How did leaders of the Hydrocarbon Establishment build the foundation for radiation fears? 1

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  1. Thanks for the history overview Rod.

    I would put emphasis on the “From the point of view of genetics, they [radiation doses] are all bad.”

    Really? Muller’s research with flies looked at doses in excess of 10000 mSv. This is a lethal dose for an average adult human. Muller only ever looked at lethal doses.

    Talking about genetic effects for lethal doses is absurd. Drinking 100 bottles of wodka may have genetic effects, but you’ll be too dead to worry about that. Your family will worry about the type of tombstone, eulogy and epithet. They will not worry about genetic effects, and you can’t worry about them anymore.

    Muller was a fraud. If the Nobel Commitee of the time gave him a prize, they had no integrity either.

  2. Equating LNT and the no perfectly safe dose dogma is a place you do not want to go. It sets up a false dichotomy: either there is a threshold below which there is absolutely zero risk or LNT.

    Now they’ve got you. What is that threshold and can you prove that
    there is zero risk below that threshold? When you cant, we are left with LNT. There are a myriad of non-linear response curves which accept the no perfectly safe dose doctrine but lead to risks which are many orders of magnitude smaller than LNT at low dose.

    1. LNT has no proof either for realistic doses and dose rates. Neither does a 60 mph speed limit on a motorway have any exact science basis. That doesn’t mean we should have no speed limits or traffic rules. Clear and simple limits are required in any realistic system. Red light means drive. Green means go. Yellow light means… not sure. So enormous accident cases due to yellow lights.

      Using nuclear bomb survivors as basis for a regulatory model is so daft it needn’t even be talked about further. Dose limits can be based on controlled lab experiments on mammals or on accidental or high natural background doses on humans. Based on this, a 10 mSv/week limit seems a reasonable standard. It need not even be a hard limit. If the victim is exposed to over 10 mSv/week, without self responsibility, the responsible party would pay the victim $1000/additional mSv. Keeps everyone on their toes. While avoiding the biggest problems with LNT.

    2. @Jack

      There’s no activity, chemical or phenomenon that’s “perfectly” safe. Once risks disappear into weeds, they cease to worry me and SHOULD cease to worry anyone else.

      There are plenty of clear, present dangers to fill anyone’s worry quota. If all risks are low enough, we can just go about living our lives in freedom from fear.

      1. Agree completely. But by equating LNT with no-safe-dose
        you give the LNT defenders an effective debating point.

    3. Why is the burden of proof on us (the nuclear industry). Doesn’t work that way for other industries or pollutants. Not fossil fuels, certainly. They are allowed to pollute at levels for which there is statistically significant evidence of harm.

      My mantra is “too small to measure, too small to matter.” Especially in a world where there are so many clearly serious environmental issues and factors to worry about (including impacts from nuclear’s competitors). We don’t have time and resources to waste on noise level potential impacts.

      An even more potent argument is to point out the blanket hypocrisy, i.e., the selective application of LNT to the nuclear industry only. According to LNT, deaths scale with collective exposure (man-Rem) and nuclear power (accidents included) is responsible for less than 0.1% of mankind’s collective radiation exposure. Most comes from natural background and medical sources, followed by air travel, etc.. LNT *should* warrant a focus on those much larger sources of collective exposure, not nuclear power (which should be way down the list).

      To give a simple example, how can anyone argue that public doses that are a small fraction of natural background is a problem. Ask EPA and NRC to tell us what an acceptable public dose is, regardless of the source. If they try to say something absurd like 10, or even 100, mrem, ask them how their plans to evacuate Denver are going.

      It all gets back to the basic issue of double standards.

      1. Well put, James.

        It is all about the double standard. Somehow we can’t get rid of this stigma. For every person who can be convinced that this is happening, there seem to be 10 or 100 more who are willing to accept that nuclear must be perfect and is guilty-till-proven innocent.

