1. One of the most unfortunate problems we face in talking to the public about radiation (and on several other subjects as well) is the language of science is close, but not quite the language of everyday life. Thus when a layman reads anything that suggests a non-zero risk he or she interprets it very differently than someone who is trained in science-speak.

    Those that are trained in the sciences are taught very early to avoid absolutes, unless there is overwhelming evidence to support it and no real possibly that it could be wrong. Whereas those that live in the world of lawsuits and warning-labels, tend to see any discussion of risk as being understated. I don’t know how many times I have argued with otherwise intelligent people that parse the conclusions of a peer-reviewed paper well out of context because they are applying hermeneutics more suited to law or literary analysis.

    We have to start using language in a way that folks understand; and that is by stating clearly that there is no risk, when there is for all practical purposes, no risk, and avoid statements that to the uninitiated, sound like we are trying to hide something.

  2. I have to be the harsh critic here.

    First on logical fallacies…Rod, you employ them often. You might want to consider renaming your blog Atomic Ideology.

    In the previous post you referred to Gundersen as an “unlicensed nuclear engineer”, whereas Allison was referred to as “Dr. Allison has studied the topic of radiation health effects with great rigor.” In this post you remind us that Dr. Allison is “a life long scientist”.

    An ad hominem fallacy is when you attack some attribute of a person, rather than any claim of the person.

    An appeal to authority fallacy is when you promote the authority of someone, rather than the claim of the person.

    The cherry picking fallacy is when you find someone or some data point that meets your predetermined agenda, and you ignore other date. I can cherry pick and find a geologist who claims the Earth is 6,000 years old, a biologist who claims humans were created they didn’t evolve, and a climatologist who claims global warming isn’t happening.

    I could make an ad hominem attack on Allison (which I’m only doing for an example) and say it looks like he has a book to sell.

    Now back to 100 mSv…why would he say it poses no risk in the previous blog video at about 22:00 and now say something different? Let’s call it a mistake.

    Coincidently, I received my November 2011 edition of the Health Physics Journal today (a peer reviewed scientific journal, not a book for the general public). On the cover, “Communication of Radiation Benefits and Risks in Decision Making”.

    Articles describe the LSS in detail and why the radiation risks below 100 mSv are low.

    P.S. Radiation risks are not “measured”, they are estimated.

    1. Bob – I have so many people who try to tell me how to debate. It is tiresome.

      I believe that a person’s background, education, professional standing and the respect given by his peers is extremely important information that helps people judge whether or not to pay much attention to their statements. I also place a great deal of reliance on their proven record of integrity. Actually, that is sort of hard to prove, but it is something that is relatively easy to disprove. Someone who has demonstrated a lack of integrity…

      I regularly disclose that I work for a nuclear plant designer, that I have investments in nuclear project developers, and that I am a fission fan. It is the best source of power for many applications, but it has been under attack for several decades. Fission and the associated radiation are worth explaining.

      Did you ever answer my question about your navy experience?

      1. No, I never saw your question about my navy experience.

        The reason many people give you advice on how to debate is because you do so poorly at it.

        But continue on, if you wish.

        You’ll just be making things harder for the rest of us.

        1. Tiresome, indeed. Applebaum, you don’t need to explain argumentation to the likes of Rod Adams. They chew on that stuff like delicious gristle at the Naval Academy. (Yes, that’s probably an argument about authority, or whatever the Latin is.)

        2. Well know you know there is a question about your navy experience, yet you still didn’t explain anything about it.

          Would avoidance, more commonly called tap dancing, be one of those poor debating techniques?

    2. One more thing – it still boggles my mind that so many rational people are so afraid of a risk that cannot be measured, but only can be estimated.

      1. Well, many people are afraid of dying.

        We can’t measure their risk of dying at any point in time.

        We can only estimate it.

        I fully understand that. I may also understand why that boggles your mind, but I’m not sure.

