[Reader-list] Dangers of Radiation

A. Mani a.mani.cms at gmail.com
Sun Apr 3 19:27:33 IST 2011

You will find many more interesting in-depth articles at


The Dangers of Radiation: Deconstructing Nuclear Experts
What these people have in common is ignorance

by Chris Busby

Global Research, March 31, 2011

Since the Fukushima accident we have seen a stream of experts on
radiation telling us not to worry, that the doses are too low, that
the accident is nothing like Chernobyl and so forth. They appear on
television and we read their articles in the newspapers and online.
Fortunately the majority of the public don't believe them. I myself
have appeared on television and radio with these people; one example
was Ian Fells of the University of Newcastle who, after telling us all
on BBC News that the accident was nothing like Chernobyl (wrong), and
the radiation levels of no consequence (wrong), that the main problem
was that there was no electricity and that the lifts didn't work. " If
you have been in a situation when the lifts don't work, as I have" he
burbled on, "you will know what I mean." You can see this interview on
youtube and decide for yourself.

What these people have in common is ignorance. You may think a
professor at a university must actually know something about their
subject. But this is not so. Nearly all of these experts who appear
and pontificate have not actually done any research on the issue of
radiation and health. Or if they have, they seem to have missed all
the key studies and references. I leave out the real baddies, who are
closely attached to the nuclear industry, like Richard Wakeford, or
Richard D as he calls himself on the anonymous website he has set up
to attack me, "chrisbusbyexposed".

I saw him a few times talking down the accident on the television,
labelled in the stripe as Professor Richard Wakeford, University of
Manchester. Incidentally, Wakeford is a physicist, his PhD was in
particle physics at Liverpool. But he was not presented as ex-
Principle Scientist, British Nuclear Fuels, Sellafield. That might
have given the viewers the wrong idea. Early on we saw another baddy,
Malcolm Grimston, talking about radiation and health, described as
Professor, Imperial College. Grimston is a psychologist, not a
scientist, and his expertise was in examining why the public was
frightened of radiation, and how their (emotional) views could be
changed. But his lack of scientific training didn't stop him
explaining on TV and radio how the Fukushima accident was nothing to
worry about. The doses were too low, nothing like Chernobyl, not as
bad as 3-Mile Island, only 4 on the scale, all the usual blather. Most
recently we have seen George Monbiot, who I know, and who also knows
nothing about radiation and health, writing in The Guardian how this
accident has actually changed his mind about nuclear power (can this
be his Kierkegaard moment? Has he cracked? ) since he now understands
(and reproduces a criminally misleading graphic to back up his new
understanding) that radiation is actually OK and we shoudn't worry
about it. George does at least know better, or has been told better,
since he asked me a few years ago to explain why internal and external
radiation exposure cannot be considered to have the same health
outcomes. He ignored what I said and wrote for him (with references)
and promptly came out in favour of nuclear energy in his next article.

So what about Wade Allison? Wade is a medical physics person and a
professor at Oxford. I have chosen to pitch into him since he
epitomises and crystallises for us the arguments of the stupid
physicist. In this he has done us a favour, since he is really easy to
shoot down. All the arguments are in one place. Stupid physicists?
Make no mistake, physicists are stupid. They make themselves stupid by
a kind of religious belief in mathematical modelling. The old Bertie
Russell logical positivist trap. And whilst this may be appropriate
for examining the stresses in metals, or looking at the Universe (note
that they seem to have lost 90% of the matter in the Universe,
so-called "dark matter") it is not appropriate for, and is even
scarily incorrect when, examining stresses in humans or other
lifeforms. Mary Midgley, the philosopher has written about Science as
Religion. Health physicists are the priests. I have been reading Wade
Allison's article for the BBC but also looked at his book some months
ago. He starts in the same way as all the others by comparing the
accidents. He writes:

    More than 10,000 people have died in the Japanese tsunami and the
survivors are cold and hungry. But the media concentrate on nuclear
radiation from which no-one has died - and is unlikely to.

    Then we move to 3-Mile Island: There were no known deaths there.

And Chernobyl:

    The latest UN report published on 28 February confirms the known
death toll - 28 fatalities among emergency workers, plus 15 fatal
cases of child thyroid cancer - which would have been avoided if
iodine tablets had been taken (as they have now in Japan).

This is breathtaking ignorance of the scientific literature. Prof.
Steve Wing in the USA has carried out epidemiological studies of the
effects of 3-Mile Island, with results published in the peer-review
literature. Court cases are regularly settled on the basis of cancers
produced by the 3-Mile Island contamination. But let us move to
Chernobyl. The health effects of the Chernobyl accident are massive
and demonstrable. They have been studied by many research groups in
Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine, in the USA, Greece, Germany, Sweden,
Switzerland and Japan. The scientific peer reviewed literature is
enormous. Hundreds of papers report the effects, increases in cancer
and a range of other diseases. My colleague Alexey Yablokov of the
Russian Academy of Sciences, published a review of these studies in
the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (2009). Earlier in 2006
he and I collected together reviews of the Russian literature by a
group of eminent radiation scientists and published these in the book
Chernobyl, 20 Years After. The result: more than a million people have
died between 1986 and 2004 as a direct result of Chernobyl.

