What can we learn from Kerala?

Guest Post by Geoff Russell. Geoff recently released the popular book “Greenjacked! The derailing of environmental action on climate change“.

Kerala is a state on the South Western coast of India; about a third the size of Tasmania or just slightly bigger than Hawaii. It’s been on my radar ever since it featured in an inspirational segment of David Attenborough’s 2009 “How many people can live on planet earth” documentary (35:16).

With 33 million people in an area half the size of Tasmania, you can imagine it’s rather crowded. Some official methods of forest counting nevertheless claim that 44 percent of Kerala is still covered in forest of some kind or another, but scientific studies put the figure much lower at about 21 percent of the country having forests with a crown density higher than 40 percent and another 5 percent with a crown density between 10 and 40 percent. The statistical discrepancy brings to mind Australia’s little Kyoto trick of defining a forest as an area with trees over 2 metres in height and a crown cover of 20 percent or more.

Kerala is experiencing many developing country problems; for example, it is heavily dependent on a couple of million of its population working in the Gulf states and sending back cash. This helps it to import food with its area dedicated to rice halving in recent times as cash crops like rubber and coconut take over. Kerala’s chicken consumption is also increasing and now triple the Indian average. While it’s still just 15 grams a day, chickens are net food consumers, not producers. The bottom line is that Kerala’s remaning forests are under threat from all manner of activities, both legal and illegal.

But the inspirational part is that Kerala has been educating its girls and reaping the rewards; families are now small and the population is stable. Kerala’s life expectancy at birth is 74; the highest of any state in India. It also has the highest literacy rate of 93 percent. Kerala’s Human Development Index of 0.854 is similar to that of Australia in 1980. This is a spectacular achievement considering that Kerala’s installed electrical capacity is about 2700 MW plus another 266 MW from the Kudankulam nuclear plant across the border in Tamil Nadu. So if it’s all running, she can generate about the same power as the South Australian peak demand, which services just 1.6 million people. In 2001, 77 percent of households cooked with wood, LPG was next with 18 percent. Down at the bottom is electricity at just 0.1 percent along with an assortment of kerosene, coal, biogas, crop residues and cow dung. Cooking smoke is a potent killer of young children in India. In 2010, Kerala had the lowest mortality rate for children under 5, but that still meant 16 deaths per 1000 births. More electricity would help, but there still needs to be a cultural shift. Rice is a staple in Kerala and the preferred method of preparation is parboiling, a fascinating ancient process which improves the nutrient profile but lengthens the cooking process. More cooking means more energy and wood fires have a cultural significance that will be tough to shift. I haven’t worked out where the firewood comes from but Kerala uses about 8 million tonnes of it for rice cooking alone. This is more than all the wood and paper products Australia produces from its 2 million hectares of plantations.

Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in neigbouring Tamil Nadu state, with first unit (1,000 MW) commissioned in the year 2013. With initial capacity of 2,000 MW, this station will be expanded to 6,800 MW capacity.

Kerala’s been on the radar of the World Health Organisation for over half a century ago and the reasons have nothing to do with population or rice or wood cooking fires or dodgy forest data. Kerala has a very high rate of background radiation due to sands containing thorium. The level ranges from about 70 percent above the global average to about 30 times the global average. For thousands of years, some of the population of Kerala have been living bathed in radiation at more than triple the level which will get you compulsorily thrown out of your home (evacuation) in Japan. The Japanese have set the maximum annual radiation level at 20 milli Sieverts per year around Fukushima while some parts of Kerala have had a level of 70 milliSieverts per year … for ever.

Scientists have been looking for radiation impacts on Keralites (people from Kerala) for decades. In 1990 a modern cancer registry was established and in 2009 a study reported on the cancer incidence in some 69,958 people followed for an average of over a decade. Radiation dose estimates were made by measuring indoor and outdoor radiation exposure and time spent in and out of doors. They haven’t just been bathing in radioactivity for thousands of years, Keralites have been eating it. An early 1970 study found that people in Kerala were eating about 10 times more radioactivity than people in the US or UK, including alpha particle emitters (from fish).

The cancer incidence rate overall in Kerala is much the same as the overall rate in India; which is about 1/2 that of Japan and less than 1/3rd of the rate in Australia. Some 95 new cancers per 100,000 people per year compared to 323 per 100,000 per year in Australia (age standardised).

Cancer experts know a great deal about the drivers of these huge differences and radiation isn’t on the list.

The Kerala study has several advantages over other studies of low dose radiation. They are dealing with a mainly rural population which is less likely to be exposed to other carcinogens which could complicate the analysis. They are also dealing with a genuinely low rate of radiation exposure. This mirrors what would be the case in Fukushima if the Government hadn’t forcibly moved people. Most radiation protection standards derive from studies of atomic bomb victims who got whatever dose they got in a very short time. They may have got a dose which fits the definition of low (less than 100 millisieverts), but at an extremely rapid rate. Getting bombed just isn’t like living in a slightly elevated radiation field. In Kerala people are getting a low rate for a long time.

With very high radiation delivery rates, such as occur with an atomic weapon, it is obvious that DNA repair capacity can be overwhelmed. I need to mention here, that atomic weapons don’t primarily kill with radiation, they kill in exactly the same way as other bombs; with a shock wave, flying debris and fire. Radiation can certainly kill people outside the lethal area of the blast, but the dose required is huge. As you get further away from the blast center, people can get 100 milliSieverts or even thousands, but getting such a dose in such a situation is nothing like getting it over a one or ten year period; just as a single 1 or 10 hour exposure to summer sun is very different from getting the same amount in very tiny increments over a month. Despite the clear methodological problems, data from the atomic bomb victims dominates radiation protection standards, primarily because, for many years, it was the only data.

The Kerala data clearly contradicts the assumptions behind all of those radiation safety standards. People getting a dose of 500 mSv should show a measurable rise in cancer rates. They did when the dose was delivered quickly as with the atomic blasts. They don’t at Kerala.

The dark monazite-laced sands of Kerala Sea Beach, India

So the Kerala data confirms what is obvious from a modern understanding of DNA repair. Namely that radiation damage isn’t cumulative at normal background dose rates and also that it isn’t cumulative at even 30 times normal dose rates. Meaning that 70 milliSieverts a year for a lifetime does nothing. The very concepts of “annual dose” or “cumulative dose” are simply misleading in such a situation. The best available evidence is that an annual exposure to 100 milliSieverts results in an actual dose of zero because it is below a person’s capacity for perfect repair. When experts discuss these matters they always distinguish exposure, measured in Grays, from dose, measured in Sieverts, but they don’t take account of delivery rate or DNA repair because the power and mechanisms of DNA repair were unknown at the time and by the people formulating the theories and standards. It’s high time they got their house in order. The suffering caused by clearly obsolete science has been and continues to be immense.

