Is your fear of radiation irrational?

July 14, 2015 by Geoff Watts, Wellcome Trust

Bad Gastein in the Austrian Alps. It's 10am on a Wednesday in early March, cold and snowy – but not in the entrance to the main gallery of what was once a gold mine. Togged out in swimming trunks, flip-flops and a bath robe, I have just squeezed into one of the carriages of a narrow-gauge railway that's about to carry me 2 km into the heart of the Radhausberg mountain.

Fifteen minutes later we're there and I'm ready to enjoy what the brochures insist will be a health-enhancing environment. Enjoyment, of course, is a subjective term. The temperature inside the mountain's dimly lit tunnels is around 40°C, and the humidity is 100 per cent. The sweat's already begun to flow. More important, I'm breathing an atmosphere rich in radon.

Hang on… radon? That's a radioactive gas. Yet here I am, without so much as a film badge dosimeter, never mind the protection of a lead apron, among a group of people who have paid to come to the Gasteiner Heilstollen ("healing galleries") and willingly, even eagerly, undergo gruelling sessions in physical discomfort because of a much-contested theory that small doses of are not just harmless, but act as a stimulant to good health.

Our view of radiation and its risks and benefits is complicated and mostly – the delights of the Heilstollen notwithstanding – negative. We are all aware of the effects of a nuclear weapon, the Armageddon scenario of a nuclear winter, cancers and birth defects caused by high doses of radiation and the like. Images of mushroom clouds have struck fear into our hearts since the 1940s, but it is what we can't see in those pictures that scares us the most.

Invisible threats are always the most unnerving, and radiation is not something you can see. Nor can you control it. Many years ago, a veteran researcher told me how much he wished he could paint radiation blue. If we could see it, he said, we'd be better placed to deal with it and less nervous about it. The traditional secrecy of the biggest commercial user of radiation, the industry, hasn't helped. Only belatedly did it realise that doing things out of sight, behind closed doors, is the best way to fuel public suspicion. So it is perhaps understandable why many people say that (medical X-rays and CT scans aside) the only safe radiation is no radiation.

Nevertheless, I disagree. I believe that a justified fear of high and uncontrolled levels of radiation has undermined our willingness to see that the risks it poses at low levels are either acceptable or manageable. Imagine if we treated fire in the same way as all things nuclear: we would have responded to house fires by banning matches.

And I am worried that, as a result of these exaggerated fears, we are failing to make the most of radiation for our greater good.

To appreciate the measure of our hot-button fixation with radioactivity, recall the events of 2011 in Japan. The magnitude 9 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit the country on 11 March was by any measure a disaster. 20,000 people died and more than 500 square kilometres of land were flooded. Families lost their homes, their businesses and their livelihoods.

It didn't take long for the media to discover that one of the casualties, in pole position when the tsunami struck, was the Fukushima nuclear power station. From that moment the story ceased to be about a natural event and became, in effect, about a man-made one. It became that chilling scenario: a nuclear disaster.

Of the 20,000 deaths, some were directly due to the earthquake itself, while others were caused by drowning. How many deaths were the result of radiation from the damaged plant? None. In its section on the health consequences of the Fukushima tragedy, the report by the UN's Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation says: "No radiation-related deaths or acute diseases have been observed among the workers and general public exposed to radiation from the accident."

The dose to the public, the report goes on to say, was generally low or very low. "No discernible increased incidence of radiation-related health effects are expected among exposed members of the public or their descendants."

This is not to play down the impact of the event. Three of the nuclear plant's reactors suffered damage to their cores, and a large amount of radioactive material was released into the environment. Twelve workers are thought to have received doses of iodine-131 that will increase their risk of developing cancer of the thyroid gland. A further 160 workers experienced doses sufficient to increase their risk of other cancers. "However," says the report, "any increased incidence of cancer in this group is expected to be indiscernible because of the difficulty of confirming such a small incidence against the normal statistical fluctuations in cancer incidence."

In short, while a terrifying natural event had killed many thousands of people, the focus of attention in Japan and round the world was on one component of the tragedy that killed no one at the time. Radiation exposure may have shortened the lives of some of those directly involved, but its effects are likely to be so small that we may never know for sure whether they are related to the accident or not.

When it comes to disaster, nuclear trumps natural. Our sense of the relative importance of things is absurdly skewed.

Chernobyl, of course, was much worse. A poorly designed reactor operating under weak safety arrangements in a bureaucratic and secretive society was a recipe for disaster. On 26 April 1986 all the ingredients came together – ironically during an experimental and bungled safety check. One of the reactors overheated, caught fire, exploded and released a large quantity of radioactive material into the atmosphere. 116,000 people were evacuated; another 270,000 found themselves living in a zone described as "highly contaminated".

It sounds bad. For 134 of the workers involved in the initial cleanup, it was very bad. The dose they received was enough to cause acute radiation sickness, and 28 of them soon died. Then, distrust of official information together with rumours of the dire consequences to be expected created a disproportionate fear. One rumour circulating during the period immediately following the accident claimed that 15,000 nuclear victims had been buried in a mass grave. Nor did such rumours die away; another in 2000 held that 300,000 people had by that time died of radiation.

