Monday, July 7, 2014

Raising Radiation Limit Will Save Lives and Dollars

The challenging topic of radiation impacts is being addressed by a growing number of people.
It's nice to see Jerry Cutler cited in an article on the promise of a saner approach, in the United States, to setting limits.

The EPA is raising the radiation threat level by a factor of 350. That may sound unbelievable but it is assuredly a good thing: The previous limits were far lower than science justified and caused hundreds of billions of dollars of economic loss to America and the world.
...After the catastrophic meltdown at the Japanese nuclear power plant in 2011, some 130,000 people were forcibly removed from their homes in accordance with strict radiation standards. This resulted in the unnecessary and unfortunate deaths of some 1600 elderly and ill persons. Yet no residents died—or even became ill—from the radiation. Even so, Japan closed down48 nuclear plants and Germany announced it would close all of its plants. The cost to their citizenry in higher electricity prices—and higher carbon emissions—is staggering.
...the EPA is making changes that acknowledge the shortcomings of ultra-low radiation limits. The EPA has now asked for public comment on changing its standards for nuclear power plants. The deadline was June 4.

...Canadian nuclear physicist Jerry Cuttler, to whom I am indebted for much of the above information, suggests that the ALARA limits (as low as reasonably achievable) should be changed to AHARS (as high as reasonably safe).
Read the entire article at

I was just making a joke about this on Twitter the other day.

Rod Adams' As High As Relatively Safe (AHARS) – Sensible radiation standards credits "Dr. Wade Allison with the etymology of the term – AHARS"

From Dr. Wade Allison's Radiation and Reason site:
...biology protects life and radiation is about a thousand times safer than suggested by current international safety standards -- but readers should look at the evidence for themselves and make up their own minds.
A little nuclear radiation is quite harmless and in a world of other dangers -- social and economic instability, global warming, population growth, shortages of power, food and water -- the pursuit of the lowest possible radiation levels is in nobody's best interest. Levels should be permitted as high as is relatively safe (AHARS). Radiation, far from being a major cause of cancer, is one of its major cures through radiotherapy applied in every major hospital.
A New York Times Greenwire post from 2011, Hiroshima and Nagasaki Cast Long Shadows Over Radiation Science, included this section which, to me, supports AHARS and explains how ALARA has illogically come to be implemented:
There are some very clear signals from the A-bomb survivors. Starting at acute doses around 150 mSv, there is statistically significant evidence that radiation exposure causes a tiny uptick in the risk of contracting cancer. This risk becomes far more evident at higher doses: At 1,000 mSv, four times the limit for Fukushima's workers, it increases the risk of cancer by about 1.5 times.
The linear increase seen in this cancer risk has encouraged regulators to set safety standards far below proven hazardous levels, essentially on the precautionary principle. This estimate, called the linear no-threshold hypothesis, remains controversial.
George Monbiot's, How the Greens Were Misled is entertaining (centred on a traditional snake oil salesman), and related to assessing threats properly:
Those who oppose nuclear power often maintain that they have a moral duty to do so. But it seems to me that moral duties cut both ways.
We have a moral duty not to spread unnecessary and unfounded fears. If we persuade people that they or their children are likely to suffer from horrible and dangerous health problems, and if these fears are baseless, we cause great distress and anxiety, needlessly damaging the quality of people’s lives.
...We have a moral duty not to divert good, determined campaigners away from fighting real threats, and into campaigns against imaginary threats.

...We have a moral duty to assess threats as clearly and rationally as we can, so that we do not lobby to replace a lesser threat with a greater one....
The Canadaian Nuclear Safety Commission has not, to my knowledge, taken a position on ALARA/AHARS, but those interested in this topic can find correctives to many negative claims about nuclear on the their Mythbusters page, and elsewhere on the CNSC site.

For those who prefer video, Dr. Allison delivers a short overview of this position in an interview on Vimeo, and I end this post with a clip where Ron Mitchell speaks to the assumptions behind the LNT (linear no threshold) hypothesis, and observed health impacts (Mitchell's presentation starts at 11:40)

since posting this entry, I've seen an appeal for members of the American Nuclear Society (ANS) to read, and consider signing, a letter in favour of a resolution to:
1) Discuss with the US National Academy of Science the very serious consequences caused by the NAS adoption in 1956 of the LNT hypothesis for assessing the risk of excess cancer incidence following an exposure to nuclear radiation...
2) Collect adequate data that appear to contradict the LNT hypothesis and deliver them to the NAS...
3) Encourage scientists to continue experiments that determine the threshold dose level ...
4) Create simplified explanations of the health effects of radiation ...
5) Assist in organizing public meetings to present and discuss relevant data.
The results of the above approach are needed by the nation, the medical profession, the nuclear industry, and the public as a whole, to set accurate health standards and scientific criteria for avoiding harmful exposures, while enabling nuclear energy to provide electricity and other social benefits, and while also accepting the many medical benefits of radiation to diagnose and cure illnesses.
...The proposed actions will spark controversy because it could very well dislodge long-held beliefs. But as a community of science-minded professionals, it is our responsibility to provide leadership. We ask that our Society serve in this capacity.

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