1. But I thought that Dr. John Gofman told us that building nuclear power plants was premeditated murder?

      1. I still haven’t figured out Dr. Gofman. He was a proponent of the continued advancement of nuclear weapons while at the same time launched a campaign against the AEC and nuclear power industry. Many in the anti-nuclear community such as Dr. Caldicott choose to leave out his pro-weapon position.

        1. @John – Here is an interpretation from the point of view of an English major who also has a reasonably strong background in national security affairs. I have even read through several versions of the SIOP – a couple of decades ago.
          The weapons proponents of the Cold War had a legitimate motive for exaggerating the effects of radiation – after all, they were the caretakers of the “ultimate” weapon, the one that was supposedly powerful enough to end all war forever. (With the US as the sole holder of that weapon and the world dominating power – at least for a half a decade or so.) (Please understand that I am neither stating support nor opposition to this notion; it is simply the way things were for a while.)
          If the weapons caretakers and researchers were to let the word get out that the weapons were not quite as terrible as they were made out to be, if they let people in on the secret that there really would be a lot of reasonably healthy survivors of a nuclear attack, then MAD (mutual assured destruction) might not work quite as well as they hoped. I am certainly not saying that there is any weak about a nuclear weapon – they contain an amazing amount of destructive power. However, they do not – as demonstrated by the current conditions of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – render their target areas as permanent wastelands. They do not, as shown by the long term studies of survivors, render effects that show up in generations that were not even conceived before the attack.

          1. Similar to the nuclear winter hypothesis. Some of the assumptions for nuclear winter were based on observations of dust storms on Mars. The lifetime for particles in our own atmosphere aren’t nearly as long as Mars with its low gravitational field and lack of precipitation. Despite this, no critique of nuclear winter has appeared in the mainstream media (none that I’ve encountered).

          2. @Rod – I’m not sure I agree with your characterization that weapons proponents in the Cold War had a motive to exaggerate the effects of radiation. Based on the open-source material I’ve read about nuclear warfare, it seems the consequences are absolutely devastating regardless of radiation, which is a minor consideration.
            Likely the man was just a radiophobe, some of the early scientists were, and had reason to be. If you remember, in 1945 and 1946 at LANL there were criticality accidents which resulted in deaths due to radiation poisoning, which isn’t a very pleasant way to go. These accidents – and the extended periods of suffering of the victims – would likely be extremely traumatic in a close-knit community like Los Alamos was back then.

            1. @Dave – dying from the result of chemical burns or even combustion burns is also not a very pleasant way to go. Both often take many weeks of pure suffering – from what I have been told.
              My characterization might be a bit off for weapons scientists and engineers; I was thinking mainly of policy makers. I was especially thinking of those policy makers who, for a time, thought that investing in nuclear weapons development was a cost savings measure compared to paying for large standing armies, navies and conventional air forces. I am also thinking about the time from WWII until the passage of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954. The one passed in 1946 definitely qualified as being one in which control over all things nuclear was seen – by some – to be a national asset of the USA.

  2. The evidence against the linear model and for radiation hormesis has been solid as a rock for 40 years. Yet the LNT model prevails. Why? Follow the money and the politics. The health-physics community is divided, roughly along the lines of who puts money before principles. There have been some amazingly bitter fights within the Health Physics Society. A look at the historical background of radiation research is instructive.
    After World War II, the details were released of the A-bombing of Japan. Studies of atomic bomb survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, showed a linear relationship between cancer mortality and high doses of radiation as a result fallout hysteria became one of the themes of the times. The situation was not helped by lurid stories of several high dose incidents reported in the press. Health Physics and Genetics were supported lavishly by radiation fears, and Radiation Biology became the most intensely researched science in history. Health physicists soon learned that their livelihood depended upon scaring funds out of governments and science became irrelevant if the paymasters wanted to mislead the public about the hazards of radiation. If a particular study failed to find evidence of radiation

  3. In 2007 a summit was held on the topic of low-dose radiation.
    Radiation scientists came from all over the world. Some were LNT proponents. Others were non-linear threshold people. The three organizers, Gomez, Brenner, and Raabe, represented the spectrum. The resulting report summary is worth reading, especially the conclusion. The authors estimate that $billions are spent on unnecessary radiation-protection barriers, etc.
    Ted Rockwell has famously said that you might think all that money is being poured down a rat-hole when in fact it’s going into some rat’s pocket.
    Thanks for posting the Stoessel video, Rod. Had not seen it. Am impressed that it ran on 20/20, which has done some nuclear fear-mongering over the years.