I will briefly refer to two Chernobyl studies in the west which
falsify Wade Allison's assertions. The first is a study of cancer in
Northern Sweden by Martin Tondel and his colleagues at Lynkoping
University. Tondel examined cancer rates by radiation contamination
level and showed that in the 10 years after the Chernobyl
contamination of Sweden, there was an 11% increase in cancer for every
100kBq/sq metre of contamination. Since the official International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) figures for the Fukushima contamination
are from 200 to 900kBq.sq metre out to 78km from the site, we can
expect between 22% and 90% increases in cancer in people living in
these places in the next 10 years. The other study I want to refer to
is one I carried out myself. After Chernobyl, infant leukaemia was
reported in 6 countries by 6 different groups, from Scotland, Greece,
Wales, Germany, Belarus and the USA. The increases were only in
children who had been in the womb at the time of the contamination:
this specificity is rare in epidemiology. There is no other
explanation than Chernobyl. The leukemias could not be blamed on some
as-yet undiscovered virus and population mixing, which is the
favourite explanation for the nuclear site child leukemia clusters.
There is no population mixing in the womb. Yet the "doses" were very
small, much lower than "natural background". I published this
unequivocal proof that the current risk model is wrong for internal
exposures in two separate peer-reviewed journals in 2000 and 2009.
This finding actually resulted in the formation in 2001 by UK
Environment Minister Michael Meacher of a new Committee Examining
Radiation Risks from Internal Emitters CERRIE. Richard Wakeford was on
this committee representing BNFL and he introduced himself to me as
"BNFL's Rottweiler". No difference there.

Wade then turns to a comparison of contamination:

    So what of the radioactivity released at Fukushima? How does it
compare with that at Chernobyl? Let's look at the measured count
rates. The highest rate reported, at 1900 on 22 March, for any
Japanese prefecture was 12 kBq per sq m (for the radioactive isotope
of caesium, caesium-137).

    A map of Chernobyl in the UN report shows regions shaded according
to rate, up to 3,700 kBq per sq m - areas with less than 37 kBq per sq
m are not shaded at all. In round terms, this suggests that the
radioactive fallout at Fukushima is less than 1% of that at Chernobyl

But the IAEA themselves, not known for their independence from the
nuclear industry, report that contamination levels out to 78km were
between 200 and 900kBq/sq metre. And Wade has been rather selective
with his data, to put it kindly. The UN definition of radioactively
contaminated land is 37kBq/sq metre just as he writes, but actually,
in all the maps published, the inner 30km Chernobyl contamination
exclusion zone is defined as 555kBq/sq metre and above. This is just a
fact. Why has he misled us? In passing, this means that there are
555,000 radioactive disintegrations per second on one square metre of
surface. Can you believe this is not harmful? No. And you would be
correct. And another calculation can be made. Since the IAEA data show
that these levels of contamination, from 200,000 to 900,000
disintegrations per second per square metre, exist up to 78km from
Fukushima, we can already calculate that the contamination is actually
worse than Chernobyl, not 1% of Chernobyl as Wade states. For the area
defined by a 78km radius is 19113 sq km compared to the Chernobyl
exclusion zone of 2827 sq km. About seven times greater.

Now I turn to the health effects. Wade trots out most of the usual
stupid physicist arguments. We are all exposed to natural background,
the dose is 2mSv a year and the doses from the accident are not
significantly above this. For example, the Japanese government are
apparently making a mistake in telling people not to give tap water
containing 200Bq/litre radioactive Iodine-131 to their children as
there is naturally 50Bq/l of radiation in the human body and 200 will
not do much harm. The mistake is made because of fears of the public
which apparently forced the International Commission on Radiological
Protection, ICRP, to set the annual dose limits at 1mSv. Wade knows
better: he would set the limits at 100mSv. He is a tough guy. He
shoots from the hip:

Patients receiving a course of radiotherapy usually get a dose of more
than 20,000 mSv to vital healthy tissue close to the treated tumour.
This tissue survives only because the treatment is spread over many
days giving healthy cells time for repair or replacement. A sea-change
is needed in our attitude to radiation, starting with education and
public information.

But Wade, dear, these people are usually old, and usually die anyway
before they can develop a second tumour. They often develop other
cancers even so because of the radiation. There are hundreds of
studies showing this. And in any case, this external irradiation is
not the problem. The problem is internal irradiation. The Iodine-131
is not in the whole body, it is in the thyroid gland and attached to
the blood cells: hence the thyroid cancer and the leukaemia. And there
is a whole list of internal radioactive elements that bind chemically
to DNA, from Strontium-90 to Uranium. These give massive local doses
to the DNA and to the tissues where they end up. The human body is not
a piece of wire that you can apply physics to. The concept of dose
which Wade uses cannot be used for internal exposures. This has been
conceded by the ICRP itself in its publications. And in an interview
with me in Stockholm in 2009, Dr Jack Valentin, the ex-Scientific
Secretary of the ICRP conceded this, and also made the statement that
the ICRP risk model, the one used by all governments to assess the
outcome of accidents like Fukushima, was unsafe and could not be used.
You can see this interview on the internet, on www.vimeo.com.

