eliminated.
      Yes nuclear has risks, but you have to compare those risks to the total risks of the other power systems. The question is not, is nuclear risky, but rather how does the risk of nuclear compare to the risk associated with coal, natural gas, geo-thermal, whatever.
      It is well known that a wealthier society will be a healthier society. So whichever option increases general wealth the most, will also increase general health the most.
      Because of this, a safer option that costs more, may not in the long run, actually save any lives. When you compare the lives lost to decreased weatlh, to the lives lost taking the riskier option.

      It’s a complex problem that too many people want to short circuit because of their personal phobias.

  4. Thank you for giving a good overview of the LNT issue, and in particular the Taiwan steel inadvertent experiment. Ever since I found out about that case several years back, I have been perplexed that it has not gotten more attention. It is doubtful that we will ever have more definitive evidence of the effects of low-level radiation in people. The fact that this has been ignored by so many in the field gives me grave doubts as to the objectivity of “experts” in this area.

    • i’m torn. Mutation in the germ line is the foundation of evolution. At the same time, the cost of those mutations both in the germ line and elsewhere is mostly negative. Radiation drives the physical progression of our species, but at the cost of a lot of loss.

    • No one is ‘objective’ for quite a few decades. This topic brings out a lot of rage and denial. Genetic problems are ‘solved’ by Mother Nature via death of the unlucky organisms. At Chernobyl, for example, wild hogs seem to be thriving now and are not much bothered by the radioactive mushrooms which they love to eat.

      But then, we don’t see the ‘losers’ in the boar population, they die usually at birth or not much later.

      • Assuming you could gain access, a comparative study on litter size of wild pigs in the affected zone vs non-affected zone might prove informative.

      • And guess why no one wants to live nearby for an extended time to discover what is the true mutation rate and death rate. That, alone, shows how disastrous these events are. The issue isn’t ‘are you sick’ but ‘will many of your children be deformed or destroyed in various ways?’

        Pollution in India and China has caused tremendous genetic problems, ditto pollution here in the US. Humans are ‘top of the evolutionary pyramid’ animals who live very long lives and have a very long gestation period and thus, we accumulate radiation damage unlike say, chickens or ants or other creatures who live much shorter lives.

        Elephants, gorillas, whales and other creatures are closer to us in this matter, they are big, consume a lot of whatever and live a very long time.

      • emsnews,
        “But then, we don’t see the ‘losers’ in the boar population, they die usually at birth or not much later.”
        Can you provide a source or reference for this pig infant mortality information?

      • She assumes it must be so.
        emsnews, you have been given information regarding people who actually do live in the exclusion zone, yet you continue to preach that nobody wants to live there.

      • emsnews: NO ONE IS ALLOWED IN. What part of “NO ONE” don’t you understand? The rules do allow some researchers in for brief periods. Would you also argue that wherever there are restriction on access—say national parks—that NO ONE wants to live there? Because that is exactly what you are arguing.

      • emsnews,
        You said, “But then, we don’t see the ‘losers’ in the boar population, they die usually at birth or not much later.” You have evidence for this statement that you can cite? Until the advent of antibiotics, death in childhood was the major limiter in the average longevity of humans.

  5. Good review. BEIR VII appears to be operating on the Precautionary Principle, which places doubt on their motivations and actual grasp of science.

  6. So where did Roger suggest that “blithe disregard for the early and painful deaths of millions” was the way to go?

    Must have missed that.

    Interesting that Badgastein & Hofgastein in Austria are health spas that have sold themselves for more than 80 years on the basis of the health effects of their (mildly) radioactive bathing water. There have also been many scientific papers published supporting their claims.

    Also interesting that the LNT crowd tend to be shroud wavers in several other scientific ‘debates’, which they like to argue through megaphones.

      • My jaw drops at these comments. What?

        The inability to understand the difference between a short exposure and LIVING where there is a lot of dangerous radioactive materials like in the towns in Japan near Fukushima is day and night.

        None of the above examples take this to account. Spending an hour with radiation versus a LIFETIME is utterly different. Try to be more honest, please, or at least less flippant.

      • @Flow Ir In
        The paradox with radiation is that the most energetic or ionizing particles are the easiest to stop. Alpha particle can be stopped by a sheet of paper, or by standing a couple of feet away from the source. Beta particles will be stopped by a sheet of aluminum foil, and are less ionizing than alpha particles. Gamma particles are the toughest to stop, but produce hardly any ionization (sorry, Dr. Banner). The only real environmental risk is if there is a lot of strontium-90 or iodine-131 lying about. The former will replace calcium in the human body and the later will get sucked up by the thyroid gland. To avoid Sr-90, don’t eat spent nuclear fuel. Ditto for I-131, but since it has a half-life of eight days there’s no significant source of natural exposure.

      • We all spend a lifetime with radiation. There are areas in India and Iran that receive natural background amounts comparable to the contaminated areas of Japan.

        Regarding the path length issue, as I said later in this thread, sievert is a unit of biological damage, it is already corrected for the dose conversion factor of the relevant nuclide which is energy and type dependent. And path length is not directly relatable to biological damage. Alpha particles have a short path length but a high biological impact if inside the body. Even the naturally occurring ones such as those emitted by radon decay.

      • @D. J. Hawkins February 22, 2017 at 5:52 pm
        “To avoid Sr-90, don’t eat spent nuclear fuel.”

        To avoid alpha exposure, don’t get involved with socialism at all. That way, you can’t be accused of being a traitor and can therefore avoid getting slipped a “point source” of Po-210 in your cocktail.

      • From: http://www.radon.com/radon_facts/
        “Radon is a cancer-causing radioactive gas. You cannot see, smell or taste radon, but it may be a problem in your home. The Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today.

      • i think we are agreeing with each other?
        Nuclear wardrobe malfunctions isn’t a term i’ve heard before, but its what i’m concerned about, especially as our current fleets of reactors get old and society steps away from excellence and turns to the bottom line.
        Atmospheric release of spent fuel increases exposure to radio-nucleotides. A tiny amount, but, like radon, quantifiable. I’d like us to acknowledge the people that it will kill. 10? 200? 1000 people dying of NWM caused cancer? tiny numbers. But, like riding a motorbike fast, its the combination of tiny risks that adds up to kill you. In this case, it is someone else that dies. So let’s quantify the risks, compare the risks. acknowledge the risks. Do the animal studies, do the math. compare worst case with worst case.

      • I see that emsnews once again didn’t even read the article.
        The Taiwan incident pretty much disproves her thesis.

      • emsnews: Try to understand the difference? The difference is humans would be extinct if the LNT model were correct.

  7. Thank you for this post, this topic is often misunderstood in popular culture.

    I recommend the PBS show “Uranium – Twisting the Dragon’s Tail” part 2 on this topic. If you are scared of radiation after watching BioNerd you are going to be scared of everything. Assuming she didn’t die off-camera. :-)

    The narrator toes the line between pro and con the whole show, but I think he makes many of the right conclusions in the end. We are stuck with it, it is a measured risk, and can create as well as destroy. And, for goodness sakes, we can do so much better than these reactors built in the 70’s.

    • Do the cleaning before laying on more mythically better reactors for our grandchildren to maintain. <b?Talk about your plan on how to decommission the 70's style nuclear reactors and the accumulated spent fuel rods. Your use of the word “we” needs to be postponed while you take individual responsibility for the rest of us.,

      The entire industry is festering with cost cutting measures and can you expect anything less when privatised ventures are purveying the management criteria.

      • Not hardly “first principals”. You admit its not in your opening sentence. And dismissing what is known about DNA repair is hardly convincing.

  8. The Japanese government desperately want people to recolonize the deserted towns around Fukushima’s nuclear mess. I am surprised by the lack of volunteers….ahem.

  9. The Wiki article on radiation hormesis claims that the Taipei study was incorrectly done, and gives the impression that these claims are pro-nuclear propaganda….

    • The study has been criticized. I think some of the criticism is legitimate. I have a post below that mentions a later analysis, which may be more realistic; however, I also think that virtually all epidemiologic studies on radiation (and, likely other carcinogens) suffer from a variety problems including, but not limited to, high uncertainty in accrued dose, complete disregard for background and medical exposures in the populations studied (which can dwarf discrete exposure scenarios), and a lack of adequate assessment of confounding factors or potential for reverse causation (the studies on dose from CT exposure to children is an example – two of the major studies neglected to collect data on why the child was having the CT, and when that was factored in by two later studies the correlation between CT dose and subsequent cancer disappeared).

      • These days since uranium ore is dug out of the ground to extract nuclear fuel, ….. radon can become airborne with far more efficacy instead of decaying before being able to reach the surface.

        From: http://www.radon.com/radon_facts/
        “Radon is a cancer-causing radioactive gas. You cannot see, smell or taste radon, but it may be a problem in your home. The Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today.

      • “virtually all epidemiologic studies on radiation (and, likely other carcinogens) suffer from a variety problems”

        For example who is funding the study which and needs to be accounted for in 100% of cases.

      • A bit obsessive, aren’t we? Try doing some research , the article gives you a fair starting point. LNT is still sloppiness by prospective regulators and zealots, who do not want to do the real research into risk.

      • Yes indeed. The studies with big green backing should be immediately dismissed for the same reasons we can dismiss any big green study on climate change.

      • Mike from Au,
        Attacking any study only based on funding is intellectually dishonest. If a study is found to be flawed, then funding can be considered when looking for biases. Of course, if most of the studies with a particular funding source are found to be bad, then one should look at all such studies more carefully. But you should never dismiss them out of hand. For example, I distrust Greenpeace greatly, but I still look into their claims.

  10. “A useful analogy here is our relationship to alcohol. While our bodies can metabolise a moderate amount of alcohol, too much at any one time will result in unwanted effects such as intoxication and hangovers, and a gross overdose can result in potentially fatal alcohol poisoning. Both dose rate and total dose are determining factors in the effect of alcohol. For example, although I am a moderate drinker, if I were to drink in one session all the alcohol that I normally drink in a year, I should probably die from alcohol poisoning.”
    ==========
    I’ll let you know how that works out.
    Give me time to enjoy it though.

  11. What levels of ionizing radiation exposure are people subject to from natural sources, e.g., natural stone, radium gas, radiation from space? What effects do these exposures have on humans? How do the exposures and effects compare to those discussed in articles regarding nuclear power?

    • Man made radiation is bad. natural radiation of identical type and energy is of course good, because Gaia is good and cyan=tits are evil monsters. Its like homeopathy innit?

    • It depends on where you live, how much air travel you do, what your medical exposures are, etc. The National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements provides a number of about 3.1 mSv per year excluding medical exposures, and that varies from around 1 mSv per year at the Gulf Coast to about 100 mSv per year in the highest towns on the Colorado Plateau, give or take.

    • Being near the granite laden Rockies, and having less atmosphere between them and outer space, the people living around Denver get several times as much radiation in a year as do the people living in Miami.
      Yet total cancer levels are lower.

  12. Roger – excellent write up.
    I may have missed it but it seems logical to point out that mankind – in fact all life forms on earth – have been and are being subjected to what we now consider low levels of ionizing radiation for eons. That alone proves that the LNT hypothesis is false. We are now what we are because we developed mechanisms to compensate for or resist whatever bad things might happen as a result of ionizing radiation [and everything else nature threw our way]. The Taiwan ‘experiment’ is an example of the resilience of the species.
    Too much radiation IS harmful but it is scare mongering to try to insist that there is no lower limit beyond which there is no detectable effect. Just because we can measure (detect) smaller and smaller amounts of something does NOT mean it continues to be harmful.
    There must be threshold(s) above which we can begin to measure damage and bad effects but they depend a LOT on individual circumstances.

    • the difference between exposure to ionising radiation and exposure to radio-nucleotides is important.

      different types of decay lead to different types of radiation.

      There are alpha, beta and gamma/xray decay

      Gamma radiation is the one commonly considered when thinking about ionising radiation, because it is gamma radiation that travels, and can be easily measured.
      I’ve got no issues with the ‘little harm’ argument when applied to gamma / xray radiation.

