Atomic Show #239 – Sarah Laskow and the LNT model
In March 2015, Foreign Policy magazine published an article by Sarah Laskow titled The Mushroom Cloud and The X-Ray Machine. The article described the controversy over the radiation protection model known as the linear, no-threshold dose response.
Ms. Laskow conducted some admirable literature research and talked with a number of well-known people.
The ones that made it into her article as quoted sources included Dr. Tony Brooks, Chief Scientist of the Department of Energy’s Low Dose Radiation Research program, Dr. Helen Caldicott, a long time antinuclear activist, John Boice of the National Council on Radiation Protection, Dr. Ed Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists, Dr. Greg Jaczko, who was Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission until asked to resign because due to a loss of confidence in his managerial performance, and Dr. David Brenner from Columbia University and Image Gently.
From my point of view, her choices for quotable sources were not especially balanced; Tony Brooks is the only person in the above list whose scientific research has led him to the conclusion that the LNT overestimates radiation health risks at low doses. John Boice isn’t sure and wants another 7 years and $25 million to conduct additional epidemiological research while the rest firmly believe that there is no safe dose of radiation.
Sarah agreed to fit me into her busy schedule to about her article.
We talked about our respective research into the history of the LNT model, the biological logic guiding those who question the no safe dose assumption, the choices made during the process of editing her piece to fit the space available, and the difference between interviewing a variety of people with opposing points of view and seeking scientific truth.
We also delved a bit into the financial and political motives that underly certain policies that are supposedly based on sound scientific research and truth.
I hope you enjoy the conversation and learn something about how opinions are formed and shared.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 1:09:52 — 64.1MB)
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This was an interesting conversation. I could see that Sarah was working hard to remain the objective reporter. She was working to stay within consensus science and a conventional explanation of events. I was pleased to see that she understood from her research that the current regulation on Radiation was NOT sensible.
I was surprised to hear that some scientists felt that it is possible that low dose radiation below 50 to 100 microsevierts / year could possibly be even more dangerous than the LNT predicts.
I was also surprised to learn that the EPA is regulating clean up to a level that is 15 times BELOW the level of background radiation. No wonder some people are so interested in keeping those regulations. It it is a bonanza! The gift that keeps on giving…
I also was impressed that Sarah was working hard to remain an objective reporter.
I was frustrated as you presented evidence contradicting LNT because she would alway revert to “that is not the consensus of the people I talked to”.
So I am trying to come up with questions that Sarah would actually relate to (maybe even change the way she reports next time). These questions may not be the best questions, but may give you a different basis for talks with other reports in the future.
“How did you pick the people to interview for this article?”
“How many of the people you interviewed have actually done low dose experiments?”
“How many of the people you interviewed referred you to pier reviewed papers?”
“Since you desired a wide range of opinions with Helen Caldicot on one end of the range, how did you pick the person on the other end of the range?” I would suggest someone who has done experiments showing beneficial results from low dose radiation.
“Were you aware of the American Nuclear Association list of scientific papers containing research contradictory to LNT”?
I guess the point is that reporters who want to be objective try not to have personal opinions even when they are interviewed. I think the reporter will answer questions about how sources were selected but will not talk about personal conclusions on the content of the material.
Perhaps you could have pointed Sarah to another author’s work, one by Ed Hiserodt: Underexposed: What If Radiation Is Actually GOOD for You?. Better yet perhaps you could get him on your show!
I liked the fact that she started her article with the perspective of a young girl witnessing a nuclear event. This was a good opener to which everyone could relate. She had to do a lot of research to write about such a complex subject and she did a good job,
This was written for “Foreign Policy.” Perhaps a future article could be how increased use of nuclear power would affect foreign policy. I’d like to see that one.
A good listen! It would’ve been a cherry on top asking Sarah why are her media colleagues are so overwhelming tacitly anti-nuclear (uncritically pro-Green most anything) and how balanced she felt the reporting on Fukushima was..
Something I can’t find on Google; At what levels of solar/comic radiation would the FAA suspend air traffic?
I hope this is the start of having more media members put on the hot seat about a very crucial national survival asset. (I don’t mean to sound mean, I just recall Shoreham’s treatment too hard..)
The media isn’t pro green. Heck, most of them never even heard of Norman Borlaug, the very father of the green revolution. They’re pro challenge to human actualization. It makes for better stories.
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