As High As Relatively Safe (AHARS) – Sensible radiation standards
Ionizing radiation is a known, studied and understood phenomenon to which the Precautionary Principle no longer applies. It is time to shift the paradigm that governs radiation exposure limits to a sensible standard of “As High As Relatively Safe” (AHARS).
Aside: I’m crediting Dr. Wade Allison with the etymology of the term – AHARS. I will also credit him as my initial source for the specific numerical recommendation – 100 mSv/month – to be applied in the case of chronic doses. Please read his document titled Man’s Fear of Nuclear Technology is Mistaken: Better and Safer than Fire for an explanation of why that is a conservative recommendation with historic and scientific basis. End Aside.
Conventional wisdom about atomic radiation is that all doses carry some risk and that the risks from each exposure can be added to each other in a cumulative fashion, both for individuals and for large exposed populations. That conventional wisdom logically leads to a presumption about radiation exposure and a standard that has no numerical limits and can only be qualitatively described as “As Low As Reasonably Achievable” (ALARA).
In our ALARA-based radiation exposure paradigm, the word “reasonable” is undefined. That leaves politicians, activists, lawyers, and regulators free to choose to define it to serve their own purposes. Often, those purposes include making it as difficult and expensive as possible to comply with regulations. Many powerful interests are served by burdening nuclear energy and nuclear medicine. Competitors benefit from slowing market penetration of measurably superior products by adding cost, fear and uncertainty.
The conventional wisdom based on the Linear No Threshold (LNT) assumption is wrong, as proven by many decades worth of research and study on the health effects of low level radiation. Here is an excerpt from the Health Physics Society position statement titled Radiation Risk in Perspective that provides some sense of the basis for stating that the LNT assumption is wrong; it does not resemble reality.
In part because of the insurmountable intrinsic and methodological difficulties in determining if the health effects that are demonstrated at high radiation doses are also present at low doses, current radiation protection standards and practices are based on the premise that any radiation dose, no matter how small, may result in detrimental health effects, such as cancer and hereditary genetic damage. Further, it is assumed that these effects are produced in direct proportion to the dose received, that is, doubling the radiation dose results in a doubling of the effect. These two assumptions lead to a dose-response relationship, often referred to as the linear, no-threshold model, for estimating health effects at radiation dose levels of interest. There is, however, substantial scientific evidence that this model is an oversimplification. It can be rejected for a number of specific cancers, such as bone cancer and chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and heritable genetic damage has not been observed in human studies. However, the effect of biological mechanisms such as DNA repair, bystander effect, and adaptive response on the induction of cancers and genetic mutations are not well understood and are not accounted for by the linear, no-threshold model.
Using an incorrect dose response assumption as the basis for regulations and clean up standards is not only costly, it is harmful to human health and safety.
Aside: I’ve been making the case for radiation standards based on AHARS in several different comment threads over the past few days, but those discussions have taken place in an almost hidden location in threads posted in response to posts that are not obviously about low level radiation or radiation standards. I’ll be borrowing from those threads here to try to bring the important discussion points together in a more understandable progression. End Aside.
This quote from another commenter embodies the basis for many people’s resistance to accepting a paradigm shift for radiation regulations from ALARA to AHARS.
We have a scientific, policy, and regulatory consensus about health risks and radiation doses. I’m not sure why this isn’t enough (and why the industry can’t work within these regulatory and scientifically supported exposure limits)? Why highly speculative dose rates (or cumulative collective doses), and scientifically unsupported positions should be the response of advocates (with a defense that there is plenty out there that is much worse). Well, the public doesn’t see things this way, and those who have these projects (or accident sites) in their back yards don’t see it this way either. We always need to be doing better, and lowering standards to increase risk is unlikely to win very many new supporters.
Though the thread takes a few detours and there are some intervening comments, the following response was designed to concisely respond to the challenge to AHARS and to the accusations that is is “high speculative” and “scientifically unsupported.”
You continue to misunderstand my position regarding a recommendation to shift clean up standards from our conventional “As Low As Reasonably Achievable” (ALARA) to a more comprehensively risk-aware standard that Wade Allison describes as “As High As Relatively Safe”.
Studies have not been able to prove conclusively exactly what the risk model numbers should be for chronic doses that are accumulated slowly enough so that biological mechanisms have time to work their evolutionary magic. For performance standards associated with building, operating, maintaining or decommissioning of nuclear facilities, there are some side benefits to setting standards that are tight enough to keep people focused on improvements in design and work products.
Studies have suggested that there might be a risk above certain accumulated lifetime doses and the authors of those studies have often made statements to the effect that the risk is “not inconsistent” with the LNT. Further analysis of the data used often reveals that the statistical fit at low exposure is a stretch, to put it mildly. The more honest answer is that the effect is only visible if you look really, really hard and you are highly motivated to discern “signal” amongst a lot of “noise”. Even the linear model acknowledges that small doses impose small risks. BEIR acknowledges that dose rate matters.
Allison uses the radiation dose understanding that has been developed from the use of dose fractionation in cancer treatments. As he explains more completely than I will here, cancer treatments often use doses that are several times as high as a fatal dose if given all at once. However, by spreading the treatments over days or weeks, doctors give their human patients time to recover and the healthy cells time to exhibit their normal response to stress, which is to become stronger and more resilient.
Allison’s accessible summary of his academic work explains how his 100 mSv/month recommendation is a conservative number that is 1/200th of the dose rate that healthy tissue survives during cancer treatments. His recommendation is essentially the same limit as was established as the tolerance dose in 1934, after several decades worth of study and experience with using radiation in medicine and industry. That tolerance dose was based on sound science and understanding developed before the atomic bomb-inspired propaganda campaign to induce fear of all things radioactive. The factor that Allison does not mention, but which is at least as important as a propaganda campaign motivator, is that excessive fear of radiation provides a service worth hundreds of billions of dollars per year to the competitive interests of the combustion (hydrocarbon) industry.
The overly restrictive radiation standards for evacuation and relocation are the only basis for the continued claim that Fukushima was a disaster. Because of the way that society has reacted, the event was a very real disaster for a large number of people. However, if we had sensible radiation standards in place, the event would have been about as consequential as the recent explosions and conflagrations that have affected the oil-by-rail industry. The disaster label would simply not apply if radiation tolerance standards of 1934 were applied rather than the ever tighter standards developed in the 66 years since Muller gave his fateful Nobel Prize speech asserting a linear model, thus initiating the ALARA age.
Here is the way I concluded my comment response justifying my support for a radiation exposure standard paradigm shift from ALARA to AHARS.
When establishing standards for evacuation or abandonment of widespread areas that have intrinsic value (after some kind of event has already occurred), standards should balance the assumed risk of radiation doses against the known risks of stress, displacement, victimization, depression, poverty, alcoholism, malnutrition, etc.