      Tritium is subject to beta decay. You could take a bath in tritium, and the beta radiation wouldn’t make it through your skin (although it may cause mutations in the germinal layer, so it is not a great idea in concentrated tritium) However, when you ingest tritium and the atoms are bound into your cellular material, then those decaying particles rip through DNA.

      Measuring beta is hard, since it doesn’t travel very far. The half life of tritium is manageable, if the source can be contained. At the same token, tritium enters the food and water cycle very rapidly, though evaporation.

      Alpha radiation (a product of of the nuclear industry waste) is even worse. it won’t make it far through air, but if you’ve got alpha decay occurring inside your cells then extensive DNA damage is inevitable. A barrel of an alpha emitter buried in concrete is no threat, but with long half lives, the same material vaporised in an accident will have significant long term health effects, driving evolution.

      Any article on nuclear safety that does not address the various forms of radiation, and does not distinguish between exposure to ionising radiation, and exposure to the radionucleotide source of that radiation is not giving an accurate picture of the risks.

      • Also, sievert is a unit of biological damage. It is already corrected for dose conversion factors which are energy and type dependent.

      • Flow: “Tritium is subject to beta decay. You could take a bath in tritium, and the beta radiation wouldn’t make it through your skin”

        I have a chunk of Monazite (thorium bearing rock) and a Geiger counter. When I put my finger between the rock and the GM tube, the count rate doesn’t change much. Ergo, the betas given off by Thorium do in fact have enough energy to penetrate flesh. The Fiesta Ware dishes in my dining room (natural Uranium in the glaze) on the other hand, show appreciable reduction in count rate with my hand in between.

      • energy in thorium beta decay: 4.081 MeV
        energy in tritium beta decay: 0.018590 MeV

        the energy of the thorium decay is 400 times greater, all other things being equal.

        There appears to be a bit of knee jerk reactions to my post. I’m not against nuclear power per se, I just think that there is a way to go until we have a truly safe process, and people who are pro nuclear power keep downplaying the risks. Both through misrepresenting what ‘radiation’ is – a subject many (non nuclear) scientists seem to misunderstand and one that the press and general public has no clue about, and through misuse of the statistics, with small % risks being dismissed, when in fact they become significant when applied globally.

        I’m attempting to ground the discussion back into the real word of mothers and fathers, children and grandchildren, where ose small but quantifiable risks, not of direct irradiation, but of contact with irradiating isotopes go from being tiny % increases of cancers over a lifetime to being the tragic loss of a child, of a friend, of a loved one.

        I think is is beholden upon us to not dismiss the risks, but to fully acknowledge them, and acknowledge our current impotence in dealing with accidental releases, beyond evacuation and billions of tons of concrete. A good way to do that would be to compare the risks to known risks of other energy creation methods, per unit of electricity generated, using current data on accidental release.

        I also thing that LNT is inaccurate. It seems to me, with no actual data to go on, that as the energy and proximity of the decaying isotopes increases, that the risk increases far form linearly. given the way DNA is placed in a cell. I’m surprised i can’t locate actual data anywhere, i’m only finding cautionary tales on our lack of knowledge.

      • Flow Ir In: Measuring beta is very easy. It’s only the tritium beta that is hard, because of it’s very low energy (about 18.6 keV). Also, taking a bath in tritium is not a good idea, because it is very easily absorbed by the whole body (incorporated, not superficial), because it’s small and we’re mostly made of H2O.

        dan no longer in California: the reason the monazite reads higher is because the thorium is in equilibrium with its daughters, which include several gamma emissions, while the uranium glaze on Fiesta ware was separated from it’s daughters, so you’ll have U-238 and U-234, Th-234 and Pa-234, but the rest are gone, and won’t appreciably grow back in for thousands of years.

  13. Here we see one of the great failings of the human race: Inability to accept experimental evidence.
    The other is trying to solve a problem without correctly identifying the problem first.

  14. I will make several points that are easily checked.

    First, DNA undergoes many spontaneous mutations all of the time, which have nothing to do with radiation, and at a rate many times higher than is caused by even moderate doses of radiation.

    Second, DNA has many natural repair mechanisms, enzymes, that allow, and cause repair.

    If any cell is too damaged to repair that damage from any cause, it it is taken out of the replication process. It undergoes apoptosis: Cell death, by cell suicide. That is, damage is not passed on, as the cell is dead.

    If radiation is as dangerous as many ill informed people believe it is, then we should stop using it in hospitals for the hundreds of tests and processes to treat disease, all of which, along with modern medicine, have given us an extra 20 years of added life expectancy. Hospitals are where truly massive doses (ACUTE doses, that are often close to fatal levels for humans, and certainly fatal for the treated cancers and other conditions that the radiation is used to treat.) ACUTE doses,those delivered in a very brief time, seconds to minutes, are very different from CHRONIC doses which are spread out over time up to years. DNA can easily repair any damage from chronic low doses. However the LNT hypothesis ignores such repair mechanisms, and assumes that there is no difference in effect between the same acute and chronic accumulated doses.This is wrong.

    I worked with radiation for fifty years and for much of that time as a nuclear power plant health physicist in radiation protection. The regulators adhered to the LNT hypothesis, which says that all radiation is harmful even down to close to zero dose. This totally ignores Hormesis, well defined for many decades, which says that radiation doses that are too low (approximating many natural radiation levels today), are also harmful to life or are not ‘healthful’. Natural radiation (as well as ‘unnatural’, the body cannot distinguish any of it) ‘tweaks’ the immune system and is an essential part of life, just as immunization provides protection against many diseases; ‘a little of the poison, gives protection.

    We evolved in an environment where natural radiation levels were much higher than they are today. Trying to get radiation doses down to ‘zero’ (the aim), is harming us needlessly.

    Now to get to the major flaw with the LNT hypothesis, and it easily explained for the layman to understand, through an aspirin analogy.

    200 strong aspirin taken at one time (like radiation), is an acute dose of aspirin that is fatal to those who take them.
    The LNT hypothesis assumed from this, that when you take 200 aspirin, whether at one time (acute) or one aspirin a day for 200 days (cumulative dose of 200 aspirin), that you will die from aspirin poisoning after 200 days. Anyone who takes aspirin can see how nonsensical this is, and it is the same for the LNT hypothesis applied to radiation.

    Radiation hysteria because of profound ignorance, is one of the greatest hindrances to any rational progress in moving forward with Nuclear Power.

    My book on Amazon, ‘An overview of Energy, Radiation, and Nuclear Issues.’ has a very detailed chapter on this subject.

    • Remember we live on a planet constructed entirely out of nuclear waste, as are we, orbiting an unshielded fusion reactor whose radiation both powers all ‘renewable’ energy as well as being the original source of all fossil energy, and also is responsible for more deaths from radiation induced cancer than road traffic accidents.

      I could live in fukushima several lifetimes and not get as damaged as half an hour naked in the tropical sun will net me.

      People are such idiots really.

      Bless.

    • And all this is not the same as trying to have babies while living in a danger red zone where a nuclear power plant has blown up and is emitting radiation. Forget ‘mutations’ the chances of simply miscarrying is much, much higher.

      Then there is the small child issue: small children are much closer to the ground or crawl on the ground and thus, are closer to radiation on the ground.

      Many here cite adults being exposed for brief periods ignoring the issue of living where there was a nuclear disaster. And having children, no less: who is going to be so foolish as to try this out? I would not, and I bet 99% of humans would agree with me.

      • emsnews..

        Why is it so important to you to be fear mongering? The people around nuclear power need data, not fear mongering.

      • several places in Britain alone are more several times radioactive than the exclusions zones around Fukushima and Chernobyl

        People live there lifelong.

        the natural radiation is in the firm of a radioactive gas – that decays to polonioum in the lungs. this leads t a slight but detectable increase in cancer especially among smokers whose cough reflex is inhibited.Radon mutiplies the risk of smoking. It is unclear whether its the radiation, or the carcinogenic heavy metals that result, that are the problem

        regulations to improve ventilation to prevent build up of radon are in force.

        That is the sole statistically significant area of radiation being linked to cancer at low doses that I have ever found.

        If you want a tinfoil hat, think about the level of oestrogen in the water supplies due to widespread use of hormonal contraception, and the rise of the snowflake generation, of feminised ‘girly-men’:-)

      • If it results in insult, the source can be said to be biased or polarised. Welcome to the polarised forum world.

      • …Then there is the small child issue: small children are much closer to the ground or crawl on the ground and thus, are closer to radiation on the ground….

        …and then there is the Big Body issue – adults have much larger bodies and therefore absorb much more of the radiation coming up from the ground…. Oh, and being ‘closer’ to the ground would only be an issue if radiation decreased in power after travelling 3 ft or so. Last I heard, it didn’t…

      • “Oh, and being ‘closer’ to the ground would only be an issue if radiation decreased in power after travelling 3 ft or so. Last I heard, it didn’t…”

        gamma, maybe. alpha and beta, huge difference

      • Mikeau rejects and ignores the science and complains about polarization. I wonder where you are on CO2 and climate.

    • It would seem to me that there is a large difference between the effects of radiation and that of taking
      aspirin or alcohol. Radiation acts in a probabilistic manner – if the particle hits the DNA then there is a
      probability that it will cause a mutation that causes cancer. The more radiation you are subject to the higher
      this probability. But taking alcohol or aspirin acts differently – it interfers with the cells natural mechanisms
      which have a built in capacity for repair etc and even if a cell dies a new cell will replace it.

      All in all I can believe the linear no threshold model. However there is a practical limit below which there
      is no need to worry. CT scans are safe as are X-rays. Just as eating bacon will increase your risk of getting
      cancer it is not a big enough increase for me rethink my diet.

      More crucially the question is about quantifying the risk and then comparing it to the benefits. And in terms of
      low levels of radiation coal power stations are actually worse than nuclear power plants. But in terms of catastrophic failure nuclear power stations are a lot worse.

      • They never would have been had we used molten salt reactors, which is what was recommended for civilian nuclear power. Using water as a coolant instead of molten salt is what has caused all of the nuclear reactor failures. We knew water as a coolant was a bad idea back in the 1960’s and we never changed. It is a bit like knowing that seat belts and air bags and crumple zones save lives and never putting them in cars.

      • The nuclear industry cannot afford to remove its waste from spent fuel pools. It cannot afford to repair rusting bolts on reactor heads, it is a business and cutting costs is what it is all about. How would you trust cost cutting in a man made nuclear business model?

        If a wind turbine blade flies off and hits a bat or a bird it is a scandal. What is the pathology behind nuclear accidents are ok and safe??

      • The reality is that nuclear power is amazingly dirty and cost cutting is rampant. Rust bucket reactors are kept on line beyond their use by date and Nuclear Wardrobe Malfunctions are on the rise. If you trust nuclear, the question is do you trust the privately owned operators as well. Madness.

      • cells built in capacity for repair works with radiati0n too.

        in fact its been suggested as a reasons why DNA comes in pairs: the cell suicides if the pairs don’t match. It takes an extremely unlikely event = two identical mutations in the same cell – plus the even more unlikely event of the mutation being viable and self replicating, for a cancer to result.

        this fundamental principle is used in digital communications like digital radio and TV and broadband: essentially the signal tends to ether get through completely repaired, or not at all, with the difference occurring over a very very narrow band of signal to noise ratios. this doesn’t mean that above that corruption doesn’t happen, but it does show a very pronounced ‘S’ curve of effect versus noise.

        parity checking DNA is such a simple way to improve stability in noisy environments that any species that evolved it would have a huge increase in viability, and one supposes that’s why we did.

        The earth has always been radiologically noisy, and ultimately nuclear power makes it less so, by removing naturally occurring radiological sources and reducing the total activity by burning them in shielded reactors.

      • The more uranium tailings that are on the surface and well aerated, the greater the output of radon that would not normally be able to make it to the surface before undergoing nuclear decay. More Uranium mining, is equal to more radon amongst other nuclear related results.

      • Mike from AU: That’s an interesting claim. Wyoming had open pit uranium mining for decades, yet the cancer rates in Wyoming are lower than the average for the country. You’d think with all that radon from uranium tailings and mining and so forth, the state would lead the country for cancer deaths.