    1. @Gwyneth: Hi! I’m reading your book right now (Power to Save the World). I’m only part way through, but it’s been a pretty good read so far. Cool to see you posting here.
      Would a “Heat Analogy” be fairly accurate? That is, the way I’ve come to think about low-dose radiation, to try to put it into perspective, is to look at thermal energy: We’re surrounded by low levels of background thermal energy all the time. We can take a hot bath, or use a hot pad, to relax sore muscles, increase vascular circulation, and generally benefit us. Heat is part of our every day existence, and within the limits our bodies can handle, is completely harmless and often beneficial. But, if you’re caught in a fire, you’re gonna be visiting the local emergency room, followed by an extended stay in a burn unit.
      We can (and are) exposed to ‘low-dose’ heat sources constantly, and there is no long-term accumulation of damage from low levels of heat. Within the range of about 55 degrees to about 100 degrees (F), there is no health consequences, but get either below or above those thresholds, and remain there, and you will face health consequences. The more above or below the ‘ideal’ range you get, the more rapidly the increase/decrease damages you.
      Seems to me radiation exposure behaves almost exactly like thermal energy, in terms of an analogy – I’ve heard it said that too little radiation may actually have negative consequences, and of course we do know that way too much is negative, but it seems reasonable that there should be an ‘ideal’ range, which as long as we remain within that range, or only go outside that range a little bit for short periods, our bodies will suffer no harm.
      If I use that analogy to explain the effects of radiation exposure to people, will I be on good scientific grounds?

      1. I don’t think the thermal energy analogy is a good one. There’s just too much of a difference between warming your self up with a heating pad and hitting your cells with ionizing radiation. I think a better analogy would be between radiation and drinking wine. There are studies that show a glass of wine a day can be good for your heart, but at what point to do reach a harmful dose of wine?

        1. @John: First, that was me above. I had booted into Linux, and forgot that I wasn’t logged in to the blog posting system in Linux. Anyhow, thank you for responding.
          Would you care to elaborate on how the analogy fails? I appreciate your feedback, and if you don’t think a heat analogy is good, I respect that, but could you explain in what ways it would lead people to think wrongly about radiation risks? Thank you.

          1. Because at the cellular level, there’s no damage occurring while you sit in a room at 70 degrees; being run into by molecules of air and hit with infra-red photons. I can’t say the same for ionizing radiation though. I can’t say that the gamma photon that entered a cell and hit the DNA didn’t cause cancer some years later. Think of the photoelectric effect. If the energy of the incident photons isn’t enough to dislodge the electron, no mater how many of them you have, there won’t be any current.

            1. @John, Ahh, I see what you are saying. Perhaps that’s taking the analogy too literally? Although, I suppose that people might be inclined to take it that literally unless explained otherwise.
              The way I see it, since there is background radiation all the time, that low-level of damage is happening all the time, and is fundamentally ‘harmless’. From that, it would seem reasonable that a minute increase in radiation exposure should still be within the range of relative harmlessness – I see the argument made by a lot of pro-nuclear folks about how much the radiation level increases when you go from one geographic area to another (New York vs Colorado or New Mexico seems to be a common example). If the increase in radiation exposure from a ‘man-made’ source is significantly lower than the increase in exposure from geographical travel, it seems a logical conclusion that the ‘man-made’ exposure is thus ‘harmless’ – although not absolutely harmless, it seems in relative terms it would be.

              1. There’s the policy/education problem. How do you tell someone that something is relatively harmless while at the same time telling them to take precautions. In the counting lab at my school, we use time/distance/shielding with sources, even though the radiation fields from some of our smaller sources, while working near them, is smaller than what I would get flying back to Colorado to visit relatives. I grew up in Durango, CO where there was a tailings pile from a uranium mill just across the river. Some locals were afraid of the “radiation” from the pile, but ignored the radiation from the coal fired narrow gauge train that ran every Summer up to Silverton and back.

                1. Who doesn’t understand that some sunlight is necessary for good health, but overexposure leads to sunburn and worse?
                  Part of the larger problem is that there is now a significant number of people that contend that non-ionizing radiation is a hazard, and work diligently to oppose cellphone towers, and neighborhood wifi. These idiots have forced their ideas on municipal governments and school boards and zoning commissions for years now. What politician or regulator in their right mind would call for a relaxation of standards for nuclear radiation in the face of this?

                  1. @DV82XL – I suppose that few “politicians” would call to revert to sensible radiation rules based on up to date science. However, I occasionally live in a fantasy world where there are a few people serving in public office who make their decisions based on facts and reason, not based on what is popular or what will get them the most votes.
                    In my opinion, much of the opposition to cell towers, power lines and other sources of non-ionizing radiation comes from the fact that they are butt ugly neighbors. Some of the funding for opposition to cell phone towers comes from a rather unsurprising source – companies that would prefer to keep their landline monopolies from being decimated by newly enabled cellphone operators. Some of that opposition funding disappeared as the industry consolidated and the landline monopolies became the cell phone providers.

                    1. You are right about the cell towers, I have said something the same on several occasions, but the wifi in schools, and the on going nonsense about cellphones themselves causing brain cancer is still an active area for both cranks and the ignorant to make trouble in. The point being that we seem to be moving backwards in terms of public attitudes on radiation, than forward.