That is when “as high as relatively safe” standards make sense. If society does not ban smoking, diesel engines, fatty foods, alcohol, dropping out of school, driving cars, walking on busy streets, or working on roofs to install solar panels, why should it establish standards for radiation exposure that are orders of magnitude less risky than those activities – even if you use the math of the questionable LNT assumption?
The health effects of low level radiation have been studied long enough. Even though we are not precisely sure what they are and even if we realize they are not the same for all populations (some people are apparently more vulnerable than others), we are pretty sure that the risk is low and the effect, if any, is something that happens many decades into the future.
At a certain age, people are essentially immune to low level radiation-induced cancer that takes decades to develop. That is one of the reasons why I have stated that I would resort to civil disobedience if anyone told me I had to abandon my home in the event of radioactive material releases that might expose me to something less than 100 mSv/month. The possibility of that dose having any negative effect on me or my wife is incredibly small and not worth worrying about. It is certainly not worth losing my home.
Please note that this recommendation would not primarily benefit the nuclear energy industry. It is aimed at providing a utilitarian benefit to society as a whole because it reduces the “terror” value of a radiation dispersal device as well as enabling a more sensible use of many other beneficial medical capabilities of radiation. It would lower nuclear medicine costs, possibly by more than it would lower the liability costs associated with operating nuclear power plants.
The Guardian (Jan 11, 2014) What scientific idea is ready for retirement?. Scroll down or search for Stewart Brand The Linear, No Threshold Radiation Dose Hypothesis
Note: I came across Brand’s suggestion to eliminate the LNT by chance within hours after I published the above post.
I guess sometimes it’s necessary to hit the hornets nest with a stick, if that’s what it takes, eh?
Oh, I have no doubt that the hornets are going to show up here.
Yup. When stirring the nest, it helps to have good protection plans and the able assistance of people who are trained and ready to respond.
Will Chinese or Russian nuclear authorities be the first to insist on rational radiation standards, in order to facilitate the sales of their reactors? I discount the French, on account of their minor Faux Green infection, which however, is amplified by the Social Democrats needing them in their parliamentary coalition, and therefore conceding anti-nuclear nonsense to them. I also discount the Japanese, because their radiophobic hysteria is truly stunning. And of course, to expect anything rationale out of the US Congress, which is in part run by people who deny evolution and insist that humans and dinosaurs coexisted, well, is perhaps expecting too much. Especially since these are the Oklahoma-type natural gas whores.
I tend to stay out of discussions on ALARA because I don’t know much regarding the subject. That doesnt mean I haven’t learned anything from reading these articles. From them, I’ve become less concerned with radiation exposure and would be perfectly cool living in the Chernobyl or Fukushima zones on a permanent basis, provided I had a meter. Thanks Rod and others for sharing.
I agree with your overall concept here, but I am not sure I like the use of the word “Relatively” in the acronym. It seems that the meaning intended is basically the same as the word “Reasonably”, but with a concerted effort to differentiate from the ALARA acronym.
My suggestion: Change “Relatively” to “Comparatively”, making the new acronym AHACS – As High As Comparatively Safe.
I think this fits better.
I don’t personally like Comparatively either, as it implies that there is something it’s being compared to that is safer…. so why are we not using that number.
My suggestion: Change AHADS – As High As Demonstrably Safe.
Then you have a threshold that can actually have some defensible science behind it.
The acronym is not mine to change. The idea in using “relative” in the acronym is to emphasize the notion that there are no absolutes in decision making. There is a need to balance risk from exposure to radiation against the risk of exposure to fine particulates, against the risks associated with spending more money than required to provide the same quality of electrical service, and against the risk of having no power.
For example, low dose radiation carrying an elevated risk of late cancer effects might be considered to be relatively safe when compared to the day to day stresses of living in an evacuation shelter in close proximity to strangers.
Since the acronym has not yet been widely adopted, I would argue that it is still subject to adaptation.
Whether “Relatively” or “Comparatively” ultimately makes the most sense, the key is that the risk from low levels of radiation should not be viewed in utter isolation and with no regard for other risks assumed by avoiding a presumed risk from low levels of radiation. This is especially true in light of the risk from low levels of radiation being most likely only an imagined/psychologically-propogated risk.
I love the way Bill Hannahan puts it below (and somewhat summarizes the recent James Hansen study):
James Conca, writing in Forbes magazine last November wrote a pro-nuke piece, Like We’ve Been Saying — Radiation Is Not A Big Deal. He reported that the 2012 report of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) “concluded what we in nuclear science have been saying for decades – radiation doses less than about 10 rem (0.1 Sv) are no big deal. The linear no-threshold dose hypothesis (LNT) does not apply to doses less than 10 rem (0.1 Sv).” The UNSCEAR report should be helpful in efforts to counter the fear of radiation. The report also acknowledged that radiation from Fukushima did not cause any identifiable injuries.
David Biello, science writer for Scientific American had a recent article on Fukushima that called attention to the over reaction to radiation. Since comments were invited I posted this response.
Thank you David for this informative article. I am an emeritus professor of biology. I taught immunology for many years and I have studied the biological effects of radiation in graduate levels radiation biology courses. In searching the literature for evidence of benefits from low dose radiation, I have found a large body of data that supports a biphasic dose response model for ionizing radiation. Low to moderate doses (less than 100 mSv) produce a stimulatory response to the immune system resulting in lower incidence of cancer and also other disease conditions. This stimulatory effect of low dose radiation is termed radiation hormesis. Briefly, low dose of ionizing radiation works like an immunization shot to create a memory response causing heightened long term immunity with beneficial health effects including a lowering of cancer incidence and increased resistance to diseases and stresses. Several mechanisms are involved, including radiation induced DNA repair enzymes and induction of a group of enzymes which breakdown free radicals that cause mutations in DNA structure. Other radiation hormesis mechanisms cause the elimination of cells with damaged DNA. DNA damage is associated with an increased potential for cancer. T-lymphocytes seek out and cause lyses of injured cells. Radiation also activates apoptosis, where in damaged cells program their own death.
Studies show that exposure to low or moderate radiation promotes longevity. A low dose of radiation is like vitamin for the immune system. Potassium-40 isotope is the most abundant radioactive element in our bodies. Animals grown in the laboratory consuming a diet of only non-radioactive potassium-39, with no potassium-40 develop severe growth defects.
In an attempt to protect us from the harmful effects of radiation, regulators have chosen a defective model upon which to regulate radiation exposure. They use the linear-no-threshold model (LNT) as a basis for regulations. This model concludes that there is no safe level for radiation. It ignores our biology’s reaction to the stress of radiation. We evolved in a world that had more radiation. We are actually radiation deprived! Regulators set the annual limit at 1 mSv/year. A multitude of studies find that no increase in cancer incidence occurs below a 100 mSv/year for a one time dose and for chronic doses no increase in cancer occurs below 1000 mSv/year. If this science based higher limit had been adopted, radiation in the fall out zone did not reach the danger level at
Fukushima and those in the fall-out zone may have experienced a lower incidence of cancer due to the benefits of low dose radiation. It is too bad that fear rather than science prevails.