Why is the ICRP model unsafe? Because it is based on "absorbed dose".
This is average radiation energy in Joules divided by the mass of
living tissue into which it is diluted. A milliSievert is one
milliJoule of energy diluted into one kilogram of tissue. As such it
would not distinguish between warming yourself in front of a fire and
eating a red hot coal. It is the local distribution of energy that is
the problem. The dose from a singly internal alpha particle track to a
single cell is 500mSv! The dose to the whole body from the same alpha
track is 5 x 10-11 mSv. That is 0.000000000005mSv. But it is the dose
to the cell that causes the genetic damage and the ultimate cancer.
The cancer yield per unit dose employed by ICRP is based entirely on
external acute high dose radiation at Hiroshima, where the average
dose to a cell was the same for all cells.

And what of the UN and their bonkers statement about the effects of
the Chernobyl accident referred to by Wade Allison? What you have to
know, is that the UN organisations on radiation and health are
compromised in favour of the nuclear military complex, which was busy
testing hydrogen bombs in the atmosphere at the time of the agreement
and releasing all the Strontium, Caesium, Uranium and plutonium and
other stuff that was to become the cause of the current and increasing
cancer epidemic. The last thing they wanted was the doctors and
epidemiologists stopping their fun. The IAEA and the World Health
Organisation (WHO) signed an agreement in 1959 to remove all research
into the issue from the doctors of the WHO, to the atom scientists,
the physicists of the IAEA: this agreement is still in force. The UN
organisations do not refer to, or cite any scientific study, which
shows their statements on Chernobyl to be false. There is a huge gap
between the picture painted by the UN, the IAEA, the ICRP and the real
world. And the real world is increasingly being studied and reports
are being published in the scientific literature: but none of the
authorities responsible for looking after the public take any notice
of this evidence.

As they say on the Underground trains in London: Mind the Gap. Wade
Allison and the other experts I refer to need to do just this for
their own sake. The one place that this gap is being closed rapidly
and savagely is in the courts. I have acted as an expert witness in
over 40 cases involving radiation and health. These include cases
where Nuclear Test veterans are suing the UK government for exposures
at the test sites that have caused cancer, they include cases
involving nuclear pollution, work exposures and exposures to depleted
uranium weapons fallout. And these cases are all being won. All of
them. Because in court with a judge and a jury, people like Wade
Allison and George Monbiot would not last 2 minutes. Because in court
you rely on evidence. Not bullshitting.

Joseph Conrad wrote: "after all the shouting is over, the grim silence
of facts remain". I believe that these phoney experts like Wade
Allison and George Monbiot are criminally irresponsible, since their
advice will lead to millions of deaths. I would hope that some time in
the future, I can be involved as an expert in another legal case, one
where Wade Allison, or George or my favourite baddy, Richard Wakeford
(who actually knows better) are accused in a court of law of
scientific dishonesty leading to the cancer in some poor victim who
followed their advice. When they are found guilty, I hope they are
sent to jail where they can have plenty of time to read the scientific
proofs that their advice was based on the mathematical analysis of
thin air.

In the meantime, I challenge each of them to debate this issue with me
in public on television face to face, so that the people can figure
out who is right. For the late Professor John Gofman, a senior figure
in the US Atomic Energy Commission until he saw what was happening and
resigned, famously said: "the nuclear industry is waging a war against
humanity." This war has now entered an endgame which will decide the
survival of the human race. Not from sudden nuclear war. But from the
on-going and incremental nuclear war which began with the releases to
the biosphere in the 60s of all the atmospheric test fallout, and
which has continued inexorably since then through Windscale, Kyshtym,
3-Mile Island, Chernobyl, Hanford, Sellafield, La Hague, Iraq and now
Fukushima, accompanied by parallel increases in cancer rates and
fertility loss to the human race.

There is a gap between them and us. Between the phoney scientists and
the public who don't believe what they say. Between those who are
employed and paid to protect us from radioactive pollution and those
who die from its consequences. Between those who talk down what is
arguably the greatest public health scandal in human history, and the
facts that they ignore.

Mind the Gap indeed.

Watch the recent interview with Christopher Busby on GRTV.

Chris Busby is Scientific Secretary of the European Committee on
Radiation Risk. He is visiting Professor at the University of Ulster
and also Guest Researcher at the Julius Kuehn Institute of the German
Federal Agricultural Institute in Braunschweig, Germany. He was a
member of the UK Committee Examining Radiation Risk on Internal
Emitters CERRIE and the UK MoD Depleted Uranium Oversight Board. He
was Science and Policy Interface leader of the Policy Information
network on Child Health and Environment based in the Netherlands. He
was Science and Technology Speaker for the Green Party of England and
Wales. He has conducted fundamental research on the health effects of
internal radiation both at the theoretical and epidemiological level,
including recently on the genotoxic effects of the element uranium.



A. Mani

A. Mani

More information about the reader-list mailing list