      • Mike, so what?
        Care to come up with numbers on how much radon has increased? Remember that they have also reduced the total amount of uranium in the area so that radon production is down at the same time.
        Beyond that, the world is big, and a small increase in radon dispersed over 10’s of thousands of cubic miles of atmosphere is no big deal.

      • Mike, I don’t know if you are lying or if your hatred of all things nuclear has caused your brain to seize up.
        Where is your evidence that power plant operators can’t afford to remove waste from the storage pools? Why would they want to? Thanks to the governments cowardice and malfeasance, there is no place for them to send it to.

        Blades flying off and hitting birds? Where that nut case comment come from. Blades don’t have to fly off to hit birds and bats. Try learning something for once, it will make you feel good about yourself. For once.

        A grand total of nobody said that nuclear accidents are OK and safe. What we have proven is that they aren’t the world ending disasters that you want to believe them to be.

        Your reality has no connection to any form of reality known to modern science.
        Nuclear power isn’t dirty, in fact it is the cleanest form of energy.
        Your delusional rantings about the state of most reactors is exceeded only by your patent inability to actually cite any evidence to back your your rantings.
        Real life people who have actually worked in the field, as opposed to reading a couple of coloring books have refuted every half backed claim you have made, yet you go on with your juvenile insults and try to pretend that you are scoring points on anyone other than yourself.

      • Man, some people here just insist on being stuck on stupid.
        How can you ignore that there are well known if not completely understood mechanisms for cellular repair, including repair of DNA?
        How can you ignore that there are places and situations in which many people have long term and even lifelong exposure to amounts of various kinds of ionizing radiation, and careful studies are unable to find increases in cancer in these populations, and many studies have found significant declines in the incidence of cancers?
        Our bodies have repair mechanisms for nearly every kind of damage that can be sustained, and damage below the level that will kill a person often leads to protective effects from similar damage in the future.
        If you break a bone, once it heals it is stronger in the area of the break.
        Long term stress on bones below the level of damage will greatly strengthen the bones, making them much more difficult to break.
        Hands subject to abrasive forces become increasingly immune to abrasion.
        For the vast majority, exposure to sun makes a person get a tan which protects from subsequent sun damage.
        Lifting heavy weights may tear or strain a muscle, but repeated lifting of heavy weights will make a person get ever stronger and increasingly immune to such strains and tears.
        Such effects extend across a wide range of potential insults and injuries to the body, including at the level of ingesting various sorts of chemicals, drugs, various toxic organisms, exposure to heat, or to cold…on and on…
        For every natural source of damage to our body, there are evolved protective and repair mechanisms (and there are few if any things that are not “natural”).

        There is a level of injury that does permanent damage and another level that will kill.
        At lesser levels of damage our bodies repair themselves.

        What is so hard to understand about it?

      • So can a lot of other things. We need actual numbers of people, studies with complete methodology, etc. NO percentage increase values will be accepted. Then we need the rates for ALL other possible causes before we can actually have an informed belief.

      • Mike from AU:
        Dude, why do you feel the need to SHOUT your words when everyone else is simply speaking.
        Writing in bold type is about like writing in all caps…it is annoying, unnecessary, and tends to imply that the writer feels that his words are more important than the words spoken by others and so need to be said more loudly.
        In fact, such writing has the opposite effect…it is a turn off, makes a person want to ignore such a boorish person and, in case you never realized it…many readers simply choose to ignore such an obnoxious person.
        And it is not like you are particularly well informed or anything either, or are saying anything so Earth shaking it must not be overlooked…you are mostly just repeating what you have said over and over and over and over again. The phrase “ad nauseum” comes to mind.
        You come off exactly like the sort of person we all know very well and hate to have discussions with…instead of answering questions, or even giving responsive replies, you just repeat what you have been saying and ignore what the other parties to the conversation have to say.

        I actually get the distinct impression that you are not very smart or widely educated in any particular area of science.

    • I totally agree with you, JSunther.

      I also think that an article about the effects of ionizing radiation without mentioning apoptosis is a faulty one.

      Apoptosis basically is the cell commiting suicide. When the DNA of the cell is too damaged to be repaired, the cell kills itself. This process can also be activated by the immune system if cells have been infected by viruses. A series of enzimes called caspases are activated and the cell is self digested.

      When cells are subjected to high dosis radiation, its DNA is damaged beyond repair, and the cells undergo apoptosis, That is the “normal” or default mechanism that explains radiation sickness. If too many intestinal mucosal cells undergo apoptosis, the epithelial lining is damaged and that causes vomiting and diarrhea. If bone marrow cells are affected, then you will have leukemia, which many people mistakenly think is a type of cancer. High turnover cells are the ones more affected by radiation, that is why it is used to treat cancer.

      Only when the apoptosis mechanism fails, cancer develops, and cells that should have committed suicide start reproducing uncontrollably.

      Activating apoptosis in cancer cells is one of the hottest topics in modern cancer treatment research.

    • All cell replication is carcinogenic, since there is a very small, but non-zero chance of an error being made in the copying of the genes.

  15. I am not against nuclear, but since we have plenty of coal and gas, there appears little point to nuclear (at any rate in its current technology).

    I am not against this planet warming many degrees; everything we know about life on this planet, and the history of our own development suggests that a warmer world would be a better world. Everything we know about CO2 suggest that CO2 levels are presently way too low and a rise to circa 800 to 1400 ppm would be beneficial for life on our planet. If by some happy coincidence our emitting CO2 brings about some warming that would be a win win scenario, although the evidence does not suggest that any measurable or significant warming will ensue.

    Let’s build some more fossil fuel generation and simply carry on with our research into other forms of energy production, particularly fusion. It will not always remain 20 years away, and I envisage that it will become a commercial reality long before coal and gas run out.

    • Why use fossil fuels when nuclear energy is a million times as energy dense? We could do much less harm to the environment if we only needed to dig up one millionth of the earth for the same energy.

      • Energy dense is a misnomer.
        It is the processing that is the most commonly overlooked. Thorium processing is probably the most toxic when it comes to the refining process by virtue of the sheer scale of chemicals required.
        Lets get real.

      • An important tell for the irrational fanatic is that when they realize they have no merit to their argument, they just yell more loudly and less rationally. Mikeau is demonstrating this rather well.

  16. I have had substantial involvement in the uranium exploration business, and, working with a very experienced radiation geophysicist, developed a radiation safety protocol program and put it on our website. There are other such sites available to the layman, I placed ours to show we were transparent to the local concerned citizens. Radiation is everywhere, cosmic rays are passing completely through us as we read wattsupwiththat, and depending at what latitude and elevation you live you are getting more-or-less. I can find bananas in the supermarket blindfolded, with my detector, as the K40 gives off gamma rays. Hormesis appears to be real as there are many reasonably documented reports, including dock workers installing reactors and fuel in nuclear submarines, etc. Hormesis may well be why the LNT believers are wrong. Think also about how the exposure is presented, if you ingest (breath into your lungs, drink and get something into your bones, etc) it is very different than having some gamma rays shoot through your body and that’s it. If anyone is worried about radiation buy a simple detector, Geiger-Mueller tube models work fine, and check things out in your own personal space. Some of you might find a little radon gas in your basement, but that’s about it.

    • Ron L: The problem with folks buying Geiger counters is that they will not know how to use them unless they get educated. I have seen far too many incidents of someone over-reacting to a reading that was normal background. On the other hand if they get proper training more power to them, though buying a decent (300-600 dollar) instrument that for the most part they will only use as a paperweight seems a little out there. But then folks spend hundreds on psychiatrists to get peace of mind, so what the heck. I recommend Ludlum radiation detectors – one of the better manufacturers, but there are others.

  17. With low level radiation we are in an area where natural events equal events caused by unnatural sources. So studies are difficult and often give contradictory answers.

    But in the case of radiation, it’s very simple to think about: it takes one single gamma ray (or whatever ray) — not two or three or four — to cause a double strand break in a DNA double helix. That would be the basis for mutation of a single cell…which, depending on various factors, has a chance of becoming cancerous. In somatic cells, it is very very difficult for DNA repair to fix a double stand break correctly from the remaining homologous chromosome. (That’s why CRISPR technology is so successful, BTW.)

    All talk of DNA repair or apoptosis may make that chance of cancer some factor lower but it does not eliminate it, not even close.

    Hence, on first principles, LNT.

      • I don’t disagree that most die. But if they _always_ did, we wouldn’t have cancer. Hence, some fraction survive.

    • it takes one single gamma ray (or whatever ray) — not two or three or four — to cause a double strand break in a DNA double helix. That would be the basis for mutation of a single cell…which, depending on various factors, has a chance of becoming cancerous

      No, it doesnt. It takes two or three or four, and eve if mutation happens there is a vanishingly small chance it will be viable and malignant.

      The point to be made is simple: radiation levels naturally occurring at the time of celluar life’s inception are similar to those encountered post a nuclear accident, or those that exist in many places in the world toady . WE evolved to deal with it, or we wouldn’t be here.

      • this is not good. You are dismissing risk, flippantly. If nuclear power is so safe, why do people die when being exposed to radiation? there is a relationship between dose and damage, and it is one we do not fully understand. SNT is probably wrong. The Sv exposure scale is crude and unfounded in real science. I’ve not seen a single study looking at the probability of DNA damage taking into account strand packing & alignment with the radiation and the energy of the particle / wave. Our level of knowledge and expertise in assessing and quantifying risk of cell death or cancerous mutation is primitive at best. We need to improve that knowledge so that we can better quantify risks.
        You are not helping

      • “No, it doesnt. It takes two or three or four”

        Nope. It would never happen if you needed more than one, because the chance of two gamma tracks going thru one strand of DNA is so low.

        Maybe you meant two separate mutations in a cell? Now that is possible, and is a hypothesis, the so called second hit hypothesis. But you still get cancer if the cell survives.

        But that doesn’t change the idea that individual radiation events produce double strand breaks, which are very difficult to repair back to the original sequence.

        “radiation levels naturally occurring at the time of celluar life’s inception”

        True. But most repair mechanisms have to do with copying errors during S-phase. Unrepairable events (from radiation) normally lead to apoptosis. But the fraction of cell that don’t die, they have a chance to lead to cancer. So what ever fraction of the natural level you up radiation that is the fraction of cancer due to upping that number.

        It’s just math.

      • “because the chance of two gamma tracks going thru one strand of DNA is so low.”
        i’m not sure that is true. if the wave passes along the dna, as opposed to across it, then you could get quite a lot of damage to that strand. I’d like to see a mathematical analysis of potential damage to DNA, taking into account the physical arrangement of the strands.

      • Really Skeptical:
        Yes it is the math. According to Prof. Bernard Cohen the odds of one hit of radiation causing a cancer is one in a quadrillion. I’ve never seen his analysis refuted and he did it a long time ago. Of course there is never just one hit – with the exception of gamma/X-ray rays which can make one hit then exit the body without further interaction (depends on the initial energy and a few other factors). Your argument for the LNT theory has a certain validity, but it loses sight of the following: the thousands of studies showing low doses of radiation have a beneficial effect on a biological population. The question becomes: If low doses are beneficial for most of a population but may be harmful to a few individuals, where do we draw the line? This is a classic question that can be applied to almost all technology. As the math says that I have better odds of survival via low doses of radiation, I have zero problem getting a low dose. Is it crass of me to take this unfair stand to the few individuals who may get the radiation induced cancer? Yeah, but life isn’t fair.

        The gamma ray has to physically hit the electron of a molecule to initiate ionization. As gamma rays do not deflect easily, for a single gamma emission to cause more than a single strand break would depend on the angle of incidence, its energy, and the density of the compact DNA. I suppose it is possible to get a double strand break from a gamma emission, but unlikely. On the other hand, it is quite likely to get a double strand break from an alpha or beta emission due to the electronic charges on these. The negative betas are influenced by the positively charged nucleus of an atom and will change their angle of incidence frequently in a medium. The positively charged alpha will rip electrons from atoms along its path due to its need to collect electrons. However proximity to the DNA of the initiating radioactive atom becomes an issue for alphas and betas.

        Incidentally, there was one very expensive, difficult to do study where some critters (maybe an insect) were placed in an ultra-low radiation background environment. The critters had a very high mortality rate compared to natural background exposed critters. I won’t take it as proof positive, but it does support the theory that life adapted to natural radiation and that it needs some radiation – which goes along with the threshold theory. It was a fascinating study given the lengths they went to in order to get to ultra low radiation levels.