So you disagree with the many careful and exhaustive health and science professionals doing this research (Calabrese, etc.) who suggest: “Issue of beneficial/harmful effects should not be part of the definition of hormesis” (here).
And who also suggest a great deal more work is needed in this area: “This assessment should be reserved for a subsequent evaluation of the biological and ecological context of the response.”
I’m not sure “what studies” or “scientists” you are talking about in your comment. Do you care to be more specific?
Calabrese says, “The threshold and LNT models made poor predictions of responses in the low-dose zone. Only the hormetic (biphasic) dose-response made consistently accurate predictions. In addition many thousands of other examples of hormetic dose-responses have been published and summarized.”
Allocating Pollution, 79 U Chi L Rev 985 (2012)
Yes … this is worth reading this comment and understanding it. Calabrese does not use a definition of harmful or beneficial regarding “hormesis,” and he discusses the “tentative” (p. 20) conclusion that LNT assumptions in “low-dose-response zone” has not been adequately tested or verified. For now, much of this work remains to be done: “the issue of pollutant allocation proposed by Professor Arden Rowell may have to wait” (p. 24).
Yes, there are thousands of examples of research on hormetic dose-response (especially outside of the field of radiation research). It is not a concept that is currently questioned or challenged in the scientific community. What’s clear is that he views the current standard as inadequate. Beyond this, what he wants to replace it with, what this means to “toxicology, risk assessment, and regulation” (as Calabrese describes), remains to be fully understood and scientifically developed.
Other studies (Calabrese included) describe the situation, and remaining research, in the following way:
I do take a liberal position on hormesis. You asked me about my basis for looking at radiation hormesis as beneficial. I will mention my top three. Since the low-dose effect is relatively small, larger numbers are needed to distinguish effect from random variation. I place the shipyard study as strong support for the biphasic curve. Job matched controls are unique in radiation studies. I am also impressed with the 100 year British radiologists study. It shows that radiologist before 1920 had a 75% increase in cancer over control. Radiation at some level does cause cancer. In spite of having more cancer, early radiologists as a group has the same longevity as the controls. After 1920 radiologists had less cancer deaths than controls and greater longevity than controls. The radium dial painters showed us that radiation is accumulative, but the threshold is high for carcinogenesis. Calabrese has provided evidence for the hormesis model being the best not only for radiation but also for chemical exposure and for biologicals. He makes the point that at low-dose an anti-cancer drug may promote the growth of the cancer so he cautions about the use of the term beneficial. John Cameron always wanted to do a study to strengthen the case for low-does radiation benefit. He wanted to enlist seniors from golf states where cancer rates are high in a double blind study, half would be given 10mGy/year. It is too bad that our fears don’t allow us to take Wade Allison’s proposal for adopting the hormesis model and increasing our limits on radiation exposure. The current limits do not allow us to do the kind of study that would shed light on the hormesis issue.
Good list of examples. If you don’t mind, I would like to quote them. If I recall, you have a credible educational and professional background that would be a valuable addition to the quote. Would you mind repeating that background for me again?
One of the bits of evidence that convince me that low levels of radiation are not harmful and seem to be beneficial in biological response mechanisms that remind me of the value of exercise, good nutrition and regular intellectual activity is the fact that research efforts indicating benefits often gets defunded or opposed. The shipyard study was never published, the radium study program was eliminated in 1992, the low level dose program was defunded before reaching conclusion, and Cameron was unable to obtain support for his potentially useful study.
It may be a bit perverse, but it seems to me that there are some knowledgeable and well-placed people who strongly suspect that the conclusions that could be reached by sustaining those programs with the same kind of steady support as has been provided to the Life Span Study of a unique population of atomic bomb survivors. They are a bit like the “hear no evil” monkey that covers his ears.
Funny. People are having a royal cow studying and worrying over how much radiation we shouldn’t even get from a radium dial watch while millions daily cough and coat their lungs en masse from bus fumes and smog. Sensible priorities please??
To Rod Adams from John Tjostem. You are welcome to use any of my writing if you fthink it to be worthwhile. I am enclosing a link to my paper which was published in Agora a multidisciplinary magazine published by Luther College. You are credited with a quote about the abundance of nuclear fuel. As to my background, I taught, microbiology, immunology and cell biology at Luther College. I earned my MS in microbiology and PhD in botany with a focus on the physiology of unicellular algae at North Dakota State University. My graduate work included a concentration in the biological effects of radiation. While teaching immunology, I became aware of beneficial effects of low-dose radiation stress on the immune system
Let’s not leave out wind direction, decommissioning, waste management and disposal, and industry/government collusion to the list (among other local, environmental, legal, grid supply, financial, and public concerns).
Because government and industry collusion (or anything else beyond established permit and licensing guidelines) is not a sufficient basis to disregard established licensing and accident mitigation provisions and impose a discriminatory and non-discretionary lower health standard on a population (simply by the very good fortune of personal property ownership and geographic proximity to a power plant exhibiting uncontrolled release of fission products).
The principle here is not extraordinary or unusual and, in our legal system, is based on contract and property law (and liability for damages): nuisance, negligence, trespass, and other aspects of common law liability and torts (in addition to statutory liability in cases of pollution, property damage, and personal injury from pollution or contamination). If nuclear developers should be allowed free access to contaminate lands that are held in private property by others (and impose unlicensed and uncertain health risks beyond an operating basis or licensing protocol under vague and non-precautionary principles), what other rights are people giving up who live close to power plants in cases of accidents or negligence.
You may renegotiate these operational and licensing guidelines if you want more flexibility to operate power plants in a manner more open ended and less onerous for owners. But I don’t see how such a thing would be of much use to the industry (especially in contrast to other industries that are able to more fully account for their impacts … and aren’t looking for such non-regular and open-ended legal exceptions). Do local landowners, businesses, and consumers have rights in these settings, and advocating for the fullest protection for their property rights and highest standards of scientifically informed and institutionally meditated best practices and precautionary principles? These impacts you are discussing (and relative safety standards) sound unworkable and impractical to me, and go beyond ordinary regulatory operating and license permitting guidelines, on which public hearings, scientific evaluation, best practices, common law, accountable oversight, and regular agreements with local and regional stakeholders, residents, businesses, investors, and insurers are most typically concerned.
Your insights into these matters merit a great deal more development and thought.
In the Japanese context, what does “government and industry collusion” mean. Heck I grew up hearing about “Japan, Inc.” and learning about how the keiretsu system worked to plan and execute a remarkable recovery from near devastation to near economic dominance in just a few short decades.
I hope you remember that I am not a believer in “free market” ideology.
In this instance, it appears to mean a regulatory structure that was captive to and manipulated by industry interests and failed to provide adequate and fully independent oversight owing to it’s public responsibility that could have prevented the accident from taking place in the first place.