        1. All rational people should recognize that NONE of us get off the planet alive. There are very few reasons to ever worry about estimating when it is going to happen.

          I do not believe in encouraging irrational behavior or irrational fear.

        2. Well, I could find a scientist who believes the earth is young to help you understand why the potential for dying does not boggle my mind…. nearly all of us will die painful deaths and what happens to us afterword is found in the book of Hebrews but I digress..

          You are so nuanced you are practically worthless.

          1. I believe that women should not spend half their lives hauling water for cooking and cleaning cloths in a stream. Electric water pumps give them that freedom.

          2. I believe that industries should be able to thrive on low energy costs so that the cost of energy is not so substantial that they need to lower the wages they can pay their employees just to pay the energy bill. (we don’t need jobs in energy, we need energy to create the environment for good jobs).

          3. It is obvious to me that fossil fuels will become so expensive by the time my grand children are grown that they may have to revert to hauling water and cleaning in streams unless we supply a different form of energy for them. I believe that is evil, since we know to do good and are refusing to do it.

          4. Fear over radiation does not need a “true educational program” that carefully shows us what the balances of risks to this and that portion of the population. Just put radiation risks alongside other normal life risks and let er fly.

          Is radiation more dangerous – more likely to kill me or make me sick than say — Water? How about gasoline? Or perhaps wood? Is it worse than stubbing my toe? I remember a man dying that was exposed to flood waters and caught an illness that killed him in a couple of days. Friends of mine watched from an overpass walkway while cars were washed away in a flood. Gasoline burned a classmate of mine leaving him with horrible scars. Baseball bats can be very deadly. You see it all depends on how much of something gets in the wrong place.

          CT scans? give me a break. Look Bob, show me the bodies floating up on the shore from Radiation death (ct scans) and I might start to pay attention. In the mean time I would sure like to put Nuclear reactors in the cities of some friends who pay 25 to 40 cents a KWH for electric and who have jobs that earn about 3 to 4 dollars a day. I would love to take market share away from a bunch who pour cash into building the kind of attitude that put two planes into our world trade center.

          In other words are you for em or against em? When I tell people the number of actual deaths from all nuclear power accidents they are amazed. Most of them think that millions or at least thousands have died. Frankly they have been lied to. Are you going to tell them the truth? Or leave them with the kind of nuanced statements that make them scratch their head and walk away wondering what that fellow was talking about…?

    3. First of all I wish that those that sling about the terms argumentum ad hominem, and argumentum ad verecundiam, would understand that the presence of these forms in an argument are not always fallacious. Certain constructions ARE acceptable in rhetoric and logic if they constitute strong inductive arguments.

      As well, stating a valid title for someone isn’t an appeal to authority, and gratuitous verbal abuse in and of itself is not an ad hominem (as poor form as it may be) or a logical fallacies ether.

      1. Agreed…they are not always fallacious.

        But in Rod’s usage, it was fallacious.

        But then, he has said he has received criticism before and has chosen to ignore it.

        And so the criticism continues.

        (I might just become anti-nuclear (just kidding))

        1. But you didn’t demonstrate that the arguments in the leading post were fallacious. In fact I don’t see an argument, in the formal sense presented at all, making your criticism without foundation.

          Many discussions on the public’s attitudes about nuclear are going to be necessarily inductive in nature. Demanding that they follow deductive forms is just wrong.

          And since you missed it, Rod was asking your rank and rating in the navy, and now I am too. Failure to do so after styling yourself as an expert, IS and abuse of argumentum ad verecundiam, in both the deductive and inductive sense, by omission. I look forward to your reply.

    4. P.S. Radiation risks are not “measured”, they are estimated.

      Bob – In the case of “radiation risks below 100 mSv,” they are assumed, at least according to the National Academy of Sciences. The exact word used by BEIR VII to describe their “best risk estimates” for “doses less than 40 times the average yearly background exposure (100 mSv)” is “assumption.”

