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13 Comments

  1. “My experience in reading work like this over the past 3 decades is part of the reason that I am so adamant that nuclear energy can save us all from a fate of a gradually decreasing level of prosperity and freedom.” No, the work of man’s hands cannot save him. Man has to change on the inside, and man cannot save himself. That’s the whole point of this particular week of the year, especially Good Friday and Easter Sunday. BUT, I do think this article on LNT is better. At least there’s no quoting of Bible verses out of context to push a secular agenda as there was in the previous one.

  2. While I read all the posts the abstract in the guest post caught my attention immediately. I have cancer and as a result have been getting an MRI at least every 8 weeks for the past 3 years. The thing is MRI scans don’t involve any ionizing radiation they involve much less energetic radio waves. I have trouble understanding why people would avoid them unless they didn’t understand the very basics of how the technology works.

  3. The real shame is that even using the LNT theory, the Fukushima nuclear plants have still saved lives. When they were built, the only other real choice was to use coal. Coal-fired power generation is so bad that it makes the Fukushima disaster look like a walk in the park (even assuming LNT, which I agree is bunk).

    While we have had nuclear disasters, and probably will have them again in the future, the vast majority of nuclear plants will operate over their lifetimes with no more than minimal amounts of radiation released, providing huge quantities of energy with tiny negative health impacts on the public from radiation. Nuclear isn’t perfect, but it is the best we have.

  4. @ donb

    “Coal-fired power generation is so bad that it makes the Fukushima disaster look like a walk in the park.”

    “Nuclear isn’t perfect, but it is the best we have.”

    When the General Public agrees with these opinions, the Nuclear Renaissance will truly start. Most of you in this industry think it is just a matter of education, but I think there are many safety issues that need to be addressed as well.

    I can envision a future of electric land transportation and electric home heating powered by underground, modular, “walk away safe” nuclear power generation stations.

    Hydrocarbons would still be required for air transportation and as an input to many industrial chemical processes and probably sea transportation.

    I will use this article as a reference as I try to find articles supporting LNT.

    Thanks,
    Tom Murphy

  5. National Academy of Science

    Beir VII: Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation

    Cancer Risk Estimates at Very Low Doses

    At doses of 100 mSv or less, statistical limitations
    make it difficult to evaluate cancer risk in humans. A comprehensive review of available biological and biophysical data led the committee to conclude that the risk would continue in a linear fashion at lower doses without a threshold and that the smallest dose has the potential to cause a small increase in risk to humans. This assumption is termed the “linear-no-threshold ”(LNT) model.

    There are two competing hypotheses to the linear no-threshold model.
    One is that low doses of radiation are more harmful than a linear, no-threshold model of effects would suggest. BEIR VII finds that the radiation health effects research, taken as a whole, does not support this hypothesis.
    The other hypothesis suggests that risks are smaller than predicted by the linear nothreshold model are nonexistent, or that low doses of radiation may even be beneficial. The report concludes that the preponderance of information indicates that there will be some risk, even at low doses, although the risk is small.

    Until the NAS rejects the LNT model, I don’t think Ted’s argument will gain much traction.

    1. The discussion about a threshold has been going on for half a century. The information in the article has been mainly available for decades. BEIR VII discussed it in detail soon a decade ago. ICRP evaluates the demand for safety “rules” contineuosly and issues reports. Huge (as well as small) scientific projects are run to investigate the effects of low doses. UNSCEAR issued a new report recently.
      But for decades it seems a rule respected by national radiation safety agencies that 20Sv collective dose in “low dose area” causes one cancer death.

      Am I naive to believe institutions would have reacted if the case against LNT were SO convincing.

      Am I naive to believe the need of revising LNT would be better documented in reports issued by such institutions if there was such a need?

  6. What a load of BS! First, I am not aware of any problem that the US nuclear industry is having managing radiation exposure under the current regulations.

    Second, Mr. Rockwell apparently does not understand risk. Just because the folks at Greenpeace do not have a clue, does not mean nuclear professional should apply the same methods.

