Shaping public perceptions of radiation risk
Note: The below is part of a longer work in progress. Comments and corrections are greatly appreciated.
On Monday, November 17, the US House of Representatives passed H.R. 5544, the Low Dose Radiation Research Act, which called for the National Academies to “conduct a study assessing the current status and development of a long-term strategy for low dose radiation research.”
Coincidentally that was the same day that the National Academy of Sciences hosted a publicly accessible, all day meeting to determine if there had been enough new developments in radiation health effects research to justify the formation of a new BEIR (Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation) committee. If formed, that would be BEIR VIII, the latest in a series of committees performing a survey of available research on the health effects of atomic (now ionizing) radiation.
I had the pleasure of attending the meeting, which was held in the ornate NAS building on Constitution Avenue in Washington, DC. There were about 20 presenters talking about various aspects of the scientific and political considerations associated with the decision to form BEIR VIII. Several of the presenters had performed experimental research under the currently moribund Department of Energy’s Low Dose radiation research program.
That intriguing program was using modern genetics techniques to learn a great deal about the dynamic nature of DNA in organisms and about the ways that living tissues isolate and repair recurring damage that comes as a result of metabolic processes, heat, chemicals and ionizing radiation. It was defunded gradually beginning in 2009 and completely by 2011, with the money making its way to biofuels energy research as the Office of Science shifted its priorities under a flat top line budget.
The agenda allocated a considerable amount of time for public comments. There were a couple of members of the audience interested in the science falsifying the “no safe dose” model who took advantage of the opportunities to speak, but so did a number of professional antinuclear activists from Maryland, Ohio, New York and Tennessee.
Need Better Results This Time
An epic struggle with important health, safety, cost and energy abundance implications is shaping up with regard to the way that the officially sanctioned science and regulatory bodies treat the risks and benefits associated with using ionizing radiation at low doses and dose rates for medical uses, industrial uses and power production.
We must make sure that this battle for science, hearts and minds is not as asymmetrical as the one fought in the period between 1954-1964. One skirmish in the battle worth winning will be to encourage the passage of the Low Dose Radiation Research Act and the annual appropriations that will enable it to function long into the future.
Here is a brief version of that lengthy prior engagement, where there were huge winners and losers. Losers included truth, general prosperity, peace and the environment. Partial winners included people engaged in the global hydrocarbon economy in finance, exploration, extraction, refinement, transportation, tools, machines and retail distribution. There were also big financial winners in pharmaceuticals, medical devices, oncology, and agriculture.
Rockefeller Funded Survey
During a 1954 Rockefeller Foundation Board of Trustees meeting, several of the trustees asked the President of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) if his esteemed organization would be willing to review what was known about the biological effects of atomic radiation.
The board did not have to pick up the phone or send a letter to make that request. Detlev Bronk, who was the serving president of the NAS, was already at the table as a full member of the Rockefeller Foundation Board of Trustees. The board agreed that, based on their interpretations of recent media coverage, the public was confused and not properly informed about the risks of radiation exposure and the potential benefits of the Atomic Age.
The tasking given to the NAS was to form a credible committee that would study the science and issue a report “in a form accessible to seriously concerned citizens.”1
Aside: For historical context, that Foundation board meeting took place within months after President Eisenhower made his “Atoms for Peace” speech in December 1953. That speech to the United Nations announced a shift in focus of the Atomic Age from weapons development to more productive applications like electrical power generation and ship propulsion.
At the time the request to the NAS was made, the Rockefeller Foundation had been funding radiation biology-related research for at least 30 years, including the Drosophila mutation experiments that Hermann Muller conducted during the 1920s at the University of Texas. Foundation board members and supported scientists had been following developments in atomic science since the earliest discoveries of radiation and the dense energy stored inside atomic nuclei.
In March 1948, the Tripartite Conferences on radiation protection, a group that included experienced radiation researchers and practitioners from the US, Canada and the UK, had determined that the permissible doses for humans should be reduced from 1 mGy/day (in SI units) to 0.5 mGy/day or 3 mGy/week.
That reduction was not made because of any noted negative health effects, but to provide an additional safety factor.
In between these two extremes there is a level of exposure, — in the neighborhood of 0.1 r/day — which all experience to date show to be safe, but the time of observation of large numbers of people exposed at this rate under controlled conditions, is too short to permit a categorical assertion to this effect.2
Biological Effects of Atomic Radiation
The first NAS Biological Effects of Atomic Radiation committee began its work in April 1955. There were six subcommittees, each of which authored a section of the committee’s report. The report was identified as a preliminary version that was to be followed with a more technically detailed report scheduled to appear within the next couple of years, if desired by responsible government agencies.
Unlike the documents supporting the permissible dose limits that came out of the Tripartite Commission mentioned in the aside above, the NAS BEAR 1 committee report, especially the section from the Genetics Committee, was professionally promoted and received extensive media coverage and public attention.
The NAS held a press conference announcing the release of the report and answering questions in Washington, DC on June 12. Among other media attention, that press conference resulted in no less than six related articles in the June 13, 1956 edition of the New York Times. Several additional articles were published during the following weeks. The selection of pieces included a lengthy article that started at the top of the right hand column of the paper and continued with another 20-25 column inches on page 17.
The June 13 edition also included a full text copy of the text of the Genetics Committee report that was specifically written for public consumption. That article filled nearly three pages of the paper, with the opportunity for three separate full span headlines.
The report from the Genetics Committee of the National Academy of Sciences’s first biological effects of radiation committee was pure gold from the point of view of those who wanted to scare people and temper the growing optimism about the virtually unlimited power promised by Atomic Age visionaries like President Eisenhower. Here are the first two paragraphs from the front page article.
A committee of outstanding scientists reported today that atomic radiation, no matter how small the dose, harms not only the person receiving it but also all his descendents (sic).
The report was part of a survey produced by six committees of the National Academy of Sciences, a private nonprofit organization. It was the most comprehensive United States effort to determine how the future of the human race might be affected by the unleashing of nuclear power.
There is no doubt that the Genetics Committee wanted concerned members of the public to get the message that there were no safe doses of radiation. Report authors cleverly reminded readers that they may never see evidence of harm; the genetic damage could be a hidden risk passed on to children and grandchildren that might not show up for several generations into the future. That facet of the “no safe dose” model has made it a difficult myth to refute via experimentation.
This quote is from the last page of the three page reprint of the report in the New York Times.
The basic fact is–and no competent persons doubt this— that radiations produce mutations and that mutations are in general harmful. It is difficult, at the present state of knowledge of genetics to estimate just how much of what kind of harm will appear in each future generation after mutant genes are introduced by radiations. Different geneticists prefer differing ways of describing this situation: But they all come out with the unanimous conclusion that the potential danger is great.
