Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to Comments:


  1. I guess this quote kind of fits your article:

    “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

    – Upton Sinclair –

    Zero is a very low number.

  2. What is most insidious about all this is that LNT does have a firm scientific basis… the smooth probabilistic line of radioactive decay and its interaction with cells and DNA WILL occur right down to zero. But attaching it directly to risk is to bring into being a fantasy world where cellular repair mechanisms do not exist at all.

    Life is dominated by these repair mechanisms, depends on them. You could even suggest that without background radiation evolutionary pressure to fine tune cellular repair might have subsided until life became too fragile to survive any kind of shock. There is also the suggestion of hormesis. But even that is disingenuous, for in our modern world the confirmed cancer danger from chemical exposure far eclipses anything save the worst radioactive accidents. So it’s no surprise when those who make bank from carcinogens take you aside and whisper, “Let’s talk about radiation instead.”

    It is *dangerous* and *irresponsible* to marginalize nuclear energy because it represents the only true way to achieve a sustainable high-energy modern civilization in perpetuity, with among other things, ever-improving health care, good food and drinkable water. The other options (frankly) involve people dying, perhaps horribly.

    Consider profiling some small-time operators in our time such as Arnie Gundersen who punched his meal ticket for awhile by claiming that everything was inexplicably on fire and Fukushima would trigger the extinction of mankind. These people also need some (er,) more balanced public exposure aside from the zillions of Google results of them spewing their trash unchallenged.

    1. “It is *dangerous* and *irresponsible* to marginalize nuclear energy because it represents the only true way to achieve a sustainable high-energy modern civilization in perpetuity…”

      And yet today’s twitterverse is alive with a Scienceletter, Concerns of young protesters are justified, signed by the usually respected suspects, that continues to do precisely that:

      Policies are needed to make climate-friendly and sustainable action simple and cost-effective and make climate-damaging action unattractive and expensive. Examples include effective CO2 prices and regulations; cessation of subsidies for climate-damaging actions and products; efficiency standards; social innovations; and massive, directed investment in solutions such as renewable energy, cross-sector electrification, public transport infrastructure, and demand reduction…

      Here, the discerning observer might argue that indeed, “cessation of subsidies for climate-damaging actions” might include elimination and avoidance of massive directed investment in renewable energy, which effectively locks — and has locked — us into reliance upon the very fossil fuels the authors fervently wish we eschew.

      No mention is made of nuclear, one way or the other. By avoiding the subject, the letter engages in #metooism that assiduously avoids responsibility for education and leadership. Our youth deserve better.

      How do we deliver?

    2. Perhaps you overlook the paucity of effective repair mechanisms in germ cells. Animal data: https://academic.oup.com/biolreprod/article/67/3/854/2683526. Human data: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1361-6498/ab17fc/meta. Another obvious possibility is interference of external radiation and/or internal emitters with epigenetic processes, causing damage whereby ‘repair’ is not an option: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/gepi.20662.

  3. To me, the smoking gun is the dose rate ranges Muller studied. He irradiated flies at doses in the range of 10000, 20000, 30000 mSv. These are all LETHAL doses.


    Even the lowest dose studied, 10000 mSv, would kill an average adult human. Yes, KILL.

    Now, it is more than a bit of a stretch to claim there is no dose threshold when all you’ve looked at is LETHAL doses.

    It would be similar to giving the flies a whole bottle of wine, which obviously kills all the flies, and then go on to claim that “there must not be a safe dose for wine”. And subsequently proceed with the recommendation that we ban wine from the stores!

    It is the kind of thing that would get an apprentice lab worker fired. Muller got the Nobel Prize for it.

    Since the Nobel Prize committee are not fools, the only sad conclusion is that they’re on the take.

    When the highest levels of scientific prestige is corrupt, who can we trust?

    A useful repeat of Muller’s studies would be to take two groups of flies, one control and another irradiated group. Give the irradiated group 10 mSv of dose once a week. Then let the flies live out their normal lives and see how old they get. Put their deaths in a graph. I’m betting the irradiated flies live substantially longer. The experiment could be repeated then with mice and then chimps.

    1. The experiment was already done with male Sprague-Dawley rats, and reported in the 1958 UNSCEAR report (see pages 30-31, beginning with the paragraph numbered 14).  There is a very striking increase in lifespan for rats irradiated with 0.8 r/day of Co-60 gamma rays.

      You’re not going to get the budget to do the experiment with chimps.  Not only are they far too expensive, you’re not going to live long enough to get the results of the experiment as their median lifespan is well over 30 years.