The reality, though hardly inconsequential, was less catastrophic. A World Health Organization expert group was set up to examine the aftermath of the disaster and to calculate its future health consequences. On the basis of average for the evacuees, the people who weren't evacuated and the many more thousands of workers later involved in the cleanup, the report concluded that cancer deaths in these three groups will increase by no more than 4 per cent. The report's conclusions have been, and still are, contested – but the weight of orthodox opinion continues to line up behind the expert group's calculations.

"There was certainly a rise in thyroid cancer," says James Smith, Professor of Environmental Science at Portsmouth University and a coordinator of three multinational European Community projects on the environmental consequences of the accident. But he goes on to add a qualification: "The Soviets didn't put in enough measures to stop people eating contaminated food and drinking contaminated milk, and this particularly affected children." The deaths, in other words, were not all inevitable.

Any death from any cause in any industry is regrettable and, ideally, to be prevented. But is nuclear power inherently more dangerous than other forms of energy? A 2002 review issued by the International Energy Agency compared fatalities per unit of power produced from several energy sources, including coal, biomass, wind and nuclear. The figures included each stage of energy generation from the extraction of any raw materials required to the health consequences of generating and using it.

Coal came out on top while nuclear emerged as the least damaging to health. When you think of coal-fired energy generation, from the hazards of mining to atmospheric pollution, this rank order is hardly surprising. But while the choking murk over many big Asian cities on a still day is clear to see, deaths related to the coal industry don't mobilise either fear or indignation on the same scale as a nuclear incident does. Perhaps it is radiation's invisibility that fuels overheated reporting of relatively minor events – and then the reporting, by its extent as much as by sensationalism, confirms and heightens our fear.

A number of governments responded to the events in Japan in 2011. Most notable was Germany. Although unenthusiastic about nuclear power, it had recently accepted a need to prolong the period for which its existing nuclear plants would operate. Following the events at Fukushima, it changed its mind. Critics of the policy change were left trying to recall the last time Germany had experienced a really severe earthquake, never mind a tsunami.

Ironically, despite being a nation encompassing some of Europe's most strident opponents of nuclear power, Germans make up a significant proportion of visitors to the radon-rich clinic at Bad Gastein.

The particular Gasteiner Heilstollen tunnel in which I spent my 30 radon-breathing minutes had room for 20 or so people who had signed on for its protective value or its alleged benefit in alleviating conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and sinusitis or skin conditions like psoriasis.

The doctor in charge on the day of my visit was Simon Gütl. He told me of clinical trials, of surveys testifying to the popularity of the treatment, and of patients who are able to cut down on or even abandon the drug therapies they would otherwise have been using. How much of this evidence would rate as gold standard in quality, I have no idea – but I was struck by the enthusiasm with which some people seek out the same force of nature that most others think we have to avoid at any cost. One of my fellow transient troglodytes was on her 70th visit.

The managing director of the Gasteiner Heilstollen is Christoph Köstinger, a physicist by education. Some 9,000 patients, he told me, do a full spa therapy of one session per day for 2–4 weeks, and several thousand more have shorter courses. He is well aware of people's conflicting feelings about radiation: "I divide people into three groups," he says. "Those who are really frightened of radiation don't come to us. Then there are people who are not frightened of radiation and say it's all OK. And a lot of people are a little bit frightened, but you can usually explain the balance of risk."

He's also aware of the widespread aversion to nuclear power throughout Germany. "Some patients explain it to themselves by saying that this [radon] is ," he explains, hastening to add that as a physicist he's aware of the meaninglessness of any distinction between 'natural' and 'unnatural' radiation.

Lying on my bed of discomfort in the Gastein galleries, breathing in the radon, just how much radioactivity was I taking on board? Very little. I was inside the mine for slightly over an hour. Köstinger reckons that during a three-week treatment programme, patients receive a dose of around 1.8 mSv (millisieverts), or roughly three-quarters of a full year's background radiation – because, of course, we are all exposed to low-level radiation all the time.

First, there is cosmic radiation from the Sun and the rest of the stars in our galaxy and beyond. How much we get depends on the altitude at which we live and on fluctuations in the Earth's magnetic field. And then there's radiation from the Earth itself, including radon. Here, too, geography is a factor: in some places radon can be found leaking into the atmosphere in significantly larger amounts. Naturally radioactive solids such as uranium and thorium in rock and soil also make their contribution. The global average annual radiation dose is 2.4 mSv. To put this in perspective, that's about the same as 120 chest X-rays.

Much of what we know about radiation's effects on human beings comes from far higher doses following nuclear explosions – the bombs dropped in 1945 on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Radiation Effects Research Foundation has studied the health of some 100,000 survivors of the two bombings, and the health of their children.