Researchers in 2012 from MIT confirmed that radiation damage isn’t cumulative at even 400 times background rates for six months. But they did this work in mice, and while mice are more prone to cancer than people, meaning the results should hold for people, mice aren’t people and extrapolation both of species and time introduces uncertainty. The Kerala data is substantial and unequivocal and backs a recent judgement by UK radiation expert Malcolm Grimston that the Fukushima evacuation was, and still is, “stark raving mad”.

When the Japanese Government recently lifted the throwing-out-of-home orders on Minamisoma City in Fukushima Prefecture, because they estimated that the annual radiation level had dropped to 20 milliSieverts per year, city officials reckoned that 80 percent of residents will not return because of radiation fear.

Perhaps the Japanese should have looked at what’s been happening at Kerala for thousands of years before deciding on their 20 milliSievert limit; nothing.

The implication is clear. Nuclear accidents are no different from other industrial accidents. There is a clear need to worry about genuinely dangerous short lived radioactive isotopes just like we worry about flames and dense smoke from other accidents or natural calamities like bush fires. But we don’t need to waste time, energy and money cleaning up levels of radioactive contamination that don’t do anything. Sandblasting trees, roofs, driveways and especially putting valuable topsoil in black plastic bags, like they have been doing in Japan since 2011, makes as much sense as sending the army out into the bush to sandblast blackened tree trunks after a bush fire.

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61 Comments

  1. Thanks Geoff. Nice to have another example of the comparative harmlessness of background and even elevated radiation levels. It would be good if you could get the whole piece into one of our daily papers here in Australia. Try the Australian. They’re not good at accepting unsolicited articles but still worth a try. Congratulations Geoff and well done.

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  2. Please correct me if my “facts” are wrong. It has been a long time since I studied these things.
    Uranium decays through a series of daughter products. In fact when I was involved in exploration for uranium, the diagnostic gamma ray energy spike of Bi214 decay was the marker that was searched for via airborne gamma ray spectrometer surveys.
    After reading your article I was left wondering the effect of the energy of thorium decay versus uranium decay. My memory tells me that there is a comparatively high energy spike from thorium energy levels from the decay of thorium as well as spikes at other energy levels.
    Can you please comment on the relative risk from the mix of thorium spikes and say U235 spikes?
    I am afraid that I am not clear. the decays of many radionuclides, show ionising radiation at set, but multitudes of different energies. This has to go into the equation when comparing sites, I think.

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  3. There is no doubt that excessively fastidious radiation limits allowed fearmongers to terrorise the population of Tokyo in 2011 and thereby cause the deaths of a thousand frail people in an evacuation that served only to avert a wider panic.

    However, we do have the prospect that global radiation standards will be reset on the basis of modern scientific studies, such as those on Kerala health. In a report from WNN earlier this week, we learn that the US House Representatives approved “The Low Dose Radiation Research Act of 2015”, which requires the US DOE and NAS to provide the scientific understanding to “reduce uncertainties associated with the effects of exposure to low-dose radiation in order to inform improved risk management methods.” (My italics)

    Considering that the hydrocarbons industry has recently spent $500 million lobbying US politicians, it would seem that integrity has prevailed over expediency.|

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  4. I actually entirely agree with the conclusion namely “But we don’t need to waste time, energy and money cleaning up levels of radioactive contamination that don’t do anything.”

    But you’re quoting peak radiation levels as if they are population averaged rates. The 2009 study into the very high dose part of kerala concluded that once you correctly assess the dose the statistical power of a study of this region will not be adequate due to the low dose (and low expectations). Under powered is not the same as contradictory.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19066487

    Of course many experts believe and combining selected results hint (but aren’t statistically powerful enough to prove) that maybe low doses aren’t as damaging as basic models suggest. But other experts would disagree perhaps arguing along the accepted lines of DNA damage being cumulative; oncogenesis being a process not a event; and DNA repair being relatively fast and imperfect.
    I think denying this is an open scientific question is risky.

    However, to finish where I started, whilst, this maybe an open scientific question it’s not a open question in regards to public risk. Basic model or not, the risks from low levels are vanishingly small. So small publically arguing whether non existent is pointless and doesn’t help public perception IMHO (yeah I get the irony of this). Practically everyone agrees clean up operations are a waste of money that could certainly be spent better elsewhere.

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  5. @doug: The old idea was that DNA was stable and that radiation was one of the few things that could damage it. That was 1950s thinking. It’s wrong. DNA damage is normal and ubiquitous … this means that you can’t test this or that isotope by looking at its impact on cells in isolation because damage won’t tell you anything useful. That means you need epidemiology … looking for actual cancer signals in real people. And here’s what we know. When Indians move to the US, their cancer rate rises over time. This
    means lifestyle changes can triple cancer rates. Low level radiation just isn’t in the same club. To even pretend that it’s dangerous in the same way that obesity or cigarettes or red meat is dangerous is simply silly. It may be scary, but it isn’t dangerous.

    But the list of isotopes, energy levels and the like is dazzling which makes for an endless string of scare stories … “Oh, but the Keralites aren’t being exposed to XYZ which is really dangerous because of its energetic alpha … blah blah internal emitters blah blah”. The minute you answer that with data on XYZ, the scare mongers will switch to ABC. And so it goes on.

    Consider the who-ha over tritium. Leslie Corrice has done his usual detailed demolition of that one here … http://bit.ly/15ENbTp … but who will read it? Mark Willacy showed that its possible to write an entire book about Fukushima but not know even basic stuff about radiation.

    @terry et al. I’ve made numerous attempts to get any kind of publicity for GreenJacked … but apart from Australasian Science and BNC, the silence of the response has been deep and unrelenting. Nobody wants to know.

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  6. Re Thorium decay, it is one of the natural radioactivity series, characterised by a 2.61 MeV gamma ray. As I understand radiation dosimetry, what matters is the dose equivalent, which combines the various radiations, by means of the unit called the Sievert. The number of sieverts determines the health risk. John Patterson, medical physicist, retd.

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  7. you can’t test this or that isotope by looking at its impact on cells in isolation because damage won’t tell you anything useful. That means you need epidemiology

    Epidemiology won’t tell you why something is happening.  For that, you need to track things like levels of gene expression, DNA methylation, and so forth.  The only way to do this repeatably is in cells in isolation.

    Once you know what genes are associated with DNA repair and other parts of hormesis, you can predict effects of a stimulus based on the change in gene expression it causes.  It gives you an actual biological basis for a model.

