|Linear Function Graphs|
The non-existent risk of low level radiation
At his blog, Atomic Insights, Rod Adams recently posted Resolving the issue of the science of biological effects of low level radiation. In this post, he encouraged people to sign a letter urging the American Nuclear Society (ANS) to address the issue of unreasonable fear of low levels of radiation. There is now a great deal of evidence that, below a threshold value, increases in radiation exposure do not lead to increases in cancer.
Adams provided a link to the letter, which urges the ANS to ask for a review of newer evidence (studies done after 1956) concerning the use of Linear Non Threshold (LNT) to predict cancer deaths from radiation. LNT asserts that there is no threshold for increased cancer risk.
"Protecting" against very low levels of radiation increases the cost of nuclear plants, but the LNT model says we must protect against any level of radiation, no matter how small. Rod and I are happy to assert that LNT increases the cost of building and operating nuclear plants, but does not lead to an increase in public health outcomes.
The crowd goes wild
Once Rod had posted, the comments came thick and fast, starting with a one-line comment that Rod was tilting at windmills. (I encourage you to read the comments and join the conversation.)
I was very impressed with Howard Shaffer's comment, and I obtained his permission to use it as a guest post, as below. I did a few edits, with his permission.
The consequences of assuming No Safe Dose: By Howard Shaffer
Bob Hargraves, Meredith Angwin and I have all gone head to head with the nuclear opponents and the Helen Caldicotts brought in to Vermont. We have gone through all the logical arguments on cost, alternatives etc. We needed to be face to face, up close in public meetings in order to FEEL the fear that is driving their single minded opposition. Fear that drives elderly ladies to repeatedly chain themselves to the plant gates and get arrested, and many other examples.
As for evidence, see the election results here in Vermont.
Let me repeat part of my post from ANS Nuclear Cafe, A CAN-CAN Dance around Vermont Yankee Decommissioning:
In Vermont, in the very emotional political fight over Vermont Yankee, we directly experienced the effects of the misuse of BEIR VII. Deb Katz http://www.nukebusters.org/ and others endlessly repeat “any amount of radiation is harmful” to energize the opponents AND make EVERY event at the plant seem like the “sky is falling.”
Enough FEAR has been created to keep driving the opponents, so they always find a new issue. Now it is “all fuel in Dry Casks NOW” which is also being used in the SONGS fight.
We need to get a BEIR VIII. I believe that it will take Congress requiring it in an appropriation bill to get it done. We also need Congress to set the time limits on exposure from High Level Waste Repositories to a few hundred years, not thousands as decided by a court case. end post
Perhaps ANS can get Ann Bisconti to do a poll asking what people believe about radiation.
The Fear Campaign
The LNT issue is in the middle of the largest issues of our time, starting at the middle of the last century.
- The Environment as limited. History shows that we believed the earth to have unlimited resources and be an unlimited sewer. (At one point, the chemical industry saw chemical injection underground as a legitimate disposal method. Where were the studies on the effects done before this was started?) Fear of fouling our own nest and ruining the earth is legitimate.
- Fear of nuclear war. Einstein was right that World War IV would be fought with sticks and stones.
- Out of these came fear of planetary pollution from atmospheric weapons testing. The BEIR committee was persuaded by powerful personalities to extend the evidence from the excess cancers in atomic bomb victims to low levels of exposure and to “zero” exposure (which does not exist). This was done to boost the fear campaign they thought was needed to get the Atmospheric Test Ban Treaty.
|Howard C Shaffer III|
The irony of nuclear power is that it meets these fears by providing a bridge – a long one- to a planet of total sustainability. The opponents of nuclear power have never answered the question of HOW we get from here to there. For example,”What do we do about Coal Miners?”
We who believe in nuclear power have a lot of work to do. It’s time to face up, as Rod says, to the realization that the public needs to be told that some of them bought into a Fear Campaign that outgrew its original purpose and the facts were not true. The campaign was well motivated but the wrong approach. It is time to get back to the facts.