1. God were it was that easy.

    We live in a world where a significant number of people now think that exposure to very low levels of non-ionizing radiation from cellphones, wifi, and transmission towers hundreds of meters away represents a health hazard. Worse, some in government are pandering to these fears.

    Stories in the general press stoke fears that medical x-rays are putting the public at risk, and ionization smoke detectors are under fire because of the minuscule amount of Am-241 used as a source.

    This is to say nothing about labeling rules that imply hazard in irradiated food and several other applications of radiation that are not being used because it is just not worth the grief trying to get public acceptance.

    That is not to say that rational statements from regulators would be wrong, only that at this point it would be only a very small step, not a solution.

  2. Then go and live there with your (grand)children. Eat the local produce and prove it’s safe. You, Ted Rockwell, are a hypocrite…..

    1. Why go there when there is a SPA in ramsar Iran that is 30 Times more radioactive than Fukushima?

    2. There are dozens of cities more radioactive than Fukushima on this planet. Focus on something else.

    3. Why is he a ‘hypocrite’? Has he refused to live in an area with radiation comparable to Fukushima (like Denver)?

      From 5 Logical Fallacies That Make You Wrong More Than You Think | Cracked.com — Under # 4- Our Brains Don’t Understand Probability

      As experts point out, when there is strong emotion tied to the unlikely event, our ability to continue to see it as unlikely goes out the window. Thus, any statement of “It’s very unlikely your child will be eaten by a bear, these bear traps in the yard are unnecessary and keep injuring the neighborhood kids” will always be answered with, “Say that when it’s your child being eaten!”

      I’ve had a similar experience when discussing Fukushima. ‘Oh yeah, would you go there and live with your family?’ My answer is yes, but of course this is a ridiculous way to argue. There are one or two other reasons I might not be moving to Fukushima (I don’t have a job there, I don’t speak Japanese, my kids have some friends where we live, etc.). But, it shows how stupid the level of argument can get on issues like this.

    1. Ptolemy said that the Earth was the center of the universe, and his theory was the leading model for over 1000 years. Turned out not to be true.

      It won’t be easy to overturn LNT, and who knows, it may not be overturned at all. Maybe LNT is correct. But science needs to keep exploring the question. Maybe a new understanding will eventually emerge.

      1. Trust me, I completely agree with you on the principle of the matter but LNT has been and will always be a philosophical issue, not a technical one since it is practically impossible to verify. As such, the more cautious advocates of it will always win out because who can be against caution, right?

        1. The point that Ted makes is that being “cautious” about only one thing – radiation exposure – puts people at risk for other measures of risk – like the risk of being homeless or the risk of being poor when you used to be reasonably secure before a government edict forced you off of your ancestral lands.

          Managing risk requires understanding risk, not just deciding to establish rules that prevent risk from exposure to man-made sources of radiation. That is a rather absurd standard because human tissue cannot tell the difference between the radiation from “naturally occurring radioactive material” and radiation received from isotopes created in a fission reactor.

  3. Common sense is the reason Ted Rockwell is a hypocrite. It is a local issue. Before calling for common sense first exercise it.

    If Ted wants to organize a campaign to import Japanese beef with low levels of Cs-137, I will buy some. However, I suspect our own nanny state would prevent American nuclear workers from such an import.

    My first choice is corn feed beef coming from 100,000 feedlots processed by big ag. It is wonderful to live in a productive society where the concern for the poor is not malnutrition but a high fat diet.

    1. @Kit P

      It is not a local issue because radiation standards are set internationally. The Japanese government cannot legitimately justify to its people a standard that is significantly different from a standard set by international bodies.

      That is why Ted is addressing his letter to radiation protection professionals. He wants them to recognize that their conservatism is causing a measurable amount of harm – right now – in order to perhaps protect against a statistical amount of harm sometime in the distant future.. That should expose their standards as not being very “conservative.”

      1. Well Rod this “radiation protection professional” never had a problem meeting standards. If you check CFR are US codes not international.

        Just for the record, if some suit who used to work for Harry Reid told me to leave my house he could …….

        1. @Kit P

          This radiation protection professional never had a problem meeting standards either – but it was not a cheap endeavor and there might have been many other places where the resources would have been better spent, knowing what I now know about the lack of science that underlies the LNT ASSUMPTION.