We ought to keep all of our expenditures of radiation as low as possible. Of the upper limit of ten roentgens suggested in recommendation C, we are at present spending about one-third for medical x-rays. We are at present spending less–probably under one roentgen–for weapons testing. We may find it desirable or even almost obligatory that we spend a certain amount on atomic power plants. But we must watch and guard all our expenditures. From the point of view of genetics, they are all bad.
With such categorical statements of the unavoidable harm, one might think that the committee members held clear and convincing experimental or epidemiological evidence supporting their conclusions. That is not the case here; the primary evidence for the assertion that all doses of radiation, no matter how small, can cause mutations came from experiments on short-lived insects and annual plants.
Even that evidence was either inconclusive or contradictory in the low dose regions3 of interest to people in nuclear medicine or nuclear energy production.
Irradiation experiments had been performed on mice and rats, but they did not provide any evidence of inheritable mutations. They also did not provide evidence of life shortening effects of with doses below 1 mGy per day.
The genetics committee members acknowledged the scant data upon which they based their recommendations deep in the body of their report, but in the introduction and conclusion–parts that many busy people read first–they expressed great confidence and used assertive language like the “no competent persons doubt this” statement highlighted in the above quote.
Aware of Exaggerations
Dr. Ed Calabrese has even uncovered evidence that the geneticists were aware of the fact that they were exaggerating the risk. Here are quotes from copies of correspondence among committee members that he shared with me.
From Failla to Weaver March 5, 1956 “Every effort should be made to avoid creating the impression that the problem is being presented in an exaggerated way. This is a case in which judicious understatements may be most effective. (For one thing, they cannot be attacked.) Such an impression could be created not only by what is said and how it is said, but also by what is omitted.”
From Demerec to Dobchansky Aug 9, 1957 (after the initial report, but during preparation of the more detailed document) “I, myself, have a hard time keeping a straight face when there is talk about genetic deaths and the tremendous dangers of irradiation. I know that a number of very prominent geneticists, and people whose opinion you value highly, agree with me.”
From Dobchansky to Demerec Aug 13, 1957 “Let us be honest with ourselves — we are both interested in genetics research, and for the sake of it are willing to stretch a point when necessary. But let us not stretch it to the breaking point! Overstatements are sometimes dangerous, since they result in their opposites when they approach the levels of absurdity.
Now, the business of genetic effects of atomic energy has produced a public scare, and a consequent interest in and recognition of the importance of genetics. This is to the good, since it will make some people read up on genetics who would not have done so otherwise, and it may lead to the powers-that-be giving money for genetic research which they would not give otherwise.”
Rockefeller Foundation Influences
Though several of the sixteen committee members accepted the “target theory” that assumed a linear proportionality between radiation dose, DNA damage and inheritable genetic effects, there were some quarrels among the committee members. However, the assigned chairman of the committee, Dr. Warren Weaver, was a skilled facilitator in a strong position to encourage agreement. He was the director of the Division of Natural Sciences for the Rockefeller Foundation from 1932-1959. In that position he was responsible for approving all foundation grants in the areas of molecular biology and genetics.
Weaver was the “powers-that-be” who could provide–or not provide–the research resources the geneticists were interested in obtaining. Several of his committee members were also his grantees, including the influential, Nobel Prize-winning Hermann Muller.
For several years following the issuance of the BEAR 1 report, committee members and various Rockefeller Foundation-supported researchers worked hard to spread the idea that there are no safe doses of radiation. Their effort helped to fertilize the seeds of doubt about nuclear energy that the committee carefully planted. Here’s an example from Nov 15, 1956.
The growing apprehensions contributed to a number of expensive regulatory requirements and set the stage for a focused movement to oppose all efforts to develop nuclear energy. It established a precedent among opponents of radiation-related technologies for listing various effects of intense radiation and implying that those effects occur at even the lowest possible dose.
It was no real surprise to learn that this effort to erect costly, fear-based barriers to the development of atomic electrical power and ship propulsion was entirely funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. Though some observers claim that the Foundation severed ties with the Rockefeller Family in the 1920s, there is historical evidence of sustained family involvement (page 9 of previous link) and interest in the projects that the Foundation chose to fund.
In work I will be publishing in the coming months, I will show the sustained nature of the Rockefeller Foundation’s interest in finding negative health effects of low dose radiation.
Just imagine the difference in our current lives if the Thomas Watson Foundation had been praised for funding a study that asserted the risk of an end to the human race if personal computers were developed without strict exposure limits and multiple layers of safety features preventing the dire risks of carpal tunnel syndrome and eye strain.
Bringing this long and winding post back to the very beginning, the Rockefeller Foundation reduced its funding for radiobiology beginning in the early 1960s and eliminated it completely by 1970. I suspect they were quite pleased with the status quo at that time and were not interested in helping to fund new research that might have provided an earlier, better understanding of the actual health effects of low dose radiation to humans.
1. Rees, Mina, Warren Weaver: A Biographical Memoir 1894-1978, The National Academy of Sciences, p. 506
2. Taylor, Lauriston, The Tripartite Conferences on Radiation Protection, published by the Department of Energy, 1984 (available at http://www.orau.org/ptp/Library/Taylor1984_Tri-Partite_Conferences_NVO-271.pdf downloaded on Nov 20, 2014) pp. 2-2 – 2-3
Additional key excerpts from pages 2-2 – 2-7 are quoted below
When the daily tolerance dose of 0.1 r was adopted, it was thought that this was a conservative value, involving a large factor of safety. Observation of persons occupationally exposed to radiation within this limit has revealed no deleterious effects of any kind attributable to radiation. However, the period of observation is not yet sufficiently long to be sure that exposure at this rate can be continued safely throughout life. The results of large scale experiments with mice and rats (and more limited experiments with other animals) lead to the conclusion that probably the factor of safety involved in the daily tolerance dose of 0.1 r, is not as large as it was though at first. From the genetic point of view a revision downward is indicated because of the larger percentage of the total population now being exposed to radiation.
There are also potent psychological factors that increase the fear of radiation injury beyond justifiable boundaries. These are based mainly on the tragic experience of the early workers with radiation and the effects of the atomic bomb on the Japanese — both of which have been dramatically publicized. All of these factors help to create an atmosphere of mystery around the radiation protection problem and promote skepticism on the part of those not familiar with radiation effects. It may be well, therefore, to point out some pertinent facts.