        It isn’t the burden-of-proof part that bothers me. As a nuclear energy professional I am very much at ease with that burden. It is up to us to demonstrate that we are better than the alternatives, if not we have no case. Rather what bothers me is that the burden of proof is overwhelmingly evident and present already – namely that small doses of small dose rate exposures are not harmful and may even be beneficial to overall health. The LNT folks who call themselves “the establishment” of “science” simply ignore whatever study there is that shows no or positive health effects, instead focusing on irrelevant data sets such as high dose rate, high dose exposure from Japanese bomb survivors. Gee getting 1000 mSv all at once is not good for health, and getting 2000 mSv all at once is worse. Let’s assume its linear then! Yea great science. If there’s a controlled lab study of animals whose exposure shows no or beneficial life expectancy, then that must be wrong. Right? If high background radiation populations of humans have no increase in cancer, then that must be wrong. Let us invent a reason to exclude those data sets from our “studies” and then we can all go on pretending that things are LNT.

        Anyone who has studied toxicology knows that all dose response curves are S-curves. There is never ever a linear relationship. The shape of the S varies with toxin but it is never a linear relationship. That would be an extraordinary claim, requiring extraordinary proof. When LNT doesn’t even have high-school sniff test level of proof. Yeah let’s ignore dose rate, not like that matters. Gee whiz. Now let’s go for lunch. Uncle Sam is paying.

  3. Not quite on topic but you posted this tweet
    “Depressing story about difficulty of operating mass transit without allowing any masses to be formed.

    It doesn’t note the major hit on energy efficiency produced when you operate big vehicles with small passenger counts.

    Dense cities need solutions that aren’t yet visible”

    These 2 items are about a possible solution

  4. Clausewitz gave us the famous aphorism that “war is the continuation of politics by other means.” In my opinion, starting foundations and think tanks is a continuation of business by other means.

    I have never believed that someone gets rich in some business, and then, overcome by guilt at what he has done, starts a foundation to give grants that undercut that business. Nope, the foundation is another way to pursue success in the original business.

    Besides the Rockefeller foundation, I can name several other energy foundations and institutes, founded by oil and gas interests, that exclude nuclear energy and nuclear speakers from all their events. They usually support renewables while literally laughing at nuclear. (At one institute, I saw the moderator giggle when I asked “what about nuclear” at one of their meetings.)

    We are naive if we think companies give millions of dollars to institutes as a matter of guilt. They give the money as a way of supporting the original business that founded the institute.

    1. @Mered

      I’d like to see your list of energy-industry related foundations. I have one too, including Pew Charitable Trusts (Sunoco), Mellon, Carnegie (coal as much as steel)

      1. Hi Rod,
        Several “energy institutes” at prestigious universities seem to be funded by oil companies. It’s not always easy to understand who funds these institutes. But when you do figure it out, the foundation that supports the energy institute is usually itself supported by a oil company.

  5. Regarding the “no safe dose” argument. This is missing the point. The key is not the dose, but the dose rate. That’s why the “permissible weekly dose” as mentioned in the article is so important. We need a per week dose standard not a yearly one. Dose is not relevant to begin with. You can take several lethal doses spread out over a lifetime with nil health impact. 1 pill of aspirin a day is 365 pills a year. That’s a lethal dose – if taken all at once. Harmless if 1 per day.

    LNT’s obfuscation of the dose rate has always been it’s major weakness, in my opinion. Inventing fudge factors such as DDREF to further obfuscate and bebother the situation is proof of LNT’s invalidity.

    Let’s be honest here. LNT is based on high doses of prompt radiation from Japanese bomb survivors. That’s it. 1000 mSv all at once is not good for you, and 2000 mSv all at once seems to be more or less proportionally worse. Gee whiz. Who knew. Large doses of toxins all at once are harmful. That has no implications on low doses of chronic exposures, they are fundamentally different. It isn’t something that a fudge factor like DDREF can compensate for – it really is something else to take a year’s supply of medicine all at once versus following the prescription doses.

    The LNT theory leads to further and even more absurd travesty such as a collective dose. The idea that one can estimate mortality of a population with no knowledge of individual doses and dose rates is absurd. Hundreds of thousands of people die every year due to the feeble background radiation multiplied over 8 billion people. How many doctors will testify to that under oath?

    From a practical and regulatory viewpoint, we also need clear an unambiguous regulations, not ALARA. Any non-threshold model would fail that test immediately since it just leads to endless ratcheting. Hormesis type models are an exception but are not practical from a regulatory viewpoint. If hormesis is real, and there is a large body of evidence to suggest this is true, then the threshold would be the point where the weekly dose rate damages exceed hormetic effects. Still ends up a threshold model.

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