      • “one hit of radiation causing a cancer is one in a quadrillion”

        “The gamma ray has to physically hit the electron of a molecule to initiate ionization. As gamma rays do not deflect easily, for a single gamma emission to cause more than a single strand break would depend on the angle of incidence, its energy, and the density of the compact DNA.”

        I have no idea where that number comes from. I suspect he made it up.

        When we want, we make mutations using X rays, gamma ray and other radioactive emissions, and these all tend to make deletions, the result of one double strand break in a single nucleus, or translocations, the result of two separate double strand breaks in a single nucleus. The level of radiation is certainly not 10^15 x over background.

      • RS: I worked for a company, J. L. Shepherd, that built irradiators for precisely the purpose of inducing mutations via radiation. The irradiators contained hundreds of Curies of usually CO-60 but sometimes Cs-137. This means there were millions of photons per minute irradiating the specimen. It takes large sources to induce enough mutations that can then be discovered and yet be viable. Do the irradiation incorrectly – dead specimens.

        We are talking about low dose radiation effects on this thread. Mutation induction is not done by low dose irradiation unless you want to wait, oh maybe, hundreds or thousands of years.

        Additionally I have trained many a researcher to use irradiators for mutation induction at the universities where I worked. Nebraska had one irradiator, UCLA had three, maybe four. One of the UCLA irradiators was in a Class 3 lab requiring strict isolation procedures for biological reasons; very cool research.

      • Really skeptical – I think the problem is you are ignoring the spontaneous somatic human cell mutation rate (1.4 x 10^11 per day) (See, e.g., “Cancer Biology” by Ruddon, page 33. In that context, the additional burden from radiation exposure is small.

      • The number I use is 10^10 per nucleotide per S-phase. Easy to remember. So, yes, in a body with trillions of cells, millions of which are dividing, of course there are lots of somatic mutations.
        But many of those mutations are
        1. repairable and
        2. many are in non-coding DNA and
        3. many are recessive.

        So we survive.

        Very different from the mutations from radiation, which tend to make
        1. unrepairable deletions and translocations,
        2. they are so big they remove many genes are once, and
        3. some of those genes are dominant (haplo-insufficent).

        Not good.

      • reallyskeptical..

        “Very different from the mutations from radiation, which tend to make
        1. unrepairable deletions and translocations,
        2. they are so big they remove many genes are once, and
        3. some of those genes are dominant (haplo-insufficent).

        Not good.”

        Could you post the data to support this “not good” evaluation?

      • Really Skeptical – the damage you describe is more likely to cause cell death, which is why targeted radiation is more effective at killing tumor cells than endogenous damage.

  18. Evolution has been driven by mutations which are caused by radiation and cosmic rays deforming DNA and the environment as life forms live off of each other, consuming and giving birth. There has been disasters over and over in the past and mass extinctions and on goes the mutation business.

    Now, if humans make the environment more prone to mutations due to a number of our activities, this will force along evolution of human species as well as all other living things. The process is rough, to be blunt. I don’t think people are aware of how rough evolution will be in the future as we unleash one Fukushima or Chernobyl after another over time.

    • You haf to ask yourself what are the number of mutations that are useful compared to those much much much greater number that are deleterious. Right now, on average, you pass about 30 new mutations to each of your children. You want to pass on more?

    • as we unleash one Fukushima or Chernobyl after another over time

      But we’re not going to do that. Both disasters were based on construction and management issues. People learn from previous mistakes how to avoid them in the future.

      Chernobyl was the only nuclear disaster to affect a lot of people, but for most the exposure was still low. Another Chernobyl is extremely unlikely, and even if it did happen, it would affect a very small proportion of the earth’s population.

      It might be good for you, emsnews, to read a book on risk assessment. Dealing with issues logically based on data works better than just reacting to situations emotionally.

      • Lets include the chemical processing of nuclear material and ending with Depleted Uranium used in third world wars, you need to have chemical risk assessment as well. Sorry to blight your naivety.

      • Mike from Au: Let’s include the chemical processing of EVERY source of power—coal, wind, solar, etc. Read up on this and you’ll lie awake staring at the ceiling in terror (assuming you’re not already) when you find out just how dangerous being alive in this century is. It was so much easier when people just starved, got eaten by predators, etc. No scary, invisible enemies. Perhaps you are simply born too late in time.

      • you’ll lie awake staring at the ceiling in terror (assuming you’re not already) when you find out just how dangerous being alive in this century is

        If I start having that problem, Sheri, I’ll look up the statistics on how much life expectancy has increased in the last 100 years. If that doesn’t solve the problem, I’ll get a prescription for anti-anxiety medication.

  19. I have nothing against nuclear power except the possiblity terrorist attack, perhaps? Can the power stations be protected from that?
    For me, coal and gas are preferred options.

    • What kind of terrorist attack? What most of us here are advocating are molten salt reactors, in which case the reactor is under ground. And the radioactive products are dissolved in a liquid salt which freezes up once the temperature cools down and the radioactive product stays in the salt, not ever reaching in the air.

      • Don’t twist Margaret Smith’s words.
        There are hundreds of aging nuclear reactors in poor extremely poor condition. Clean up the existing first mess before inviting a new one. The spent fuel pools need to be emptied and money forked out. Time bombs

        How amazingly condescending.

      • So much p@ranoia, so little actual information.
        First off, there are only a few hundred reactors in the world.
        What is your evidence that older reactors are in “extremely poor condition”?
        Such extraordinary claims require at a minimum, some evidence.

      • that’s a tangent, but let’s look at the Ukraine. early on in Maidan, people were concerned that militia simply walked into the power station. I’d say that’s one of many ways that the security of a nuclear power station could be breached. some idiots will fly planes at them, some idiots will detonate trucks full of fertilizer. others will kidnap workers, others will slip in all stealthy.
        In mexico, radioactive material is stolen from hospitals and from transporting vehicles.
        Who knows what the nation states run by lunatics are doing?

      • Leo,…….. “exactly how will these terrorists attack a nuclear power station?”

        From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/There_are_known_knowns
        “Rumsfeld stated:

        ” Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.[1]

      • You guys never let reality get in the way of your fevered fantasies, do you.
        Even if a terrorist could just walk into a nuclear plant? What are they going to do.
        They can’t steal the nuclear material, even getting close to it would kill them.
        They can’t blow up the plant, even if they knew how to, the safety interlocks would prevent them.
        Beyond that, most modern plants can’t be driven into a mode where they could blow up, no matter how hard you try.

      • “Beyond that, most modern plants can’t be driven into a mode where they could blow up, no matter how hard you try.”

        i really don’t understand where this kind of confidence comes from. Every disaster we’ve had started with someone saying something similar. Are we doomed, as a race, to be blind to the things we haven’t thought about?

        A better place to start is “we don’t know how a plant could be driven into a mode where it could blow up”
        That is a scientific stance, not a scientism one.

    • Margaret: Sorry that neither David nor Mike answered your question. Nuclear power plants have armed security (constantly training) and numerous barriers to terrorist penetration. The reactor buildings are designed to take a direct hit from a jet airplane and there are videos showing where they crashed a jet into the design which demonstrated the effectiveness of the design. If terrorists could mount a successful attack on nuclear power plant, we would be having bigger problems from them – think all out war. Nuclear power plants are highly secure, so it is unlikely terrorists would even try to attack one.

      • I used to have a neighbor who is an ex-marine and worked for security at the nuclear power plant nearby. He talked about some of the weapons training that they did, which included a .50cal sniper rifle. Trust me, they take security seriously. I almost feel sorry for any terrorists that try to attack a nuclear facility in this country.

      • Thanks to all of you who took the trouble to respond. I am glad such care is taken to protect modern nuclear power stations. No wonder they’re so expensive to build.

      • I worked on a computer system that went into a nuke plant when I was a co-op in college.
        The cabinet that it went into was made from 1/4 inch steel and the monitors were covered in bullet resistant plastic.

    • The problem with a terrorist attack on a nuclear reactor is the reactors are a hardened target, if it were going to happen, it would have happened on 9-11 IMHO. Now that door is closed.

      • “The problem with a terrorist attack on a nuclear reactor is the reactors are a hardened target, if it were going to happen, it would have happened on 9-11 IMHO. Now that door is closed.”

        the problem with the blithe is they have no imagination. Sure, the reactors are hardened, but what about the cooling systems, the control systems, the periphery? There’s more than one way to cause chaos. And, as was seen in the Ukraine, the front door is an easy way in

      • “flowirin February 23, 2017 at 4:23 pm

        Sure, the reactors are hardened, but what about the cooling systems, the control systems, the periphery?”

        Reactors are not hardened, containment is. That’s why it’s called containment!

  20. I am an extreme datum in Genevieve Matanoski’s original Nuclear Shipyard Worker Study NSWS at ~3 R.E.M. WBE Occupational. I am an advocate of radiation hormesis.

    Nuclear power is safe, secure and clean power.

      • Zero dollar clean up cost if you are willing to let people take ~3 R.E.M !

        The radiation levels 1 km from Fukushima are lower than many states in the US. They built a large factory 200 metres from the Chernobyl reactor, people go to work there, etc. The Chernobyl picture with the new modern facility beside it is embarrassing for Greenpeace et al, so you never see it.

        Flying in jet planes is 300 TIMES safer than it was in 1965. If this is done on nuclear reactors, and we build 5000 of them, the ‘disaster rate’ simply results in 100 km^2 of park being created every decade or so. But 5000 reactor sites would allow 80% of agricultural land to go wild, so fully half the land on the globe could be national parks.

      • “There would never be anything like those three incidents with molten salt reactors. They don’t melt down, they freeze up.”

        ok. if we are going to build a different kind of reactor, then that changes the story. that said, for all the disasters so far, someone/ lots of someones at some stage thought that they couldn’t happen. It would be worth spending a lot of time figuring out what could go wrong before building anything. It is true to say that we don’t know what to do with radioactive waste. There are not that many places on earth where you can’t go because the invisible, tasteless, radiation will kill you, and we’ve made most of them ourselves.

      • “flowirin February 23, 2017 at 12:08 am

        It would be worth spending a lot of time figuring out what could go wrong before building anything.”

        Rediculous! We would build nothing otherwise. Do you drive a ladder frame chassis coach built car? No, I suspect you don’t. You drive in a monocoque built car with “crumple zones”. We built stuff that failed. We learned. We built stuff that is safer. That takes energy!

      • “”what is the current clean up cost for chernobyl, 8 mile, fukushima?”

        “Some people demand a perfect world, and they will continue to whine until someone else provides it.””

        actually, i was asking the costs. yet again you are demonstrating your inability to understand what someone is saying.

  21. Than you for the post and especially the references!

    URA ETF; time to buy-long [at least 8-years]. [KOL ETF is a long for different reasons.]

    Cheers.

  22. 1/12/17
    For investors seeking momentum, Global X Uranium ETF (URA – Free Report) is probably on radar now. The fund just hit a 52-week high and is up over 46% from its 52-week low price of $11.31/share.

  23. Fear of Progress. There are similar reactions to extrapolation from behaviors in isolation, including the effects of hexavalent chromium, carbon dioxide, to name a few. As well as estimated risk based on low probability events. Meanwhile, we lose over one million human lives annually in America alone because of Choices promoted by the same “liberal” reactionaries.

      • It really is amazing how socialists think they have a right to enslave others in order to provide free stuff for themselves.
        It’s also amazing how they only look at the benefits to themselves for any project they propose, without caring about the negative impact to others.
        To the extent that Medicare and other government programs make society poorer, they end up killing more people than they save.

      • Mark,
        If you ever get over to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, we have to get together for a beer. I have a feeling we would get along famously. Email me if you wish, ppenrose24 at that google mail place.

  24. Great article, but I would be cautious about relying on the Chen paper on the exposure to the Taipei population in the apartment building with contaminated construction materials. It has been criticized in the literature (I believe with respect to using a non-representative comparative population). There is a later analysis of the same population by Hwang, et al. “Cancer risks in a population with prolonged low dose-rate gamma-radiation exposure in radiocontaminated buildings, 1983-2002.” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17178625).

