Atomic Show #176 – Let Fukushima Residents Go Home

There have been a number of recent articles about the evacuated area that surrounds the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. One in particular that caught my attention was an article published in the Washington Post titled Around the Fukushima plant, a world left behind.

The problem is that the contamination levels outside of the gate of the nuclear power station are low enough so that the projected radiation doses to someone residing in the area are lower than the doses received from natural sources in many inhabited areas around the world. Due to an excessive level of fear and the resulting “conservative” limits established by government bodies, tens of thousands of people have been forced to abandon their homes, communities and sources of livelihood.

I invited some friends to discuss ways to communicate the reality of the situation to the rest of the world to try to mitigate the damage being done by stories aimed at spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt.

Meredith Angwin has a master’s degree in Physical Chemistry, has worked in both the renewable energy industry and the nuclear industry and has been working to reduce the fear of nuclear energy with her blog at Yes Vermont Yankee.

Cal Abel is a former nuclear submarine engineer officer and a current graduate student seeking his PhD in Nuclear Engineering at Georgia Tech.

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5 Responses to “Atomic Show #176 – Let Fukushima Residents Go Home”

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  1. bryan elliott says:

    Dude, I love the show and all, but if you’re not talking, pull away from the mic or mute it; it was hard to hear Meredith over your breathing!

    • Rod Adams says:

      @Bryan – agreed. My headset mute button stopped working. My handheld mike was disabled during a recent system upgrade for some reason. Time to make another investment in better sound quality. I apologize to all who were distracted by my heavy breathing and will seek to do better next time.

  2. David Lewis says:

    Right at the top of the show Cal Abel advocated that “the only way to create a rational response”, presumably from the authorities who set radiation policy and from the general public, is “to continue to put out rational information, to state what the facts are”.

    He immediately proceeded to get his facts wrong.

    When asked by Rod to explain to listeners what a BEIR report is, Cal said “its a report that talks about what is the effect of ionizing radiation”, and it “RECOMMENDS WHAT REGULATIONS OR POLICIES SHOULD BE IN EFFECT in order to provide safety for the population”

    Neither BEIR V or BEIR VII contain any recommendations as to what policy or regulation should be implemented.

    According to “A Summary of BEIR VII”, written by Douple who oversaw the creation of the BEIR VII committee and Jostes the Director of the BEIR VII committee, the committee was specifically charged “NOT to recommend policy decisions related to regulations or radiation protection standards or to conduct cost/benefit analyses”.

    Cal didn’t claim to have read BEIR VII “cover to cover”, as he did the report done 21 years ago, i.e. BEIR V. BEIR V Executive Summary states this: “While the BEIR V Committee was asked to summarize radiation risk information in a way that is useful for formulating radiation control decisions, recommendations on standards or guidelines for radiation protection were SPECIFICALLY EXCLUDED under the terms of this study.”

    This isn’t some minor detail. You’ve got a problem with radiation policy yet you’ve chosen BEIR as your target, yet this is a group that doesn’t set or even recommend the policy. The scientists associated with the BEIR reports were repeatedly attacked on the show. They don’t know what they are talking about, they reject any science that contradicts their predetermined beliefs, etc.

    Ignorant attacks aimed at the wrong target such as these can only undermine your effort which presumably is to educate people about radiation with the goal of establishing sanity in the way civilization deals with it.

    Cohen actually describes how he feels about the committee that came up with BEIR V in Chapter 5 of his online book. I’d recommend his description of who was on BEIR V, what the National Academy of Sciences is and how likely it is that under NAS auspices any scientific committee such as the BEIR committees could possibly not know what the latest science is or what the best scientists believe about it, but as you’ve told me, “things have changed” since your hero Cohen wrote this and, I presume, the NAS has become so stupid and corrupt it even affects the reports they did when they weren’t stupid and corrupt. Or is it the case Cohen didn’t have a clue about what he was talking about? Didn’t I hear Cohen cited on this show as someone who knows?

  3. Cal Abel says:

    David,

    I commented on Meredith’s blog in response to you there. Here is why I said what I said.

    The mission statement of the National Academy of Science is:

    “Our mission is to improve government decision making and public policy, increase public understanding, and promote the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge in matters involving science, engineering, technology, and health. The Research Council’s independent, expert reports and other scientific activities inform policies and actions that have the power to improve the lives of people in the U.S. and around the world.”

    As their purpose is to inform policy, the lack of a threshold specified in the report indicates that no level is safe. The resulting policy of “no level is safe” is ALARA. It is a subtle distinction. By saying “NOT to recommend policy decisions related to regulations or radiation protection standards or to conduct cost/benefit analyses” after a formal charter from Congress to make such recommendation only acts to obfuscate the issues. It is intentionally vague to induce uncertainty.

    As for the difference between BEIR VII and BEIR V there is none other than the number is incrementally higher. They use the same data set and the same assumptions. As a result they have the same outcome.

    True, the NAS does not set policy. It does however inform policy. The lack of information leads to uninformed and conservative policy.

  4. Hi Cal

    I don’t have your comment on my blog post. I don’t know what happened to it, but please submiy it again!

    Best,

    Meredith

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