The detailed mechanism of the action of ionizing radiation on the living cell is not known. This statement, which is often made, leads the uninitiated to think that if “nothing” is known about the “mechanism” very little indeed must be known about the effects of radiation on man. One should bear in mind the sharp distinction between knowing what happens and explaining how it happens. Nobody knows what life is or how it originated, but a great deal is known about the human body and its behavior in health and disease.
To give a homely example, many people can be good drivers without knowing anything about the mechanism of the automobile engine.
There is at present a large body of information about the effects of radiation on living organisms and on man. Every living cell can be damaged and killed by radiation if the dose delivered to it is large enough. Many different kinds of effect have been observed and studied. All such effects can be produced by any type of ionizing radiation provided it reaches the cell or organ in sufficient amount. Thus there is no uniqueness about any one type of ionizing radiation as to the kind of effect it will produce, although there is in some cases a difference in the dose required to produce a certain degree of effect by two different types of radiation. This is important because most of our information has been obtained from work with x-rays and can, therefore, be applied to other types of ionizing radiation by making suitable modifications of dosage. Even when the relative biological effectiveness is not known, one can make a conservative estimate of it to be on the safe side in the protection of personnel.
The advantage of being able to make use of the large body of information obtained with x-rays is very great. This type of radiation has been used extensively for the diagnosis and treatment of disease in man for about 50 years. Many doctors and technicians have been continually exposed to it for years. Some have suffered injuries of various types and degrees, leading to premature death in some instances, and some have shown no ill effects. There is, therefore, a very large background of practical experience based on observations made on human beings. In addition, there is, of course, a vast amount of information derived from experiments on laboratory animals and other living organisms.
As a matter of principle it is sound to avoid all unnecessary exposure to ionizing radiation, because it is desirable not to depart from the natural conditions under which man has developed by evolutionary processes. However, man has always lived in a field of ionizing radiation due to the presence of radioactive material in the earth and to cosmic rays. Whether exposure to this level of radiation is beneficial or deleterious to man (and the race) is a matter of speculation. The obvious fact is that it cannot be avoided and it is, therefor, normal for man to live in this environment. We have then a lower limit of continuous exposure to radiation that is (unavoidably) tolerated by man. There is, on the other hand, a much higher level of exposure that is definitely known to be harmful. In between these two extremes there is a level of exposure, — in the neighborhood of 0.1 r/day — which all experience to date show to be safe, but the time of observation of large numbers of people exposed at this rate under controlled conditions, is too short to permit a categorical assertion to this effect. It should be noted in this connection that lowering the level of exposure by a factor of two (as recommended later in this report) or even ten, does not alter the situation materially, insofar as making a positive statement of absolute safety is concerned. In strict scientific language, the only statement that can be made at the present time about the lifetime exposure of persons to penetrating radiation at a level considerably higher than the background radiation level is that appreciable injury manifestable in the lifetime of the individual is extremely unlikely. Furthermore, on the basis of present knowledge it may be expected that if there should be any injury, it would manifest itself only in the most susceptible individuals. Obviously, the closer the level of exposure approaches background level, the greater the probability that no injury at all will occur.
No matter what effect (e.g. body weight, blood count changes) — observable in the individual — has been studied by animal experiments, statistically significant differences have been obtained only when the daily dose has been considerably greater than 0.1 r. In the range of 0.1 r/day the differences may be plus or minus, which means that, if there is a difference at all, it must be small. Even if a small unfavorable difference were to be established by careful experiments using very large numbers of animals, the question would still remain as to whether the result is applicable to man. There is for one thing a big difference in the normal life span of man and laboratory animals and the problem of chief concern is one in which periodic exposure throughout adult life is involved. A daily dose that produces a given effect in measurable degree in rats may or may not produce the same degree of effect in man. The effect may be more marked ot it may be less marked. Before the results of animal experiments can be extrapolated to man, it is necessary to derive certain generalizations that apply at least to different species of mammals, including animals with a long life span.
The concept of a tolerance dose involved the assumption that if the dose is lower than a certain value — the threshold dose — no injury results. Since it seems well established that there is no threshold dose for the production of gene mutations by radiation, it follows that strictly speaking there is no such thing as a tolerance dose when all possible effects of radiation on the individual and future generations are included. In connection with the protection problem the expression has been used in a more liberal sense, namely to represent a dose that may be expected to produce only “tolerable” deleterious effects, if they are produced at all. Since it is desirable to avoid this ambiguity the expression “permissible dose” is much to be preferred.
It is now necessary to give this expression a more precise meaning, irrespective of what values of the permissible dose will be recommended in this report. In the first place it is well to state explicitly that the concept of a permissible dose envisages the possibility of radiation injury manifestable during the lifetime of the exposed individual or in subsequent generations. However, the probability of the occurrence of such injuries must be so low that the risk would be readily acceptable to the average normal individual. Permissible dose may then be defined as the dose of ionizing radiation that causes no appreciable bodily injury to the average normal individual at any time during his lifetime. As used here, “appreciable bodily injury” means any bodily injury or effect that the average normal person would regard as being objectionable and/or competent medical authorities would regard as being deleterious to the health and well being of the individual.
Permissible Weekly Dose
Permissible weekly dose is the weekly dose of ionizing radiation that the average normal person may receive for the rest of his life without suffering appreciable bodily injury at any time during his lifetime.
3. Calabrese EJ (2011) Muller’s Nobel lecture on dose-response for ionizing radiation: ideology or science? Arch Toxicol 85(12):1495–1498
Dr. Ed Calabrese has produced a series of peer-reviewed papers detailing how the linear, no threshold dose model, which I like to call the “no safe dose” model, was developed over a thirty period of inconclusive and conflicting experiments by geneticists led by Hermann Muller and Curt Stern.
In addition to the one cited above, see
Calabrese EJ (2009) The road to linearity: why linearity at low doses became the basis for carcinogen risk assessment. Arch Toxicol 83:203–225
Calabrese EJ (2012) Muller’s Nobel Prize lecture: when ideology prevailed over science. Toxicol Sci 126(1):1–4
Calabrese EJ (2013) How the US National Academy of Sciences misled the world community on cancer risk assessment: new findings challenge historical foundations of the linear dose response Arch Toxicol 87:20163-2081
Will the senate take up the bill?
Better late than never.
Again……with these idiots.
My favorite part of this article is the concern over worker safety. Its laughable that they compare the dose received here to the dose received on the Hanford site…….like commercial power and DOE clean up sites are one in the same.
1. We have gone 1000+ days without a lost time accident
2. We have gone 250+ days without a OSHA recordable accident (and that was a muscle strain where a doctor prescribed 800mg ibuprofen pills…….yes, the same amount as 4 Advil)
All this as we are in the midst of a 514 day continuous run since our last outage.