The findings from the survivors themselves came as no great surprise. For cancers other than leukaemia, an excess risk started to appear about ten years after the event. The extent of the risk depended on each individual's distance from the site of the explosion, as well as on age and gender. As an example, anyone about 2.5 km away had a 10 per cent greater risk of developing a tumour. In the case of leukaemia, the excess number of deaths began to appear just two years after exposure and peaked four to six years later.

What hadn't been expected were the findings from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors' children. The assumption had been that they too would be more likely to develop malignancies of some kind – but so far this has not been the case.

"At this point we have not seen any excess of cancer or non-cancer mortality," says Roy Shore, chief of research at the Radiation Effects Research Foundation. He goes on to point out that a large part of their disease experience will occur over the next 30 years, so he can't entirely rule out a late effect. Nonetheless, the findings so far are a bit of a surprise. "Based on experimental data ranging from fruit flies to mice we would have expected to see some," he adds.

Of the unresolved debates about radiation, the most contentious is the true extent of the harm (or even the benefit, if the Gasteiner Heilstollen evidence persuades you) that it causes at low levels.

There are two schools of thought. The generally accepted view derives from the known relationship between higher levels of radiation exposure and the subsequent likelihood of developing cancer. Plot one against the other, and what emerges is a more-or-less straight line. The uncertainty is over this being extrapolated to very low doses, and whether there is a threshold below which the risk vanishes.

"At really low doses – down in the range of, say, a CT examination – we don't have strong evidence one way or another," says Shore. "It's a matter of interpretation." He himself sees it as prudent to assume there isn't a threshold: the so-called 'linear no-threshold' (LNT) hypothesis.

Professor Gerry Thomas has a chair in molecular pathology at Imperial College London and takes a close interest in the effects of radiation. As she points out, illnesses caused by radiation are also caused by other things, so at the lower end of the dose range you need a very large group of people to prove it either way. "Most scientific opinion is that there's no data to say it's dangerous until you reach about 100 mSv."

Even so, most radiation regulatory authorities and their advisers back the LNT view. Safety limits are set accordingly low. The upper limit for exposure for a member of the UK public, for example, is 1 mSv per year – less than half the annual average background dose.

Speaking for the Bad Gastein clinic, Köstinger takes a pragmatic view. He balances the risk of low-dose radiation against what he describes as the "scientifically proven effect" of the treatment. "We have a hypothetical risk [from radiation]," he says, "but even in the worst case it is minimal compared to the risks of the drugs our patients are usually able to stop using. If there's a risk, we can live with it. If scientific knowledge suggests there's a threshold, that's also OK."

The overall conclusion of all this is that radiation is nothing like as damaging as is commonly assumed. Moreover, what often gets lost in the argument is that the difference between a very small risk and a slightly greater very small risk may be of no practical consequence. In fact, policies and decisions that become obsessed with radiation risk minimisation may, in the wider scheme of things, turn out to be counterproductive.

Does it matter if large numbers of people have an unwarranted dread of radiation? After all, millions of us have irrational fears about all sorts of things from spiders to flying. We cope. The world still turns.

Two instances serve to illustrate why being unduly fearful of radiation does matter. Both, in their way, are troublesome for individuals and for the community.

The first is our reluctance to exploit nuclear power. From 1970 onward, global electricity production from experienced a steady rise. In the 1990s, this rise continued, but at a slower pace. From 2000, it flattened out, and then began to slip. Even as enthusiasm for carbon-free energy generation began to increase, the use of carbon-free nuclear power first faltered, then began to decline.

There are many reasons for this, not least the arguments about the cost of building nuclear power stations and of decommissioning them. But public suspicion has possibly – probably – had the key role in policy decisions. We've watched as nuclear power stations have begun to reach the end of their working lives. In panic at the prospect of the lights going off, we've extended those lives. But some countries have shied away from replacing them, judging that the perceived risk is greater than the potential role of nuclear power to significantly limit man-made climate change. From the evidence, it seems clear to me that the balance lies overwhelmingly in the other direction.

The personal consequences of an excessive fear of radiation are, in their way, even more damaging. Evidence for this can be found in the aftermath of the events at Chernobyl and Fukushima. The WHO Expert Group set up to examine the Chernobyl disaster reported that it had a serious impact on the mental health and wellbeing of the local population who were evacuated.

"There are sad stories from Chernobyl and more recently at Fukushima of people being shunned by the communities they went to because they were thought to be radioactive or in some way contaminated," says Smith. "One conclusion of the WHO report was that the social and psychological impacts of Chernobyl had been worse than the direct radiation impacts."

He recalls meeting a man fishing in a contaminated lake within the Chernobyl exclusion zone. "This guy said he wasn't moving: 'The Second World War didn't move me out of my home, so I'm not going to go on account of a bit of radiation.'

"You can't say for sure, because it's all about statistics, but he probably made the right decision. He certainly faced an additional risk because he was eating local food, which was contaminated, but the risk he would have taken on if he'd been forced to move to somewhere else and live a different lifestyle would probably have meant he lived less long anyway."