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  8. @ka/@engineer-poet: The fact that nobody can say for certain that low dose radiation does nothing doesn’t mean that it isn’t blindingly obvious that low dose radiation isn’t dangerous in the normal meaning of the word … like we know that ladders are dangerous and driving and cycling and bush fires and sausages. Low dose radiation simply isn’t in that category. Let’s define LDR as <100 mSv/yr for current purposes. Even if it was discovered that it did something other than zero, would that make it dangerous? Not without good epidemiology. Evidence for causality is assumed by cancer experts to need multiple prospective studies plus a plausible biological explanation. We know, for example, that milk shreds DNA, so there's a plausible causal pathway to cancer, but not a lot of epidemiology, so experts are divided. Current assessment is that it might cause some cancers and prevent others. Evidence of LDR impact on DNA in a test tube wouldn't prove anything and the Kerala study shows that any impact would have to be tiny … far smaller than that of sausages where there are multiple plausible mechanisms and plenty of epidemiology.

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  9. I am from Kerala. Mr Russell’s data on Kerala was so voluminous I struggled hard to add some more information! .

    In Kerala, the cooking fuel pattern must have certainly changed now. Interestingly, a 2012 report revealed that from 5 am to 9 am Kerala needs 200 MWe additionally just to satisfy the households using about 100,000 induction cookers. This may go up to 300 MWe as the actual number of induction cookers may be 150,000. The share of power from the Kudankualm nuclear power station (266MW) to Kerala may not be enough to keep these cookers on load!

    The High Level Natural Radiation Area (HLNRA) in Kerala is about 55 km long and 0.5 to 1.5 km wide. Nearly 45 years ago the Department of Atomic Energy(DAE) has set up a Low Level Radiation Laboratory in the area.

    During early 60s, Drs A R Gopal Ayengar, L H Gray and Gruneberg made dental measurements on 438 black rats from eight villages from HLNRA and on a 458 rats from areas away from HLNRA and concluded that there is no evidence for any consistent and systematic difference between the strip and control populations.

    Measurements of other bony structures such as the skull, mandible, scapula, humerus etc did not reveal any strong and consistent pattern of difference,

    ..”the only possible conclusion seems to be that if there is any effect of radiation, it is masked by the variation already existing within both areas from population to population”, the researchers added.

    They looked at the pregnancy rates, fertility and survival of zygotes in uterine life. They failed to find any difference.

    Other studies from Low Level Radiation Laboratory published in standard journals have shown that there are no excess adverse health effects such as mental retardation, cleft palate, club foot, neural tube defects, Down Syndrome, still births etc among the newborns in the (HLNRA). The paper referred to by Mr Russell, though important, is not the only one on HLNRA .

    The researchers found it harder to get enough number of newborns to study birth defects! Because of family planning practiced by all sections of Keralites, they have to collect data patiently over decades!.

    I broadly agree with Mr Russell’s conclusions, though he has simplified them and ignored the lower statistical power of the samples of population.

    I wholeheartedly agree with his more recent comment:

    “Evidence of low dose rate impact on DNA in a test tube wouldn’t prove anything and the Kerala study shows that any impact would have to be tiny. (MAY BE)..far smaller than that of sausages where there are multiple plausible mechanisms and plenty of epidemiology.” I added MAY BE!

    More sound knowledge of the mechanism of interaction of radiation at low doses may be necessary. But equally important is a robust communication strategy.

    The US DOE’s Low Dose Research Program benefited from the use of extra sensitive tools and techniques to unravel the mechanisms of interaction: micro-beams of particles of various energies to hit the cell nucleus alone or tiny portions of cellular cytoplasm, ways and means to see, count and study the dynamics of individual Double Strand Breaks, study of genomic instability among others.

    We learnt a lot. However we now need more studies! We have yet to see whether the effects such as genomic instability will increase or decrease cancer!

    So long as we are not able to identify a clear threshold of doses for various effects, what is the way forward?. In practical terms, does it matter? The Kerala study, the 21 nation study after refinement based on the recent Canadian study are reassuring.

    The adverse effects if any are tiny; such tiny effects are no effects and one need not lose sleep over them.

    Are we not following this in other practices? Thus when we use antibiotics we trust the protocols used to test them. We feel assured that when clinically indicated, the doses are right and benefit from medication far outweighs the possible harm!

    Our public awareness campaign must reach every one. It will be inappropriate to develop too sensitive technologies however enlightening they are; scientists must also explain the true impact of it on a microscopic and macroscopic scale.

    The concern expressed by some of the well known US health physicists and researchers that low dose research program must be supported to ensure that expertise is available in USA is justified.

    Their letter has led to positive action by the US Congress. But searching for dose thresholds and true biologic models are unlikely to help! By the very nature of the complexities, they may only be of academic interest. Our emphasis should be to encourage a pragmatic approach among all stake holders. Make all information available to them; help them to appreciate it. Thye will make the right choice

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  10. I am a bit confuse by some numbers you provide…

    1) “The level ranges from about 70 percent above the global average to about 30 times the global average”

    this is 1.7x to 30x

    2) “the population of Kerala have been living bathed in radiation at more than triple the level”

    3x

    3) “parts of Kerala have had a level of 70 milliSieverts per year”

    70 milliSieverts / year = 70/365/24 = 8 microSv/hr

    Background at my house is 0.1 uSv/hr or 0.9 mSv/year.

    So 70 mSv is 77x my background.

    Some numbers do not seems right! Mistakes/Typo ?

    So it’s anything from 1.7x to 30x to 77x Huge range, which is it?

    Some of those numbers I measured myself… see here:
    http://radio-activity-studies.blogspot.ca/2012/11/natural-background-radiation.html

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  11. @SimonFiliatrault

    This is what wikipedia says.
    “The worldwide average natural dose to humans is about 2.4 millisievert (mSv) per year.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Background_radiation

    So 30 times the global average would be 72 mSV

    70 Msv is roughly equal to 72 mSv.

    3x is likely the average.

    So the range is roughly 1.7x to 30x with 3x being the average.

    I’m not an expert on this so someone may correct me, but I think you might be missing something. A good bit of your yearly exposure comes from inside your body in the form of alpha particles released by Radon gas and it’s decay products. In order to calculate your yearly dose correctly you have to take these internal doses into account. I’m not really sure how this is done.

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  12. @Simon Filiatrault

    2) “the population of Kerala have been living bathed in radiation at more than triple the level” …

    Your 2nd point is clearly answered in the original text:

    [quote]
    For thousands of years, some of the population of Kerala have been living bathed in radiation at more than triple the level which will get you compulsorily thrown out of your home (evacuation) in Japan. The Japanese have set the maximum annual radiation level at 20 milli-Sieverts per year around Fukushima while some parts of Kerala have had a level of 70 milliSieverts per year … for ever.
    [/quote]

    After the Fukushima accident, the Japanese set 20 millisieverts as a maximum exposure level. 3 x 20 mSv = 60 mSv. Many people in Kerala live in regions with higher exposure than that.