Thanks for the excellent expose how the witch hunt against radiation and nuclear energy was started.
Excellent Rod. I’m deeply grateful for the time and effort you put into this.
I’m curious if you could talk about Lewis Strauss’ involvement in this work (as Chairman of AEC at the time). It is my understanding, based on documents that you provided elsewhere (NYT “Science Group’s Statement”) that Strauss and AEC were involved in early stages, and throughout, in setting up this committee, selecting NAS, financing, etc. Perhaps you can include a link to that document here as well (since it seems relevant to this concern). In that article is the following:
The article from the NYT above is a bit alarmists (but the press often provides alarmists reports of one sort or another). This is not breaking news. I would be interested to know if there is a study or general assessment of “public attitudes” about radiation and health risks at the time (particularly with respect to fallout from weapons testing) and whether the work of the Committee (clarifying opinions and being of timely service in the words of Strauss) served to exacerbate these uncertainties and fears or mollify them (with better information, and the best fact based research and independent investigation from scientist at time, as described by Strauss)? It seems unlikely to me that the Committee was founded on an anti-nuclear agenda (given significant involvement from AEC and Strauss, and other important efforts, as you describe, to advance an Atoms for Peace program, and coordination of these efforts at many levels of Government and industry). With radiation emerging as an important public issue and concern, it seems to me that the work of the Committee was necessary work and “timely” in addressing these issues (and helping advance the cause of nuclear when used in a safe manner and with adequate protections). At least one member, Strauss, saw it that way (if his public comments are to be taken at face value on the matter).
Strauss and other members of the Atomic Energy Commission were also motivated to instill a certain amount of radiation fear into the population. They had several reasons for doing so.
1. Deterrent weapons — still their primary product — work best when people so fear their use that they cower when negotiators rattle their “swords.”
2. Belief that all radiation is dangerous, even when doses are maintained so far below a danger threshold that they may be considered to be “below regulatory concern” had the potential to put the AEC on a personnel and budget reduction path. If you know anything about bureaucracies, you will understand why there was not too much disagreement from the AEC upon the issuance of the NAS Genetics Committee report.
3. Most of the companies that were already in the nuclear business were already in the “raising barriers to entry” mode of operation. In fact, since most of them were already very large and well established companies when they entered the field, they were quite interested in keeping atomic energy special and mysterious in order to keep prices and profits as high as possible.
I hope you remember that I am a failed businessman. I’m not very good at taking advantage of regulations to hamstring my competitors or in finding subtle ways to increase prices so that there is a larger margin on sales. I never figured out how to establish exclusive sales relationships or how to cooperate with other companies selling similar products. That’s why I decided I needed to move into the information business rather than attempting to stay in a product or commodity business.
From 1950 – 1953 (before returning to the AEC as Chairman), Lewis Strauss served as financial advisor to the Rockefeller brothers and board member of Rockefeller Center, Inc.
A more plain reading is that he had an interest in scientific and technological advancements, and the death of his parents from cancer led to an early interest of his in the atom and development of a surge generator to produce medical isotopes for cancer treatment (which he funded). His interests would have been aligned with Rockefellers on this basis (who also heavily favored science and medical research in this newly established and important field of research). Perhaps on issues related to national defense as well.
A less plain reading is that his involvement with the Rockefellers co-opted him, and our sense of him as a major figure in the advancement of nuclear power is a carefully constructed myth (concealing hidden and ulterior motives). The findings of BEAR, circumspect and cautious as they were, were informed by bias and were more than just findings (or the best available assessment of the state of knowledge at the time and fully consistent with other reports on the same from British Medical Research Council, WHO, UNSCEAR, ICRP, and others). Despite the involvement of various stakeholders of the nuclear establishment, such work undermined efforts in nuclear energy (and did much to sow the seeds of panic and doubt that benefited the interests of one family, and held the interests of society and the general public as captive to backroom deals and corruption among some of the most respected and well established scientists at the time … of which Strauss and the AEC was an integral part).
I’m not sure where you are going here.
Though history research is leading me to recognize that the Rockefeller Foundation, which was and is intricately linked to the greatest hydrocarbon based fortune ever amassed (outside of Saudi Arabia, perhaps), played a key role in firmly establishing the “no safe dose” myth, I am not suggesting that the myth only benefitted the interests of Rockefeller family.
Atomic energy still is a disruptive new technology that threatens a vast array of well established interests who have independently seized on the myth and propagated it widely. From commodity suppliers to transportation system builders to financiers to commercial media, there are numerous fortunes built on the fact that hydrocarbons from certain locations in the earth’s crust provide useful, compact and reasonably clean power to make life better for humans. All of those interests are threatened by allowing the natural rate of market acceptance of a power source that is a million times more compact, substantially cleaner, and more widely available in more locations around the globe.
One of the “interests” that was threatened with disruption and a potential loss of power was the United States itself. After all, 5 out of the Seven Sisters that dominated the world hydrocarbon industry were American companies. The US was still the world’s largest oil exporter as of the time that the Genetics Committee issued its report.
Though in 1956, Hubbert informed the oil industry that it would eventually be replaced by atomic energy, the US did not hit its peak in oil production until 1970. The UK was home to the other 2 of the Seven Sisters and was highly dependent on its income from concessions in the Middle East. It was willing to move to replace its shrinking coal reserves, but was also interested in moderating the rate of atomic power introduction and limiting the number of approved players.
The “no safe dose” myth was not designed to mortally wound atomic energy; it was designed to slow it down and add enough costs so that the hydrocarbon domination as the basis of our economy could be extended longer than it otherwise would last.
By the way, Strauss was perhaps one of the earliest people to recognize the disruptive qualities of atomic energy; Leo Szilard began talking with him about commercializing atomic energy based on his chain reaction patents in the mid 1930s even before fission had been demonstrated. (That tidbit came out of a Szilard biography.)
“The “no safe dose” myth was not designed to mortally wound atomic energy; it was designed to slow it down and add enough costs so that the hydrocarbon domination as the basis of our economy could be extended longer than it otherwise would last.”
To that, I think we would have to say: Mission Accomplished
You don’t think it’s “suspicious” that Lewis Strauss had such close, long lasting, and personal ties with the Rockefellers? It’s a bit different from receiving occasional research funding as a University based researcher from a large and highly diversified foundation (independently administered), and being the personal banker and financier to the two principles of the family (who you are asserting promote their own self-interest over service to society, medicine, and more) and who had a direct role in many of their key activities, funding initiatives, and foundations (principle Director of Governing Board of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Institute, President for Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, financial director American Jewish Committee, Board Member Rockefeller Inc., and more). He’s not sitting on the sidelines, this much we know (for his advocacy for nuclear power, or anything else).