From reading Rod’s post, I don’t get the impression that Rod is advocating a lower health standard for radiation protection. As I understand it, Rod is advocating for the establishment of standards that correctly reflect the actual health impact of radiation, as opposed to the assumed (by way of LNT) health impact of radiation.
Overregulation of human activities – especially in the case of nuclear power – is IMO a clear health risk in and of itself, because it implicitly promotes the application of alternative technologies which impose far higher health risks or (external) costs than nuclear power ever has or ever will.
Such alternative technologies include fossil fuels with their high external (health and environmental) costs, but also the so-called renewable energy technologies with their high internal (financial) costs.
IMO, costs are costs, whether they are internal or external. Nuclear power has low internal AND external costs, which means more resources can be allocated to the improvement of health. Once the public understands the (potential for) very low internal and external costs of nuclear power, it will embrace nuclear power. such understading can eventually lead to the solution of a number of existential threats to humanity which are not credibly solved without using nuclear power.
Joris – Eh … good luck, but I fear that you’re wasting your time. From everything that he has written here, it’s pretty clear that EL is a huge fan of regulatory ratcheting — where a regulation, once in place, never ever goes away so as to “protect” the public from exposure to any kind of “lower health standard.”
The “government and industry collusion” description is also quite telling. It indicates that EL sees government as the enemy (or at least the adversary) of industry. That is, of course, unless industry is completely subservient to and controlled by government. I have yet to see EL complain when “government and industry collusion” results is tax dollars being wasted on worthless solar manufacturing facilities (e.g, Solyndra) or even more worthless tax credits and other giveaways for windmill developers.
@Joris van Dorp
Then you are misreading him. He is advocating for a lower standard that is relative to some other kind of adverse harm (not the lowest possible risk that “correctly reflect the actual health impact of radiation”). That would be ALARA (or something comparable).
You cannot have your cake and eat it. IMO, if you advocate for ALARA, then you automatically forfeit your right to claim that your philosophy reflects the health risk from radiation exposure.
ALARA is based on minimising radiation exposure all the way down to zero, which by definition is beyond levels that reasonably constitute a health risk (for example, below background levels of radiation). As such it does not and cannot reflect actual health risk. That is it’s strength (because it avoids the need for establishing safe radiation exposure thresholds as in AHARS) and it’s weakness (because it appears to confirm the flawed notion that any level of radiation exposure no matter how small constitutes risk, which is a versatile and powerful weapon in the hands of those who benefit from limiting the application of nuclear technology, as the media frenzy around Fukushima has shown and continues to show very clearly)
ALARA might seem a convenient and simple philosophy, but it is in fact very complicated because the level of radiation exposure that is ‘reasonably achievable’ obviously varies as technological and economic circumstances change. It may seek to achieve simplicity and clarity of regulation, but it in fact fosters uncertainty and unpredictability. That’s exactly why anti-nukes love it so, as they do love LNT.
Conversely, a system like AHARS can reflect actual health risk, since research shows that there are radiation exposure levels below which no health impact of radiation exposure is measurable or expected. AHARS can be independent of technological and economic circumstances. It is conceptually not as simple as ALARA, but it yields a regulatory certainty and predictability which is impossible to achieve under ALARA. It seeks to reflect the actual health impact of radiation exposure, which ALARA clearly does not and was never intended to do.
To be clear, I’m no expert on these matters and I like being corrected if anything I write is mistaken.
I think this how NASA basically handles it now once its all said and done. This is hard to approach to be honest given the way we have historically seemed to have done things, in concept at least. But thinking about it – it is less vague and needs to happen for progress on many fronts.
Rod, excellent report, but I think it co-mingles two issues that each deserve individual attention. This sometimes leads to people talking past each other.
1. The health effects of radiation at low levels are not linearly proportional to dose.
2. Assuming LNT IS valid at low level, the standards on the nuclear industry are not consistent with maximizing our quality of life. Saving one life from nuclear industry radiation under LNT may cost 1,000 to 100,000 lives from the fossil industry emissions.
I suggest you create an Atomic Insights acronym, “Consistent With Maximizing Quality of Life”, (CWMQL).
Bill Hannahan wrote:
Saving one life from nuclear industry radiation under LNT may cost 1,000 to 100,000 lives from the fossil industry emissions.
Yep, that is really the bottom line here.
Well, that, along with the fact that the “LNT life saved” isn’t even a life saved and is merely imagined.
I’m not sufficiently well-versed in economic and actuarial statistics to work through your/ Bill Hannahan’s assertion (with which I agree) — is there a way to quantify this? It would make an excellent piece of evidence against the “radiophobes”.
A couple posts ago I noted that one state has this on their website:
“The only known health effect of radon is an increased risk of lung cancer, and exposure to elevated radon levels does not result in any warning symptoms like headaches, nausea, fatigue, or skin rashes. The only way to know whether you are being exposed to elevated radon levels is to test your home (and other indoor environments).”
I told you I thought the radon thing was mostly a scam. You agreed and per the above, I think you still agree. You have the studies to back it up. The radon thing is more money the public has tossed away due to Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD).
Gosh! I’m thinking I may be able to use my bright red Mexican plates again! I can turn my smoke detector back on and take my old Coleman lantern out of the closet.
Just one thing. Changing radiation rules may be OK, but keep the asbestos rules somewhat the way they are. I don’t want any of them nasty little fibers stuck in my lungs. ALARA applies to asbestos.
You should know that asbestos is in fact a naturally occuring material present in the environment. Each human lung contains at least some asbestos fibres as a result. Lung damage occurs when there are too many of such fibres present, overwhelming the lung’s resistence to the chronic inflammation caused by each individual asbestos fibre that gets lodged – premanently – in the lung. So I expect that there is certainly an AHARS level of exposure for asbestos. However, since asbestos is in most cases not essential for satisfying human needs or aspirations (there are alternatives which are almost as good), setting stringent asbestos exposure regulations (or banning the use of it outright) does not affect society as much as in the case of stringent radiation exposure regulation considered in this discussion here. I am a supporter of stringent asbestos regulations.
I note however that extraordinary fear, uncertainty and doubt over asbestos exposure does occasionally cause significant societal damage. In my country, a few years ago, asbestos was released due to a fire in a house containing legacy asbestos material. The media proceeded to broadcast and repeat the opinion of selected ‘experts’ on the risk of this asbestos exposure. This led to the prompt evacuation of the entire neighbourhood for an extended period and much public outcry over the government’s ‘lax’ handling of the situation. Only after several days it became generally understood that the asbestos release was in fact minor and posed little or no threat to the affected population. This had been known at the outset by actual experts (who were unfortunately never interviewed by the media), and it was confirmed by measurements afterwards. Additionally, it became known that the ‘experts’ presented by the media as independent were in fact completely invested in asbestos clean-up and monitoring companies and had been known to stress (or exaggerate) the problem of asbestos in existing homes for years in support of their financial interest.