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  13. I see you have attracted one troll. :) Hi Bob (Applebaum) it looks like we meet again.

    You launch with an insult, provide no evidence to support any snide comments you make then accuse everyone of being ignorant. You never demonstrate that you know anything. All I know is that you are someone that clings to belief in a phenomenon that has never been observed.

    Because I am basically a charitable fellow I will present a plausible explanation of the Kerala phenomenon: some people in Kerala do get cancer do not appear to be at higher risk of cancer than people who live in regions with much lower levels of background radiation.

    Stochastic errors during mitosis and stochastic failures to repair those errors are enough to explain the accumulation of somatic functional mutations that can cause cancer even in the absence of any environmental perturbations.

    Ionizing radiation at high enough levels does cause cancer. That means at high enough levels ionizing radiation does enough damage to cause mutations over and above those resulting from random transcription errors.

    The most plausible explanation is that damaged cells put up a vigorous defence against low levels of radiation. The key being that radiation induced damage triggers a defense response. Cellular mechanisms probably do not pick up on stochastic transcription errors. No “stress” response is initiated because no “stress” is detected. The response to ionizing radiation includes increased expression of genes involved in an adaptive response (the body is adapting to unusual levels of radiation or consequences of radiation) which protects the cell, scavenges ROS, repairs DNA etc. The radiation exposure may be short lived but the adaptive response (special enzymes) may linger which would increase the cells resiliency to subsequent exposure.

    Sonic hedgehog is a gene that is expressed rapidly upon a cell’s exposure to radiation. Indeed those who treat cancer with radiation seek ways to block sonic hedgehog so the cells being irradiated are more likely to die.

    The question is how high does that level of radiation have to be in order to add to the stochastic load.

    If the population of Kerala is relatively stable it might be benefiting from natural selection. Or the people of Kerala are not engaged in behaviour that would qualify as confounding factors. If they are active thin vegans their endogenous ROS load could be lower than most.

    As long as the radiation does not become airborne people are unlikely to ingest it. That makes a difference.

    There is a spot in Iran where the background levels of radiation are about 3 times that of Kerala. People live there. I don’t know if there is any epidemiological data from that region.

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  14. @Philip De Groot:
    As one might expect, Ramsar, Iran is indeed a site of epidemiological interest: see
    Very High Background Radiation Areas of Ramsar Iran: Preliminary Biological Studies
    http://www.andrewkaram.com/pdf/hpj%20ramsar.pdf

    and

    High Background Radiation Areas of Ramsar, Iran}
    S. M. Javad Mortazavi,
    http://www.angelfire.com/mo/radioadaptive/ramsar.html
    and references therein, from which
    “There are many other areas with high levels of background radiation around the world, and epidemiological studies have indicated that natural radiation in these areas is not harmful for the inhabitants. Results obtained in our study are consistent with the hypothesis that a threshold possibly separates the health effects of natural radiation from the harm of large doses. This threshold seems to be much higher than the greatest level of natural radiation.”

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  15. @ksparthasarathy: Thanks for the additional information. With regard to sausages … people who go looking for evidence of cancer associated with low rates of radiation fail … but people who go looking for cancer associated with processed meat succeed, over and over and over and over again. That’s why I think
    public, and frequently official, perception is totally inconsistent
    with the science. The science on red and processed meat is about as solid as it gets but people who like these foods act like tobacco companies when anybody mentions the problems. Conversely there’s no evidence of danger from low rates of radiation but this constant failure to find an effect is met with constant calls for more research, increased safety and caution.

    Is anybody to blame? Absolutely. I’ve spent plenty of time pointing fingers at the Caldicott side of the fence, but the nuclear industry itself is also to blame. There’s squillions of dollars to be made out of nuclear safety concerns. Just look at Japan today. All the companies with trotters in the clean up trough. The problem is that there’s been so many people “crying wolf” that it’s hard to distinguish between serious problems when need careful attention and downright fraud (ie., taking money for work that will have no impact on public safety).

    What’s clear is that without nuclear power we have no chance of avoiding further destabilisation and that renewables, even if they could work, are an environmental nightmare; so it’s imperative that we sort out the mess with respect to ignorance about radiation at every level. It’ll take far more than just information. Nuclear has to become “cool” … again. Is that possible? We’d better hope so.

    Thanks to everybody for answering various other questions that have been asked over the past 24 hours!

    @bob: Nobody really knows why the Indian cancer rate is so low. It isn’t just Kerala. Plenty of other countries have similarly low cancer rates, but Kerala is interesting because it is approaching a first world life expectancy. The fact that the age standardised cancer rate in Nigeria is also 1/3 of the US/Australian rate is interesting, but given its life expectancy is just 52, it’s hardly relevant. Age standardisation can’t really deal with such huge differences. Current research is focussed on a range of spices commonly used in Indian cooking + the low level of animal products. Spices like turmeric reduce DNA damage from oxidative stress both in petri dishes and in people, but the issue isn’t settled by any means.

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  16. A very well done article, very informative.

    The comments have been largely informative as well.

    Probably the “hazard” associated with thorium will go down eventually in India, since India seriously intends to convert their thorium into U-233 and fission it.

    It should be said that NORM (naturally occurring radioactive materials) risks associated with thorium are somewhat lower than that of uranium ores since the radon intermediate in the decay series for thorum (Rn-220) has a 55 second half life as opposed to 3.8 days for Rn-222. This limits the concentration in air. (I happen to live in an area with high background radon levels, and this is a result of uranium.)

    Nevertheless it is certainly true, the mysticism of the anti-nuke community not withstanding that all life has continuously been bathed in radiation, particularly when one considers the existence of potassium-40.

    I once mocked the anti-nuke community’s hysteria on this point by remarking that if they wanted to avoid the “risk” of radioactive potassium, the appropriate mechanism would be to die.

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/07/06/991377/-How-Radioactive-Is-the-Ocean

    It therefore seems very possible that the existence of life, at least highly evolved life, is tied in subtle ways to this radiation. Clearly all living things on this planet have been continuously exposed to radiation, and for most of history at higher levels than is now observed. While DNA repair is a feature of most living systems, the failure to completely repair DNA is mechanistically critical to evolution. Seen in this way we can see that without mutagenesis, life would be, at best, if it existed at all, entirely composed of procaryotic unicellular organisms.

    I have long mused to myself that the real risk of nuclear power to life on this planet is that radiation levels will fall, not rise, thus making the recovery from the recent on going mass extinction on this planet slower to reverse than with previous mass extinctions. (I do think that the natural leach of uranium into the seas from mantle rocks will make this more or less a non-issue, but it’s an interesting thought experiment.)