    5. Mr. Applebaum,

      Jumping back into this debate on this thread.

      Mr. Gundersen is an unlicensed nuclear engineer. That is not an attack, that is a fact. Many of us here are unlicensed engineers. But only one name in this dicussion has provided public technical opinion for which compensation was recieved concerning the safety of an operating nuclear reactor. That person is Mr Arnie Gundersen.

      The reason that fact is vital and important is due to the legal nature of the terms “professional engineer” and “consulting engineer”. These terms have legal meaning and are earned through years of verifiable design engineering work, not bequeathed or granted to an individual. Nor can an individual self-declare themselves a professional engineer without running risk of having legal action taken against them by the state in which they reside or work.

      It is required for any engineer providing engineering evaluations or assessments as a consulting or professional engineer to be licensed in the state they are working so that they can then stamp their reports or documentation. This stamp provides various legal options if the work is considered shoddy, the entity paying for the work uses the design documentation incorrectly for example as well as several other potential legal issues that typically develop during any engineering job.

      Mr. Gundersen has provided engineering opinion and technical judgements about the operational issues at Vermont Yankee under the scope of work described within the contract signed between Fairewinds, of which Mr. Gundersen is the principal owner, and the State of Vermont. Therefore his reports are now within the legal realm and are subject to outside review by other engineers and technical professionals.

      However for some unknown reason, at least to me, Mr. Gundersen was allowed to violate the rules of the very organization that signed the contract for engineering services AND is responsible for enforcing the rules every professional engineer licensed in Vermont must follow. That would be the State of Vermont itself.

      How is that possible when so many of us unlicensed engineers can not sign contracts without fulfilling those legal requirements of earning our stamp?

      How can an unlicensed nuclear engineer provide technical judgements on all facets of operations at Vermont Yankee, for which potentiall billions of dollars of contracts and financial decisions will be affected, to the very state that is required by its own law to monitor all professioanl engineering activities? One of the fundamental principles of being a professional engineer is to never sign any documetation that is outside of one’s field of expertise or formal training. I have listened to Mr. Gundersen discuss technical issues from piping to concrete to mechanical issues as well as nuclear issues. Those are also areas that if he had a license could result in ethical or legal sanctions.

      In contrast, Dr. Allison is a scientist that is following his research to its conclusion as he sees it. That conclusion is now available for other scientists to review, verify, backcheck etc.

      There is a significant difference between a scientist stating the results of his or her research and an engineer who is responsible for providing design documentation or engineering assessments that were paid for by public dollars which has a direct effect on long term public safety and welfare. Both have a responsibility to be as accurate as possible, however the engineer’s actions directly involve the health and safety of the public in many ways the scientist’s research does not.

  3. I should add…a low risk to a large population results in lots of outcomes.

    It’s unlikey YOU will get in a car accident tomorrow. But it’s almost a certainty SOMEONE will get in a car accident tomorrow.

    I urge folks with access to this month’s HP Journal to read it in order to understand Allison’s technical errors. Facts are stubborn things.

    1. So, since “someone” in a large population of automobile drivers is going to be n an accident, does that mean I should be too fearful to drive my car?

      Sorry. I don’t buy it.

      Your comment also comes close to an endorsement of using “collective dose” to estimate risk.

      That is in direct conflict with the Health Physics Society position statement on putting radiation risk into perspective.


      1. No, I earlier dismissed the “fear factor”. One should NOT be fearful.

        But that doesn’t mean the risk is zero.

        If you read the latest HP Journal (I would think an engineer can understand it, but I could be wrong), you would learn that risk applies to populations. See page 502: “When we speak of personal risk, it applies to individuals only insofar as those individuals can be considered to be representative of an exposed group.”

        This is different than collective dose.

