Doctors petitioning NRC to revise radiation protection regulations
The wheels are in motion for an official review of radiation protection regulations at the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Doctors who are radiation health specialists are challenging the NRC’s use of the linear, no-threshold (LNT) dose response model as the basis for those regulations and the associated direction to maintain radiation doses As Low As Reasonably Achievable.
On June 23, 2015, the NRC issued a request for comment on three petitions for rulemaking (PRM) that have been grouped together in a single docket – NRC-2015-0057 Linear No-Threshold Model and Standards for Protection Against Radiation; Notice of Docketing and Request for Comment. The petitioners include Dr. Carol Marcus, a Professor of Radiation Oncology, of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology (Nuclear Medicine), and of Radiological Sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California-Los Angeles; Mr. Mark L. Miller, a Certified Health Physicist; and Dr. Mohan Doss, Medical Physicist, Associate Professor, Diagnostic Imaging, Fox Chase Cancer Center on behalf of Scientists for Accurate Radiation Information (SARI).
Disclosure: I am a member of SARI and a signatory on Dr. Doss’s petition. Since he listed names alphabetically, mine is at the top of the list of signers.
The NRC docketed the petitions on February 20, 2015 (ML15051A503), February 27, 2015 (ML15057A349), and March 16, 2015 (ML15075A200), and assigned Docket Numbers. PRM-20-28, PRM-20-29, and PRM-20-30, respectively.
Here are some important instructions regarding comment submission from the regulations.gov comment web site:
Submit comments by September 8, 2015. Comments received after this date will be considered if it is practical to do so, but the NRC is able to assure consideration only for comments received on or before this date.
You may submit comments by any of the following methods (unless this document describes a different method for submitting comments on a specific subject):
- Federal Rulemaking Web site: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID NRC-2015-0057. Address questions about NRC dockets to Carol Gallagher; telephone: 301-415-3463; email: Carol.Gallagher@nrc.gov. For technical questions contact the individual listed in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section of this document.
- Email comments to: Rulemaking.Comments@nrc.gov. If you do not receive an automatic email reply confirming receipt, then contact us at 301-415-1677.
- Fax comments to: Secretary, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission at 301-415-1101.
- Mail comments to: Secretary, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001, ATTN: Rulemakings and Adjudications Staff.
- Hand deliver comments to: 11555 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Maryland 20852, between 7:30 a.m. and 4:15 p.m. (Eastern Time) Federal workdays; telephone: 301-415-1677.
Note: On the day this post was written, the person listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION was Solomon Sahle, Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington DC 20555-0001; telephone: 301-415-3781, email: Solomon.Sahle@nrc.gov. It is possible, but unlikely, for the contact person to change. End note.
I recommend reading each petition; they are full of important information. Here is a sample from the beginning of Dr. Marcus’s letter.
I am submitting this petition for rulemaking pursuant to 10 CFR Part 2.802. The petitioner requests that the NRC amend 10 CFR Part 20, Standards for Protection Against Radiation, based on new science and evidence that contradicts the Linear No-Threshold (LNT) hypothesis, a model that has served as the basis for radiation protection regulations. I will present scientific data as reported in study after study to justify that safety regulations and policies should no longer be derived from the LNT model in order to ensure these requirements are more risk-informed. This ultra-simplistic concept assumes that all radiation absorbed doses, no matter how small, have a finite probability of causing a fatal cancer. The lower the quantity of radiation absorbed dose, the lower the probability of cancer induction, but the probability is never zero, let alone negative (i.e. beneficial or hormetic). The rate of radiation delivery is irrelevant, and all absorbed doses are additive; this is demonstrably false as evidenced by the practices of radiation oncology and of radionuclide therapy. Use of the LNT assumption enables regulators to feel justified in ratcheting down permissible worker and public radiation levels, either through actual dose limits or use of the “as low as reasonably achievable” (ALARA) principle, giving the illusion that they are making everyone safer (and creating ever- increasing workload for themselves and their licensees). There has never been scientifically valid support for this LNT hypothesis since its use was recommended by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences Committee on Biological Effects of Atomic Radiation (BEAR I)/Genetics Panel in 1956. The costs of complying with these LNT-based regulations are enormous. Prof. Dr. Gunnar Walinder has summed it up: “The LNT is the greatest scientific scandal of the 20th century (1).”
On the other hand, there is a vast literature demonstrating no effects or protective effects at relatively low doses of radiation. The literature showing no effects supports a threshold concept, in which radiation below a certain level is of no concern because it causes no deleterious effects. The literature showing protective effects supports the concept of hormesis, in which low levels of potentially stressful agents, such as toxins, other chemicals, ionizing radiation, etc., protect against the deleterious effects that high levels of these stressors produce and result in beneficial effects (e.g. lower cancer rates). To properly characterize risk at low radiation doses, a range of health outcomes, including beneficial or zero health effects, must be acknowledged.
Please take the time to submit thoughtful comments and make sure that they are submitted before the deadline so that they will be considered during the NRC’s post-comment period deliberations.
Similar petitions need to be submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is the regulatory body that has the assigned responsibility of determining radiation protection standards for the general public. It would be a terrible shame to have the excellent work that these petitions represent fail to make the necessary impact because of jurisdictional challenges.
more data contradicting the LNT model http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=NRC-2015-0057-0010
Regarding EPA, the Supreme Court just struck down a regulation because the EPA had not done a cost-benefit analysis.
“The agency responded that it was not required to take costs into account when it made the initial determination to regulate. But the agency added that it did so later in setting emissions standards and that, in any event, the benefits far outweighed the costs.”