Supporting your thesis of conspiracy, some have identified Lewis Strauss as a key and influential member of the “Rockefeller Syndicate”:
And the song of conspiracy reverberates even deeper. With financial interests in oil, mining, railroads, aluminum, copper, diamonds, and more, Kuhn, Loeb & Co. (of which Strauss was a a full partner) has close ties to Rothschild family and Standard Oil Group. If NAS received Rockefeller funds, it was most likely because Lewis Strauss gave it to them (or as we clearly know, was carefully consulted and involved in the matter). If a case can be made that anybody is working for the Rockefellers (with deep personal knowledge and familiarity with their interests, membership on many of their Boards, significant involvement and oversight of their funding efforts on cancer treatment and experimental biology and genetics) … that would be Lewis Strauss.
You really don’t know where I am going with this?
We have been a loggerheads for so long over this issue that I was a bit surprised that you were making connections that buttressed my arguments.
Now I see you might have decided that I was not so far off base after all.
Huh? That’s a very poor reading of my comment.
You actually believe Lewis Strauss was doing the bidding of the Rockefellers and actively worked to subvert the interests of nuclear power (at the same time he was one of it’s most active promoters)? That’s a very strange and difficult to support view of the history of nuclear power in the US (if you don’t mind my saying).
My comments were intended to show that your conspiracy thesis doesn’t work (that close affiliation with the Rockefellers does not necessarily imply bias or ulterior motives against the interests of nuclear power, as with Strauss). Somehow, you missed this point (and instead were drawn to a misreading of it). I thought I was being clear. It seems you may not know some of this history. If you’d like to learn more, you can do so here (or any other source that looks at Strauss and the early history of nuclear power in the US).
I really wish you would realize that I am not proposing the existence of a “conspiracy.” I am suggesting that wealthy and powerful people whose status depends on industrial civilization remaining dependent on their primary product saw a way to handicap a potentially disruptive competitor and they took concerted, often independent actions to make the burden as heavy as needed to slow down that competitor.
Strauss was an atomic energy cheerleader — of that there is little doubt — but he was also a long-time member of the atomic establishment that was strongly motivated to maintain the public’s perception of atomic energy as a mysterious, uniquely hazardous force that should be tightly regulated and left to the experts.
One of the strengths in the campaign to hamstring atomic energy and burden it with uniquely onerous regulations and oversight was that it only required a small amount of exaggeration. Nobody had to actually lie, they just had to express uncertainty and deep concern. They did not have to invent experimental results, they simply extended lines into regions that were not actually tested and then advised the public and the scientific community that that damage they were warning about would not actually be seen because it would be spread out over a very large, diverse population and it might not show up as a defect for several generations.
There are plenty of people who have benefitted from the “radiation protection” business over the years or who have doubled or tripled their contracting revenues by being required to meet standards that were several orders of magnitude more stringent than necessary to ensure public safety.
There is a reason why the “no safe dose” myth has lasted longer than I have been alive. Many of the tools I’m using in my research to pull the strings did not exist for the first 50 years after the myth became the official basis for regulations in the United States and around the world.
I trust you had a good holiday.
It is interesting that you chose to point to Professor Balough’s history. It is one of the more marked up books in my library. I was so impressed by the research it contained that I drove up to UVA a few months ago to chat with him about it.
Like many financially successful people, Lewis Strauss was a complex man who was not always completely transparent about his plans and motives. If you believe that he was incapable of strategizing, concealing bias or being governed by ulterior motives in his decision making, I would suggest that you search through this document to see how he approached the Oppenheimer security clearance hearings.
It’s a conspiracy to assert that people have hidden motives, and despite what they are actually saying they are actually doing something different (that there is a funding apparatus that supports this, science and public institutions are being organized and financed on this basis and in contrast to their stated missions, and people are fabricating and lying about evidence). Yes, you have previously suggesting lying is involved, and a lot of it (just read any of your statements about Muller).
Where normal reason gets left behind (and conspiracy takes over) is where regular evidence gets taken out of context and misread to support an underlying thesis or speculation. You claim people are extending “lines into regions that were not actually tested” to hamstring an industry, obtain contracts and make people wealthy in the business of radiation protection, scare the public into thinking radiation is unsafe and promote fear. But this misreads this history, the interests that are served by a precautionary principle (I would claim it’s the “interest of nuclear power”), it’s effect on public attitudes and fears of the time (it likely reduced them), and the science that informs this debate (what is known, what is demonstrated, and uncertainties as they are described and documented and carefully considered and reviewed by the world’s foremost experts at the time). This work did much to pave the way for nuclear expansion (not hamstring it), especially with respect to public concern and worry over atomic bomb and fallout from weapons testing (a specific concern at the time).
From his biographer, “Muller’s views were complex and often misconstrued … He argued that fallout doses (expect for the largest of the hydrogen bombs used) were too small to be a public health threat.” Similar with diagnostic doses, and similar with Atomic Bomb Casualty results (few mutations would be observed). Strauss said much the same: regarding radiation hazards … “in future years those problems will probably be regarded as no more difficult of solution than were the dangers to persons working around high-pressure, high-temperature steam not so very long ago.” These statements could not be made without coordinated research efforts to examine the issue, a precautionary principle, and without many of the foremost scientists, special interests, engineers, promoters, policy specialists, etc., at the time weighing in and doing so on a credible basis (seen as independent and available to public scrutiny and comment by larger community, skeptical or otherwise, domestic and global, as was the case). What was a virtue for nuclear power at the time (very low risk that could be quantified and adequately managed and perhaps seen in time as no different than working around high-temperature steam) you have turned into a vice (and one with ulterior motives behind it and a ploy by skilled marketers and propagandists working on behalf of some of the most powerful and wealthy industrialists of the day and exploiting an uncritical public who just accepts what it is told).
This history just doesn’t work. It’s assumptions are all wrong. It supports an underlying thesis that is unsupported, and is betrayed by historical facts. What’s more, it does a disservice to many of the people (Strauss included and others) who were committed to this work, and were passionate and interested in seeing it through (and the hard and difficult labor that was sometimes involved).
Not at all! The opposite actually (according to his biographer).
He did much to document the real risks of radiation (however small). And he was also passionate defender of the free enterprise system, particularly with respect to nuclear power: “What distinguished him, … particularly among nuclear manufacturers — was his resistance to any form of federal assistance.” He wanted private utilities to “own the oil” (as his biographer describes), and often took positions at odds with the Eisenhower administration (“who felt that nuclear power ‘should be developed without too much concern about the role of private industry'”). This involved broad and far reaching efforts to sell the benefits nuclear power to the public (particularly on matters of national prestige), and also to cajole private industry to make large investments in nuclear technologies (which many at the time were reluctant to do).