Although the Fukushima evacuees were less plagued by outlandish rumours than their counterparts at Chernobyl, they too suffered the nagging consequences of an undue fear of radiation and its unpredictable effects on health. A 2012 survey of the evacuees revealed that one in five of them showed signs of mental trauma.

Stress and consequent mental health problems are unavoidable when evacuation and relocation is indisputably necessary. But a zealous application of the precautionary principle, worst-case assumptions about the effects of radiation and wide safety margins have fostered counterproductive risk assessments. Together with unfounded rumour, sometimes boosted by secrecy on the part of officialdom and a reluctance to confront irrational suspicions, radiation has become everyone's worst nightmare.

Rumbling through the train tunnel on the way out of the Gasteiner Heilstollen, I remembered the idea about painting radiation blue. Whimsically, seeking distraction from the humid heat, I wondered what it would be like if we were consciously aware of radiation. Not by painting it, but by some other means.

Imagine if our eyes could see far beyond the visible region of the spectrum and act as a radiation detector, able to signal everything to the brain as a visual sensation – or even as an auditory one. Or if our skin evolved to tingle in the presence of radiation. But radiation is everywhere, and ever-present. If we could sense it, it would be too distracting, all the time.

One man-made alternative is obvious: imagine cheap and universally available wristwatch-sized Geiger counters set to stay silent – crucial, this – below radiation levels with epidemiologically discernible consequences. Wearers predisposed to being nervous about radiation might be surprised never to hear their detector going off. Certainly not during my trip under the mountain. Not during a whole-body CT scan. Not even during a week's camping holiday beside the cemetery at Chernobyl.

But would that be enough to reassure you?

Explore further: Does radiation from X-rays and CT scans really cause cancer?

Related Stories

No health risk from Fukushima radiation, UN says

May 31, 2013

Radiation leaked after Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 is unlikely to cause any ill health effects in the future, a UN scientific committee drawing up a major new report said Friday.

Radiation exposure linked to aggressive thyroid cancers

October 28, 2014

For the first time, researchers have found that exposure to radioactive iodine is associated with more aggressive forms of thyroid cancer, according to a careful study of nearly 12,000 people in Belarus who were exposed when ...

Fukushima radiation mostly within accepted levels: WHO

May 23, 2012

Radiation affecting residents in Japan's Fukushima prefecture since the nuclear plant disaster is below the reference level for public exposure in all but two areas, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.

Recommended for you

Coffee-based colloids for direct solar absorption

March 22, 2019

Solar energy is one of the most promising resources to help reduce fossil fuel consumption and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions to power a sustainable future. Devices presently in use to convert solar energy into thermal ...

NASA instruments image fireball over Bering Sea

March 22, 2019

On Dec. 18, 2018, a large "fireball—the term used for exceptionally bright meteors that are visible over a wide area—exploded about 16 miles (26 kilometers) above the Bering Sea. The explosion unleashed an estimated 173 ...

42 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (6) Jul 14, 2015
Imagine if we treated fire in the same way as all things nuclear: we would have responded to house fires by banning matches.

That's a bad analogy. If the medical dangers and the environmental fallout were over the instant (or a short time after) such a bomb had gone off we wouldn't treat it that way. With fire the damage is immediate and you can clean up after it. nuclear? Not so much.

When it comes to disaster, nuclear trumps natural.

For that very reason. Nuclear disasters accumulate. Natural ones don't. Anyone who has done elementary school maths knows that the accumulating effects WILL overtake temporary ones. Always.

People are still going into caves for radiation? I thought that scam died decades ago.

People are still going to Lourdes. People are still going on pilgrimages to Mecca. people are still touching relics....people do still do all kinds of stupid things.
GRLCowan
5 / 5 (1) Jul 14, 2015
The radiophobia that governments pay undue respect to is -- as the Bad Gastein thing shows -- suspiciously absent in any case where those same governments' fossil fuel income is not threatened.
gkam
1 / 5 (5) Jul 14, 2015
I see a great opportunity for these goobers to be sold "healing" trips to Fukushima!
gkam
1.7 / 5 (6) Jul 14, 2015
"Chernobyl, of course, was much worse."
------------------------------

Nope. Fukushima released much more contamination than Chernobyl. And it is still going on. We have no way whatever to deal with the Fukushima Disasters so far, and have to invent ways to save us from it.
gkam
1 / 5 (5) Jul 14, 2015
Has Mister Geoff Watts considered moving to Fukushima, where he can get "healthy"?
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.7 / 5 (6) Jul 14, 2015
I see a great opportunity for these goobers to be sold "healing" trips to Fukushima!
-And they could buy some anti-radiation pills from the 'physicist'
https://en.wikipe...er_Busby

-who convinced you that H2 explosions could cause dirty molten Pu puddles to fission and throw imaginary macroscopic fukushima reactor parts 130 km, without leaving a crater, even though conventional nuclear explosives cant throw macroscopic material more than a couple of km while leaving enormous craters.