    Happily or unhappily, the number of chemical mutagens dumped on the environment by the human race almost certainly exceeds the number of mutagens involved with radioactive nuclear power related materials, most all of which have been successfully contained for half a century as opposed to fossil fuel related mutagens, which are now ubiquitous everywhere from the South Pole to the North Pole. In the media, radiolytic mutagenesis is sexy, chemical mutagenesis not so much. No one ever made a movie where giant insects attacked cities because they were mutants created by a planar polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon.

    Anyone who can seriously read the scientific literature recognizes that the reduction in the radioactive load of the environment will be the case in any continuous nuclear fuel recycling scheme that runs for about 1000 years; the overall radiation “burden” on the planet will actually be less than the “burden” if nuclear power had not existed.

    None of these facts are likely to exhaust the peanut gallery of anti-nukes. They are true conservatives, no amount of information can cause them to change their minds about any idea to which they have dogmatically attached themselves. This mysticism on their part is, of course, disastrous for the future of humanity, if not for the existence of life itself.

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  17. I recall a few years ago some researchers from a university measured the concentration of thorium, uranium and K-40 from the High Level Natural Radiation Area (HLNRA). Probably to highlight the importance of their research they used the words”dreaded” radiation “Grave threat” of background radiation etc in the introduction to their paper.This is a reflection of what purely academic researchers think about radiation.I wrote a brief note on this tendency in Current Science(96: No7, April 10, 2009) This note is a also a brief review of some of the publications on HLNRA.

    Researchers published more papers later

    You may access it at:

    http://www.currentscience.ac.in/Downloads/article_id_096_07_0878_0879_0.pdf

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  18. Geoff,

    I posted this comment on another site. It is somewhat related to your post and just throwing it in for discussion.

    Thomas Fuller said:

    If the problem is human emissions of CO2 then the answer is well within our grasp–nuclear and hydro buildout, with natural gas as a bridge until it is complete.

    I agree. That is what needs to be done.

    The next question is how can it be achieved? It won’t happen unless electricity from nuclear becomes cheaper than from fossil fuel. That is the key point that many people haven’t yet accepted or if they have they haven’t acknowledged it, clearly and unambiguously.

    Once that is acknowledge it, then we can move to addressing how this can be achieved.

    Reducing the emissions intensity of electricity will have to do the early lifting if the goal is to substantially reduce global GHG emissions. Emissions from electricity will have to be reduced by some 80% to 90% if we want to reduce global emissions from all sources by around 50%.

    There is limited capacity for more hydro, so hydro’s share of global electricity generation will fall over time, not increase. So it is not where our focus should be. Non-hydro renewables will have only a relatively insignificant role. They are very expensive and not stainable.

    Nuclear power will have to be a major part of the solution. It seems will have to reach about 75% of electricity generation (similar to where France has been for the past 30 years), and electricity will have to be significantly larger proportion of total energy than it is now, to reduce global GHG emission by 50%.

    To achieve that, the cost of electricity from nuclear power will have to become cheaper than from fossil fuels.

    Here’s my suggested way to achieve it (to reduce emissions from electricity by around 80% to 90%).

    The next US Administration takes the lead to persuade the US citizens nuclear is about as safe as or safer than any other electricity source. US can gain enormously by leading the world on developing new, small modular nuclear power plants; allowing and encouraging innovation and competition; thus unleashing the US’s ability to innovate and compete to produce and supply the products the various world markets want.
    The next US President uses his influence with the leaders of the other countries that are most influential in the IAEA to get their IAEA representatives to support a process to re-examine the justification for the allowable radiation limits – as the US has just announced (last week) it is to do over the next 18 months.

    US study on low-dose ionising radiation

    The US Department of Energy (DOE) and National Academy of Sciences have been directed to work together to assess the current status of US and international research on low-dose radiation and to formulate a long-term research agenda under a bill approved by the US House of Representatives. The Low Dose Radiation Research Act of 2015 directs the two organisations to carry out a research program “to enhance the scientific understanding of and reduce uncertainties associated with the effects of exposure to low dose radiation in order to inform improved risk management methods.” The study is to be completed within 18 months.

    The Act arises from a letter from a group of health physicists who pointed out that the limited understanding of low-dose health risks impairs the nation’s decision-making capabilities, whether in responding to radiological events involving large populations such as the 2011 Fukushima accident or in areas such as the rapid increase in radiation-based medical procedures, the cleanup of radioactive contamination from legacy sites and the expansion of civilian nuclear energy. The aftermath of the Fukushima accident has boosted concern that unduly conservative standards may have large adverse health and welfare costs.

    WNN 20/1/15. Radiation health effects http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Safety-and-Security/Radiation-and-Health/Nuclear-Radiation-and-Health-Effects/

    Once the radiation limits start being raised this should have a catalytic effect on reducing emissions: 1) it will mean radiation leaks are understood to be less dangerous than currently thought > less people will need to be evacuated from effected zones > reduced cost accident of accidents > reduced accident insurance cost; 2) the people of the world reconsider the evidence about the effects of radiation > they gain an understanding it is much less harmful than they thought > fear subsides > opposition to nuclear declines > easier and less expensive to find new sites for power plants > increased levels of support from by the people in the surrounding areas > planning and sight approval costs come down over time; 3) The risk of projects being delayed during construction or once in operation declines > all this leads to a lowering of the investors’ risk premium > thus reducing the financing costs for all of the plants life; 4) Increasing public support for nuclear allows the NRC licensing process to be completely revamped and the culture of the organisation to be changed from “safety first” to an appropriate balance of all costs and risks, including the consequences (e.g. higher fatalities per TWh) if nuclear development and rollout is made too expensive to compete as well as it could if the costs were lower.
    NRC is revamped – its Terms of Reference and its culture are changed. Licensing period for new designs is reduced, e.g. to the equivalent of the design and licensing period for new aircraft designs.
    Small modular reactors are licensed quickly. New designs, new versions, new models, and design changes are processed expeditiously. This will lead to more competition, more innovation, learning rate continually improves so that costs come down.
    The efficiency of using the fuel can be improved by nearly a factor of 100. That gives some idea of how much room there is to reduce the cost of nuclear power over the decades ahead.
    Eventually, fusion will be viable and then the technology life cycle starts all over again.

    Like

  19. Peter Lang. The idea to get the US government to teach about the truth about LNT and the outdated standards is a good one asd your breakdown of successive steps is also good. Your opening I think is too much of a compromise. Calling Natural Gas a bridge is really where it is at already but it is not something we should accept. Your policy is pronuclear and that is good but your willingness to accept natural gas as a bridge is too much of a compromise. Adding any CO2 at all to the over saturated oceans is a step in the wrong direction. Ocean acidification can be mitigated by using nuclear reactors.