If he was hoping to keep the nuclear industry corralled by regulation around narrow public interests, he was exceedingly bad at it. Especially since most of his efforts worked in conflict to this end. A Rockefeller in his grand vision, perhaps, and success in business … but little in anything else.
You are still missing my point. Atomic energy development on the scale proposed and supported by Strauss could only be achieved by the same huge, established companies that already dominated the world energy markets.
Taking the “precautionary principle” route and layering regulations upon regulations with lengthy licensing processes ensured that creative risk taking entrepreneurs would be kept under wraps and gradually squeezed out of the business entirely.
You’ve told me I was completely unrealistic in describing my vision of millions of small atomic generators distributed widely around the world, but I believe that is a more natural, risk-informed situation than the one that we have today. Atomic energy can be done safely on a very small scale. If done correctly, it could lead to a real ability for small communities and perhaps even individuals to divorce themselves from dependence on a huge, almost unnoticed “grid” of fuel distribution.
That vision could have been achieved by now if the “no safe dose” myth had not been created.
So call it a conspiracy if that makes you happy, even though there was nothing illegal about the activities and even though businesses often have hidden motives and engage in saying things that are not actually what they are doing. (It’s often called greenwashing.)
Here is another piece of evidence supporting my thesis that the “no safe dose” myth was one of the key talking points of a well-designed negative marketing campaign against nuclear power as a competitor to established energy interests.
It is an article from the November 15, 1956 issue of the New York Times.
There are always people who argue on both sides of an issue (and there are usually more than two side to any particular issue). This is not evidence of a coordinated campaign of co-optation or conspiracy (just ordinary public debate and discussion in a country that has free speech, and where there are conflicting issues and concerns). The public is not powerless to accept such opinions, and competing interests are not powerless to organize against them.
Sure, without adequate protections: “an increased nuclear power program could introduce elements of real danger to society.” This isn’t a remarkable or surprising claim. For someone who believes, as Dr. Bugher indicates, that “nuclear power must be developed in the future,” it even sounds like a prudent one. As he explains further, “controlling exposure to the radiation will ‘become of primary concern to the public health official for the decades that lie ahead’.” I don’t disagree with this claim. I don’t think anybody who is fully supportive of nuclear power disagrees with it either. According to Dr. Bugher, “good techniques” are already available to accomplish this aim, and “continued development” will likely further advance it in the future.
Despite liberties taken with headline and comments by the journalist here, I’m not sure when offering cautious, deliberative, and informative statements about the future of nuclear power and the role of the public health official necessarily means you are engaged in “key talking points of a well-designed negative marketing campaign against nuclear power as a competitor to the established energy interests.” Given the various takeaways from his talk (risk can be managed, we have the techniques for doing so, we can improve on these techniques in the future) it seems to me that a pretty clear case can be made that his comments suggest entirely the opposite. Not everything is a conspiracy (particularly when viewing things in context, and not misreading statements according to a previously hidden or ulterior motive or view).
In light of the below quoted paragraph, I think you are guilty of selective reading.
Compared to the other issues that confront public health officials, I do not agree that controlling radiation exposures has become a primary concern. In fact, I’d bet that most of them have little or nothing to do with radiation monitoring or protection.
Dr. Bugher’s talk was a prescription for a cautious, go-it-slow approach that adds costs, reduces benefits, and encourages some extremists to leap to the conclusion that the risks are not worth the effort. I am sure that there were some in the audience whose logical response was along the following lines of reasoning.
“If doses should be kept as low as possible, why use nuclear power at all, especially since we have such better alternatives as coal, oil and natural gas?” (At the time, there was no thought given to sources like wind and solar, even though their availability was well known.)
A statement that nuclear energy must be developed “in the future” because supplies of conventional fuel will become depleted does not at all conflict with my thesis that Bugher was interested in protecting fossil fuels from more immediate competition from a more capable technology.
Nuclear energy dominance did not have to wait until fossil fuels were depleted. As Sheik Yamani famously said, “The Stone Age did not end because the earth ran out of rocks.”
Is it worth it at this point to say John Burger was a former AEC official and colleague of Lewis Strauss. Let’s hope everyone who makes a case for an “enormous and rapid” expansion of nuclear power in the future doesn’t’ get painted with the same brush. Don’t be surprised if the last person standing (and without any paint on their face) is the person holding the paint brush and bucket.
It is interesting that you pointed out Dr. John Bugher’s employment as a former AEC official.
Here is a quote from a New York Times article published April 9, 1955 titled “The Academy and the Bomb.”
In case my reason for quoting the above is not clear, I believe it provides evidence that Dr. Bugher was an excellent spokesman. One criteria for being a spokesman is the ability to stay on message for an employer. That may be one of the reasons I was never asked to be a spokesman during my naval career, even though I earned a service reputation as a pretty decent communicator and speech writer.
Bugher served on the BEAR 1 Pathological Effects of Atomic Radiation committee, which was chaired by Dr. Shields Warren. He was listed on that roster as representing the Rockefeller Foundation.
That same article quoted above continues with some additional points worth pondering, if you are interested in understanding more of the complex array of interests and positions that played a role in filtering the BEAR 1 report. (I suspect some might not like my use of the word “filtering,” but I have been involved with the production of dozens of reports over the years. Every one of them was subjected to multiple filters during the production and review processes.)
I emphasized that last line because there was a great deal of effort put into marketing the NAS BEAR 1 committee as an impartial body of the best available experts. The reality was that is was funded by an organization with deep interests in the fuels that dominated the existing market and despite the fact that several members of that funding organization were assigned roles on various committees — up to and including the decision making role of chairman of certain influential committees.
People like Naomi Klein specifically discount any research funded by an industry with a clear interest in a positive outcome. For example, she discounts all research showing few, if any, negative health effects from second hand smoke that was funded by tobacco interests.
What few people seem to recognize is that a study or report funded by people or organizations with clear interests in a negative result should also be suspect. Would you trust a report commissioned by Pepsi to tell the truth about Coke? Would you trust a report funded by aluminum companies to tell the truth about the environmental risks of plastic containers? Would you trust a report funded by the steel industry to tell the truth about the durability of aluminum car parts in an accident?
Why should we trust a report commissioned by a foundation created by one of the world’s largest fortunes ever assembled by a man who clearly understood the need to control energy supply in order to prevent loss-making oversupply to tell the truth about the health effects of low dose radiation?