    Hwang concluded there increased risks for leukemia, but for solid cancers there was no increased risk with dose for anyone exposed over the age of 30. I looked at this quite closely a few years ago, but do not recall what I concluded, and don’t have time at the moment to re-visit my notes on it. In any case, the Chen paper should probably come with some caveats.

  25. A few years ago I was fortunate enough to inherit a 500 page college text entitled Essentials of Genetics It devotes 5 pages to mechanisms used by the cell to repair DNA mutations. It cites something like 7 different mechanisms (pp 292-295) that repair single strand damage. Followed by a couple more (pp 295-296) on pathways to repair double strand damage.

    My question here, for those who might know, concerns the “linear” part of LNT. Single strand damage should be relatively easy to repair, since the damaged strand can frequently be reconstructed by reference to the undamaged strand. So I would think that a disproportionate amount of lethal mutation would result from double strand damage. But it seems to me that that type of mutation would not be linear, but would follow square law.

    To create an entirely hypothetical example, let’s say that both the leading and lagging strands have a 1 in 100 chance of mutation at a given point with a given dose of radiation. The chance of both strands mutating at that point would then be the product of the individual chances, or 1 in 10,000. Assuming linearity, for the sake of argument, if we double the dose, then the individual chance becomes 1 in 50, and the chance of a double strand break becomes 1 in 2500, not 1 in 5000.

    The complexity of the situation suggests that LNT is not just “as simple as possible,” but rather “more simple than possible.”

    • Juan: Great info on genetic damage and repair. What you are referencing is just part of the story when we look at radiation interaction at the cellular level. There is a stepwise development of possible harm resulting from radiation interaction. For the most part I will be using the example of a single beta (electron) emission as it interacts with our cellular components. Gamma/X-ray interactions are very similar to beta interaction. Alpha and neutron interactions are much more complex, though the basic concepts of energy loss remain the same.
      1) Absorption of the beta particle. Like a bullet from a gun, the beta particle has energy that will be deposited or used up in the ionization process. It takes a roughly 30 – 60 eV to cause an ionization. If the beta came from a H-3 atom, it will initially have 18 KeV (18,000 electron volts) associated with it. With each interaction the beta particle loses energy. Dividing: one H-3 atom can potentially cause 300 – 600 ionizations. As not all interactions cause ionization the number of ionizations will be far less than this. A CO-60 beta particle has a maximum energy (there is a spectrum) of 1.48 MeV (1.48 million electron volts) so it proportionately will create a lot more ionizations.

      2) So excitation or ionization has to occur for there to be potential for harm. The radiation can pass through the body without any or with partial loss of energy. This is easily seen by taking a high lumen flashlight and shining it through your hand. You will see light on the other side though it is degraded in energy. Or think of getting an X-ray exam. The result on the film is because a lot of the X-rays passed through your body with denser body parts having more energy degradation of the X-rays’ energy. Because beta particles are easily absorbed (lose energy quickly in a medium) it is unlikely many will pass outside the body. Alpha particles are the same. A gamma rays is like an X-ray and can pass right on through without depositing all of its energy.

      3) After ionization, a chemical lesion has to occur for there to be a potential for harm. Our bodies are roughly 80% water, though mine might be 80% coffee. When ionization of a water molecule occurs, the O+ and OH- ions are created. If these two ions recombine, then there is no harm, no foul, no chemical lesion. On the other hand, the ions may get taken up by any other molecule in the cell. What is formed by this new chemical structure may or may not be potentially harmful to the cell’s metabolism. Then there are all the other chemicals and structures of a cell that can be ionized. Frankly, we do not have enough info yet to determine what errors created by ionization may lead to cancer or other cellular damage though the DNA/RNA errors have a strong correlation to cancer induction. One other point I wish to stress: radiation ionization is not the only thing that causes DNA/RNA damage. Chemicals, heat, and even mechanical trauma can cause the same sort of damage.

      4) Once a chemical lesion has occurred, the next step is the cell’s response or non-response. As you have correctly pointed out, the cell has all sorts of repair mechanisms. We talk about one-hit and two-hit theories of a cell’s ability to repair radiological damage. One-hit damage has a high percentage of repair, With two-hit damage, the repair success rate drops considerably. In regards to DNA, two-hit means the radiation has to interact with the DNA strand at close proximity. For example a near two-hit can cause a deletion of a section in the DNA. However is the lesion is too great, the cell may not be able to make a repair. more often than not, the cell will die in this instance to be replaced by a new cell (hopefully but not always). The hormesis theory basically says that the cell’s repair mechanisms are exercised with low doses. I use the analogy of lactic acid build-up in our muscles upon exercise. The more one exercises, the better the cell’s ability to rid itself of the toxic lactic acid.

      5) What cellular damage occurs relies principally on the delivered dose of radiation. At low doses the principal effects can be cancer, life shortening, in utero effects and all the other things you have heard. Determining these effects is completely a statistical analyses exercise because we cannot do tests. Why? Because the effects are so small that it would take millions of people under controlled conditions to be definitive (not even considering the ethics of doing this). At high doses the effect is cell killing. Kill one cell, no big deal. Kill a bunch of cells, the organ may fail. Kill an organ, the body may fail. Radiation therapy relies on high doses of focused radiation to kill a bunch of cells without killing the organ.

      There are a lot more complexities of radiation interaction on biological entities, but I hope the above is not too complex and was helpful.

      • ” Our bodies are roughly 80% water, though mine might be 80% coffee. ”
        ha
        thanks for the explanation of damage mechanisms. Is it only through ionisation of water, can the DNA not be directly affected?

        “Frankly, we do not have enough info yet to determine what errors created by ionization may lead to cancer or other cellular damage though the DNA/RNA errors have a strong correlation to cancer induction.”

        we really need this kind of information before pushing forward.

    • agrimm
      “What cellular damage occurs relies principally on the delivered dose of radiation. At low doses the principal effects can be cancer, life shortening, in utero effects and all the other things you have heard. Determining these effects is completely a statistical analyses exercise because we cannot do tests. Why?”

      Assertions without data?

  26. In this context it is worth noting that twenty years after the Chernobyl nuclear accident, a major statistical examination of almost the entire population of Europe was unable to detect any additional cancers.

    During the Chenobyl event, I was stationed in Flensburg, Germany, on the Danish border, A lot of the contamination was spread over northern Europe. We were able to detect beta radiation in the kids’ sandbox in our housing area. (Beta is an indicator that a nuclear reaction has occurred).
    As far as cancer is concerned, I think chances of getting cancer from radiation-exposure, is not only dependent on the amount, but how well the individual’s body is at dealing with damage to chromosomes and other structures. We are not all the same, and the body is a fluid, living entity.

    • Thanks for raising Chernobyl. This article prompted me to Google search the term ‘wildlife in the Chernobyl exclusion zone’. The real world is an involuntary research experiment with no experimental control.

      “It is almost 30 years to the day since Chernobyl became synonymous with nuclear disaster.

      In the early hours of 26 April 1986, an experiment designed to investigate the safety of the nuclear reactor went badly wrong. Radiation spilled into the environment.

      Within weeks, hundreds of thousands of people in a 30km exclusion zone around the plant had been evacuated. To this day the zone remains largely uninhabited.

      It is far from lifeless, though. Visit the exclusion zone today – which some bold tourists do – and you will find that the local wildlife is thriving.

      The big question: does this mean that the environment can cope with a nuclear disaster even on the scale of Chernobyl?

      No one doubts that the immediate ecological effects of the Chernobyl disaster were devastating.

      In one area of forest covering between 4 and 5 sq km (1.5-1.9 sq miles), many coniferous trees died. The dying needles turned rusty red, earning the region a new name: the Red Forest.

      “In that first year, in the most contaminated areas many soil invertebrates were killed, and the small mammal population plummeted,” says Nick Beresford at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology in Lancaster, UK.

      However, in large areas of the exclusion zone radiation levels dropped dramatically within months, says Jim Smith at the University of Portsmouth, UK. Wildlife began to bounce back, taking advantage of the absence of people.”…

      http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20160421-the-chernobyl-exclusion-zone-is-arguably-a-nature-reserve

      Please note: I do not endorse more Chernobyl or Fukushima events. Just observing the real world in it’s complex glory.

  27. The precautionary principle is an interesting thing. In the US, obesity is an
    enormous problem, and we seem to be exporting it to the world.

    Carbohydrates are more dangerous than radiation, but they too are dose
    dependent. Like my opinion of ionizing radiation, too little or too much is
    dangerous.

    I built a house in 1986 over a thinly covered vein of granite. Sometime after
    I moved in, radon became a US government concern. Not long after that,
    I read a Canadian study which indicated that areas with a modest amount
    of radon seemed to have fewer incidences of cancer than the areas with
    the least or the most.

    I cannot find that study, but I too, read about Taipei, and because my
    wife says that my ancestors lived in caves, I believe in hormesis.

    Government agencies need to find risks to cause us to believe that
    we need to support large and continuously growing organizations.

    LNT is just another manifestation of the precautionary principle.

    • In the US, obesity is an enormous problem, and we seem to be exporting it to the world.

      The only reason people think there’s an obesity problem is the government tells them there is.

      • No Steve. Obesity is a serious health risk which increases in line with the level of obesity. That is a fact confirmed by just about every study. The amount of people who are obese in Western countries is worrying. The level in the UK is increasing putting more strain on our NHS. I’m aware that the level in the US is also pretty bad, but I’m not sure the US is exporting the problem, we are more than capable of designing that problem ourselves.
        Personally, my concern with Nuclear power is the cost, it is an extremely expensive method of generating power. It puts renewables in the shade on that score. But as for risk, as has been pointed out there are many many other risks which people don’t seem to be worried about, from guns to obesity and poor driving that kill far more people than Nuclear power does. So it depends on how you view the risk. Having control over the risk always reduces the perception of it’s impact. People can eat less, drive safely, move to an area where firearms are not part of the culture, but one individual cannot control the risks to themselves and family from Nuclear power.

    • What about energy obesity? Is nuclear power the ultimate High Fructose Corn Syrup of the energy obese.

  28. zero exposure = zero risk

    Is that simple enough? Does take the fun out of debating how many angles can dance on the head of pin. Sorry!

    All the radiation fear mongers have one thing in common, their exposure from commercial power plants is zero.

    I was a radiation worker. I know my lifetime exposure because it was measured. The nuclear industry does not have a problem meeting limits based on LNT.

    So what about my children when we lived near a nuke plants. The measure fence dose was zero. How about the children in Japan? The measured dose for I-131 was zero.

    If you are concerned about something, measure it.

    • It is also about the chemical processing of nuclear fuel and the tailings ponds that are left behind. The naivety is breathtaking.
      From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uranium_tailings
      “Uranium tailings are a waste byproduct (tailings) of uranium mining. In mining, raw uranium ore is brought to the surface and crushed into a fine sand. The valuable uranium-bearing minerals are then removed via heap leaching with the use of acids or bases, and the remaining radioactive sludge, called “uranium tailings”, is stored in huge impoundments.

      “huge”

      • People seem to be commenting without having read the evidence on actual radiation effects. Obviously opinion is irrelevant when there is proven science fact. Unless you are a religious science denier and beyond fact.

        Fact is that we appear to need ionising radiation to be healthy, and that works optimally at higher levels than today, perhaps because our immune systems evolved in higher radiation levels. There are several excellent published works by real experts who understand the science rather than those unqualified “experts” who collect some data and make up their own biased or plain wrong conclusions – Helen Caldicott, #Greenpeace, et al..