The situation you describe is one of the downsides of both a free press (media) and a “free” market. Unfortunately, there will always be a market for fear, and always a media tendency for exaggeration and sensationalism. The antidote is an educated public, but my sense is that if you selected a random member of the adult public in this country they would likely lean strongly to the intellectually lazy side.
wayne makes a very good point about “fear”, and i feel that is why this is such a tough nut to crack; fear is part of our DNA. it seems to me to be the main driver for how we got from where humans started to where we are, including all the positive spin-offs from military technology. it’s at least half the reason we’ve developed any technology at all. the other half is just related to our basic intellectual curiosity leading to tech advances. but those IC advances only lead to market possibilities if driven by fear, which is driven by advertizing, which is driven by someone with a motive for keeping us in fear (as simple as “not keeping up”). on first blush, man will go the route that seems to lead to the least fear. that is the wall radiation dose is up against. so when “experts” on both sides disagree our DNA leads us to the solution which seems to lead to the least fear (LNT). evolution is slow.
as for “free”, i do believe it is an actual intellectual concept. however in the reality of my life i’ve never experienced an actual example. always strings attached by one side of the equation.
The main reason why fear sells so well it that it is more often than not a purely emotional response. Overcoming fear requires both intellect and an act of will. That takes work. Emotion generally doesn’t; you just “feel”.
And this in a nutshell is why the pro-nuclear side is always at a disadvantage. The anti-nuke kooks play simply to the basic instinct of fear, and tap into that emotion, no rationality needed. They understand that. Just whip a person into enough of a hysteria and you can sell them anything. We have to argue from a rational basis, and if a person is predisposed to intellectual laziness, fear wins out every time.
I take a very dim view of people who make their living from fear. They are nothing more than emotional and intellectual whores. I have no respect for someone who sells lies based on scaring people.
I would tend to disagree with you slightly. I would say fear definitely contributes to our survival instincts, but the incentive to profit, coupled with the relatively new idea of free trade between people, is what has really pushed us from tribal jungle people to the technological world we live in now.
Sure, I work because I don’t want to starve, but if that was my only reason to work I would push myself to be comfortable in my ability to buy food and stop there. There is a reason people work over 80 hours a week to make their business succeed and it isn’t fear, it is the prospect of profiting from their work, IMO. Profit can be defined however you want, but I don’t believe fear is our main driver, for most of us anyway.
There is a slight mixing of apples and oranges there. Profit (comfort, providing for one’s family, etc.) is generally a motivator for positive action. Fear tends to be used to discourage a person or people from choosing a particular option. The anti-nukes often set up strawmen and false choices to frame the issue of nuclear energy in negative terms, i.e., you shouldn’t do this because something bad will happen. And the negative emotional response is often stronger than any positive message we can offer based on facts and reason.
As an aside, we can see the present and ongoing deterioration of society in this country as a lessening of the positive motivator of work and effort as a means for improvement of one’s position. If you can obtain what you think you need from not working, that is, have someone else (the government through taxation) provide you with your needs, then the motivation to work and strive is dulled, often to the point of non-existence. Once that occurs, fear as a negative motivator (“those mean-spirited people are going to take away your government benefits if you vote for them”) can be readily exploited.
Would you be interested in any studies to the contrary?
“3,493 lung cancer deaths were observed among 811,961 participants included in the analysis.” ???
A very interesting study. What I found most interesting is that the authors conclude that there is a linear risk model for radon exposure, even while their figure 1 on page 422 shows nothing of the sort, but rather a strong non-linear relationship between radon exposure and risk.
Another interesting thing IMO was the statement by the authors that the Cohen radon study suffered from serious confounding due to a (according to the authors) inverse relationship between cigarette smoking and radon concentration in the home. I’ve never read about this before and I will try to find out what this statement is based on.
Finally, another thing I found interesting was the statement at the very end of the study, where it is stated that this study is in fact an advertisement.
Keep them coming! But preferably not studies which are advertisements. 😉
Yes, very interesting indeed.
If there was ever a model that was over fit, it is this one. Good golly, these guys don’t mess around! When they dream up a potential confounder they not only correct for it, but they correct for it squared! (“Take that, confounder!!”) I’m surprised they didn’t correct for the kitchen sink!
It’s understandable why these researchers would go to so much trouble. They don’t get any significant upward trend in the hazard ratio with radon concentration when they stratify only for age, race, and gender. (In fact, they get a significant downward trend.)
Even throwing in everything but the kitchen sink (including stratification by state) results in only a marginally significant result.
Please give these researchers the credit that they deserve for their “advertisement,” Joris. They worked very hard to get these results.
I am also grateful to this paper, because I learned something. Until now, I never realized that vegetable consumption and fat consumption were determining factors for risks of lung cancer. (Are these people snorting their vegetables?! What gives?) So while these researchers left out the kitchen sink, they did manage to throw in the kitchen.
lol Brian, “snorting their vegetables”. Seriously, I presume the authors felt the need to correct for a health lifestyle. Thanks for your fine observations on the significance of the choice of correction factors by the authors, I missed them.
I suppose, but seriously, how many proxies for lifestyle choices should one need to use?!
This is just sloppy research, with a lot of sloppy analysis tossed through a statistical software package blender, all to get a marginally statistically “significant” result so as to confirm the forgone conclusions that the authors wanted to make from the very beginning of the study. Color me not impressed.
@Joris van Dorp
Really, you think an obscure part of US legal code pertaining to second class postage (and a commercial publishing lobby imposing excessive fees on non-profit publishers) has relevance here?
Indeed … keep them coming.
Wow. They are attempting to do science, and sort through the many biases of Cohen. Go figure.
EL – Since you have no background in science whatsoever, I suppose that I should explain that overfitting a model to arrive at a predetermined conclusion is not “doing science.” Usually, it’s called “torturing the data into submission,” and it’s the hallmark of a researcher who either is incompetent or is trying to promote an agenda.
But, geez … is that the best response that you’ve got to my critique? That’s pathetic, even for you.
“That’s pathetic, even for you”
Have you noticed that EL’s interaction with you has not included the kind of ad hominem and patronizing spittle you seem to think is a necessary component of your argument? You might wanna consider that when pondering what makes an argument convincing.
Piss – Do you ever plan to contribute something substantive to the comments here, or is it just going to be one endless critique of style?
Even then you are incompetent at voicing your objections. I would only be guilty of an “ad hominem” if I were attacking EL instead of refuting his arguments. On the contrary, my arguments are based on solid, substantial reasoning and evidence. I merely embellish them with a little harsh treatment for EL to remind him of just how much I despise his annoying, weaselly choice of debating tactics, which speaks much about his character. If you have been following the comments here recently, you should realize that I’m not alone in this opinion.
We all stand corrected!
What are these debating tactics by the way (since you brought them up). I’d be curious to hear and respond to any concerns (since you seem to be bothered by them so much)?
EL, you contribute nothing of worth here. Do the world a favor and just go away.
You are aware you don’t speak for all members of the site, and you also don’t speak for “the world.”
Is hubris typically a problem for you?