In other news, in a 5-4 decision the US Supreme Court ruled this morning that the EPA unreasonably interpreted the Clean Air Act when it decided to set limits on the emissions of toxic pollutants from power plants without first considering the costs of the industry to do so.
This ruling is confusing. EPA’s argues that considering costs first puts the cart before the horse, that they should determine whether there is a problem before considering how much it will cost to fix it.
The Court apparently disagreed.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favor of eliminating all particulate and heavy-metal emissions from coal power plants. And all CO2 emissions as well. I also suspect the most cost-effective way of achieving this goal, in terms of tons of emissions avoided per unit cost, is to simply replace coal plants with clean-burning nuclear fission, rather than a band-aid approach of more expensive more effective particulate and metals-scrubbers on existing plants.
But for EPA to concur will require both some modeling on their part, and a wider understanding of low-dose radiation risks and fears that goes to the heart of NRC’s Request for Comment.
Having grown up in the Los Angeles basin, born in ’52, I can only imagine what it would be like had the EPA never existed. There was a time as a child that I could barely see across the play ground of my elementary school during bad smog days. And, mind you, this was before the Ventura Freeway connected the west valley to the east valley, and traffic since then has increased exponentially many times over. The EPA, like it or not, has played an essential role in counteracting the pollution caused by fossil fuels. It is fashionable to bitch and moan about regulations, but one can only imagine what corporate america would be like without the constraints placed on it by bodies such as the EPA. Who would you rather have deciding on an allowable amount of industrial or automotive particulate emissions, the EPA, Exxon, or GM?
I am comfortable with the EPA making recommendations, but Congress should be writing the laws.
“……but Congress should be writing the laws”
Uh huh. May the highest bidder win.
What does your average congressman concern himself with; your lungs, or his bank balance and his campaign coffers?
If you are looking for a defender of any part of our government right now, don’t look toward me. However we have a constitution, and ignoring it seems to just lead to more problems.
Which is why we need a Constitutional Amendment requiring lapel cameras (good for cops, better for politicians), and allow horse-whipping of corrupt politicians.
I find this puzzling as well. The official govt. public health and safety standard is ~$10 million per life saved. All regulations should meet that criterion. (My view is that nuclear regulations, overall, amount to billions per life saved, and that a bottoms up review of all existing regulations is in order.)
But it’s puzzling because I thought that (unlike NRC), EPA always presented analyses which showed that all of their proposed regulations met the $10 million standard by a wide margin. Some rules, for which EPA analyses showed a cost of only ~$10,000 per life saved have gone down to political defeat (due to the undue power of the coal/fossil industry).
While I support this effort, I wish I could convince myself that it will make a significant difference, with respect to nuclear power costs.
If this passes, will NRC take the view that meltdowns are OK? Will they respond by allowing all reactor components to be classified as NITS? Reactors built with commercial (or standard industrial) grade components (with no dedication process)?
Public dose standards, which effect things like required amounts of shielding for containers, waste disposal processes, and (I suppose) routine operational emissions, do not affect the things that primarily drive nuclear power costs. It is the ingrained mindset that no expense shall be spared to avoid and/or mitigate dreaded plant accident (meltdown) events that is driving nuclear power costs.
Yes, a change in standards would affect various procedures and actions in a post-meltdown scenario (evacuation thresholds, cleanup standards, etc…). However, the costs of (once-per-several-decade) meltdowns are fairly small in the grand scheme of things (on the order of 0.1 cents/kW-hr, over the whole industry). The amount we’ve spent avoiding meltdowns exceeds the cost of meltdowns by several orders of magnitude.
Such a policy change would probably allow the industry to drop Price-Anderson, which may have some political benefits.
Price Anderson is required by law, Industry can’t “drop it”, Congress has to change the law. There is an exception allowed if a licensee can prove to NRC they are financially capable of providing the required legal financial liability limit, but good luck ever getting that approved. I agree there are benefits to getting rid of it. Participation by INPO in your business is required to be in the NEIL insurance pool; dump Price Anderson then dump INPO. Real O&M money to be saved there, which makes or breaks economic viability in some markets these days.
I wonder how much credit INPO can take for the improved nuclear fleet performance since the 1980’s. Certainly the sharing of information has helped. But there have been many times that INPO recommendations were adopted just to make INPO go away.
Forgive my lack of clarity. Yes, I meant the industry would allow Price Anderson to be eliminated or modified, probably by Congress. Perhaps in exchange for regulatory relief?? It would largely take away one of the anti main talking points (i.e., the “uninsurability” of nuclear).
Heck, if we had sane policies concerning the response to a release, based on repudiation of LNT, the current ~$20 billion cap may be enough. At that point, decommissioning the plant (w/ melted cores) would be, by far, the largest expense. (That alone may exceed $20 billion.) At least the cost occurs over a long time period.
The EPA ruling was based on specific language in the Clean Air Act, which generally does not impact NRC regulations. Therefore this ruling does not apply to NPPs, and it would take a separate lawsuit for the court to review NRC’s application of ALARA (or any other standard) based on cost.
Comments are closed.
Recent Comments from our Readers
I spent some time to listen to this podcast, and I still have two questions about module size and its…
Will I agree with your theory. Expensive designs are going to be expensive to build, even with practice. I would…
“And since we are seeing it in the West but not in the East (UAE, S Korea, Russia, China) is…
@Cyril R What was Tesla’s learning rate starting at the first Roadster? How much do you think that first unit…
A new engine or turbine product line doesn’t just cost triple a unit. That’d make it pointless. Yet this is…