        One is Oxford Prof Wade Alison’s study “Radiation and Reason”, available as oan n line book, hardback – or video for the hard of reading – http://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/radiation-and-reason

        Even the UN’s UNSCEAR body of experts is grudgingly coming around to recognising radiation up to a few 100mSv pa is harmless. And elevated background is used as a theraputic treatment to boost the immune sytem in sick patients unable to tolerate chemo or radiotherapy. These are all well documented facts, that were not known when LNT was, wrongly, guessed. There IS a threshold, and it’s not linear, in particular, biological dose response cannot be predicted by extrapolating lethal doses to zero. The effect is much closer to exposure to Sunlight. No we don’t want to accidentally over irradiate people. That is next to impossible as a result of a core malfunction in a modern reactor, and even those malfunctions are now designed out using passive safety. Nuclear energy is BY FAR the safest way to generate electricity, as well as the best on every other measure, from environment to cost and sustainability. Which is why France and Sweden depend on nuclear base load, with hydro to deliver a chunk and meet demand variation., also why China, India and Russia have strategic energy policy to end up this way, China alone plans 6 new nukes per annum.

        To debate science fact with fearful primitives whose simple belief systems are all they can handle, and in fact prefer not to test, so cannot cope with new science facts that replace disproven hypotheses, is pointless. For the rest, if you understand science and have an open, sceptical, questioning mind as required, Prof Allison’s is one truly expert way to access a lot of the technical evidence on radiation and risk, from an eminent radiobiologist and radiation physicist. He refers to much of the supporting science so you don’t have to do the searches. Iworked in radiation physics and protection for 12 years when we thought LNT was the best approach. The science now says LNT was a wrong hypothesis and a new approach is required, based on what we now KNOW, not what we believed 50 years ago, with a lot less science than we now know – cell biology and actual data of exposed populations – thousands still not dying. If you want an immune system tonic, try the beaches of Brazil, or Kerala India, or Ramsar Iran, or SW France, etc.. WAY above evacuation levels at Chernobyl or Fukushima, 6mSv pa/20mSv pa – up to 800mSv pa on the beach, 300mSv pa at the Ramsar, Iran Health spa, etc. The world of real science is not like some prefer to believe, for reasons I cannot imagine, I’m afraid. A fact’s a fact..

  29. The reality of peoples fears of nuclear, in Europe at least, are that there have been a series of accidents, leaks, safety issues and mismanagement which has resulted in distrust: one expects people in charge of something like a reactor to be more responsible and take greater care than the usual and this has simply not been shown in repeated incidents.

    In the UK we had the Windscale fire, the botched waste handling at Dounreay (where actual Plutonium particle was found in staff offices), and Sellafield discharges into the sea, to name some of the more alarming events.

    Then we had a good drenching from Cernobyl particles…

    Much informed discussion on hot particles above… well there have been repeated incidences of that sort of particle getting into the general environment in the UK, when once would be too many.

    The nuclear industry is secretive, expensive and error prone and has no effective form of waste disposal in the UK. That’s why people don’t like it or don’t want it.

      • “Fearmongering, scaremongering. FUD.”
        or genuine concern that the management of nuclear power is not up to standard, and that arrogant ‘experts’ fail to recognise the risks.

      • I’m not trying to promote fear, I’m just trying to explain why people have fears about nuclear.

        I was out in the rain when the Chernobyl cloud passed over… this is not some abstract or theoretical issue for me.

      • Griff
        According to the radiation hormesis data, that exposure would make you healthier. I think you need to do some reading on the subject, rather than using your lack of knowledge to justify your fear mongering.

      • Griff,
        You are only disclosing your irrational thinking. So what if the Chernobyl cloud drifted over.
        Were you harmed in any way by the cloud?
        Apparently not.

      • “Griff February 23, 2017 at 3:00 am

        I was out in the rain when the Chernobyl cloud passed over… this is not some abstract or theoretical issue for me.”

        One of the people working at the site actually went under the reactor and was splashed with radio active water. As far as I know he is still alive and suffered no ill effects. The level of fear and alarm is with people who are uninformed and rely on garbage rags such as The Guardian for their information.

      • “flowirin February 23, 2017 at 1:44 am

        or genuine concern that the management of nuclear power is not up to standard, and that arrogant ‘experts’ fail to recognise the risks.”

        Considering more people die in a kitchen, eating a meal, in a car, on bike, swimming or freezing to death because power is so expensive than have ever died as a result of a nuclear power plant “accident”, I would say nuclear experts have peoples’s safety at heart. Not so climate scientists.

      • Other industries didn’t start out with making a bomb.

        Consider that now if one mentions a specific type of petroleum distillate and the substance farmers use on their fields together too many times, a friendly government agent will drop by one’s home.

        Courtesy of opiod OD’s, pain relief is now considered “drug seeking” and one is evil for thinking that being relieved of chronic pain is more important than preventing some people from becoming addicted.

        Association with “BAD” will change how people react. Notice the hysteria over the water vapor coming out of power plants. Sort of Pavlovian, really. Hard to reverse—it’s emotional, not rational.

      • Speaking of making bombs. How many people have been killed in the last few decades when piles of fireworks caught fire? Either at the place of manufacture or prior to a show.

    • Griffy,
      Now, after unfairly impugning the reputation of the polar bear researcher, and not apologizing for your mistake, why should we believe your claims above? You have low credibility.

    • No, irrational cynical fear mongers make a good living getting weak minded people to believe them. That so many, like you, glom onto so much apocalyptic clap trap is a credit to the power of fear in over coming critical thinking.

  30. Surely humankind has evolved in a radiation environment and natural selection has arranged that small steady doses are not fatal? Or do I not exist? Sometimes I wonder.

    • But you don’t understand. Man made radiation, much like man made CO2 is different.
      It’s more dangerous.

      • Yes man made radiation is usually in a concentrated form. That does makes it ‘more’ radioactive.

        It becomes increasingly dangerous when the nuclear industry has not been properly ‘house trained’ to dispose its spent nuclear fuel and make it safe. Instead it is notorious for storing nuclear waste on site in order to avoid the cost of disposal and passing on those costs so that they can be reflected in the cost per kilowatt hour.

        The tailings ponds increase in size and so that is a further proof of how chemically dirty the nuclear industry is. The tailings containment is cumulative in size.

        From: https://www.choosenuclearfree.net/waste/uranium-mining-waste/
        “Tailings are stored above ground at the Olympic Dam (Roxby Downs) copper/uranium mine in South Australia. The tailings dump amounts to about 100 million tonnes, growing at 10 million tonnes annually. If the mine expansion proceeds as planned, tailings production will increase to 68 million tonnes annually. BHP Billiton plans a tailings ‘storage’ facility that would cover an area of up to 44 square kms to a height of up to 65 metres.”

        https://www.choosenuclearfree.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/F1020014W-1024×685.jpg

      • There goes Mike with his patented lies about the power industry.
        They have been trained. Nuclear is safe. Go lie down and stop bothering the adults.

  31. Can anyone enlarge on how nuclear submarine crews manage to work 24/7, up close and friendly with a nuclear reactor, continuously, deep underwater, for six months at a time without harm? With over 200 nuclear powered submarines operated by over 20 countries, it seems the risk is not to averse?

    • I can explain. The reactor compartment have shielding.

      I was radiation safety officer on a surface ship. My duties included reviewing all exposure records. My chief bet me that I could not who had the highest life time occupational exposure. I guessed it was him since he was senior and had a more experience sampling reactor coolant. I was wrong, it was the senior medical enlisted petty officer.

      I also expected to have the highest monthly exposure. I was required to take one reactor coolant sample and observe each of my enlisted personnel take samples and my watch station underway was supervising reactor plant operation in the engine room. It turns out that officers standing watch on the bridge had a higher exposure to radiation.

      The point is that we can not avoid natural radiation exposure. Workers who receive occupation exposure rarely get more than a fraction of allowed exposure. If you are not an occupation worker, you do not get exposure from nuclear power plants.

      It easy to measure. Yet no ever provides a number.

  32. Isaac Asimov (1955, 1974) and Linus Pauling (1958) discussed the importance of radioactive carbon-14 in human genetics. The bottom line is that because carbon-14 gets incorporated directly into DNA and RNA (approximately 40% of the mass of these substances is carbon), and when carbon-14 nuclei decay they have a 100% (!) chance of resulting in damage to the nucleic acid structure, naturally occurring carbon-14 is about 1000 times more effective as a mutagen than any other form of radiation or any known carcinogenic chemicals.

    • I wouldn’t be so sure that C14 is so harmful genetically. Most of our radiation dose from potassium-40, yet removal of same by an experiment using isotopic separation made animals go moribund and die. The obvious conclusion is that life is adapted to K40, and does not cope well with a deficiency. I would suspect the same for C14.

  33. Another excellent and informative WUWT post which together with Barbara Hamrick’s comments I have found very educative. For the last 25 years I have lived literally within eyesight of a nuclear power station and so far have not grown a second head or gone green, though fortunately there have not been any accidents there as far as I know. Like it or not nuclear power offers many good prospects for when eventually th oil and gas ran out, so we need to get better at using it, not trying to shout down its use. Actually if I lived in an area with granite bedrock I would be more worried about taking measures to avoid radon gas exposure than the risk from where I live now with its nuclear power station. A rational look at the risks is what is required. To throw a hand grenade into this discussion a far worse risk in my view with respect to health is for people with young children or elderly people is to keep cats as pets – cat viral leukaemia is highly transmissible to the very young and old. It probably has caused far more leukaemia than nuclear power stations.

    • “though fortunately there have not been any accidents there as far as I know.”

      that’s the whole point. normal operation isn’t the problem. it is our lack of ability to cope when there is an accident that is the problem. CF. every nuclear accident so far. How long ago was fukushima’s hydrogen dispersal of the spent rods? Do we even know where 2 of the cores are?

    • In my opinion, it looks as though the conversation here is so polarised it can not be of any use. Indeed, it looks as though the anti climate change science channel is turning into a pro nuclear channel via intense social polarisation.

      It is rare for one like myself who thinks we should merely use energy more wisely. Secondly look at war as being the ultimate form of energy obesity stopping us from making true progress. We do not need more energy, we have enough,,,, it is the destruction of countries and the rebuilding process that is the cause of our need to have ever increasing energy needs.

      • “We do not need more energy, we have enough”

        this is one of the key concepts. We are so wasteful with energy, that the demand will never stop increasing. The more we have, the more people will want to do with it. Weekend trips to the moon…

      • You are wrong Mike. We look at the facts and make decisions based on those facts. All you offer are fear and loathing.

      • Mike from gold,

        It is clear that you believe that nuclear power and anything associated with it is the Devil’s Spawn and you will use any argument to try to sway others to your viewpoint. You have had your shot at it and most here seem to find your arguments and claims to be wanting. You might think on that a bit.

        I would guess that you are young and idealistic. However, you would seem to have a lot to learn yet, grasshopper.

      • “flowirin February 23, 2017 at 3:13 am

        We are so wasteful with energy, that the demand will never stop increasing.”

        You may have a point here. Tonight I saw one of the most rediculous things; a fully grown man on his way home with takeout riding one of those “hover boards” with wheels. Walking not good enough for him, has to use a powered device! Madness!

      • Mike from gold,
        For a different view on your claims, you might read the following: http://www.businessinsider.com/thorium-molten-salt-reactors-sorensen-lftr-2017-2
        It, admittedly, has a pro-business leaning, but from what I have read previously, it seems to be pretty accurate. Your claims, however, are quite dissonant with what I have learned about the world. I see that you are still posting, despite your complaint about the polarization in the blog.

  34. Radiation might be good for you/

    http://www.science20.com/news_releases/radiation_may_be_good_for_you_says_study

    There is a dose response society: http://dose-response.org/

    . “A radiation deficiency is seen in a variety of species, including rats and mice; the evidence for a radiation deficiency in humans is compelling.” : https://medicalxpress.com/news/2008-06-health.html

    http://www.biomedsearch.com/article/Biological-effects-ionizing-radiation-perspective/267810796.html

    Epidemiology Without Biology: False Paradigms, Unfounded Assumptions, and Specious Statistics in Radiation Science http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13752-016-0244-4

  35. Mike I think you are very far from being the only person who thinks we should use energy more wisely – but who is the “we” you speak of when you say we have enough energy; certainly not the many people outside North America and Europe who have no electricity. That’s why India and China are building power stations as fast as can. I do respect the arguements of those who say we shouldn’t build nuclear because of genuine fears about accidents, but I cannot see a realistic alternative unless “we” are prepared to deny Africans the same level of development we enjoy. Renewables just don’t cut it and eventually oil and gas will run too low. That’s why we need to carry on looking for fusion and safer nuclear power plants. I trust engineers more than anyone in the green lobby.

