This week, a new report about low dose ionising radiation was published, - one that should put a spanner in the works of the nuclear lobby. Studies of the Mortality of Atomic Bomb Survivors, 2012 Report 14, 1950 2003: An Overview of Cancer and Non- cancer Diseases.
But first of all, let me explain why this report is so important and so timely.
It's a year after the Fukushima disaster. So the nuclear lobby thinks that it's time to restart the nuclear renaissance, and to stop worrying about ionising radiation.
To this end, the industry, and particularly the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have projects under way.
Two particular projects are going on – seemingly unrelated ones. But they are, in fact, closely related. Both aim to dampen the public concern about ionising radiation - indeed to promote acceptance of "low level radiation":
- One sets out to downgrade nuclear emergency procedures.
- The other aims at discrediting the scientifically accepted model on the cancer risk of low level radiation. (This model, known as the Linear No Threshold model (LNT) states that there is no level below which ionising radiation is not harmful, risk increases with each added unit of radiation)
The first project – weakening emergency safety standards. The USA's Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have quietly downgraded nuclear emergency procedures. In particular, the new rules pretty much ignore the radiation hazard,( as discussed in Evacs and drills pared near nuke plants).
Among the changes to the original 1979 program for nuclear emergency action, they have eliminated a requirement that local responders always practise for a release of radiation. Also there is a new requirement that some planning exercises incorporate a reassuring premise: that no harmful radiation is released. As this article comments:
many state and local emergency officials say such exercises make no sense in a program designed to protect the population from radiation released by a nuclear accident ...
... The Japanese disaster reinforced such worries when officials told some towns beyond 12 miles from the disabled plant to evacuate. The U.S. government recommended that Americans stay at least 50 miles from the plant. Soil and crops were contaminated for scores of miles around. At one point, health authorities in Tokyo, 140 miles away, advised families not to give children the local water, which was contaminated by fallout to twice the government limit for infants.
And the NRC and FEMA plan to review procedures soon - in all likelihood, tocontinue their history of watering down safety standards, even wholly ignoring problems – when encountering violationsat the nation's aging reactors- (detailed by David Worthington, US nuclear safety regulations softened by industry influence).
The second project – discrediting the radiation risk model that underpins all the globally used standards on radiation safety and health risks. The U.S. Department of energy funds research projects, world-wide, that promote the theories of "radiation hormesis" and "adaptive radiation":
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