-even though you both misread a column by a hypochondriac jap expat who wrongly described 5 micrometer dust, which can be carried 130km by wind, as 'parts'.

I guess crackpot physicists and fake engineers sometimes think alike yes?

Hey did you know that H2 can detonate even under unconfined conditions? No you didnt because you said so.

More info care of your sick imagination.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (6) Jul 14, 2015
Nuclear disasters accumulate
-What - all 3 of them?
Natural ones don't. Anyone who has done elementary school maths knows that the accumulating effects WILL overtake temporary ones. Always
Now, this might make some sense to someone with little time to actually think about it. But 'accumulation' is an undefinable term in this context which assumes that very complex events will have very simplistic and reoccurring results.

This in no way lends iteslf to analysis by elementary school maths.

aa's accumulating nuclear disaster implies that they occur in a world devoid of natural backround radiation, that any present or future cleanup technologies will fail to mitigate, and that dissipation after mitigation will fail to reach the equivalent of natural backround levels.

It also implies that other forms of contamination are not just as cumulative or potentially destructive. Consider biological contagion or species invasion zB.
gkam
1 / 5 (5) Jul 14, 2015
"-who convinced you that H2 explosions could cause dirty molten Pu puddles to fission and throw imaginary macroscopic fukushima reactor parts 130 km, without leaving a crater, even though conventional nuclear explosives cant throw macroscopic material more than a couple of km while leaving enormous craters."
---------------------------------

Hey, Goober, . . show me the crater at Hiroshima. Show me the crater at Alamagordo. Show me the crater at Nagasaki.

As for the other claim, go find it yourself. I already sent you once,and you couldn't find it.

Here:
"NHK admitted pieces of fuel rods and reactor vessels blasted to at least Ibaraki to contain Uranium & Zirconium
August 9, 2014"

http://fukushima-diary.com/

It is from NHK News.
gkam
1.7 / 5 (6) Jul 14, 2015
"aa's accumulating nuclear disaster implies that they occur in a world devoid of natural backround radiation, that any present or future cleanup technologies will fail to mitigate, and that dissipation after mitigation will fail to reach the equivalent of natural backround levels."
------------------------------

No,Silly, it means that deadly radiation is ADDED to what we already get. Oh, "future cleanup technologies"? Really? Which ones, Mister Smart?

And normal background levels can be reached in only 240,000 years for Plutonium.
gkam
1 / 5 (5) Jul 14, 2015
"It also implies that other forms of contamination are not just as cumulative or potentially destructive."
-----------------------------

Oh, it does not.

If you have to stoop to that, (or reach up for it from your level), you have already lost the discussion - again.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (4) Jul 14, 2015
Hey, Goober, show me the crater at Hiroshima. Show me the crater at Alamagordo. Show me the crater at Nagasaki
Hey lying dimwit show me the crater at fukushima. Those examples of yours were air bursts which do not make craters. Are you saying that there was an airburst at fukushima from underground molten Pu?

Ahaahaaaaaa.
As for the other claim, go find it yourself
I did. I posted your crackpot pill salesman source above.

Heres an excerpt from your source;

" NHK announced that pieces of nuclear fuel, fuel rods, reactor pressure vessels and the internal structure were blasted to at least 130km away from Fukushima nuclear plant.

"It was 2μm diameter particle. The ball-looking shape proves it was molten in high temperature..."

-You fucking imbecile. 2μm is DUST. It was blown there by wind. Your expat jap hypochondriac MISTRANSLATED it.

DUST does not require a nuclear explosion to throw it anywhere. You MISUNDERSTOOD this.

DO YOU UNDERSTAND??
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (4) Jul 14, 2015
"It also implies that other forms of contamination are not just as cumulative or potentially destructive."
-----------------------------

Oh, it does not.

If you have to stoop to that, (or reach up for it from your level), you have already lost the discussion - again.
Gkam assumes that backround levels are the same everywhere. Odd that someone with an MS in Environmental Proclivities would make that mistake.

The assumption that residual radiation from a nuclear accident, after remediation, would necessarily exceed normal backround levels is of course false.

Your ass-umption that anyone who disagrees with you is stupid, only ends up making you look that much stupider in the end. You realize this dont you?

Almost as stupid as not knowing that nuclear airbursts do not make craters. Thats pretty fucking STUPID for a supposed nuclear expert (because he once stood in a control room), dont you think?

Ahaahaaaaaa
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.3 / 5 (3) Jul 14, 2015
Sorry george - 'nuclear airburst at fukushima' and 'Hiroshima, Alamagordo, and Nagasaki werent airbursts but didnt make craters' will have to be added to your list of shame.

Ahaaahahaaaaaaaaaaa
gkam
1 / 5 (4) Jul 14, 2015
You're the one who needs craters for a meltdown and detonation.

Give it up, Toots, your entire raison d'etre is to get even with me for showing you up. You continually attacked me, alleging I was not in the service until I produced proof of being Airman of the Month for the entire Air Force Flight Test Center. My engineering positions were "note-taking" to you, because that is the extent of your knowledge of it. You thought I was as phony as you.