    • To a large degree these are the same people who declare that we have enough stuff, and we should stop our economies from growing.

      • Diminishing the popular pastime of sending countries back to the stone-age with the use of depleted uranium amongst other things would go a long way to reducing energy obesity. never ending war might actually turn out to be the reason energy obesity is growing and never satisfied??

        Does anyone know how many gigawatts of electricity it takes to keep the military industrial complex supplied so it can manufacture/create and explode things and places??

        In the meantime, lets concentrate on how to solve the problem of decommissioning all the corroded nuclear plants for the nuclear industry, and what to do with all the festering spent nuclear fuel sitting with nothing to do, waiting for someone or something to find it a safer home.

      • Why am I not suprised that the ignorant poster is also anti-military.
        Not to mention that, it is extremely ignorant about all things military to. Surprise, surprise, surprise.

    • Thanks Moderately Cross of East Anglia
      It might help the energy obesity epidemic if the processes of war were diminished. It might further be useful to think of energy needs in terms of drones/etc per gigawatt.

  36. Well, I’ve scrolled right down to the bottom of the comments without finding a single mention of potassium! Potassium is a significant ‘ingredient’ of the human body and has a radioactive isotope chemically indistinguishable from its other isotopes. How, then, can we talk of ‘zero dose’?

  37. Whenever I have a bit of optimism about the current state of scientific rational thought, I am quickly brought back to earth by the concept of Radiation LNT. There have been few risks that have been as well studied as the effects of low doses of ionizing radiation. The actual data (anathema to much science policy these days) does not demonstrate any discernible risk, and in fact, the more biologically reasonable hormesis theory has more traction. The fact that life on earth has evolved in a low level ionizing radiation environment ( and was even higher when life was first evolving) seems to be completely lost on those who support the LNT theory. From my perspective, the LNT reflects exactly the same kind of flawing thinking that goes into the current C02 climate change policy. Science is basically absent in both cases.

    Since the days of the Salem Witch Trials, Earth/Sun orbital arrangement, germ theory, etc, all that has changed are the subjects. We, collectively, are just as capable/good at ignoring data then as we are now. We love to conclude that we are so much more enlightened than our primitive and ignorant ancestors. Lack of introspection that this is not entirely the case is discouraging. Don’t get me started on recycling, gasohol, or bike helmet laws (see Iink in Inglis post)…..:)

    • Yes. Even a well written post like this one brings out a few commenters who insist on loudly repeating themselves over and over and over.

      • From:http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs291/en/

        Health effects of radon

        Radon is the most important cause of lung cancer after smoking. It is estimated that radon causes between 3–14% of all lung cancers in a country, depending on the average radon level and the smoking prevalence in a country.

        An increased rate of lung cancer was first seen in uranium miners exposed to high concentrations of radon. In addition, studies in Europe, North America and China have confirmed that even low concentrations of radon – such as those found in homes – also confer health risks and contribute significantly to the occurrence of lung cancers worldwide.

      • Mike from gold,
        Interestingly, the Mormon miners who didn’t smoke, did not experience the same level of lung cancer rates as those who did smoke. Sop, there may be more to the problem than your claims.

    • LNT is still used when regulating chemical carcinogens. Despite the fact that there is no evidence supporting the theory.

    • I recommend reading Marie Curie biography to learn something about the dangers of long term radiation exposure. After all, she was, along with his husband, one of the persons exposed for longer time to radioactive material in an epoch where radiation shielding did not exist.

      From wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Curie

      Curie died in 1934, aged 66, at a sanatorium in Sancellemoz (Haute-Savoie), France, due to aplastic anemia brought on by exposure to radiation while carrying test tubes of radium in her pockets during research, and in the course of her service in World War I mobile X-ray units that she had set up.[9]

      It turns out that she did not die of cancer. even after having worked for over 30 years with radioactive material, and without any shielding.

      Her husband did not die of cancer either, but in a traffic accident. Pierre also worked with radioactive material, no shielding.

      The damaging effects of ionising radiation were not known at the time of her work, which had been carried out without the safety measures later developed.[65] She had carried test tubes containing radioactive isotopes in her pocket,[67] and she stored them in her desk drawer, remarking on the faint light that the substances gave off in the dark.[68] Curie was also exposed to X-rays from unshielded equipment while serving as a radiologist in field hospitals during the war.[53] Although her many decades of exposure to radiation caused chronic illnesses (including near-blindness due to cataracts) and ultimately her death, she never really acknowledged the health risks of radiation exposure

      This quote is quite interesting:

      Because of their levels of radioactive contamination, her papers from the 1890s are considered too dangerous to handle. Even her cookbook is highly radioactive.[71] Her papers are kept in lead-lined boxes, and those who wish to consult them must wear protective clothing.[71]

      So, if you want to check Marie Curie´s notebooks, you have to wear protective clothing, because they are too radiactive. And she did not die of cancer.

      The Curies also had two daughters, and their parents radiation exposure did not make them stupid, as many may fear. One of them, Irène, was even awarded with a nobel prize, a real one in chemistry, not a phoney one like the one the IPCC received.

      I am not saying that ionizing radiation does not cause cancer. I am just pointing out that the effects have been missrepresented. As many posters have said above, single point DNA mutations can be repaired by the cell´s nuclear enzimes. (Also, non-ionizing ultraviolet radiation can cause DNA damage, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyrimidine_dimer#DNA_repair )

      And if the damage is beyond repair, the cells usually undergo apoptosis. See:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apoptosis

      Only when DNA repair and apoptosis fail, cancer may develop. Some individuals are more suscebtible than others, specially mutants where the DNA repair mechanisms do not work (Xeroderma pigmentosum) or if the apoptosis mechanism is faulty. (protein p53 mutations)

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xeroderma_pigmentosum
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TP53

    • Ethan Brand
      From my perspective, the LNT reflects exactly the same kind of flawing thinking that goes into the current C02 climate change policy. Science is basically absent in both cases.

      The error in both is inductive reasoning.
      Failing to listen to Karl Popper.

  38. Nuclear has its problems and ids not completely safe. However complete safety is a pipe dream as nothing is completely safe. Despite the incidents Griff refers to above and whether or not low doses of radiation are completely safe I think the evidence is pretty clear that nuclear power has not been a huge global health problem. So in the presence of something that is a huge global problem is seems perverse to me to turn away from nuclear.

    Another quote from the article
    “Major scientific and technical organizations can be presumed to thoroughly review any authoritative document released in their name, so one can assume that the whole weight of the organization is behind the opinions expressed in the relevant document.”

    I take it then that we can apply this to statements made by scientific and technical organisations about global warming.

    • Ah, but we are talking about perception of it as a problem here (I quite accept your point about actuality of its impacts).

      People expect a greater standard of care when something is potentially hazardous and when they see incidents showing lack of such care…

  39. You can make people hate anything if you only focus on the negative. I wish people would focus on the detrimental health effects of having a low standard of living. It is well known that the poor die early. If energy is cheap the poor have more refrigerated food, more air conditioning, cleaner clothes and more of hundreds of things that lower their cortisol (the stress hormone). Lower stress means a longer life and a better quality of life. Someone should do a study on how many additional deaths are cause by each 1cent per kWh increase in the price of electricity.

    • I live on a border town and the Canadian FM Station is the only ones I receive reliably on the drive to work. More and more I’m hearing adverts for debt consoling and renegotiation firms and I’m also hearing about people with utility bills extensively in arrears and anti-shutoff programs. It sounds to me like the Canadians are well into the way to being in trouble; it would be a shame if you could use Canadians for your study.

  40. Griff February 23, 2017 at 3:00 am.

    ” I was out in the rain when the Chernobyl cloud passed over… this is not some abstract or theoretical issue for me.”

    Ahhhhhh! This explains a lot about Griff:
    1. He rushes out into the rain falling from the Chernobyl cloud …… DUH!
    2. So exposed was he to radiation that his mental faculties (such as they might have been beforehand) are damaged to the extent demonstrated by the quality of his blatherings ever since.

  41. Another recent substantial study confirms in a well controlled cohort analysis that low level irradiation confers a maximum of zero added cancer risk:

    http://www.auntminnie.com/index.aspx?sec=ser&sub=def&pag=dis&ItemID=114689

    (Radiologists live longer.)

    In a few seconds on google scholar you can find hundreds of published studies showing that low level low-LET radiation DECREASES cancer incidence and INCREASES longevity. The mechanism is well understood, immune stimulus form responses such as heat shock proteins, ion channels and many others. As scientific observations go it’s as solid as gravity.

    And yet the false LNT hypothesis continues to be the basis of radiation protection and nuclear policy. The whole establishment reconciled itself to a lie.

  42. EMS and MikeAU have been lied to, as have we all, regarding nuke power. ems and Mike seem to enjoy being lied to.

    • Agreed. There is a psychological quirk in some people that makes them want to believe scare stories. If they were of a different social and educational backround, they might go for “Jesus is coming back right soon now” theology. Arguing with persons with that sort of fixation is exemplified by arguing religion with a Jehovah’s Witness.

      • I’ve lost track of the number of people that I’ve talked to, that actually believe that nuclear power plants could go suffer run away reactions and explode. Megaton type explosions.

      • Or discussing cliamte hype with a climate kook.
        Notice that the 2 trolls on this thread suddenly go silent when the evidence of the cynical lying of the big green is documented.

    • he claims in his first sentence(slogan) that CA has the lowest fossils footprint..
      hahaha

      well, I suppose, if you let all the dirty things be made in china and elsewhere :)

    • This presentation talks about the nuclear economic fear index amongst other things by a retired nuclear engineer and associates who seem to know their way around the nuclear world.

  43. Belief in LNT comes from ignorance of many things, one of them is quantum physics.

    Every day, every cell in your body experiences one million dna strand breaks from natural background processes such as radiation and biochemistry.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/DNA_repair

    This means that every one of the 23 chromosomes in every one of your cells is subject to a strand break followed by repair every two seconds.

    The essential insight of quantum mechanics is that the world seems peaceful and ordered on the large scale but on the small scale is in a state of fluctuation and uncertainty which becomes more and more furious as the spatial scale gets down to the subatomic.

    Chromosomes are single molecular strands and therefore at a spatial scale associated with quantum chaos. Thus the fact of continual strand breaks and repairs. (It is a stupendous wonder of nature that some genes have come to us by direct unbroken descent over a billion years (most housekeeping genes evolved long before the Cambrian explosion of multicellularity) despite being split and repaired almost every second.)

    The story about ionising radiation causing dna strand breaks leading to cancer, assumes that a strand break is a rare and unusual event. It is not. Chromosomes are at the quantum scale of fluctuation and uncertainty, not resident in the sedate decorum of the macro world. Throwing a stone into a flat calm millpond would be a noticeable event. Throwing the same stone into raging seas in a force 10 gale would not.

    • as the article notes, it doesnt seem to be “dna faults” that makes radiation dangerous (we would see IMMEDIATE cancers after someone gets a high radiation dose) its ionization

      rather it is radicals (ions) production in cells , the cell becomes a more poisonous more reactive environment which creates the opportunities for error hence cancer.

  44. Hello, I am almost 90, a few more days yet, and in very good health . I can clearly remember about 1938 or so going for a new pair of shoes, and after trying them on I was told to put them into what was a X ray machine and there on a screen was my skelaton foot in the shoe. Told to wriggle my toes to see if it was a good fit.

    Did not affect my health at all. We evoled on a world which is subject to radiation all of the time, so its no big deal unless the radiation is of a very high level

    Michael Elliott.

  45. As someone who has detected and tracked large fluctuations in ionizing radiation in several homes over the past five or six years, I am naturally biased against the LNT theory and a fan of the hormesis viewpoint. Yet I am puzzled why any of the studies reported in this article would make me, or anyone else, feel comfortable about nuclear power plants.

    Whether benign or deadly in impact, ionizing radiation is difficult to detect, and much more difficult to measure and and analyze. For $150 or so, you can buy a keychain alarm that will tell you when dangerous levels are present. I tested one at a medical facility and it was reasonably accurate, however it died a year later for no obvious reason.