    The creation of lime by heating limestone with electric kilns powered by nuclear reactors is what’s need. See Alex Cannara discuss the lime cycle

    http://www.the-weinberg-foundation.org/tag/alex-cannara/

    It will be a large effort and may not get started for a decade but what narrow thread of hope we should be clinging to and pushing for is new generation reactors such as molten salt reactors that have the best chance of being built cheaper than coal. There is a lot of educating and training required to get the technicians and staff prepared as well as huge hurdles in getting acceptance by the NRC and EPA is the US.

    I fully understand the frustration Australians have with a government that does not accept nuclear. Clearly nuclear energy can do the most good and it does not need help from natural gas or renewables like wind and solar. So to stay on topic for the thread 90 percent of your post works. Just the part about natural gas being acceptable bridge does not in my opinion. So having wider support for low level radiation is the kind of first principals that need to get passed on to the world.

    Thanks Rick Maltese http://energyrealityproject.com

    Like

  20. Rick. If you write down the chemical equations for creating lime from limestone and the subsequent absorption of CO2, you will see that the idea is nonsense. As things worsen, I’m afraid that we are going to see many more of these snake oil missionaries, offering false medicines to a worried patient.

    Preparation for factory production, and potentially mass production, of modular reactors is already in preparation, a project part-funded by the US DoE. Look up “NuScale” for the progress of the project.

    However I am with you on the issue of compromising with natural gas. I guess Peter is speaking of the likely result of political negotiation, rather than responsible planning. But if the groups urging the elimination of carbon emissions make that compromise, they/we will have abdicated our responsibility to stand against the use of natural gas. We would have to stay silent as we watch the spread of pipelines and rights of way across the countryside, everywhere that gas has not yet penetrated. On our watch, the tooling up and capitalisation for gas would commit industries and infrastructure to a further century of pollution.

    Like

  21. Roger. Timothy Maloney does a breakdown of the chemistry of limestone to lime and then re-absorption of Carbon in the ocean to the sea floor. I’ve see similar information from Alex Cannara. The heated limestone does release CO2 but not enough to be reused so the idea is to capture that CO2 and dispose of it. The suggested method is to find volcanic rock which is depleted of CO2 and bubble the CO2 into the rock. Experiments seem to work in Iceland where it’s been tested.

    http://www.timothymaloney.net/www.timothymaloney.net/Virgin_Earth_Challenge.html

    Like

  22. Any scheme that purports to extract carbon from the atmosphere becomes an excuse to continue dumping carbon into it. It would be easy to dismiss that proposal as a crank out on the Internet getting airtime from worried people eager to believe. Others are harder to dismiss, distractions we should have no time for.

    In the current context, you yourself have called out on one such fraud. We are repeatedly sprayed with the spiel, “by turning on the gas tap you halve your emissions”. It takes a little critical thinking not to be fooled into believing that by turning on the gas tap a second time we have eliminated the other half as well. You are thinking critically, Rick.

    Like

  23. Peter et al. Anybody seen the Feb issue of SCIAM? An astonishing scare mongering and ignorant anti-nuclear piece by one Steven Featherstone … “The Swallows of Fukushima”

    Can everybody please read it and write to Scientific American.

    Like

  24. Roger Clifton says,

    Any scheme that purports to extract carbon from the atmosphere becomes an excuse to continue dumping carbon into it … distractions we should have no time for.

    No purporting here. Schemes to allow a teratonne or two of man-added CO2 to just stay in the atmosphere and the top kilometre of the sea fly in the face of thermodynamic reality.

    OK, not “fly”. They sit with folded hands in the face of thermodynamic reality that favours a much less passive approach.

    Like

  25. Excellent article and interesting comments.

    Let me add that it doesn’t help to talk about dose per year. We need regulations on dose per day, just like most drugs prescriptions.

    1 msv/ day is a conservative and safe regulatory limit.

    Like

  26. Cyril r,

    Thank you for your comment. I am very interested in what the radiation limits should be set to on the basis of objective, best available evidence. Can you tell me what the is the basis of your suggested 1 mSv/d allowable radiation limit? Can you also say how this compares with limits in radiation therapy, and the known effects of long term realtively high doses.?

    Like

  27. Please read this book: “Radiation and Reason, The impact of Science on a culture of fear” by Wade Allison. The Wade Allison in England, not the other Wade Allison at Harvard.
    http://www.radiationandreason.com/
    Professor Allison says we can take up to 10 rems per month, a little more than 1000 times the present “legal” limit. The old limit was 5 rems/lifetime. A single dose of 800 rems could kill you, but if you have time to recover between doses of 10 rems, no problem. It is like donating blood: You see “4 gallon donor” stickers on cars. You know they didn’t give 4 gallons all at once. There is a threshold just over 10 rems/month. You are getting .35 rems/year NATURAL background radiation right where you are right now if you are where I am.

    Like

  28. Yes,

    That’s what I’ve been following too. I realise it cant be raised by 1000 x in one go. We need to raise it step by step. But just the fact that the USA is beginning to look into this is very good news. We need to advocate for IAEA to do so too.

    If the limits could be raised just in a first step, this could be a catalyst to get the public engaged in the discussion. That can only be good.

    Like

  29. Per Allison: Radiation therapy for cancer would definitely kill you if it was a whole body dose. That is why at least 90% must be absorbed by the cancer, and why the gamma knife rotates/orbits so that nearby tissue gets a smaller dose. If my memory is working [probably isn’t] the total over 2 months could be as high as 2000 REMs.

    Like

  30. “2000 REMs” ??? Perhaps you mean “20 Sv”.

    This is an international website and we owe it to our readers to use International Units. Although there are a few of us (ahem) who remember how to use slide rules to calculate in CGS units, we owe it to posterity to be using SI, the units that everyone under 70 years old learnt at school. Of course a lot of the literature we refer to was written by authors who would now be over 70 years old. Rather than thinking (and subsequently writing) in obsolete units, we should be reading such papers with a pencil in hand to mark up the quantities converted to SI in the margin. Divide rems by 100 to get sieverts, rads by 100 to get grays. There is no capital letter in “sieverts” but there is in “mSv”.

    “Dose rate” is measured by dosimeters as so-much dose per second or per hour. However CyrilR has pointed out above that we should be regulating human dose rates in millisieverts per day, as in medical prescriptions. For similar metabolic reasons, radiation oncologists use the day as the standard minimum rest period between treatments.

    Like

  31. Edward Greisch,

    I haven’t found your response persuasive. It seems to be cherry picking from what Wade Allison says. Can you please tell me what is the best evidence of the maximum sustained daily radiation dose that people receive for extended periods without any known harmful effects.

