Australian news, and some related international items

Nuclear Fuel Chain Royal Commission ignores the facts on low level radiation


radiation-causing-cancerChris Murray 16 Feb 16 The issue of low level radiation is crucial to the nuclear debate. If the threshold/hormesis outliers are successful in their campaign, radiation protection limits will be raised and nuclear costs will fall dramatically.

It is unfortunate therefore that The Royal Commission is so economical with the truth on low level radiation. It specifically quotes WHO and UNSCEAR to paint a particular picture. The omission of very relevant material from the same sources does not inspire confidence in its findings. Although it states that “a precautionary approach is appropriate”, by minimizing the possible casualties from Chernobyl and Fukushima, it effectively dumps any such precautionary approach.

While UNSCEAR, citing uncertainties, refuses to give any estimates for the absolute number of casualties from Chernobyl, it does state that “”Although the numbers of cancers projected to be induced by radiation exposure after the accident are very small relative to the baseline cancer risk, THEY COULD BE SUBSTANTIAL IN ABSOLUTE TERMS”
(My emphasis – even a “very small” increase of say, 0.5%, in baseline risk would cause 5,000 extra cancers in a 5 million population, assuming normal cancer mortality of 20% of all deaths.)

Also unmentioned is that the WHO/Chernobyl Forum (of which UNSCEAR was a member) stated that
“The Expert Group concluded that there may be up to 4 000 additional cancer deaths among the three highest exposed groups over their lifetime (240 000 liquidators; 116 000 evacuees and the 270 000 residents of the SCZs)”
(this is for the most exposed areas alone)

Also ignored is that the WHO/CF, while acknowledging considerable uncertainties (which can lead to underestimation of effects as easily as overestimation), estimated a possible further 5,000 fatal cancers from the most contaminated areas in wider Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, giving a total of 9,000.

“Predictions, generally based on the LNT model, suggest that up to 5 000 additional cancer deaths may occur in this population from radiation exposure, “

Nor is there any mention that even UNSCEAR accepts a proven risk down to 10 mSv:
“Risk estimates vary with age, with younger people generally being more sensitive; studies of in utero radiation exposures show that the foetus is particularly sensitive, with elevated risk being detected at doses of 10 mSv and above.”

Also ignored is that UNSCEAR, in its recent Fukushima report, no longer uses a DDREF (Dose and Dose Rate Effectiveness Factor). No DDREF means that the 9,000 could legitimately be doubled to 18,000. And again, this is from the most contaminated areas. The fallout and its effects did not stop there, unless one is claiming a definite threshold, an ideological position rejected again and again by the scientific establishment (See the recent US EPA statement at!documentDetail;D=NRC-2015-0057-0436 ).

Again, unmentioned in the report, the WHO/CF admits that “Chernobyl may also cause cancers in Europe outside Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine.“

The Commission seems to have adopted the nuclear industry spin that low level radiation is of no concern if it’s comparable to background radiation. This is like saying it’s ok to deliberately electrocute people so long as the numbers are comparable to those killed by “natural electricity” ie lightning. The Commission seems to have no awareness that the BEIR VII committee, the ICRP, the 21st H L Gray conference etc. examined the “evidence” for the claim that background radiation was harmless and found it wanting, the studies either being ecological or lacking statistical power.

Likewise the Commission seem unaware that a recent study – A record-based case-control study of natural background radiation and the incidence of childhood leukaemia and other cancers in Great Britain during 1980-2006 – has shown that background radiation may be responsible for 12% of childhood leukaemias. And if it’s responsible for leukaemia, it is almost certainly responsible for other cancers.

One of the authors of this study is Richard Wakeford, the former BNFL principal research sciencist, who can hardly be accused of being an unscientific tree-hugger, an anti-nuke idealogue, a Greenpeace or coal industry shill, etc. etc.

Shockingly, none of this, much from the Commission’s own sources, is mentioned. Instead it hides behind “ongoing scientific debate”, and cherrypicks the most reassuring quotes.

February 15, 2016 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, health, NUCLEAR ROYAL COMMISSION 2016, South Australia

1 Comment »

  1. […] Continue reading at Nuclear Fuel Chain Royal Commission ignores the facts on low level radiation […]


    Pingback by Nuclear Fuel Chain Royal Commission ignores the facts on low level radiation via Antinuclear – | February 17, 2016 | Reply

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