          (I have a very tenuous claim on that title, but I did serve as the Chemistry and Radiological Controls Assistant on USS Stonewall Jackson for 17 months. There was a time when I could recite chapter and verse from 0153 (or was it 0152 – one was the Chemistry Manual and one was the Radcon Manual). Many people who know what the Engineer Officer on a submarine does might also give me some credit for time served in that role.)

  4. I see we have a guest preacher delivering the sermon at Atomic Ideologies.

    (I will have a couple of links so to prevent my comment getting held up in moderation, I’ll post twice.)

    Pray tell, Preacher Ted, please provide a peer reviewed study to support this claim:

    “…not a single life-shortening radiation injury has occurred. Not one.”

    It would be a miracle of course, because to scientifically discern life shortening takes decades after an exposure.

    Regarding evacuations, many Japanese have been allowed to return to their homes. And this will continue as more surveys and remediations are done:


    (Sorry, Joel)

    1. And I notice you are avoiding answering what I wrote criticizing your misapplication of the healthy worker effect from that link in the other thread.

      I’ll re-post it here if you want, but ether way I’ll won’t let you forget it.

      1. Just like any other type of cockroach Applebaum scuttles away as soon as a light is shone on him.

        If indeed he was the defender of science he keeps claiming he was, he would be man enough to simply admit that he was wrong, but instead he tries to ignore any question of his error, in the hope that it will be forgotten.

  5. I support the sentiments expressed in Ted Rockwell’s guest post. What is currently happening in Northern Japan is a completely unnecessary aggravation of suffering from the Fukushima earthquake/tsunami. Ted points this out and provides good reasons why ALARA policies and standards should be amended in this instance as they are now directly responsible for further unnecessarily extending the suffering of many fine people. In a desire to be really really sure current radiation standards are conservatively set many orders of magnitude too low and as Ted points out, clinical studies support this view. It is a significant service to point this out as Ted Rockwell has.
    Excessive fear of radiation keeps the power to save the world (nuclear) on the sidelines (and thousands of nice families in Northern Japan locked out of their homes needlessly).
    (Ted Rockwell is not a hypocrite and might be the finest nuclear engineer alive that also has the gift of simultaneously being a skillful writer.)

  6. And here’s the latest radiophobic insanity from the EU (UK Daily Mail):

    Europe has banned controversial airport ‘strip-search’ scanners over fears the X-ray technology could cause cancer.

    Experts have found the body scanners emit low doses of radiation and the EU has told member states not to install them until the risks are assessed. They will be completely banned in April if experts rule they are dangerous…

    They were used at Heathrow but scrapped amid complaints about invasion of privacy. They have also been tested in Germany, France, Italy, Finland and Holland.

    Research suggests that because of the large number of scanners in the U.S. – there are 250 – up to 100 passengers a year could get cancer.

    The (UK) Health Protection Agency said: ‘The radiation dose from an examination of two or three scans is less than that received from two minutes flying at cruising altitude… Extensive tests by the UK Health Protection Agency and the U.S. health authorities have already confirmed that back scatter body scanners pose a negligible risk to human health.’

    Joining the dots, according to the “research suggests” reasoning above up to 100 passengers a year could get cancer for each and every two minutes of flying at cruising altitude. Yeah, right….

    Do these LNT alarmists not see the stupidity of their no-lower-threshold position ???

    1. Pardon the exasperated tone.

      Nevertheless, here’s the challenge: for an LNT proponent to come up with the actual research that shows frequent flyers have a significantly increased risk of cancer compared to seldom-flyers.

      By all means, ban these infernal machines on invasion-of-privacy grounds. But don’t ban them because of their negligible radiation dangers.

  7. Getting cancer =/= dying from cancer.

    1.) Early detection is the best way to beat cancer. If someone decides to live in a region with elevated radiation levels, due to an accident, then they already know that their risk is elevated. It will not be hard to be vigilant throughout their life. They have plenty of time to catch it.

    2.) Some cancers and tumors are treatable. The link below shows that the fatality rate from cancer is about 35% of the diagnostic rate.

    3.) If you are exposed now, you still have 30 or so years for the medicine to get better. You also have 30 or so years to live, and meet your grandchildren. A luxury people who drowned did not have.