It is completely unsurprising that their report incorrectly claimed there is “no safe dose” and that even unmeasurable effects will–not might–cause damage to future generations.
One more thing. Bugher was not “making a case for” an expansion of nuclear power. He was warning against “the prospective enormous and rapid expansion of nuclear power” being called for by many members of the public and their representatives in Congress, some of whom were public power advocating Democrats like Al Gore, Sr. Once again, here is the full quote in context, not with your selective extraction of words that support your argument.
I’m traveling today for Thanksgiving holiday. If I have anything more to say, I’ll do so when I get back.
And I agree, Bugher appears to have been a contrary view at AEC (which had a very active role to play in the advancement of nuclear power at the time). A team of rivals makes for better policy, as they say, rather than a group of toadies under the thumb of Strauss.
If nuclear requires everyone to be on the same enthusiastic page to advance, and that cautious voices cannot be heard and addressed, then it likely has a problem. Discussion on these points shouldn’t be an obstacle to an industry that can advance on the merits (or more hard headed competition for funds and institutional support among competing interests). The nuclear establishment had significant power at the time (and a prominent role in Government). That they couldn’t do anything with it accept cow to fossil fuel interests doesn’t’ sound like a correct view of history to me (and doesn’t properly position reports such as BEAR in this context, which served to settle matters that were a source of fear and uncertainty, not propound them). As such, it did much to advance the cause of nuclear (not hinder it) … as some of it’s most significantly invested members intended.
Have a nice holiday. I hope that you will be in a location where you are not dependent on unreliable power sources – underdone turkey is not very healthy.
typo … “Bugher”
@EL It’s not a conspiracy. ‘Conspiracy theory’ implies:
* there was a specific, secret, organization set up to carry these ‘plans’ out.
* ‘plans’ implies they knew what the outcome of their actions would be. E.g. “Let us artificially stoke up radiation fears to increase our fossil fuel profits”.
* that they did it all in secret, taking specific secret actions.
* that the secret actions they took had an entirely predictable, and planned, outcome
There was no ‘plan’ in that sense. They didn’t know for sure what the consequences of their actions would be. It was more the case that events played themselves out along a line of least resistance: in favour of fossil fuels, against the development of plentiful energy. How can one sell fossil fuel in an environment where energy is cheap. The higher the price – the higher the profit. That’s the line of least resistance.
“Let us artificially stoke up radiation fears to increase our fossil fuel profits” – who alleges this? I put it to you that radiation fears were stoked up because no coherent interest group existed to give humanity plentiful energy. Arguments for plentiful energy were incongruent with the needs of the fossil fuel industry. No one promoted plentiful energy with money.
In his book “Never Let A Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown“, Philip Mirowski looks at the promotion of Neoliberalism. No conspiracy theory is required to explain how this came about and Mirowski explicitly rejects such a notion. Mirowski simply traces the ideas back to the Mont Pelerin society, looks out how it diverged from classic liberalism, how it promoted Neoliberalism via press commentary, journals, meetings, think tanks, political influence. To the extent that Neoliberalism – we can hardly think outside of it. When Neoliberalism fails – carbon/emissions trading – no one blames it on Neoliberalism either – but on Big Fossil Fuel or Big Steel.
I think it’s a bit like the anthropic principle. Here we are living on a planet where all the physical constants, laws of the universe are just perfect to allow life. A trillion, trillion to one chance! Oh, there must’ve been a plan – aka conspiracy. Some God must’ve planned it all without us knowing. No, not at all; there’s another explanation. Rod is just explaining how things came to be; not how Gods made our universe.
I think a great rebuttal of the effects of long-term, low dosage exposure to radiation comes from the studies done of airline flight crews and their cancer/overall mortality rates. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22678613 supports the findings of the first, and they both support earlier studies of the same. The executive summary for the lazy is that Airline pilots regularly exposed to higher doses of ionizing cosmic radiation tend to outlive people with lower exposure rates and have generally lower cancer rates.
<blockquote cite="The study comprised 547,564 person-years at risk, and 2,244 deaths were recorded in male cockpit crew (standardized mortality ratio [SMR] = 0.64, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.61-0.67). Overall cancer mortality was decreased (SMR = 0.68; 95% CI = 0.63-0.74). We found an increased mortality from malignant melanoma (SMR = 1.78, 95% CI = 1.15-2.67) and a reduced mortality from lung cancer (SMR = 0.53, 95% CI = 0.44-0.62). No consistent association between employment period or duration and cancer mortality was observed. A low cardiovascular mortality and an increased mortality caused by aviation accidents were noted.>
Comment(sarcasm): emphasis mine and does the increased mortality due to aviation accidents surprise anyone? Let’s blame the radiation.(/sarcasm)
I was … adequately supplied with energy in the land of public power and the TVA, but unfortunately had to drive through Metropolis and Paducah to get there. I hope you had a good holiday as well.
I don’t discount this … but ulterior motives have to make sense (tell a believable story), and shouldn’t discount everything that Strauss worked towards in his role as AEC Chairman (private development of nuclear power, key figure in Atoms for Peace Program, “father” of nuclear power, establishment of scientific committee to review radiation risks, etc.).
Paying adequate attention to historical context, the issue is not that complex to me. BEAR was a key instrument in the sales effort to advance nuclear power (and calm fears about radiation risks that where very high after use of atomic bomb and increasing prevalence of nuclear weapons testing) … not undermine it’s efforts. A close look at the 2nd summary report of committee on genetic effects of radiation, which is available on web, speaks directly to this (here). It is a cautious document, circumspect in it’s findings, involving diverse stakeholders, language that satisfies dissenters, and is generally consistent (not an outlier) with other summaries of the same by British Medical Research Council, WHO, UNSCEAR, ICRP, and others. It forms a clear picture, reviewed by qualified experts, and serves as an adequate basis for action (not an impediment to a new and promising industry).
Having been successful in business (and also attentive to successful efforts of the same by Rockefellers, international banking empires, and others), I think Strauss well understood the early challenges for nuclear and what was needed at the time. BEAR was a part of this (not a barrier). From your standpoint, what is a better marketing pitch or story to tell looking back at this history (and looking forward at new opportunities in the future):
1) The risks from radiation from nuclear plants is very small and can be adequately addressed.
2) Lies and conspiracy have infused modern radio-protection standards, and further work needs to done to more fully document risks at lowest doses (perhaps including healthy low doses).
I think it’s clear how Strauss answered this question. I think it’s also clear how many people (committed to the advancement of nuclear power) answer this question today.