    I’ve shopped all over for affordable recording “radon” meters, and found one of very dubious quality for $2,000. I settled for something that only gives two led readings averaging the preceding seven days’ and the total cumulative measurements, for about $130.It has an advertised accuracy of plus or minus 25%, and a calibration life of one year.

    I have had a new one and a five year old one running side by side for a few months now, and the older model reads 30% higher. Recording the readings by hand is extremely tedious. OTOH, a house suspected of radon levels above the arbitrary “mitigation threshold” (2.7; 4; 5pCi/s from WHO, Health Canada, and EPA, respectively) can be hard to sell and expensive, inconvenient, and esthetically troublesome to “fix”.

    Accurate and reliable radiation meters generally have a limited range, beyond which they are not accurate or will be damaged. So when there is a nuclear leak, or nuclear fallout, how will the average person be able to protect himself? Will his government even tell him about the radiation threat?

    In China, during the Fukushima incident, it was impossible to buy even thyroid blocker. Instead the government assured the public that they would get this protective pill to them as and when needed. The Chinese people are not so stupid as to believe preposterous lies like this. But they are ignorant, and there were speculators who bought tons of iodized table salt, thinking they could sell it as a thyroid blocker.

    What any government in China’s position would do is to keep quiet about any nuclear leak, because the radiation effects would likely be much slower in coming, and dispersed over time, while the effect of millions of people fleeing the contaminated areas would likely be immediate and dramatic. No country stocks enough thyroid blocker for the entire population, so when a possible need is perceived, the supply is jealously guarded. So in Canada pharmacists were persuaded by government to deny thyroid blocker to the public, while peddling the same lie as the Chinese.

    There’s no way government could ever distribute it to the public in time, even if they had adequate stock.

    • Ionizing radiation is very, very easy to detect. Where did you get the idea it was difficult? One of the biggest problems we have with respect to rampant (unwarranted) fear of low-level radiation is due to the fact that we can detect such minute levels above natural background (because persons assume that if it can be detected, it must be dangerous).

      • “Ionizing radiation is very, very easy to detect”
        how do you detect an alpha emitter in food? waving a geiger counter at it won;t work

      • Barbara, detection is not the same as identification.

        otropogo is talking about ‘identification’ of radon.
        “I’ve shopped all over for affordable recording “radon” meters, and found one of very dubious quality for $2,000.”

      • “Ionizing radiation is very, very easy to detect”
        how do you detect an alpha emitter in food? waving a geiger counter at it won;t work

        One way of positively identifying many alpha emitters is by looking for the radioactive daughters/progeny.

        Here is a great video using gamma spectrometry as an asides.
        “Collecting a spent nuclear fuel fragment at Chernobyl” (Hot particle)

      • Flowerin
        Actinide alpha emitters also emit KLM xrays so cam be detected from low LET emissions. The one alpha emitter that emits almost no low LET is 210 Po, thus its use on Litvinenko for instance as a radio-toxin.

    • otropogo Hi there.

      Maybe you could look into a gamma spectroscopy system for identification and detection.
      I assembled my system for under 500 Australian dollars and am 100% satisfied. The lead shielding was the most expensive single item cost in my case.
      The scintillation detector can often be found on ebay and the software is free thanks to a staff at Sydney university Australia and from Italy and Japan.
      You can find all the details and plenty of help on the forums as i did in the link below.
      http://www.gammaspectacular.com/
      Example of radon decay in rainwater on page 20
      http://www.theremino.com/wp-content/uploads/files/GammaSpec_ENG.pdf

      • Mike from Au
        February 24, 2017 at 4:55 am wrote:

        “otropogo Hi there.

        Maybe you could look into a gamma spectroscopy system for identification and detection.
        I assembled my system for under 500 Australian dollars and am 100% satisfied….”

        Thanks for your suggestions Mike. But despite a predeliction for hardware tinkering, which wasted many hours of my youth, I find life still far too short to recycle myself as an amateur physicist/mechanic.

        But more importantly, I don’t think I would much care to live in a world in which only hard-core geeks with access to high-tech instrumentation could hope to survive, even if I were able to join their ranks.

    • “There’s no way government could ever distribute it to the public in time, even if they had adequate stock.”

      In my opinion, it took Tepco ages to provide the cheap labour going in to clean up with proper full face respirators to prevent the inhalation of hot particles.

      • China is generally downwind of Fukushima in Spring, and I happened to be at its closest point to Japan for the three months immediately following the earthquake.

  46. The most relevant question you all should pose is this:
    Q: What is the optimum dose of ionising radiation for humans?
    A: About 20X background, or 50mSv/y.

    Note that for mice the optimum is between 50 and 1000x background on a long plateaux. Note that the measure here is lifespan, or longevity.

  47. “Other industries didn’t start out with making a bomb.”

    Now that is a hoot! Has anyone heard of the Nobel Peace prize. Much of our chemical industry evolved from explosives for making bombs.

    Fertilizer is very dangerous to handle. The worst US industrial accident occurred in Texas City in 1947 when ammonia nitrate detonated.

    So why do we tolerate transportation of ammonia nitrate and anhydrous ammonia? Because we like to eat.

    The power industry has high safety standards because we can meet the goals.

    • I mentioned the ammonia nitrate (what farmers put on their fields) and the diesel fuel (petroleum distillate). I agree that chemicals certainly were used to make explosives and people fear chemicals. None of this is rational. The reality of the protections in the power industry are irrelevent to people who run on emotion. They buy “organic” and believe they’re saving the world.

      • I buy organic where affordable and recommended, for instance, apples, lettuce, kiwis, peppers. I do to protect my body from the effects of pesticides and contaminants. How could anyone conclude that buying organic would save the world? So far as I know, people buy “local” (often in stead of organic) to save the local food producers. I’m not that altruistic, and besides, I don’t believe the local food producers merit such largesse.

    • The Nobel Prizes were created by Alfred Nobel. What were his main contributions to the world, that gave him the resources to endow the world famous prizes?
      Dynamite and Oil.
      Our anti-nuke trolls are not only transparent, they are stupid.

  48. “ How long ago was fukushima’s hydrogen dispersal of the spent rods?”

    More fake news! Did not happen, the spent fuel in storage was not damaged. No spent fuel pool has ever failed to cool the spent fuel.

    I have been the the responsible system engineer for spent fuels pools at both PWR and BWR. So what would cause the the spent fuel pools to fail to hold water allowing water to drain and then the spent fuel to catch fire?

    To be honest, I do not know. Scary version would result in the the deaths of all humans. I was inspecting the spent fuel pool minutes after the Loma Prieta and there was no damage but elsewhere people were burning in rubble.

    To destroy spent fuel pool would result in total destruction of all other structures.

    Scorecard in Japan: Spent fuel in pools not damaged. Elsewhere:

    “15,893 dead and 2572 missing, destroyed 127,290 buildings, and damaged more than a million more.””

    • “ How long ago was fukushima’s hydrogen dispersal of the spent rods?”

      you are correct. it should say ““ How long ago was fukushima’s hydrogen dispersal of the spent fuel rods contaminated water?”

      • Spent fuel pool water is very clean, so that work can be done under 40 feet of water. The water is filtered and demineralised. You safely can drink the water.

        There was no water dispersed. The explosion was in the roof of the building which is outside of containment not the pool.

  49. I am always a little baffled by these studies. There are radiation workers, everything from Rad Techs to Reactor operators who have long time low dose exposure. I haven’t seen a study that covers these folks. It is empirical evidence and there is 6 decades of material to study. Thousands, if not millions of workers in the nuclear field who all get annual physicals and record does of radiation. Wouldn’t that be a better way to test the theories?

      • exactly: they go hysterical on 25msev in that “industry” , put on leave, while 5 areas in the world have 200msev+ a year and 10s of k’s of people live there.

  50. I know about the Taipei sage 10y now, and must say this “ignoring” of the MSM scum of this little snippet of knowledge is about the most SHAMEFUL acts of humanity I know about.

    Imagine ANY major healthcare company happens to stumble upon an artefact where you see cancers , ANY illnesses in fact, go DOWN by 90%+

    It would be sort of in the NEWS, for 10y , 24/365

    Here, the prog scumbag MSM have managed to cutely shove it under the rug.
    I have family who died of cancer and only have to say THIS to them: if they had lived in a Taipei apartment they would very likely be ALIVE now.

    that makes them all murderers.

    MSM isnt about some biased news, its about sociopath billionaires and autocrats having a hold on most of the population, thereby stopping most of progress, with the damage measured in TRILLION of USD, and millions of dead. Probably they are high fiving each other as they can keep the waste going and enrich themselves. they should all end up hanging on trees.

  51. I hope you anti-nuclear bedwetters appreciate that no-one of any consequence gives a flying dog’s testicle for your irrational, paranoid fantasies.

    There are way over 60 new nuclear fission plants currently under construction, and tens more planned, because tose of us with responsibility for planning our future energy supplies don’t share your phobias. Uranium extraction and processing plants are coming on stream from spain to Australia as I type.

    Dorme bien!

  52. I love junk science. Especially when it comes out of the EPA, it so easy to debunk those shrubs.

    The second leading ‘cause’ of lung cancer is whatever your current political agenda is, radon, secondhand smoke, air pollution, and terrorists.

    First off you can not ‘cause’ cancer. Pure fear mongering! There are risk factors tabulated in many references applied to industrial safety and contaminated site cleanup.

    The leading risk factor for cancer is age and genetics. Nothing we can do about that.

    “Radon is the most important cause of lung cancer after smoking. It is estimated that radon causes between 3–14% of all lung cancers in a country, depending on the average radon level and the smoking prevalence in a country.”

    So radon is not very important. 3-14% is not a strong link.

    When mitigating risk, you start with the most significant and the cheapest to mitigate. So if you are worried lung cancer stop smoke. I like to avoid second hand smoke and air pollution too. Very cost effective too, its free.

    The other thing about radon is it is natural and it decays away. It takes a very rare set of circumstance for long term exposure.

    • I have spent many years now pondering the difficulties of reliably and objectively establishing radon exposure in private residences, and can only conclude that exposure statistics and health effects offered as “scientific” by organisations such a the EPA, WHO, and Health Canada are pure fabrications, based on sham studies and nonsensical extrapolation.

      I’ve seen no evidence that traces in the lungs can identify a cancer as being caused by radon. Nor have I seen any methodology in use that could reliably establish radon levels in residential dwellings – there are far too many ways the measurements can be reduced by the owner or occupant.

      In the “national” survey which provides the basis of the current Health Canada mitigation threshold, the protocol allowed survey meters to be placed as high as the second floor above ground level in Condos, whereas the standard method of measurement is to test the lowest inhabited space in a building – usually a basement bedroom. And survey meters were placed disproportionately in rural and suburban homes, while the vast majority of Canadian residences are in cities. So the methodology itself skewed the results, such that the Quebec government claims:

      “… in Québec homes. The average concentration of radon in basements is about 35 Bq/m³.”

      And that 95% of Quebec residences are below the 200Bq/m3 (5pCi/L) recommended mitigation level.

      The sad reality is that there is no evidence that could even remotely be called scientific that would support any such estimates.

      OTOH, to put all this “what me worry” euphoria about nuclear power in perspective, look at today’s news from Grassy Narrows, Ontario:

      http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/grassy-narrows-old-mercury-report-1.4001775

      following up belatedly on a report from last Fall:

      “Sep 20, 2016 – Japanese researchers find 90% of people in 2 northern Ontario First Nations show signs of poisoning. …”

      Grassy Narrows is part of a watershed found poisoned in the early 1960s by a toxin well know for hundreds and perhaps thousands of years. The contamination comes from the chemical plant of a former pulp and paper mill. It was discovered at that time by a Japanese researcher who diagnosed Minamata disease in a paralyzed native youngster.

      And now it appears that the mercury content of the water is, half a centuy later, still 130 times the natural background level, and that 90% of the local population, who drink the water and consume the fish, have some level of nerve damage caused by mercury.

      This should make any reasonable person question the capacity, even in developed nations like Canada and the US, let alone third world countries or unstable police states like Russia and China, to safely manage the toxic byproducts of nuclear fission, which are incomparably more difficult to contain and neutralize than mercury.

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