                    2. @Rod: The way I see it, in a republic, politicians, most of the time, follow public opinion, they don’t drive it. You said, “However, I occasionally live in a fantasy world where there are a few people serving in public office who make their decisions based on facts and reason, not based on what is popular or what will get them the most votes.”
                      My interest is turning towards creating a world where positions based upon facts and reason *are* popular, and *will* get them the most votes. I’m casting about now, trying to find a pro-nuclear group which is focused less on lobbying (though that is important too), and more on public education and outreach, to try to win the ‘war of hearts and minds’, to shift public opinion towards the facts and the science.

      2. I think the best analogy for radiation exposure is living with bacteria. Too much, and of the wrong type, will cause sickness. On the other hand, animals that have been born as bacteria-free and raised in a bacteria free environment have demonstrated poor health.

    2. @ Gwyneth,
      I just finished your book. Thanks for the very useful information! Especially the detailed waste disposal sections.

  4. The Soviet Union, did not inculcate the same fear of radiation in its population as was done in the West during the Cold War. Too, they had a well developed civil defense system that certainly looked like they where planning to save as many as they could in the event of a nuclear attack. They had many public shelters, there were anti-radiation sickness kits in wide distribution, and there was a trained cadre of CD teams all over. The USSR’s successor, Russia has kept this somewhat relaxed attitude to nuclear radiation, and while there is much to find fault with in many of their practices, it is clear that they have not done the greater population the sort of harm the radiophobes continue to assert will happen if even the slightest emitter is not treated with extreme caution.
    Worse this radiophobia is now being extended to the sublimely nonsensical fears about medical radiation, and those that have had radiotherapy, or patients that have had radioactive tracers administered. Already we have seen the unnecessary end to the use of very small 238Pu-powered RTGs that were used in implanted heart pacemakers to ensure that there would be no need to change the power supply. This has led to situations where patients can find themselves in a position where the surgery to replace the battery can be considered too risky, and a s such they will not get it replaced. X-rays were once used effectively to control life-threatening infections very effectively. Although the practice fell out of favor with the availability of modern antibiotics, the method is not being used where antibiotics fail, and the only other options may be surgical.
    Radiation fear has inhibited the deployment of food irradiation a technology that can be safely used to reduce food losses due to insect infestation, deterioration and to control contamination causing illness and death. Proven as wholesome and toxicologically safe over many years, global commercialization of the process lags in spite of the general knowledge that it can offer all these benefits while eliminating the need for the use of many potentially harmful chemicals.
    And I don’t need to mention the fear of radiation that has helped keep nuclear energy from fulfilling its potential.
    The impact of this stupidity has been far greater than it is imagined, especially by those that invoke the precautionary principle, asserting that it is better to be safe than sorry, and that no harm can come from being too careful.

  5. Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems to me that the linear-no-threshold assumption is embedded in most government regulation concerning radiation, especially with regards to nuclear power plants. I have read many stories of extraordinary anti-radiation measures being taken for the cleanup of spills of low level radioactive materials, some of which are less “dangerous” than a spill of orange juice concentrate. If government regulations force such responses at nuclear power plants, the public will logically conclude that there is significant danger involved. I can see only two solutions: 1. Regulations being made more reasonable, or 2. Hazmat suits being required to clean up orange juice concentrate. I almost prefer #2, so that the general public would see the absurdity of it.

  6. If you want to understand the radiation protection standards in the US, you have to realize that the NRC takes its lead from the EPA. So what is the EPA’s take on radiation protection? To understand this, you can’t do much better than this article, which was penned last year by a scientist in the Radiation Protection Division of the EPA.
    Here’s the key quote from the abstract:
    “Given the current state of the science, the consensus positions of key scientific and governmental bodies, as well as the conservatism and calculational convenience of the LNT assumption, it is unlikely that EPA will modify this approach in the near future.”
    This is what you’re up against.

    1. @Brian – I agree with you. We are up against a very entrenched group of bureaucratic scientists. A few years ago, a friend of mine was detailed to the EPA. He is a radiation protection specialist. He met the remaining 2-3 GS-15s at the EPA who have declared that they will not budge from the LNT until the very last survivor of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki studies has died so that the study can finally be concluded.
      My friend told me that the hallway conversation after that declaration described how the bureaucrats – whose position is well entrenched by their control over this particular little area of agency influence – have calculated how that event will correspond almost exactly with their own 55th birthdays. That is the year they will be eligible to retire with their full federal pensions and have no more reason for using obsolete data as a means of job justification and position protection.

  7. Speaking as to why myths about radiation hazards are often repeated, IMO, it’s because those with technical authority – the NRC – the EPA – the ICRP – the IAEA – repeat them.
    Further, IMO, as long as these myths are propagated by generally neutral, unbiased technical authorities, most encyclopedic sources of information that have to maintain a neutral point of view – or any newsgathering organization – generally find it prudent to base their assumptions on the information that generally neutral, unbiased technical authorities provide rather than the views of independent researchers who do not yet represent the scientific consensus in their discipline.
    If a sufficient controversy develops in the discipline, that the authority’s views no longer can be stated to represent a technical consensus, that may provide the basis to report on the controversy when mentioning the authority’s views.

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