      1. Good find! That’s the sort of experiment we need. Only 22 animals though. It’d have to be repeated with a larger population, and probably a bit smaller dose. 0.8 Roentgen/day is 7.5 mSv/day – close to 3 Sieverts/year. That’s way higher than even the worst imaginable nuclear accident.

        The data on the Co-60 irradiated Beagle dogs also was a bit on the high dose side – 3 mSv/day. 10 mSv/week or a 1 mSv/day or something would be a more reasonable dose to study. Also because (according to Jerry Cutler) this range is where the hormetic effect peaks so maximum positive effect should be shown. Raising the political impact of such an experiment. Especially if done in a big famous lab by famous scientists. Then publish results in the journal Science.

        Probably right about the chimps. Bit too heroic. But perhaps a shorter experiment can be planned, say 10 years, where doctors periodically look for solid cancers and leukemia incidence in the chimps.

      2. Good find!

        For pete’s sake, that study is older than I am and I’ve been broadcasting it for years.  Including here.

        That’s the sort of experiment we need. Only 22 animals though.

        It’s a start, and should be easy enough to replicate.

        It’d have to be repeated with a larger population, and probably a bit smaller dose.

        Why not a range of doses, and 300 animals per dose rate per ambient temperature?  Let’s see what the hormesis curve looks like.  Let’s also do biological studies of things like radiation tolerance of tissue samples and testing of the Hayflick limit.

        0.8 Roentgen/day is 7.5 mSv/day – close to 3 Sieverts/year. That’s way higher than even the worst imaginable nuclear accident.

        Well, isn’t that the point?  If you could come back 3 weeks after “the worst imaginable nuclear accident” and the radiation would literally be harmless to you, doesn’t that completely kill the argument against nuclear power?

        Something else that should be done along with a new rat study is a study on rhesus macaques.  It should have a similar range of dose rates.  It would take far too long to do total mortality studies before we’d have to make decisions on the results, but they reach sexual maturity at about age 8 and details like cancer, morbidity and mutation rates should be available by that time.  Tissue tests of characteristics like the Hayflick limit are applicable also.  If the closest available analogue of humans turns out to tolerate radiation levels once considered deadly and are still healthy, it’s the last nail in the anti-nuclear coffin.

      3. Ideally the experiment should have included both sexes and they should have been allowed to breed. Funding was likely an issue but it would have been nice to have a multi generation experiment.

  4. To Engineer-Poet
    Imagine this. Imagine mice / rats experiments show no negative health effects at 1 Sv / year, or even 10 Sv / year of constant ionizing radiation from an external cesium or strontium source. With that basis, imagine running the same experiment but with chimps. You don’t need to wait for the end of their natural lives if you can reach extreme accumulated doses where the cancer risk becomes unbelievably large according to LNT.

    I don’t know if 10 Sv / year is safe. It might be. It might not be. I don’t know where the limit is, and I haven’t fully read all of the relevant literature. However, odds seem good that 1 Sv / year is safe. Assume we had 10 years, so a lifetime accumulated dose of 10 Sv. How many individual animals would we need to conclusively disprove linear no-threshold? Now assume we only had 1 year, and consequently only 1 Sv of lifetime accumulated dose. How many individual animals would we need then?

    1. Imagine this. Imagine mice / rats experiments show no negative health effects at 1 Sv / year, or even 10 Sv / year of constant ionizing radiation from an external cesium or strontium source.

      I don’t think we have to imagine that.  0.8 rad/day is about 290 rad/yr, roughly 2.9 Sv/yr.  If there’s no prospect of 10 Sv/yr exposures from anything, there’s no reason to test at such levels.  Or do you have something else to prove?  Other evidence suggests that the hormesis curve for humans peaks around 700 mSv/yr.

      With that basis, imagine running the same experiment but with chimps. You don’t need to wait for the end of their natural lives if you can reach extreme accumulated doses where the cancer risk becomes unbelievably large according to LNT.

      Chimps are both extremely expensive and highly intelligent creatures.  The ethics of using them as medical test subjects are difficult.  Rhesus macaques are acceptable, chimps are borderline at best.

      If I was put in charge of the research project (and I’m way unqualified for that job) and had a healthy budget secure for at least a couple of decades, I would run parallel experiments at multiple dose rates (including controls) with animals like (a) lab rats (re-running the 1950’s experiment, but with a much greater population and more varied dose rates), (b) beagles (which don’t tend to live very long, so the experiment could be terminated in 10-12 years or so) and (c) the aforementioned rhesus macaques.  I might do several generations of rats and measure both the morbidity/mortality and mutation rates.  I’d take thousands of biological samples, both doing tests immediately and saving some to follow up on questions raised by the results.