    Limits are often based on limiting the risk to an arbitrary value of one in a million. This does not mean that you can calculate the number of deaths from exposure to that value by the number of people exposed. It just means the risk is insignificant.

    For example milk is food we give to children. If you have a tanker truck of milk over turn if might be classified as ‘hazardous waste’ spill. If the milk goes in into a body of water, the BOD could kill all the fish. If the spill is inside the fence of a nuclear facility, the radioactive soil would have to be sent to low level land fill.

    Following the methodology of determining the limit, you can calculate that 100% of milk drink children should die of cancer. Of course that is silly, just as silly as most of the arguments Rockwell makes.

    Banning such things as PCP, DDT, and asbestos might be examples of regulation that cause harm. There are benefits that must be considered along with the risk. Clearly the risk from PCP, DDT, and asbestos could be managed just as we manage radiation.

    1. Yes, Kit, (good to hear from you), banning these has caused harm and continues to cause harm. The attitude that if some things can bring any degree of danger, and your list is appropriate, we should ban them, while we accept risks from other things that are far more dangerous leave us in an exposed state. Fire, lack of food and malaria are far more dangerous than PCP, DDT and asbestos. But we have been told that we must accept less effective but “safer” solutions. Perhaps with asbestos and PCP we can find adequate solutions but with DDT there has not been one found. In the case of radiation, I am looking at the actual releases in Japan and how quickly they are fading away and I am amazed at how fast they are fading to very insignificant levels. Radiation danger is overplayed.

      No the current fleet of reactors does not have a problem managing the radiation, but the public has a great deal of fear that radiation is so dangerous that if it ever escapes we are doomed. That fear / belief is the real danger. Just as with DDT, (a proper use of which would lengthen millions more lives), the use of radiation for power production, medicine and food would prolong even more lives. The story that “fringe” scientists have difficulty getting published or funded seems to be a recurring cross discipline theme.

  7. @Kit, while you are certainly welcome to a differing opinion, I found this comment amusing, “Second, Mr. Rockwell apparently does not understand risk.” Perhaps you did not realize that he wrote THE Reactor Shielding Design Manual. Ted Rockwell is a name that is fundamentally linked with how the nuclear power production industry has dealt with radiation risk from the beginning. All things considered, I think they’ve done OK by building on the foundation he and others with him laid out.

    1. @ Kelly

      While I don’t think Kit has argued his/her case well, I have to take exception to your argument that having written THE BOOK on Reactor Shielding Design makes Ted in expert in the field of Risk Analysis. I am sure it helps though. 😉

      I think her point is that, as a society, we have banned substances that have proven benefits because the potential consequences (risk) are determined to outweigh them.

      Even if everyone is fully in agreement on the risks and benefits of nuclear power, there will be disagreement over whether we should build more nuclear power plants because it is a VALUE decision.
      After the facts have been presented, it is a decision, a judgment call based on your underlying values.

      Do the benefits outweigh the risks? As Kit pointed out, sometimes we decide they do not.

  8. @Tom Murphy
    you said, “Nuclear isn’t perfect, but it is the best we have.”

    I prefer the way that Pro-nuke blogger NNadir articulates this concept, “Nuclear energy need not be perfect to be better than evereything else, it simply needs to be better than everything else. Happily it is.”
    I encourage everyone to read some of his writings;
    http://www.dailykos.com/blog/NNadir

  9. The benefits of a reliable supply of electricity out weigh the risk by a wide margin in the US because it a regulatory requirement. When it comes to protecting the public, workers and the environment, the US electricity generating industry is very, very good. I happen to think that the US nuclear industry is the best of the best. Not being the best of the best does not imply that other segments of the power industry are killing people.

    I am sure that I could do a cost analysis justifying less shielding or allowing children to be exposed to more I-131 because of the cost of pollution controls on coal plants. However, the NRC demands ALARA when certifying a new reactor. The EPA demands BAT (best available technology) for fossil plants.

    The real issue is to reduce risk to an insignificant level however you decide to produce electricity.

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