The problem is that you are not telling the truth about the pre 1956 optimism about the Atomic Age and the calm acceptance of small doses of radiation. You ignore evidence like the over the counter availability of Radiothor, the high value placed on radium, the use of tritium in consumer items, the use of X-ray equipment in shoe stores, and the popularity of uranium glazes for casual dinnerware. You forget about the multiple uses of the word “atomic” to signify modernity.
Your question at the end vaguely reminds me of the Swedish referendum question from 1980 in which the only available choices were to oppose the continued use of nuclear energy.
My option is 3) The public risks from radiation from nuclear plants does not exist.
That does not mean that the plants will be perfect and never experience any accidents that can be publicized and blown out of proportion. It means that it is not only possible, but quite likely that there will never be any public injuries caused by operation of a large and growing number of nuclear power plants, especially in comparison to all available alternatives.
You’ve also ignored Strauss’s record during his first term on the Atomic Energy Commission, a term in which he focused on building bigger bombs and enforcing the harsh secrecy rules that turned off the most creative and progressive scientists and engineers who understood nuclear science and technology. It was during Strauss’s first term that he developed his strong dislike and distrust of Oppenheimer because he wanted to turn the atom into a powerful servant of mankind. It was also during Strauss’s first term that he campaigned to halt funding for the Daniels Pile and to convert the resources devoted to that effort into a military application of producing reliable power.
You pointed out Strauss’s effort to promote “private” investment in nuclear energy, but you neglected to mention how that effort was rigged against the utilities, almost guaranteeing that they would fail. He demanded that they put up all of the money and not expect any government assistance even though the technology he was asking them to use was not fully developed and not designed to be the most economical way to build power stations. He used a pretty scary club to “encourage” those money-losing investments; he reminded utilities that there were plenty of Democrats in Congress who wanted to turn atomic power over to publicly owned power producers.
That second summary report from BEAR published in 1960 was an improvement on the fear mongering document issued in 1956. Not only was it somewhat more nuanced, but it includes an appendix titled “On the Appraisal of the Genetic Effects of Radiation on Man” that offers “a polite rebuke to the overly simplistic approaches to the problem of the genetic effects of radiation.” That quote is from Neel’s Physician to the Gene Pool a book that contains fascinating observations about the increasingly heated debates preceding both the 1956 and the 1960 reports. Here is a sample:
Note: “initial round” refers to the 1955-56 meetings before the addition of Dobzhansky to the committee. IMO, a another way to say “well-thought-through position” is “agenda.”
One more thing to consider is the following quote from James F. Crow (a member of both 1956 and 1960 committees) paper titled Quarreling Geneticists and a Diplomat, which is part of Perspectives: Anecdotal, Historical and Critical Commentaries on Genetics p. 425.
As Neel phrased it
Wonder why? The promotional effort for the 1956 report–as evidenced by more than half a dozen articles in the New York Times, including one on the front page, on the day after the press conference announcing the report–was no accident.
These sound like legitimate debates and legitimate differences among scientists in a highly technical and somewhat new and developing field of research and policy to me. If you expect them to all agree and be on the same page this isn’t going to happen, and you aren’t going to find it (and lacking such agreement is not a sign of conspiracy or ulterior motives). That there was a “learning” and a softening of tone between 1956 and 1960 is hardly a sign that the Committee had an axe to grind and is sharpening their tools against nuclear power (but exactly the opposite). They appear to be listening to contrarian perspectives, and adjusting their findings and approach (in tone and content) in response to new information.
As James F. Crow wrote: “Most of the report was technical and not controversial.” This was even more true of the second report. Weaver did his best to prevent popular accounts from misconstruing their work and altering their carefully “hammered-out wording” (particularly when it came to the Scientific American). This goes to show just how hard it is to communicate highly technical matters to a popular audience (not that the Committee was incorrect or being alarmist for attempting to do so). Highly technical disciplines still have difficulty with this, and the BEAR Committee appears to have got much better at it over time (by the available evidence).
For more on James F. Crow, and his subsequent work (he became a kind of specialist in this kind of report writing and committee work), you might be interested in the following.
From a marketing perspective option 3 is abysmal, primarily because most people know it to be incorrect. Lacking the qualifier “well regulated” it is a meaningless statement.
I don’t! As I stated previously, this is part of the broader context that motivates the creation of the BEAR committee in the first place: “Committee seems most concerned with atmospheric fallout from weapons testing (which was increasing or projected to increase at the time), as well as other areas were public exposure to radiation risks were expanding (industrial chemical processing, medicine, agriculture, nuclear energy, and more). Motivated primarily by atomic weapons fallout, they appear to me to be looking at a general public safety concern, and not one uniquely targeted to a specific industry or site. The membership of the committee (and diversity of stakeholders) is a reflection of this.
Care to speak to BEAR not being an outlier, and other comparable findings and statements from similar Committees and reports at the same time? I doubt Strauss’ impact (since you now seem to think he worked at cross purposes to the advancement of nuclear power) reached to all these Committees and locations (and similar efforts to respond to general public safety concerns about radiation health risks in a calm and informative manner).
But BEAR 1 WAS an outlier in the tremendously important area of eliminating the dose threshold that had previously been a part of radiation protection constructs before 1956. The BEAR 1 Genetics Committee report specifically and repeatedly told the public — in an admirably public communications science-based effort (aka Bernays style-propaganda) — “Any radiation is genetically undesirable since any radiation produces harmful mutations.” There might have been other committees that issued similar reports within a few months to years, but the US National Academy of Sciences was an authoritative, trend-setting voice – especially in the field of nuclear energy and especially in the mid 1950s.
The Genetics Committee report concluded with the following, which has provided the “scientific” basis on which antinuclear activists like yourself can constantly assert that there is “no safe dose of radiation.”
You claim that the differences of opinion among the scientists were legitimate; why don’t you recognize that there was no basis for forcing those scientists to issue a “unanimous” report that made very specific assertions designed to provide grist for opposition to beneficial uses of nuclear energy, radioactive isotopes, and radiation diagnostic devices?
You might believe it is completely unremarkable that the man who forged that consensus report and produced the carefully “hammered out wording” was the paymaster from a foundation whose wealth and power was directly traceable to an energy oligarch who clearly recognized the importance of controlling competitors and the perceived supply of energy.
I disagree. There will be many people on your side of the political fence who recognize that moneyed interests played a huge role in propagating a myth designed to handicap a strong technical competitor before it got out of the gates.
BTW – you were the one who introduced Strauss into this argument. By my understanding, he was sort of a bit player in this particular aspect of nuclear energy development. I have merely been pointing out that he did not see “no safe dose” as something that worked against his interests in developing a heavily-regulated, established company-dominated nuclear industry out of previously approved members of the military-industrial complex.
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