        1. Bob – for the record, I am not an “engineer” in the formal sense of the word. I have served as an Engineer Officer, and my current official job title is “engineer/analyst” but my BS is in English and my MS is in Systems Technology (Command, Control and Communications).

          I do have a reasonably well developed ability to read and comprehend technical material.

    2. LNT works like this: If a person eats a thousand aspirins, it would kill him. Therefore if a thousand people each eat one aspirin, then one of them would be killed. Horsehockey. Dose, poison, all that.

      I work in the RP industry and am really sad and torn about this. People, most notably and recently in Japan, have died due to irrational fear of radiation. How many more for lack of power?

      1. Reese wrote:
        People, most notably and recently in Japan, have died due to irrational fear of radiation. How many more for lack of power?

        Bingo! This is really the heart of the matter. All the arguments about whether or not there are risks associated with low levels of radiation are really just so many discussions about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin — that is, they are irrelevant to real life!

        The reason why the arguments are irrelevant to real life is that all alternative power sources, as well as doing without power, are more risky! The possibility that I add risk somewhere when I do something is simply a fact of life. Doing anything, including reduce risk, adds risk somewhere. I can’t get out of bed in the morning without adding risk. And staying in bed adds it own risk! Life is inherently risky. Get over it.

        Nuclear energy, barely out of its infancy, is already the safest source of energy. Newer designs are even safer. Not going forward with nuclear energy because the risk is not zero is simply stupid, since everything else is worse.

  4. To DV82XL:

    There is no “Reply” I can click to your most recent comment.

    The reason Rod’s arguments were fallacious is because licensing has to do with government authority to practice something. It has nothing to do with expertise.

    Stating the Allison has studied radiation health effects “with great rigor” is meaningless. A person can work very hard at something and make little progress.

    And regarding myself, please provide facts which refute the facts I have offered. Anything I did in the navy has no relevance.

    1. To start off with you don’t seem to know the difference between a rhetorical statement and a proposition derived from inferred from one or more premises. Only only in the latter case can a logical fallacy occur, and that is not the case here. Frankly I don’t think you have any idea how classical epistemology works, you just toss out terms you don’t really know thew meaning of as a smoke screen.

      You were the one that made statements about your capacity to argue this subject based on your experience in the navy in some nuclear field so did in the navy does have relevance since it is a factor you brought up.

      1. I fully understand epistemology. And if I don’t “seem to” to know the difference, that is the result of the brevity associated with commenting on a blog.

        Not a SINGLE one of my arguments have been based on my experience…only on facts.

        Stop making stuff up.

        1. Your just wiggling now Applebaum, and everyone here knows it. Your creditably is in the toilet, and you have exposed yourself as a fraud. All you can do now is add to your embarrassment.

        2. @Bob – that is a difference between you and me. I proudly claim that many of my arguments are based on my experience and the knowledge I gained by actually doing things. It is also based on reading expansively the work of people like Bernie Cohen, Jerry Cuttler, Ted Rockwell, Jim Muckerheide, Myron Pollycove, Ed Calabrese, and Zbigniew Jaworowski.

          On the other hand, you point to “facts” from a peer reviewed journals published by an organization that is full of people with vested professional interests in continued adherence to irrational radiation protection rules. It is a bit like pointing to the peer reviewed work of the American Bar Association to determine if you need a lawyer to fill out simple paperwork for a will or pointing to the peer reviewed work of realtors to determine if you should market your own home. Of course those professional organizations are going to tell others that they MUST employ a professional in order to do those simple tasks, just as the ICRP and the BEIR VII are full of people who believe that the world MUST continue hiring radiation protection professionals to ensure that doses of radiation whose effects are too small to measure do not harm us.

  5. Rod –

    I can’t hit “Reply”…

    Many people want to live as long as they can.

    They want estimates of their risk of dying from various causes and they want information on how to minimize those risks.

    That is rational.

    It is irrational to ignore risks and just die.