    Here are four references that have influenced my thinking on this important issue:

    http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=15900&page=0

    http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=16288

    http://home.comcast.net/~robert.hargraves/public_html/RadiationSafety26SixPage.pdf

    Like

  32. “Can you also say how this compares with limits in radiation therapy, and the known effects of long term realtively high doses.”

    Peter Lang, this is a subject of some debate. There is some evidence to suggest that a (say) 30 mSv dose once a month is better than a 1 mSv/day constant irradiation because of supposed better stimulation effects. It doesn’t really interest me so much because, radiation therapy is only used for lethal cancers so it is not really an issue. We should in my opinion not have any limits to radiation therapy it is just pointless.

    I’m primarily interested in nuclear power. For nuclear power the no threshold, lump-it-all-in cumulative dose nonsense is a real problem. It is rather elegantly and conservatively solved by introducing a 1 mSv per day treshold…

    Any model that we use to infer risks to populations must be:

    simple and practical to use. (also because of legal issues).
    more or less accurately describe the risks from nuclear power plant accidents in epidemiological terms. (obviously! we can’t have models that claim damage when none exists).
    conservative. (this is from a cautious and regulatory perspective).

    My suggestion of ignoring the first 1 mSv/day and treat the rest as linear damage gets pretty close to the requirements. I’ll be the first to admit it isn’t scientifically as pleasing as could be.

    Like

  33. Edward Greisch,

    I don’t understand your comment. he is suggesting we should safely raise the allowable radiation limits from ALARA to AHARS. He suggests this could mean we could increase the radiation limits by a factor of up to 100 (over time).

    If IAEA could start the process of raising the radiation limits it could have these positive effects for human health and well-being world wide:

    get the public reengaged on the issue of how safe is nuclear power, and how much lower the cost could become (over time) if the regulatory impediments were removed
    give support to a genuinely progressive US President to change the culture of the NRC from safety first, or safety at all costs, to a reasonable balance of safety and cost with the primary objective being to reduce the cost of nuclear power world wide so that nuclear can compete, innovation and competition will start a snow ball effect, costs will come down, and the roll out rate will accelerate.
    Once nuclear largely replaces coal for electricity generation millions of early fatalities would be avoided per year.

    So, I still don’t understand your point – partly because you didn’t answer my question which was:
    what is the best evidence of the maximum sustained daily radiation dose that people receive for extended periods without any known harmful effects?

    Like

  34. Cyril R,

    Thanks you. I ujnderstand and agree with this:

    “Any model that we use to infer risks to populations must be:

    simple and practical to use. (also because of legal issues).
    more or less accurately describe the risks from nuclear power plant accidents in epidemiological terms. (obviously! we can’t have models that claim damage when none exists).
    conservative. (this is from a cautious and regulatory perspective).”

    I’d still like an answer to my question I asked Edward Greisch.

    Like

  35. Answer to your question: Do the analysis that Allison did if you want to get that much detail. I don’t have access like Allison does. You could try http://www.nap.edu. Allison’s web site is http://www.radiationandreason.com. You could at least read Allison’s book. Or you could ask Allison. I am not Allison.

    Allison says we can relax by a factor of one thousand, not one hundred. We can take up to 10 REMs per month without harm. Allison’s thesis, not mine. I think Allison makes a convincing case.

    If you want to use Sieverts instead of REMs, that is your choice.

    Like

  36. Oh, great… So, let’s raise world-wide radiation limits (and in YOUR neighborhood, too, btw) for what is a known carcinogen at the atomic scale – why? – because in a western Indian state, they’ve been living with far-higher background radiation levels for a thousand years than what has been established as a limit for many decades in the USA and elsewhere – and because our bodies repair our DNA if not overwhelmed by a single massive dose. – – – > We have a lack of concern, reasoning and simple intellect in many of the comments above. Lissen up!! Many individual toxins can be handled by the human body. This is known… However, with the myriad of natural and man-made toxins present in our environment from PCB’s, to arsenic, from radon to nanomolecules, that have been, are, and will be produced at molecular and atomic precision in the next 50-200+ years, the last thing we need are ADDITIONAL TOXINS IN OUR ENVIRONMENT. There are possible interactions between toxins that we don’t know about, and until they are discovered, use the PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE. Repeat: The Precautionary Principle. The West Indians live in their environment, but DON’T EXPORT THEIR ENVIRONMENTAL CHARACTERISTICS into mine and CREATE NATIONAL POLICY with it! As much as possible, keep radiation and radioactivity OUT of my backyard. – – – – > In a greater context, I see arguments in the above comments as part of a gradual erosion against safeguards against substances that are potentially lethal for hundreds and even thousands of years….and nuclear power becomes the issue. We live in a complex world: we have complex problems. Complex solutions are never perfect, never. And to resolve the problems complex solutions create does NOT call for further, even more complex, solutions. I’ll suggest to you, my dear reader, that until we have a re-definition or our relationship with the natural world, we. are. doomed…. because “the game” is never-ending, nature always bats last. Nature always has the last word.

    (( Whomever cares to respond, I’m here on WordPress.com .))

    Like

  37. Where Did Natural Background Radiation Come From?

    The sum of the natural background radiation at Fukushima plus the radiation leak from the reactor is less than the natural background radiation where I live in Illinois. There was no reason for Japan to shut down their reactors. If the reactors at Fukushima had not been shut down, would they have continued to operate normally?

    Where did natural background radiation come from? The universe started out with only 3 elements: hydrogen, helium and lithium. All other elements were made in stars or by supernova explosions. Our star is a seventh generation star. The previous 6 generations were necessary for the elements heavier than lithium to be built up. Since heavier elements were built by radiation processes, they were very radioactive when first made.

    Our planet was made of the debris of a supernova explosion that happened about 5 billion years ago. The Earth has been decreasing in radioactivity ever since. All elements heavier than iron were necessarily made by accretion of mostly neutrons but sometimes protons onto lighter nuclei. Radioactive decays were necessary to bring these new nuclei into the realm of nuclear stability. That is why all rocks are still radioactive.

    Radiation also comes from outer space in the form of cosmic rays. Cosmic rays come from supernovas that are very far away. There will always be cosmic rays.

    Like

  38. Plenum222 says that we are straying from a important precautionary principle, laid out a long time ago in the nuclear nations.

    Well, precautions are steps taken in ignorance of how real a threat is, to be revised as knowledge comes in.

    That knowledge has been accumulating and the Kerala health information has contributed to that knowledge. In the 60 years since the precautionary limits were set, we have learnt that ionising radiation is not the bogey once feared. People have not been dying like flies from chronic gamma radiation, not even in the worst accidents. In the same period we have learnt of the terrible threat posed by continuing to burn coal, oil and gas.

    The people of Kerala have been thriving in the presence of gamma radiation for centuries. As EdwardG has just pointed out, we now realise that gamma radiation is naturally around us everywhere. And as pointed out earlier in the thread, we have evolved in times of much higher radiation fields.