      I can’t imagine this costing more than perhaps $10 million, but the wealth of information it would yield would be of incalculable value.

      How many individual animals would we need to conclusively disprove linear no-threshold?

      It’s already disproven.  Cell damage from a high prompt dose is radically reduced by previous exposure to a lower, “priming” dose.  That alone kills LNT.

      Now assume we only had 1 year

      Not nearly enough time for latent effects to manifest as carcinomas.  Some things just require patience.

      1. To Engineer-Poet
        I think you’re missing my point.

        I think that there’s many people who are sympathetic to LNT (not myself, but some people), who could be persuaded if we show them exceptionally clear evidence that LNT is false. It seems to me

        The point where there will be biggest disagreement between LNT predictions and reality is in the area of very high lifetime accumulated dose from a constant-level dose rate over many years. LNT predicts that the health effects from 100 Sv should be the same no matter if it’s an acute dose vs delivered over 10 years. Whereas, we could actually do that experiment, and if the results of the experiment are “no measurable genetic damage after 10 years of constant-rate external exposure of 10 Sv / year”, then even the most hardcore LNT proponents would have to revisit their position, IMO.

      2. Once China has its mass production assembly lines set up for a huge offensive to export nuclear reactors, I predict China will do such a study. It is the ABCs of capitalism. Will such a study facilitate a massive market expansion and profits for them? If they don’t do so, will Rosatom or someone else do so, and get the benefits? Will it help China to win international trade competition and extend its geopolitical influence, for example, for access to raw materials? We in the US/EU remain stuck in quick sand of anti-nuclear interests. These forces are in power. The US/EUs “Sputnik Moment 2.0” is nigh.

      3. Like E-P said, there’s no need to look at 10 Sv doses because they cannot be generated even in worst-possible nuclear accidents.

        This was my initial comment about Muller – he looked at 10, 20 30 Sv dose ranges to conclude that there is no threshold – even though these were prepostrously large doses that would kill a human.

        We need to take a functional approach – what is the worst possible accident with limiting conditions, say total cooling failure, no evacuation. (bit worse than Fukushima). Then use that dose on a controlled double blind animal experiment to see how long they live. If mice live much longer when given almost 3 Sv/year compared to control group, then that is a major hint. But 3 Sv/year is far greater than the worst credible accident dose even for people that live close to a nuclear plant. Getting even 1 Sv/year is extremely difficult, requiring a big reactor, combination of really bad weather pattern, complete cooling failure, containment failure etc. The worst affected areas around Fukushima were around 0.2 Sv/year early on, and well below 0.1 Sv/year today.

        Dose rate is actually more important than dose. It’s a major scientific and political blunder that this is not understood or communicated, even among supposed professionals in the field. Bomb survivors with prompt radiation dosage are not a good basis for estimating the hazards of an accident at a nuclear plant. Dose rates are orders of magnitude different. It is a blunder on the level of, “someone took 1000 aspirin pills and died, therefore taking 1 aspiring a day for 3 years will kill you”.

        A step in the right direction would be for people to stop using these per year dose rates. It makes about as much sense as how many aspirin pills in a year. A per week standard would be more reasonable resolution.

        1. @Cyril R

          I’m pretty sure you underestimate the potential scope of radiation accidents. Not all uses of radiation are in well shielded and engineered nuclear power plants with multiple layers of protection.

          It doesn’t take very long, for example, for an unshielded radiography source to produce 10 Sv to an unknowing bystander if proper safety precautions are ignored.

      4. To Cyril
        Again, I’m not dealing with functional requirements. I’m talking about the rhetorical war that we need to win with the public that LNT is false. That’s why I think we should run this experiment which has (dubious) value for real functional requirements. If we could spend 10 years, a modicum of money (relatively speaking), with rats or macaques, and show that 100 Sv total dose over 10 years at a constant dose-rate produces no ill-effects, then surely any support of LNT would completely collapse in the face of this insurmountable evidence. Surely this is right? Or am I being too naive?

      5. EL: right. The problem is that 10 Sv per year is well above hormetic dose levels, even for daily spread out dosing. Almost certain you will see reduced life expectancy in just about any mammal at these doses.

        We know high doses are harmful. There is no need to test this. Its just cruel and pointless to test mammals at these doses.

        what is needed is dose rate studies on mammals in the hormetic range and well above the kind of doses seen at say Fukushima. Something like 1 or 2 mSv/day. Definately under 1 Sv/year. It should be low dose rate but high dose since that will stand LNT on its head and quell fears of low dose rate chronic radiation such as may occur in a beyond design basis nuclear powerplant accident.

      6. To Cyril
        1- My point was simply that w should find the biggest dose rate that has no negative health effects, and run that experiment, to finally shut up the LNT defenders once and for all.

