BBC's Horizon show questions the Linear No Threshold theory
There are times when I wish I was a resident of the UK, just so that I could pay BBC’s annual license fee and watch some of the programming that is rarely available outside of the country. Apparently, there was an episode of Horizon titled Nuclear Nightmares that aired at 2100 BST, BBC Two, on Thursday, 13 July 2006 that fell into that category.
According to the web page describing the show, it featured a number of scientists that questioned the applicability of the Linear, No Threshold theory of radiation dose response. That theory, also known as the LNT has dominated radiation protection regulations for more than 40 years.
According to the LNT theory – which draws a straight line from the damage done by very large doses of radiation down to a point where zero dose equals zero damage – all radiation exposures, no matter how small, produce a risk of fatal damage. Using that theory, there were predictions of tens to hundreds of thousands of excess deaths from the Chernobyl accident.
Some of the scientists featured in the show, however, state that the Chernobyl death toll after 20 years is 56, with little chance that the number will increase very much. Here is a quote from the article on the web site:
“Low doses of radiation are a [very] poor carcinogen,” says Professor Brooks, who has spent 30 years studying the link between radiation and cancer.
An Atomic Insights reader, however, told me that the quote from the show was actually a bit more colorful:
Last night millions watched in the UK as it was explained that nuclear radiation really wasn’t half as dangerous as they’d been lead to believe. To quote the scientist at the end of the documentary: ‘Low levels of radiation are a piss-poor carcinogen’.
That reader might even have a few tee shirts made with that as the slogan. How many of you would like to put in an advanced order?