Sorry Toots, you got taken playing your own little "game" and now are angry.
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 15, 2015
any present or future cleanup technologies will fail to mitigate

What 'present technologies'? We have none other than "cordon it off or dump it into a hole and hope to hell nothing ever - in a million years happens - to resurface this stuff or put it into the ground water". That strike you as a sensible, long-term viable strategy?

What 'future technologies'? Basing an action that requires cleanup on ignorance of whether the cleanup technologies will be available in time is foolish. It's the same as starting off a swarm of self replicating nanobots and then saying: "Oh, we'll figure out something in the future on how to stoop them. Let's just let 'em run" (and for *precisely* the same mathematical reason)
https://xkcd.com/865/

Banking on 'future technologies' is the same as banking on luck. There's a reason why casinos make money and players don't. That reason is: players are stupid and can't do the math.

gkam
1 / 5 (4) Jul 15, 2015
What can we say about folk who would dump this nasty stuff we cannot control onto their children and grandchildren, essentially forever in Human terms? What kind of people are you?
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) Jul 15, 2015
George reveals that he doesn't know the difference between parts and dust, and refuses to learn, and then implies that there was a Pu airburst at fukushima because this is the only way to explain why there is no crater.

And then in defence of this incredible ignorance he offers
Give it up, Toots... you continually attacked me, alleging I was not in the service until I produced proof of being Airman of the Month for the entire Air Force Flight Test Center. My engineering positions were "note-taking" to you, because that is the extent of your knowledge of it. You thought I was as phony as you
-that his alleged pedigree means that these claims must be RIGHT.

Airbursts do not usually make craters. An underground fission explosion sufficient to throw PARTS even a few km would have left an enormous crater.

Explain please how your airman of the month medal makes this bullshit RIGHT? Explain why an airman of the month shouldn't be attacked for posting such bullshit.
Eikka
5 / 5 (4) Jul 18, 2015
With fire the damage is immediate and you can clean up after it. nuclear? Not so much.


You're making two patently false assumptions: that nuclear accidents accumulate, and that it's impossible to clean afterwards.

1) Nuclear accidents clean up after themselves over time. The most dangerous radionuclides have half-lives in seconds to decades. They don't hang around forever, and the remaining radionuclides aren't soluble or active enough to pose a significant hazard to populations.

2) It's perfectly possible to clean up by carrying the affected materials away, until what's left over doesn't pose a significant radiation hazard. Load the topsoil on a barge and sink it in the sea, and it's good as gone. Point 1. applies here.

Half of the radioactive cesium from Chernobyl has already broken up and vanished, and caesium-137 is the principal source of radiation in the Chernobyl exclusion zone. In another 30 years, 75% of the most dangerous fallout is simply gone.
Eikka
5 / 5 (3) Jul 18, 2015
One could probably shrink the Chernobyl exclusion zone by about 95% today and return vast areas of land back to use, but it would be hard to convince people to return living there precisely because of the irrational fear.

As for radon: the biggest problem isn't the radiation itself, but the fact that the decay chain products contain polonium and lead, which get deposited in your lungs and on your stuff, so high exposure to radon also means exposure to toxic heavy metals.

But the poison is in the dose. It's not surprising that exposure to such things improve things especially when it comes to autoimmune diseases such as asthma or psoriasis. They're caused by an over-active immune system, and the symptoms reduce when the immune system is put to use on an actual threat. The same effect is observed e.g. in people who have deliberately ingested a flatworm.

gkam
1 / 5 (4) Jul 18, 2015
You forgot to tell us how radiation is good for us.

What is the half-life of the Plutonium isotopes? Care to inhale any?

Your casual treatment of radiation hazards shows us the need for more education, I think.

Eikka
5 / 5 (3) Jul 18, 2015
What 'present technologies'? We have none other than "cordon it off or dump it into a hole and hope to hell nothing ever - in a million years happens - to resurface this stuff or put it into the ground water". That strike you as a sensible, long-term viable strategy?


Yes.

You are mispresenting the issue as requiring more effective means than "dumping it in a hole", because it is an entirely sufficient means to deal with nuclear waste. You're making the same old nirvana fallacy that "nothing ever" must happen with the stuff, which stems from the same irrational fear and false information that the article is talking of.

Please apply equally strict health and safety standards on every other technology, and you will find we become completely paralyzed to do anything. I know you won't, because you are a hypocrit.

gkam
1 / 5 (4) Jul 18, 2015
Before it turns into toxic heavy metals, it goes through a decay chain, emitting radiation which can damage tissues, especially those in the lung or other internal organs.