    Even if the conservative LNT numbers are correct an eventual cancer fatality is not the same as a prompt death. If you are going to make a fair comparison you have to take this into account by looking at some metric such as “years of life lost.”

    Then again if you did it that way you would end up with a number such as drowning at 30 or dying from cancer at 60, with an expected age of 75 would give you 15yearss lost due to cancer, and 45 years lost due to drowning. Mathematically this says that drowning if a factor of 3 over cancer. But, I would credit being able to live 30 years longer as being infinity better than dying tomorrow. That’s probably a discussion for another time.


  8. I think #3 should be emphasized and is the reason it is almost certain not one person will die from cancer due to Fukushima.

    The 4,000 extra deaths estimate from Chernobyl also asssumed no advances in cancer treatment. The average worker near Chernobyl after the accident was under 25 years old. That means that all of those workers are today between 45 and 65 years old with most around age 50 or so.

    There is already exciting news about being able to treat lung cancer effectively within 5 years and as medicine improves due to accelerating computer power, it is unlikely anyone will die of cancer after 2020, possibly before. In 2004, the NCI stated its goal was to eliminate death and suffering due to cancer by the 2015. It won’t be too many years off.

    The odds of any deaths due to Fukushima are very low. Then again, the same will be true from oil, gas and coal as well. The difference is how many those have already killed and will die in coming years before the cures roll out.

    1. Alan – there is also the little fact that most deaths associated with hydrocarbon combustion energy sources are prompt and caused by things like suffocation, burns, and inhalation of toxic byproduct gases like CO. There is no time for medical science to advance for the people affected by those kinds of immediate effects. In fact, there is little likelihood of any advance in medical science that will reduce the number of deaths from those inherent qualities of combustion – we are already pretty darned good at rapid response medicine that can save lives as long as we can get to the affected person before they perish.

  9. The main problem, from my perspective, is bureaucratic. Thousands of government jobs depend on the “prudent”, politically correct approach to setting radiation standards, based on the arbitrary and patently incorrect LNT curve (which is only linear on logarithmic graph paper). Once firmly established, a bureaucracy is many times more difficult to dismantle than it was to create. Those holding well-paid petty fiefdoms in the government will fight tooth-and-nail to protect their unnecessary jobs. The second problem is public education on the realities of radiation exposures…or rather a lack of it. Education through the news media is a worthless pipe-dream, which I learned during my six years of being a nuke plant’s media rep. Unfortunately, blogging on the issue merely reinforces the conceptions of the tiny fraction of humanity already clued-in. We’ve got to “get out there”, take the truth to the people, and fight the good fight, or the psychological catastrophe now gripping Japan will spread. Fear of radiation is insideous, invisible, and highly communicable. Fukushima has grasped the world’s attention. We should exploit this opportunity and set the record straight.

    1. I agree with you – but I think that can be expanded to include just about everything that a government / lrage organisation does.

  10. “there might have been many other places where the resources would have been better spent, ”

    Got some bad new for you pal, thing are tough all over. You may want to find a different line of work or move to another country. Do you want my list of better ways to spend money?

    Let’s start with oil. It is natural, biodegradable, and nature leaks large amount of oil into the environment but the reportable limit for an accidental release in some western states is ‘any’. Outside the fence of the power plant is a millions of cars dripping oil.

    Then there is dihydrogen monoxide scare.

    Learn the rules, follow the rules, ignore the crack pots.

    1. Kit,
      Indeed things are tough all over. There was a recent case where over 16,000 people were killed almost instantly by dihydrogen monoxide. The stuff is dangerous and must be regulated. Granted it was a “natural event” but it proves the danger of dihydrogen monoxide and any man made dihydrogen monoxide must be strictly regulated. We should even limit our exposure of natural dihydrogen monoxide. DHM is a real killer.

      What is incorrect factually about the information that I listed above? What is incorrect in the reasoning behind the conclusion? What information was ignored to reach the conclusion that I did? How was I being idealogical?

      Time to shift gears a little and give you an analogy of a heat engine that is illustrative of the problem with determining the appropriate level of radiation protection. The economic analogy translates almost directly.

