As High As Relatively Safe (AHARS) – Sensible radiation standards

Ionizing radiation is a known, studied and understood phenomenon to which the Precautionary Principle no longer applies. It is time to shift the paradigm that governs radiation exposure limits to a sensible standard of “As High As Relatively Safe” (AHARS).

Excess caution leads to excess nuclear costs and happy fossil fuel vendors

Illustration used with permission from Wade Allison.

Aside: I’m crediting Dr. Wade Allison with the etymology of the term – AHARS. I will also credit him as my initial source for the specific numerical recommendation – 100 mSv/month – to be applied in the case of chronic doses. Please read his document titled Man’s Fear of Nuclear Technology is Mistaken: Better and Safer than Fire for an explanation of why that is a conservative recommendation with historic and scientific basis. End Aside.

Conventional wisdom about atomic radiation is that all doses carry some risk and that the risks from each exposure can be added to each other in a cumulative fashion, both for individuals and for large exposed populations. That conventional wisdom logically leads to a presumption about radiation exposure and a standard that has no numerical limits and can only be qualitatively described as “As Low As Reasonably Achievable” (ALARA).

In our ALARA-based radiation exposure paradigm, the word “reasonable” is undefined. That leaves politicians, activists, lawyers, and regulators free to choose to define it to serve their own purposes. Often, those purposes include making it as difficult and expensive as possible to comply with regulations. Many powerful interests are served by burdening nuclear energy and nuclear medicine. Competitors benefit from slowing market penetration of measurably superior products by adding cost, fear and uncertainty.

The conventional wisdom based on the Linear No Threshold (LNT) assumption is wrong, as proven by many decades worth of research and study on the health effects of low level radiation. Here is an excerpt from the Health Physics Society position statement titled Radiation Risk in Perspective that provides some sense of the basis for stating that the LNT assumption is wrong; it does not resemble reality.
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Nuclear energy advocate in a nuclear nonproliferation crowd

On December 11, 2013, Henry Sokolski, the Executive Director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center (NPEC), hosted a event titled Avoiding Future Irans: A New Course for US Nonproliferation Policy. The papers offered as background material before the event started, the prepared remarks from Sokolski’s invited speakers, and the post meeting engagements I had with […]

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Associated Press’s slanted interpretation of recent GAO report on US nuclear regulator

While the recent government shutdown was still in progress, Jeff Donn of the Associated Press published a slanted story about a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. That report had not yet been released to the public, but it was made available to Mr. Donn. Though Mr. Donn is not […]

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Allison Macfarlane and Pete Lyons receive a dressing down for actions by predecessors

On September 10, 2013, the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Allison Macfarlane and the Department of Energy’s Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy, Peter Lyons, spent almost two hours testifying in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. They had been invited to the hearing room to tell the committee what their organizations were […]

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Galen Winsor asks – Who owns the plutonium? How much is it worth?

Galen Winsor was a hands-on nuclear expert in the fullest sense of the phrase. Before irrational radiation protection rules were imposed, he and his colleagues directly handled used fuel. Since they needed to touch radioactive materials to accomplish their mission, they could not maximize distance or use shielding. Instead they limited their exposure time and […]

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Risks to American nuclear workers from “nonproliferation” excesses

Elaine Grossman has published a piece on Nextgov.com titled Former Defense Brass Object to ‘More Restrictive’ Nuclear Trade Policies that is critical of an effort led by John Hamre to question recent deliberations by the Obama Administration. The end result of the talks has the potential to complicate rules for US based organizations that want […]

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Evidence shows humans can tolerate FAR higher radiation doses than governments allow

Dr. Jerry Cuttler has been concentrating his research on the health effects of low dose radiation for more than 15 years. The events at Fukushima and the human tragedy of the poor decision making both during and after the release of modest quantities of radioactive material have reinforced the importance of his work. Dr. Cuttler […]

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US EPA dose rate standard of 15 mrem/yr for long term disposal makes no sense

Matt Wald responded to the comment I described in my post titled Too Hot to Touch – Matt Wald’s review of new book on nuclear waste issue. As a brief reminder, in that post I told him that he and the authors of Too Hot To Touch were misinforming the public by stating that the […]

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Rockwell’s perspective on the history of nuclear power regulation

Ted Rockwell has been an active participant in the development of nuclear energy production in the United States since the very earliest days of the technology. He started his nuclear career as an engineering troubleshooter in 1943 at the site that is now Oak Ridge National Laboratory during the Manhattan Project. He was one of […]

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Mr. President – Ike would recommend the nuclear option for energy policy

Dear President Obama: I was heartened to hear that you have put fighting climate change near the top of your “to do” list during your second term. It is time for you to dig through your memory banks, your pile of correspondence and the lessons you are learning by studying Eisenhower’s presidency to realize that […]

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Overcoming “steep hurdles” for uranium mining one step at a time

When the National Academy of Sciences issued its report on uranium mining in Virginia, it included a phrase about “steep hurdles” that has been seized by the people opposed to the enterprise and repeated as almost a mantra. It has made an appearance in almost every article I have read on the topic. Here is […]

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Atomic Show #195 – Health effects of low level radiation

On Sunday, January 13, 2013, I had a conversation with Dr. Jerry Cuttler and Dr. A. David Rossin. Each of these distinguished gentlemen has a long history of working with ionizing radiation and studying its biological effects on human beings. Dr. Jerry Cuttler earned his PhD in 1964. He has performed radiation research, designed radiation […]

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