    Your fears are out of date. If you are able to warn people of something fearful, tell them about the terrible consequences of the climate changes expected ahead of us.

    Like

  39. Pingback: Phobic Fear Might Be In Your DNA, But It's No Excuse For Sloppy Thinking And Hanging The Innocent - New Matilda

  40. Does it matter to anyone else that the Habha Atomic Research Centre funded the study of Kerala radiation. Do you know who their parent company is? The Department of Atomic Energy. IF there were a correlation between radiation and deformities and deaths, the Department of Atomic Energy be totally trustworthy and tell us, right? I have an issue with an institution like the Habha Atomic Research Centre whose core mandate is to “sustain applications of nuclear energy, primarily for power generation” publishing stats.

    Like

  41. Please read this book: “Radiation and Reason, The impact of Science on a culture of fear” by Wade Allison. The Wade Allison in England, not the other Wade Allison at Harvard.
    http://www.radiationandreason.com/
    Professor Allison says we can take up to 10 rems per month, a little more than 1000 times the present “legal” limit. The old limit was 5 rems/lifetime. A single dose of 800 rems could kill you, but if you have time to recover between doses of 10 rems, no problem. It is like donating blood: You see “4 gallon donor” stickers on cars. You know they didn’t give 4 gallons all at once. There is a threshold just over 10 rems/month. You are getting .35 rems/year NATURAL background radiation right where you are right now if you are where I am.

    Natural Background Radiation is radiation that was always there, 1000 years ago, a million years ago, etc. Natural Background Radiation comes from the rocks in the ground and from exploding stars thousands of light years away. All rocks contain uranium. Radon gas is a decay product of uranium.

    Habha Atomic Research Centre had nothing to do with all of the other data from all over the world. For example, one of Allison’s sources of data was autopsies of the “radium girls” who have all died of old age by now. They painted watch dials with radium back in the early 20th century. “Kerala radiation” had nothing to do with them. So whatever Habha Atomic Research Centre may have done is irrelevant at worst. Your allegation is nonsense.

    Like

  42. In reply to Jena Ardell,

    In terms of Medical Research the vast majority of studies in relation to the development of new drugs are paid for by the pharmaceutical companies that are developing the drugs and hope to profit by the sale of those drugs.

    If we use the logic of your argument then we should have a problem with taking any drug prescribed to us by a doctor.

    Unless you have some facts to support your argument, your argument is just your opinion.

    Like

  43. 10 REM per month

    This is like the people who believe three degrees warmer globally won’t be a problem, because you aren’t bothered when the weather gets three degees warmer from one day to the next.

    Fission daughters from human activity don’t increase the overall average exposure by raising the background evenly everywhere. They’re point sources.

    Like

  44. Hank Roberts is completely wrong. Global Warming is already a disaster in Syria, South Sudan, the Sahel and many other places around the world.
    Coal fired power plants put 100 to 400 times as much radiation into the air as nuclear power plants. Coal power plants are still only 10% of natural background in low background areas.

    Coal contains: URANIUM and all of the decay products of uranium, ARSENIC, LEAD, MERCURY, Antimony, Cobalt, Nickel, Copper, Selenium, Barium, Fluorine, Silver, Beryllium, Iron, Sulfur, Boron, Titanium, Cadmium, Magnesium, THORIUM, Calcium, Manganese, Vanadium, Chlorine, Aluminum, Chromium, Molybdenum and Zinc. There is so much of these elements in coal that cinders and coal smoke are actually valuable ores. We should be able to get ALL THE URANIUM AND THORIUM WE NEED TO FUEL NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS FOR CENTURIES BY USING COAL CINDERS AND SMOKE AS ORE. Unburned Coal and crude oil also contain BENZENE. BENZENE causes leukemia. We could get all of our uranium and thorium from coal ashes and cinders. The carbon content of coal ranges from 96% down to 25%, the remainder being rock of various kinds.
    The uranium decay chain includes the radioactive gas RADON, which you are breathing. Radon decays in about a day into polonium, the super-poison. If you have cancer, check for benzene, dioxins, vinyl chloride, etcetera in your past.

    See:
    http://www.ornl.gov/info/ornlreview/rev26-34/text/colmain.html
    or
    http://clearnuclear.blogspot.com
    in case the ORNL site does not work. clearnuclear.blogspot.com has one paper by Gabbard that the Oak Ridge National Lab site does not. The impurities in coal vary wildly from mine to mine.

    Make coal fired power plants meet the same requirements for radiation release that nuclear power plants have to meet.  [They can’t. Requiring a coal plant to meet nuclear plant standards forces the coal plant to shut down.]

    Chernobyl released as much radiation as a coal fired power plant releases EVERY 7 years and 5 months. You get 100 to 400 times as much radiation from coal as from nuclear. Natural gas can contain radon.

    And coal produces more CO2 than any other fuel. What we need to do first to stop Global Warming [GW] is to shut down the coal industry.

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  45. Evacuate Denver! [not]
    If you live in Chernobyl the total radiation dose you get each year is 390 millirem. That’s natural plus residual from the accident and fire. In Denver, Colorado, the natural dose is over 1000 millirem/year. Denver gets more than 2.56 times as much radiation as Chernobyl! But Denver has a low cancer rate.

    Calculate your annual radiation dose:
    http://www.ans.org/pi/resources/dosechart/

    The Average American gets 361 millirems/year. Smokers add 280 millirems/year from lead210. Radon accounts for 200 mrem/year.

    Some natural background readings:
    Guarapari, Brazil: 3700 millirem/year
    Tamil Nadu, India: 5300 millirem/year
    Ramsar, Iran: 8900 to 13200 millirem/year

    “milli” means .001 1 millirem = .001 rem

    Denver gets 2.8 times the national average.  Denver’s rate is caused by cosmic rays.  Remember, Denver is the mile high city, above a lot of protective atmosphere.  There is a lot more cancer at sea level near oil refineries on the gulf coast. Oil refineries dump BENZENE into the air. BENZENE causes leukemia.

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  46. Jena Ardell asks an important question, how do we trust research funded by … (etc). I think the answer is best supplied by the procedures of science itself: is it peer-reviewed? Readers like Jena can rest assured that BNC requires that ultimate authority be sourced in links to peer-reviewed papers.

    Like

  47. Apparently the article is trying to create a correlation without stating any explicit correlation. One may be inclined to make a correlation between cancer and radiation levels

    To make such conclusions, one should possibly do one or all of these things
    – Study the incidence of cancer per 1000 people in places with similar food habit but do not have similar radiation levels
    – Study the incidence of cancer per 1000 people in places with similar radiation levels and may have different food habits

    Without this studies what we may infer from the article may not be valid

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