      We have a heat source that produces a working fluid with a certain internal energy (capital). As the working fluid is traveling to the turbine we take a portion of it (auxiliary steam) to distill makeup water (O&M) and to operate a steam jet air ejector (radiation protection), both vital services. We know that if we run the turbine without any vacuum that the turbine blades will overheat so we limit the vacuum in the condenser. Think of the Aux steam going to the air ejectors as the effort that our industry expends on radiological controls and on infrastructure improvements for EPZ’s.

      We know that if we don’t have any vacuum that the turbine blades will overheat and we will blow the turbine boot. Not a good day. The engineer who designed the system said that we need to have 4 sets of air ejectors on service in order to keep the plant safe. So he wrote the procedures to ensure that this was always to be done. He used a conservative estimate about the efficiency of the air ejectors because they were a new technology that had just been developed and we have no good measure for the leakage rate of non condensible gas into the condenser.

      So, we, being good nukes, proceed along smartly and operate the plant according to procedure using our conservative estimates. We do this for a number of years but loose an air eject every once in a while and vacuum holds at 26″ with no change, but the power output of the turbine goes up 1% when we go down to three air ejectors. Then one day we loose a second air ejector, and vacuum still holds but at 15″ The back pressure on the turbine has increased and we reduced the power output from the turbine. We know that if we loose a third air ejector we are going to have to trip the turbine because it will no longer be safe to operate. Then the unthinkable happens and we go down to one air ejector and right before we trip the turbine we see that vacuum is still holding at 5″ safe for the short term not good for the long term and at a significantly reduced power output. We then trip the turbine and start bringing air ejectors on service.

      So how many air ejectors are needed to operate the plant safely? This is analogous to the question that Ted Rockwell poses about radiation protection. What level is safe?

      We developed procedures and policy based on limited information when we first started out. We have gained enough empirical evidence to confirm that we do indeed need some level of policy, but that the policies are inefficient and do not reflect what we learned about how the system works.

      Your argument is centered around the following point:
      4 air ejectors has worked well so far that we still need to be conservative just to be safe. We produce so much power that the 1% is trivial and is worth the added protection.

      This fails on several parts: first if you were a plant manager and I came to you and said that with this procedural change I will give you an extra 1% power with out compromising the safety of your plant. You would be a fool for not listening and verifying the procedure. Assuming your plant generates $1MM/day that 1% is $10k/day of increased revenue. With a 90% capacity factor that comes out to $3.3MM/yr. Second, it assumes that being conservative is justified even though evidence suggests differently. This is in direct contradiction to the rigor in which we operate our plants.

      You met Rickover, I assume that you read the nuke notes at some point. There is a letter in there that he wrote to a commanding officer about a breaker just tripping. The CO said that it was a spurious trip. Rickover provided him a very succinct answer that followed the this reasoning. “I made sure that through the design process and procurement process that those specifically breakers would not ‘just trip’. As you did not report the failure of the component that specifically precludes the spurious trip, you have failed to identify the actual cause of the breaker tripping. You are doing all of us a disservice by not asking the hard questions and holding your men accountable. Exercise your reason, that is why I put you in your job and ask the hard questions. Tell me what you find, and how you intend to correct the problem.”

      When we developed nuclear power those who went before asked those tough questions and paved the way forward. The next generation came in, in awe of the accomplishment that was done in such short time and took what was written as rote as they had to fight for their very survival. The third generation is coming along and is asking the tough question. “Why?”

      And the second generation’s response, “Because I said so.” That just doesn’t cut it any more. I can’t pull that line on my son and he’s five. Don’t expect it to work on me.

      If you are going to have any credibility with me, cut the BS and find the courage to be wrong. I care as much about how you think as what you’ve done. A man who can reason clearly, question his surroundings, and remember what happened has unlimited potential. One, who does not, is stuck only with what he has.

      The following is in response to one of your other comments about being on a nuclear cruiser that had an aluminum superstructure when the power plant didn’t care about the weight. One of the reasons why the superstructure was aluminum was because the marine engineers didn’t understand the implications of the absolute power of a nuclear power plant. They saw the added weight of the reactor cores and shielding and using then state of the art designs compensated for the added weight. Based off of their best information they did what they thought was right. That is through no fault of their own. Men like you came along and showed what the true capability of those vessels actually was and challenged their design philosophy.