Someone asked if radon issue was a scam. I provided a link to a detailed large scale cohort study in the scientific literature showing a positive and significant linear trend in lung cancer mortality suggesting it was not.
If you have an issue with the study, based on careful analysis (and not some subjective personal standard that it doesn’t support your preconception … or some personal distaste for an individual), please tell us what this is. Brian Mays seems to disagree with establishing controls for confounding effects such as cigarette smoking, passive smoking, and occupational risk. What is your problem with the study (since you seem to to want to participate in this thread … and you haven’t provided any)?
Just because there is a study indicating that radon has a modest correlation with an increased risk of cancer does not mean that there has not been a “radon scare scam”.
Heck, I’ve had the experience of being in DC for an ANS meeting, coming out of a session about the health effects of low level radiation and then sitting in a smoke filled bar with the television playing an EPA public service announcement with a whole family watching television in WWI era gas masks because someone measured an elevated radon dose in their basement.
That ad was part of a scare campaign; it was not designed to provide any useful information to the public.
So you disagree with Cohen then on an inverse correlation between radon and lung cancer at the low dose range based on his ecological extrapolations (and discounting confounding by smoking and individual exposures)?
Not at all.
You were the one who introduced the study showing a moderate correlation. I was simply saying that even if one accepts the conclusions from your quoted study — which I find questionable since I think Cohen did a better job — that does not mean that home radon is something to fear.
You don’t think smoking is a confounding variable for lung-cancer?
There’s no doubt that heavy smoking is correlated with lung cancer and that combining smoking with inhaled materials like the stuff that uranium miners breathe makes it even more risky.
Cohen controlled – more properly corrected – for smoking.
What’s your point? Are you engaging in your troll tactics of hijacking a comment thread again?
EL – Well, since you asked … although there are many examples to choose from in this thread, a fine example is here:
You dirty little liar! I certainly did not even imply such a thing. It’s not unusual for a study to correct for smoking. I merely pointed out that it is highly unusual for a study to correct simultaneously for the number of cigarettes smoked per day and the number of cigarettes smoked per day squared, the number of years as a smoker and the number of years as a smoker squared.
Now, can you please explain to us why a study should correct for factor X and factor X squared? I genuinely want to know.
I was so curious about it that I asked my wife, who is a professional epidemiologist, by the way, and who specializes in cancer, and she couldn’t explain it. Maybe you, EL, can enlighten us. Please do.
Note that the authors of the study also correct for vegetable intake. Is eating one’s vegetables an “occupational risk” for lung cancer? Perhaps you can explain that one as well. 😉
This is common in studies to account for higher than linear-dose relationship between numbers of cigarettes and duration of smoking (dose) and oncogenesis.
“Doll and Peto have shown that the duration of exposure to carcinogenic agents is a much more potent determinant of the outcome than other factors, such as the daily dose of the carcinogen. Their formula indicates that lung cancer incidence is determined by the dose (number of cigarettes per day) squared, times the duration of exposure (years) to the 4.5 exponent. Both curves (oncogenesis and antioncogenesis) are exponential in terms of duration of exposure.”
It seems rather obvious to me. If you don’t wish to know the answer, please don’t ask.
Also … why do you have me labelled a troll … this is the first time you have used the term in reference to my posts. I don’t like it (and I’d like to ask that you clarify your comment). In addition, please explain how I have hijacked this thread. I responded to a question about sources and radon exposure risks, and have been busy answering questions ever since. I am happy to adjust my commenting pattern. As the blog owner, all you have to do is ask.
It seems rather obvious to me. If you don’t wish to know the answer, please don’t ask.
What are you talking about? When did I ask you a question, when did I mention Cohen until after you asked me a strange question implying that I disagreed with his work, and when did I say anything about whether or not smoking is a complicating factor in determining cancer risks? Of course smoking habits of the study populations are important; they dramatically affect epidemiology studies of cancer risks; especially cancer risks among industrial male workers in the several decades after WWII when many of them had been carefully taught to be heavy smokers through propaganda and involvement with the military-industrial complex.
Not that I have ever studied the matter myself in great detail, but I am pretty sure that both the subject and the control populations for the LSS have complicated smoking habits that may or may not be properly corrected or even correctable. Many Japanese are heavy, intense smokers; in the years immediately after WWII large segments of the population had inadequate food and numbed the emptiness of their stomachs by deep tobacco smoke inhalation. GIs during the occupation were often the suppliers of bummed or black market cigarettes. (Admittedly, my source for that statement is from memory of history and literature, not scientific data.)
With regard to suspecting you of being a paid troll, here is a sample quote from correspondence I have received via email about your conduct.
He also suggested that your continued refusal to use your real name is suspicious. There are a number of people here who refrain from using their real name because they are gainfully employed in positions where participation here might get them in trouble. That does not seem to be your excuse. A significant number of commenters use their real name and tell us all where they work because they believe that telling the truth protects their future prospects in the most important ways. I think that is valuable; that’s why I’ve been participating in web discussions with my real name for a couple of decades, even when I held a job with a security clearance and when I worked for a large corporation.
By the way, the comment that I quoted above is not the only one I have received from a person with a lot of web experience in various forums who has suggested that I pay closer attention to your tactics. I’m taking the advice.
EL – As someone who is highly critical of the LNT model for radiation as being far too simplistic, I am well aware of how non-linear dose response works. Nevertheless, this is an ecological study, not a follow-up to a chemoprevention trial. Exposure to the putative agent (radon) was determined by zip code, for goodness sake! Overcompensating for other factors is just hunting for spurious results in the noise, and this is obvious to anyone who understands how statistics work.
I stand by my criticism that this model was over-fit to get a (suspiciously) marginally significant result. In any case, I agree with Rod: this thread has been hijacked enough. I’m done.
Rod. Providing counterpoint on your site, and comments with substantive and evidenced based information is not being a troll. I have asked you repeatedly off site to provide more active moderation of some of the more belligerent members on your site (who frequently resort to ad hominem and non-productive forms of discussion). You have chosen to let them have your say in whatever way they wish (and it is my belief that your site pays a heavy price for this). I am not paid. There’s nothing more to be said about this.
I check your site a few times a day, and yes I respond to comments when they are directed to me (or I can provide information to clarify an issue in the lead post, or a topic that has been introduced in the comments). I consider this constructive and responsible that I don’t comment on a topic that I am unwilling to curate or otherwise answer questions about from other members (to the fullest extent I am able). If I just plopped comments down on your site willy nilly, and didn’t care about the response and didn’t answer questions about it (this would be disrespectful behavior). I don’t do that.
There are several other sites that I contribute to as well (unrelated to energy, and also on an anonymous basis). As we have talked about offsite in the past, I travel regularly in the arctic and have an active interest in Canada, the outdoors, the arts, social justice, and the environment. I regularly post on such topics elsewhere (and my contributions exceed those of your site). All of this in addition to my professional and academic work.