        2- From what little I know, I might would guess that 10 Sv / year constant-rate external exposure is actually safe. That’s only about 27 mSv / day. It’s far from clear to me that this level is actually harmful. It may well be. I don’t know. On what basis do you suspect that this level actually is harmful? Just your general background knowledge of such things? If you could point me towards specific scientific evidence which suggests that this dose rate is harmful, I would be most curious.

        PS: From the recent MIT mice / rat study, it appears that 1 Sv / year constant dose rate external exposure is likely safe.

      7. I have wondered about training people that live in areas of high background radiation as first responders in the event of a nuclear accident. This saber rattling against Iran makes no sense to me.

  5. I encourage reading “Radiation and Reason” by Wade Allison. Written after a career at Oxford University in health physics.

  6. Rod,

    Re radiology risks. Of course, but the issue is people are afraid of nuclear power plants because of small doses of radiation that could occur from accidents. So people use this as an argument to not use nuclear power: it’s the “if things go wrong they go REAL wrong with nuclear power”.

    To my knowledge no one uses radiology sources or hazards of radiology as an excuse to not build nuclear powerplants.

    In any case, it’s not like we are talking about consumer electronics here – these are professional devices handled by professionals. Truth is most stuff in a hospital is pretty dangerous to inviduals if mishandled. A syringe and some salt water can definately kill you if you don’t know what you’re doing (or if you do but you’r one of those nurse-assassins we hear about in the movies).

    1. @Cyril R

      It’s not well known to many in the nuclear power field, but there has been a long running effort to scare people about radiation in medicine as well.

      Look up “Image Gently” to start to get a feel for the fact that fear mongers have been active in all aspects of beneficial use of radiation.

    2. There have been many incidents where people were “overexposed” to radiography or radiotherapy sources (I’ve seen some up to 100 curies of Co-60 for radiography of large steam generator welds). Of course these were the result of theft, dumb radiographers “forgetting” to bring their meters to make sure the source was back in the shield pig or “lucky” individuals finding something “cool looking” at an abandoned hospital in Brazil.

      When a radiography source comes on site at my plant we control the hell out of it even though its falls under their license. We simply do not trust those cowboys. Now imagine the fact that the same 100 curie Co-60 source being used at your normal run of the mill construction site……

      The ONLY time I’m worried about radiation at my plant is when we have scheduled radiography commencing.

      If terrorists really want to make a “dirty” bomb…..they aint gonna get the material from a Nuclear Power Plant. It would be incredibly easier to obtain it from hospitals, radiographers or food irradiation plants (which have sources that make the ones used for radiography looks like a banana)

  7. Engineer-Poet: I believe you are quite qualified to administer those lab tests.

    In fact, when I come to power, I shall make you my Minister of Energy, Transportation, Engineering, Vernacular Poetry, and Health Physics.

    An unusual and busy office, perhaps, but I’m trying to combine ministries in an effort to reduce the government deficit, you see.

    1. I’d give you a pre-acceptance of the job offer, but I’m not sure how a stint in the government of the Republic of Moronica would look on my resumé.

  8. The president of the American Council on Renewable Energy just lied in his recent letter to The New York Times. Someone ought to counter it.

  9. Is anyone else here suspicious as to how H. J. Muller in 1942 (who would then have been 53 years old) came to have a wife of an age suitable to bear a child (how old was she exactly by the way)?

    IIRC any mother-to-be over 35 is considered a geriatric pregnancy even now, and thus would certainly have been considered so in 1942, while it is normally considered dodgy for a man to be in a sexual relationship with a woman less than half his own age plus 7 years (33 years old for H. J. Muller in 1942). And that also begs the question of how a man with no financial assets would have been able to marry a much younger woman like that…

    Could the marriage and pregnancy themselves have been engineered as part of the Rockefeller conspiracy, in order to create a stooge desperate enough to be manipulated?

    1. It seems more likely to me that part of the reason he moved around so much is that he wouldn’t keep his hands off his students. The young wife could be easily explained as one he finally got pregnant.

      It would be interesting to compare the marriage license date and birth certificate for the first child.

      1. Impossible. H. J. and Thea Muller were married in May, 1939. Helen J. Muller, their daughter, was born in August 1944, more than 5 years later.

        Muller had a previous marriage with many difficulties that ended in divorce in 1935. He chose to remain single for a number of years before falling in love with Thea, who had already completed her medical studies before meeting “Joe”.

Recent Comments from our Readers

  1. Avatar
  2. Avatar
  3. Avatar
  4. Avatar
  5. Avatar

Similar Posts