      P.S. If you think my analogy of economics and thermodynamics is silly and fraught with problems check out “An economic analogy to thermodynamics” by Wayne Saslow (a physicist) and “Classical thermodynamics and economic general equilibrium theory” by Eric Smith (an economist). You will find my analogy quite pertinent. I also offer that as an engineer you understand the principles of economics much more clearly and intuitively than most economists. Just like I think of fluid systems in terms of electricity and electrical systems in terms of fluid systems, I think of thermodynamics in terms of economics and economics in terms of thermodynamics. They are all equivalent on some level.

      Mr. Rockwell,
      Thank you for helping to set the standard of reason in nuclear power. The message is still being heard.

  11. I like Wade and was probably one of the first to buy his book ‘Radiation & Reason’ (it is a good read). However, state ‘respected radiation authority Wade Allison’ is falling into a similar trap that makes many anti-nukes call C Busby a ‘world expert on radiation’ (

  12. I like Wade and was probably one of the first to buy his book ‘Radiation & Reason’ (it is a good read). However, to state ‘respected radiation authority Wade Allison’ is falling into a similar trap that makes many anti-nukes call C Busby a ‘world expert on radiation’ (or words to that effect). Neither Wade not Busby are radiation experts – Wade is an expert in radiation therapy for sure.

    When you have a moment check out the following book review. I know the reviewer and he makes some valid points.



    1. The review would have been better and more convincing if the author had not lead off by referencing an even more “deeply flawed book” written by that charlatan Arjun Makhijani. Personally, I mostly lost interest in the review once I hit that point.

      Nevertheless, I read the entire thing, and the reviewer does make several points, which might be good. It would have helped if he had included some serious references at this point in his review to back up his criticisms instead of hand-waving and condescension. Instead, his only two references are a psychology book and a book published by IEER, a sham organization that has no credibility whatsoever. Why?

    2. Silly me. I overlooked the obvious. IEER pays the reviewer (Mike Thorne) to do consulting work for them.

      Now his review makes sense.

  13. Very interesting discussion and comments. Usefull for a layman like me, thanks.

    Concerning unintended consequences of overly cautious radiation protection policy. I read that Chernobyl cost 430 billion dollars. Assuming that figure is correct, what part of that was likely costs for unnecessary activities or mitigation of the damage of those activities?

    1. Well, let’s look into the future shall we ? They are planning to build another sarcophagus around the broken reactor.

      Is there a need for this? Not anymore. But the hysteria goes on and the world will caught up another 5 billion dollars. Let’s keep Ukraine working.

      Someone on this board posted that Denver is more radioactive than Chernobyl today. Let’s board up Denver and create jobs.

      1. Let’s board up Denver and create jobs.

        Why? There’s no threat to life or health from living in Denver (other than the possibility of having your mind rotted from living so close to Boulder, that is).

        Let’s create jobs by relocating the Japanese population away from the coast. This year they lost almost 20,000 lives from a tsunami. Unlike the statistically speculative “eventual” deaths from Fukushima, the body count from the tsunami is real. These people are already dead.

        Have we ended Japan’s tsunamis for all time? Not at all. Moving the population out of the tsunami zones in Japan will do much more to save lives than moving people out of Denver.

        And just think of the jobs it will create!

    2. That would require several things:
      1. Determine the level of exposure that is safe/acceptable. That is the problem with ALARA that there is no such level.
      2. Map those areas of safe exposure over the exclusion zone.
      3. Determine the value of the loss of land and the loss of economic activity within that region.
      4. Traditional general equilibrium theory is inadequate to take into account this information. In an earlier post I suggested two papers that link thermodynamics to general equilibrium theory. Under this framework the analysis is possible.
      5. Determine the affected activities in other countries (changes in preference/utility) and model those with different assumptions of the impact of exposure. You could treat the radiation released as an extensive variable and even divide it up by country. With this approach you could see the impact of total curies released on the economic pressure (marginal utility) that that release exerted.

      It would be a big and messy problem. Probably the people best equipped to deal with this would be a physicist who derives equations of state for various things. Their goal would be to derive the equation of state for the economy, utility as a function of the extensive degrees of freedom.

      Once you have the equation of state you can readily calculate the economic impact of a radiation release in that area. You can even have as one of the extensive variables the policy constraint of the level of “safe” exposure.

      It would be a fun and challenging project and take a good bit of research.

      This same methodology can be applied here in the US to determine the economic impact of the exposure controls that we have. It would be illuminating to say the least.

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