That said … I realize that there are many professionals here who want to have a serious discussion about matters related to their experience and professional expertise. I try not to get in the middle of that. If such discussions involve unsupported statements on renewables, reducing regulatory standards, minimizing financing costs, or underestimating health risks … there’s a good chance I will add a comment on these topics (usually with credible and well supported evidenced based information in an effort to fully back it up). If someone else chimes in and starts raising non-consequential and ignorant points in rebuttal (I’m not sure why that is my problem)?
A perfect case is above:
Brian Mays explicitly asks for a clarification on smoking squared, and states: “I genuinely want to know.”
I provide him with a valid and well supported response (see here for a more extensive explanation and update to Doll and Peto).
His response: “I agree with Rod: this thread has been hijacked enough. I’m done.”
Ok … perhaps I assumed that a discussion of health risks from radon exposure in the home (and controlling for confounding by smoking) implies previous research by Cohen, and that Cohen is a context for a discussion on this topic (particularly on this site). It seemed to me that you were familiar with this research, and understood why I was bringing it up.
I guess you weren’t, and don’t wish to discuss the relevance of the cohort study I cited (and the three pooled case-controlled studies as well) to the previous research of Cohen (and whether his ecological methods are well supported or not by follow-up research). That’s fair. I’ll drop it.
There are lots of useful and substantive discussions on the site. People have legitimate and fair minded disagreements on nuclear energy. I try and provide a useful and constructive counterpoint to these discussions and debates (especially when a diversity of opinion or perspectives is not being represented). These are fair debates to have (in my view). The are informative to other members (both new and old, regular contributors or passive readers). Some of these debates, I have no doubt, perhaps even strengthen many people’s knowledge base and commitment to nuclear power.
In my view … you should focus on the rabble who seek to obscure and obstruct substantive and legitimate (evidence based) discussion on your site. Primarily by trying to shut down debate (rather than expand it with authoritative and useful information). But it is your site. If you don’t want me contributing here, all you have to do is ask.
There are certain aspects of the asbestos controversy that fall into the scam category as well.
Are you aware that there are two different kinds of asbestos fibers and that there is a deepening body of research showing that one type (amphibole) is far more dangerous than the other (chrysotile)?
You may also want to consult available case-control studies … which appear to confirm a similar result to the cohort study cited below, and “may equal or exceed extrapolations based on miner data” for exposures in the low dose range (such as those experienced in a residential setting).
Lubin, et. al., “Risks of Lung Cancer and Residential Radon in China: Pooled Results of Two Studies.” International Journal of Cancer 109(1):132-137.
Darby, et. al., “Radon in homes and risk of lung cancer: collaborative analysis of individual data from 13 European case-control studies.” British Medical Journal. 2005(330):223-229.
Krewski, et. al., “Residential Radon and Risk of Lung Cancer: A Combined Analysis of 7 North American Case-Control Studies.” Epidemiology 16(2):137-145.
A new tri-fold brochure summarizes the arguments against LNT and ALARA. I’m encouraging people to distribute it to people interested in the safety of radiation from nuclear power. Please visit http://radiation-safety-limits.info.
Contact me if you would like sample copies. http://home.comcast.net/~robert.hargraves/public_html/RadiationSafety26SixPage.pdf.
Your comment and work product inspired one of today’s Atomic Insights posts. Thank you for taking the time to produce such a valuable document.
I’ve taken the liberty of adding a copy to the servers here so that your bandwidth bills do not skyrocket from the heavy demand.
I understand the practical limitations (difficulties) for changing occupational and public dose limits in the short term. So we should strive to make improvements where we can. My reading of occupational dose limits in 10 CFR 20.1201 (the law) has no mention of ALARA. That implies to me that ALARA is a self inflicted wound; and an expensive one. ALARA doesn’t even make logical sense to me, i.e. the speed limit is the speed limit. ALARA implies the speed limit is not the speed limit. This is totally counter intuitive to me. If the speed limit is “OK”, end of story up to the speed limit. If the speed limit is not “OK”, change it. Then “they” give awards for running below the legal speed limits (INPO ratings on annual work place dose). We don’t work for INPO; we pay them to work for us. It is hard for me to have sympathy with people who won’t solve their own self inflicted problem. Either ditch ALARA or quit complaining about what it costs.
I have the same heartburn over public dose limits (law) being 10 times less than occupational limits. It seems to imply the risks of radiation dose effects depend on a “choice of employment.” Crazy! What’s choice got to do with it? If my speed limit is safe for me it is safe for anybody. Where exactly is a law protecting me from some “hazard” risk an auto plant worker chose to assume by working there?
Compound all that with the totally illogical practice of not counting my medical dose (which can exceed my occupational speed limit by orders of magnitude) along with my occupational dose. That practice just screams at the point the speed limit is BS. I guess my world is too black and white. I feel if I tried to explain all this to someone totally unfamiliar with occupational dose theory they would say “You’re just making that all up”. I’d have to agree with them; yup, it’s all made up. mjd.
@Smiling Joe Fission January 15, 2014 at 12:34 PM
I like your comment! I profited from my work by getting a buyout at age 49 that I calculated would allow me to buy food for the rest of my life without ever working again. So far – so good and I’ll be 70 in a couple months. But… I had to ditch the entire life style I was living, which was solely due to working. And no regrets either. mjd.
This need repeated. I posted it here a few years ago.
The major problem with ALARA is that it is NEVER achievable. It is like the fable of how long will it take to get to the goal if you move 1/2 the distance with each step.
INPO (Institute of Nuclear Power Operations) grades all US operating nuclear power plants about every 18 months. (IAEA has a similar program for foreign plants) One of the significant measures is their adherence to ALARA requirements (No competent nuclear professional could keep his job if he considered them a “guide.”) To get the best INPO rating the plant must have ALARA numbers, exposure levels, etc. in the top half of the top quartile of plants. If a plant receives an INPO evaluation that has just a few marks in the second quartile, the senior nuclear executive and plant manager will be looking for a new job, or, if they stay, be sent to what we call the “Spent Fool Pool” (where managers go that have exceeded their “Peter Principle” rating.) This creates a never ending, ratcheting, cycle of reducing their dose to as close to zero as possible. (It is for this same reason that the accident rate at a NPP is less than in an accounting firm office. )
On several occasions (more than 6) my plant has built a mockup for planed equipment replacement that cost more than $100,000 to “simulate actual conditions.” Then we have had welders practicing a weld that will be performed during the outage on that mockup more than 6 months before the outage. And they will keep practicing it till they can significantly reduce their time. Just like an athlete training for the Olympics, these activities are filmed, training department personnel and Radiation Protection personnel are observing, and critiques are made of each activity. Procedures are changed, pathways of ingress/egress are changed/modified, positions are changed, and it is done over. Every aspect of the required change is practiced and evaluated. Often it costs more to perform all of these “training” activities than the actual cost of replacing the piece of equipment.