    Whatever on the “engineer” thing…it is ironic that your original joke sort of belittles scientists (which led me to think you considered yourself an engineer), but then you give us a “lifelong scientist” to support your claims. Though you just made fun of scientists!!!!

  6. To DV82XL:

    “Your just wiggling now Applebaum, and everyone here knows it. Your creditably is in the toilet, and you have exposed yourself as a fraud. All you can do now is add to your embarrassment.”

    Your lack of facts is astounding.

    This really is Atomic Ideology.

    Good night.

  7. I have a question. Can anyone tell me what the cutoff time is for the delivery of a ‘prompt dose’, such as might induce ARS if it is big enough? What is the timeframe within which a dose can be said to be prompt?

    1. In my line of work a prompt dose occurs in less than a micro second. For our bodies the dose rate needs to be much faster than the repair mechanism and the rate that new cells are created. This is why our digestive system and blood producing organs are most sensitive.

    2. Maybe I need to restate the question. I want to know what the longest time period is over which a radiation dose can be said to be prompt. If I recieve a dose of, say, 3000 mSv as a prompt dose, my life is certainly in danger, but what rate of delivery for that dose qualifies as prompt? If I absorb it in less than an hour, then certainly it is prompt, but what if it’s spread out over ten days? Or three months? What’s the cuttoff time for determining that the dose is no longer prompt?

  8. “One of my favorite jokes about the difference between scientists and engineers is the one in which a scientist and an engineer are both put into a room with a pot of gold on the other side.”

    Pot of gold??? Back before political correctness, the goal was a beautiful woman, and the punchline was “I can get close enough for all practical purposes!”

    Kids these days, sniff.

    1. @Bill – I am old enough to have heard the tale told that way, but I am not a victim of political correctness. I am a guy whose adult daughters occasionally read his blog and whose mom has been known to actually comment. In other words, self-imposed censorship.

    2. Actually, there’s a better one.

      A physicist, an engineer and an accountant were given a task. They had to discover the height of a 100′ church tower, the winner to get a price of £100. Each was given a barometer.

      The physicist went out, and spent £300 on an ultra-accurate watch. He then dropped the barometer from the top of the tower, and came to the conclusion it was 96 feet high, plus or minus 20 feet.

      The engineer measured air pressure at the bottom of the tower, and at the top, and worked out that the tower was 99.5 feet tall, plus or minus ten feet – and that any more accuracy was spurious.

      The accountant thought about the problem, walked to the town hall, found the town surveyor, and gave him the barometer in exchange for a look at the town records.

      Before you ask, I’m not an accountant – but I’m married to one……

      1. I thought it was the engineer who tied a string to the barometer, lowered it over the side until it touched the ground, marked the string, and measured the length of the string (and barometer) after he hauled the barometer back up.

  9. The 100mSv is an optimum level, below this the rate of cancers increases, and above it. Its a J curve now increasingly corroborated by research on accdentally exposed to elevated radiation elevls as well as people who live in high background, up to 1Sv pa.

    Because 100mSv appears optimal for health (4x times the loony evacuation level for NYC) and is the lowest point on the J curve you can receive considerably more than 100mSv and be no more at risk that those poor under irradiated souls at 2mSv pa. It appears that radiation workers and the population of SW France who line in 80mSv pa live longer and die more of things other than cancers.

    Check out the properly researched and peer reviewed work of TD Luckey and Bobby Scott PhD

      1. The natural background levels in Ramsar, Iran, are about 200 mSv/year.

        In most places, however, exposure to background radiation varies between 1 and 10 mSv/year. The average for the US is 3 mSv/year.

  10. TEPCO have updated their situation reports form Fukushima – including an estimate of radiation release.

    They’re saying 100 million Bq/hour.

    Which sounds a lot, doesn’t it?

    Assuming it’s 50:50 Cs134 and Cs137, it’s about 15 microgrammes.

    Or, to put it another way, to release a whole gramme would take almost seven years!

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