From your wiki:

222Rn belongs to the radium and uranium-238 decay chain, and has a half-life of 3.8235 days. Its four first products (excluding marginal decay schemes) are very short-lived, meaning that the corresponding disintegrations are indicative of the initial radon distribution. Its decay goes through the following sequence:[25]

222Rn, 3.8 days, alpha decaying to...
218Po, 3.10 minutes, alpha decaying to...
214Pb, 26.8 minutes, beta decaying to...
214Bi, 19.9 minutes, beta decaying to...
214Po, 0.1643 ms, alpha decaying to...
210Pb, which has a much longer half-life of 22.3 years, beta decaying to...
210Bi, 5.013 days, beta decaying to...
210Po, 138.376 days, alpha decaying to...
206Pb, stable.
Eikka
5 / 5 (4) Jul 18, 2015
You forgot to tell us how radiation is good for us.


You apparently forgot to read the article you are commenting on.

What is the half-life of the Plutonium isotopes? Care to inhale any?


Everything from 14 years to 8 billion years.
I wouldn't inhale significant amounts of plutonium for the same reason I wouldn't inhale arsenic: it's poisonous.

Your casual treatment of radiation hazards shows us the need for more education, I think.

Your hysterical treatment of radiation hazards show us that you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about, yet insist on repeating old debunked fallacies, myths and political slogans in a bid to incite more fear and panic in your fellow people.

As such, you are in part responsible for the deaths and miseries of thousands and thousands of people.
gkam
1 / 5 (4) Jul 18, 2015
"As such, you are in part responsible for the deaths and miseries of thousands and thousands of people."
-----------------------------------

Oh, yes, those of us who warn of radiation hazards are just killing folk.

Those who are responsible for Fukushima are the heroes.
Eikka
5 / 5 (3) Jul 18, 2015

Oh, yes, those of us who warn of radiation hazards are just killing folk.


Spreading false information about radiation safety leads to policies that deprive people of their property and sanity, their livelihoods, and in many cases their lives.

By your actions, you ARE killing folk, in exactly the same manner as the person who falsely yells "Fire!" in a crowded theather and causes a panicked stampede to the exits.

Those who are responsible for Fukushima are the heroes.


You don't get to excuse your sins by pointing out faults in others.
gkam
1 / 5 (4) Jul 18, 2015
My "sins"? I got my opinions of radiation from working on the Industrial Hardening Manual, which was never finally printed up, because Nuclear Winter calculations showed us any even small exchange of weapons would result in the death of us.

Where did you get yours, . . the World Nuclear Society?
Eikka
5 / 5 (3) Jul 18, 2015
Over-reacting to a hazard and exaggerating danger can be just as bad as under-reacting.

If you go to a doctor with a mole on your skin and the doctor tells you that you're going to die of cancer in six years, you are more likely to die as a result of the false news even if it turns out there was no cancer. Such an over-cautious doctor will directly cause death.

It's called the nocebo effect - opposite of placebo - where the person suffers actual harm because they believe in it. Their health deteriorates simply because they believe they are ill, or they act in self-damaging ways because they believe the harm is unavoidable.

gkam
1 / 5 (4) Jul 18, 2015
You are REALLY reaching, Eikka. No saving yourself now.

Radiation is harmful. You can take all the chances with it you want, but I will not.
Eikka
5 / 5 (3) Jul 18, 2015
My "sins"?


Your sin is narcissism. You are unable to recognize your own lack of knowledge or expertise. You are more interested in yourself and your public image. You have no rational self-doubt, and you have no regard of what your actions do to other people.

I got my opinions of radiation from working on the Industrial Hardening Manual, which was never finally printed up, because Nuclear Winter calculations showed us any even small exchange of weapons would result in the death of us.


Which rather means your opinions are outdated and obsolete by approximately half a century.

You also forgot to mention all the crank tinfoil articles about nuclear power you like to read. One can find your comments online on google, in conjunction and in agreement with.

Where did you get yours, . . the World Nuclear Society?


From new studies that contradict old "wisdom" on radiation safety.
gkam
1 / 5 (4) Jul 18, 2015
Eikka, I have personal experience with your so-called nocebo effect. It exists mainly in stories.

You will not get mine here, because you folk look for any way to demean and discredit things you find inconvenient.
gkam
1 / 5 (4) Jul 18, 2015
"From new studies that contradict old "wisdom" on radiation safety. "
-------------------------------

Okay, produce them from non-affiliated organizations.
Eikka
3 / 5 (4) Jul 18, 2015
Okay, produce them from non-affiliated organizations.


Ad-hominems don't work here. The science is peer-reviewed.

Besides, as the article points out: even if the LNT model were correct, the application to radiation safety has been grossly overdone. The remedy is worse than the disease, thanks to people like you who incite panic and fear and generally overblow the whole situation.

Eikka, I have personal experience with your so-called nocebo effect. It exists mainly in stories.

The nocebo effect is real. Real policies are made based on the false information about radiation safety, and people are really hurt as a consequence. Your continued rejection of the fact testifies that you don't actually care - you just want to save yourself the minor inconvenience of admitting that you're wrong.

That's what makes you an evil person.
gkam
1 / 5 (3) Jul 18, 2015
"That's what makes you an evil person. "
--------------------------------------

That's why you lost any credibility. Your little ego got in the way.