This is NOT ALARA! it is ALAA (as low as achievable) PERIOD. There is nothing Reasonable about it. and plants that don’t do this are not only in the bottom half of INPO ratings they are in the bottom half of NRC ratings. And the resident HP expert posting on this web page makes a fortune from these activities. I have seen more than one Rad-Protection worker buy a new vehicle right after the end of the outage. Check out who the workers are with the highest overtime at a NPP refueling.
Fascinating account. Thanks for this.
Rich, you hit the nail on the head with these examples. And this is my beef with current INPO. Even its mottos (goals) of “continuously striving for excellence” and “constantly improving” leads to a system of ever increasing cost overhead. At some point enough is enough. And I think with all the good INPO has actually done, it is time to rethink this “constant improvement” concept. At some point you are no longer adding to safety, but are constantly adding just cost. My communication with boots on the ground, like you, is that in more cases than we’d like to admit, technical issues are being resolved by “how will this affect my INPO rating.” You are on the slippery slope once that starts. There is also a definite feeling by NPP mid level management that a reduced INPO rating is a career ending move. That puts pressure on them to re-frame issues so the INPO rating is not affected. At higher levels of management, where interface with INPO is done about policy, I have heard it is career suicide to ever even challenge an INPO “sacred cow.” I feel INPO has lost their way (and I understand why), but they have become too powerful. And their big hammer is they can affect a NNP’s ability to participate in the NEIL insurance pool. Until something changes with that, it looks pretty bleak. mjd.
A question: if every plant must be in the top quartile to get high marks or suffer the consequences, doesn’t that encourge a situation of competition between plants where one that finds a good way to implement one of the requirements at lower cost or with better results, may not share it, to keep their better position?
If so, that must be an unintended effect of the INPO rule of constant improvement, that works against it.
Do you know if it does work like that, or if something else is cancelling that effect?
Here is some interesting commentary on how faulty reasoning leads to problems being blamed on the wrong cause. Fukushima being one example.
AHARA … As High As RELIABLY Safe.
The stress in ALARA is on the wrong letter, it would work much better if the stress was on the Reasonably instead of the Achievable.
The chemical and oil-and-gas industries are using a variant of ALARA: ALARP. As Low as Reasonably Practical which looks to the reality instead of only to the ideal. I don’t know why they use another acronym when ALARA would work the same when the Reasonable is stressed. Maybe to make clear that they’re not under the regime of ALARA that has grown to be unreasonable.
For a risk to be ALARP it must be possible to demonstrate that the cost involved in reducing the risk further would be grossly disproportionate to the benefit gained. The ALARP principle arises from the fact that infinite time, effort and money could be spent on the attempt of reducing a risk to zero. It should not be understood as simply a quantitative measure of benefit against detriment. It is more a best common practice of judgement of the balance of risk and societal benefit.
comes from no better source than wikipedia, but gives in a nutshell why ALARP is useful and what makes ALARA so untenable.
Richard Lenz account of how ALARA is implemented in real life situations illustrates that extremely well.
What about the nuclear industry to start using ALARP instead? If that would be enough to keep up the exceptional safety record? After all, chemical or oil and gas industry is reasonably safe, but I’d like to see them do better, especially in accident prevention, not see the nuclear industry come down to their level.
It’s been 20 years since I studied it, but many of these acronyms are terms of art in environmental law and have shades of meaning which are not apparent from the words they stand for, but rather, at some point, the term was coined, what it meant was defined, and in the legal field, it has meant that ever since.
Which environmental acronym you must meet can make a vast difference in cost. Getting the nuclear industry’s acronym changed to something which is more generally applied to other industries is a worthy goal and might even be achievable.
It should be a pretty good argument to just say, “Look, we just want to meet the same standards required for the chemical/petroleum/mining industry. And it will simplify government if we’re under the same standard. Move us from ALARA to ALARP.”
No need to mention that ALARA is more restrictive than ALARP in public arguments.
“The overly restrictive radiation standards for evacuation and relocation are the only basis for the continued claim that Fukushima was a disaster”
And that “continued claim” is entirely correct, if one considers the plight of the victims who were evacuated and relocated. To marginalize the effects Fukushima had on tens of thousands of Japanese simply because you consider these “effects” to be the result of governmental over-reaction is callous and unrealistic. Were such an “event” to occur here, say at Diablo for instance, I have no doubt that this kind of displacement of people would follow the event, whether you agree with the scientific basis for the displacement or not. People are simply terrified of the percieved effects of radiation, warranted or not. This industry, and its advocates, have a long slog in front of them in regards to PR before the spectre of governmental over-reaction, (such as the allegedly unnecessary displacement of large segments of the population), isn’t part and parcel of any “accidents” at our nuclear power plants.
Ultimately, the judgement call about what energy resources and technologies are utilized, and where those technologies are utilized, should be in the people’s vote. And like any ballot issue, the side with the greatest sales campaign is gonna carry the day. You nuke folks got a looooong way to go before you can outsell the naysayers and the doom and gloomers. I took a look at the site Rod pushed today, and it is so blatantly insider that it invites distrust. I am not accusing the site of being disingenuous in its presentation. Quite the opposite. But it is hard for me to imagine such a site winning over any on-the-fence skeptics because of its obvious and clearly stated agenda as an advocacy site.
What is needed is an unbiased presentation that presents the pros and cons matter of factly, in a manner that is easily understandable to John Q Public. But face it, the introduction of partisan bias, either industry wise, or politically, (as we see on another thread here), will immediately alienate anyone that is truly open minded and willing to consider your arguments and assertions.
I was born and raised in Vitoria-ES-Brazil, one hour drive away from Guarapari-ES-Brazil.
Yes, that city shown in Pandora’s Promise with readings of 15-30 uSv/s.
Furthermore, my familiy own a condo right at the beachfront, and I have spent most of my summers from 9-19 (average 90 days each year), with 3-4 hours sunbathing in those sands.
Finally, I have hundreds of family, friends and acquaintances that did exactly the same.
To be conservative, I’ll assume I was exposed to an average of 5 uS/s for 3 hours for 90 days / year, and had zero exposure outside of sunbathing hours, which are also not true, hence I have 5 uSv/s * 3600 * 3 * 90 or a little less than 5000 mSv / year, which is five thousand more radiation than recommended. Of the know population that I know was exposed to at least this much, I only lost of friend of the family (very close to my mother, of cancer, with the cancer being diagnosed after she was 65), considering hundreds of people, seems like a perfectly normal statistic. And I’m also ignoring 100% of the sun’s radiation, which is very strong in the summertime, at 25 degrees south latitude.
The assertion that a little radiation is good, has been widely corroborated by people doing exactly what that guy on the movie did (cover himself with monazite sand, measured at 15 uSv/s). Hundreds of people do this yearly (I’m trying to be extremely conservative, I’m probably underestimating by at least one order of magnitude).
Finally I’m only talking about those that go there on the summertime, people in the downtown area are exposed to at least 1 uSv/s all day long, year round, and Brazilian Health Ministry have studies showing ZERO statistical deviation from national average in cancer incidence in Guarapari.
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