Where are the studies proving radiation is not harmful?
Eikka
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 18, 2015
That's why you lost any credibility. Your little ego got in the way.


Time and time again: I have no need for any credibility. What I say is verifiable, and if it later turns out false then I will happily stop repeating it.

Your obsession on credibility and reputation just points to your own egomania.

Where are the studies proving radiation is not harmful?

That's a mispresentation of the argument. You are shifting goalposts.

There is no evidence that low levels of radiation are particularily harmful to people, and there exists evidence that the body is capable of repairing radiation damage below a treshold, which goes contrary to the LNT model of radiation safety:

https://www.ncbi....3258602/

The whole point is that the dangers of radiation and nuclear accidents are entirely overblow - not that there exists no harm from it. You are being incredibly dishonest here.

Eikka
4 / 5 (4) Jul 18, 2015
George Kamburoff; would you in turn justify the kind of propaganda you spread publicly?

https://disqus.co...a795b5c/

Another fire in our perfect and safe WIPP. Plutonium in the air. It only takes a millionth of a gram in your lungs to give you lung cancer, and a thousandth of a gram to kill you with its toxicity.


This is what I'm talking about. You know very well that cancer does not work that way. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the lifetime cancer risk from inhaling 5,000 plutonium particles, each about 3 µm wide, to be 1% over the background U.S. average.

And it takes way more than a milligram of plutonium to kill you, more so because it isn't even readily absorbed by the body. In reality, only 0.04% of ingested plutonium oxide is absorbed and the rest is simply passed through, and no human is known to have died of either inhalation or ingestion.

So the question is: why do you lie?
Eikka
5 / 5 (4) Jul 18, 2015
https://en.wikipe...Toxicity

Several populations of people who have been exposed to plutonium dust (e.g. people living down-wind of Nevada test sites, Nagasaki survivors, nuclear facility workers, and "terminally ill" patients injected with Pu in 1945–46 to study Pu metabolism) have been carefully followed and analyzed. These studies generally do not show especially high plutonium toxicity or plutonium-induced cancer results, such as Albert Stevens who survived into old age after being injected with plutonium.[116]

"There were about 25 workers from Los Alamos National Laboratory who inhaled a considerable amount of plutonium dust during 1940s; according to the hot-particle theory, each of them has a 99.5% chance of being dead from lung cancer by now, but there has not been a single lung cancer among them."[122][124]


Are you going to reject this information because it's coming from "wiki goobers", gkam?
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.3 / 5 (3) Jul 18, 2015
What is the half-life of the Plutonium isotopes? Care to inhale any?
"The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the lifetime cancer risk from inhaling 5,000 plutonium particles, each about 3 µm wide, to be 1% over the background U.S. average. Ingestion or inhalation of large amounts may cause acute radiation poisoning and death; however no human is known to have died because of inhaling or ingesting plutonium, and many people have measurable amounts of plutonium in their bodies."

-Only little kiddies and the mentally infirm are a-scared of the bogie man
https://www.youtu...pBVmrC2g

You will not get mine here
Because we know youre a congenital liar and a coward.

Post your entire CV with dates on your little website. Youve posted some here and additional positions seem to appear weekly.

Put them all in one spot.

TheGhostofOtto1923
2.3 / 5 (3) Jul 18, 2015
You are REALLY reaching, Eikka. No saving yourself now.

Radiation is harmful. You can take all the chances with it you want, but I will not.
Then you may want to consider moving. Your black helicopter friends seem to be very concerned about background radiation in contra costa county.
http://patch.com/...c438316d

"I learned that the Aug surveys were done as part of a research and development project to obtain baseline aerial measurement data over topograhpically diverse terrains (e.g., hilly, urban, water), which the Bay Area is rich in," Shingleton said, adding that a Berkeley-based scientist is involved in the work."

-Sure. Thats what they WANT you to believe. But you know better, dont you george?
Eikka
5 / 5 (3) Jul 18, 2015
A recent review of studies on exposure to external and internal radiation from plutonium and americum etc. on nuclear industry workers in Hanford, Sellafield, etc. concluded with 95% confidence that there exists no association between their exposure and mortality from cancer.

https://books.goo...vlinks_s
"Study of the Association Between Exposure to Transuranic Radionuclides and Cancer Death"

TheGhostofOtto1923
2.3 / 5 (3) Jul 18, 2015
My "sins"? I got my opinions of radiation from working on the Industrial Hardening Manual
Proofreading and running a mimeograph machine dont really qualify as "working on".

You had no training or experience to contribute meaningfully to such a document did you?
George Kamburoff; would you in turn justify the kind of propaganda you spread publicly?

https://disqus.co...a795b5c/
Jesus what an ungodly dump.
gkam
1 / 5 (2) Jul 18, 2015
Otto take your silly need to punish me for letting you embarrass yourself to another site.

Go join the whiners at FreeRepublic or StormFront.
WillieWard
not rated yet Jul 19, 2015
gkam is so conceited, but he is nothing than an incorrigible fibber.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.