Both the great Truths and the great Falsehoods of the twentieth century lie hidden in the arcane, widely inaccessible, and seemingly mundane domain of the radiation sciences

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Trial of the Cult of Nuclearists: Exhibit B Continued

What follows is the continuation, in serial form, of a central chapter from my book A Primer in the Art of Deception: The Cult of Nuclearists, Uranium Weapons and Fraudulent Science.

Exhibit B continued

For the incredulous readers, shaking their heads in disbelief that the international radiation protection community calculates biological impact of internal emitters by such hocus pocus averaging, rest assured that this is the way things are done.

But why? And what’s the big deal anyway?

A single example will suffice to reveal the nature of the carny game being exposed. Imagine a soldier on a battlefield maneuvering downwind of a burning tank recently destroyed by a depleted uranium penetrator. Inhaling smoke from the fire, the soldier draws deep into his lungs a single particle of uranium oxide, UO2. [Footnote: The figures presented in this scenario are drawn from an article by Leonard A. Dietz entitled Estimate of Radiation Dose from a Depleted Uranium Oxide Particle.]. (It’s important to keep in mind that this is an ideal example. A victim so exposed to depleted uranium may inhale hundreds of thousands of particles.) The particle is small in diameter, 2.5 microns or 2.5 millionths of a meter, which is equivalent to one ten-thousandth of an inch. (Particles this small are considered respirable. They are capable of reaching the non-ciliated portion of the respiratory airways and can remain lodged in the lung for years or even an entire lifetime.) A depleted uranium particle of this dimension is estimated to consist of 2.10 x 1011 (210,000,000,000) atoms of the uranium isotope U-238. While lodged in the lung, the uranium atoms undergo radioactive decay at a rate determined by that isotope’s unique half-life, the time required for one half the atoms in a sample to spontaneously decay by emitting particles and/or energy from their nuclei. Due to the long half-life of uranium, 4.5 billion years, on average only 32.3 atoms making up the particle will decay each year. To complicate the scenario, depleted uranium is not pure uranium-238. Present are atoms of other uranium isotopes with their own unique half-lives and energy emissions: uranium-234, uranium-235, and uranium-236. Together, these three uranium isotopes undergo an additional 5.3 atomic disintegrations per year. So, all tolled, approximately 38 atoms within the particle trapped in the lung of the soldier undergo radioactive decay each year. Taking into account the density of the tissue and the energy of the emitted alpha particles, the alphas will travel no more than a distance of 0.00331 centimeters. If the depleted uranium particle is visualized as residing at the center of a sphere with a radius equal to the maximum distance capable of being traversed by the alphas, the volume of cells potentially affected by the radiation will be 1.519 x 10-7 (0.0000001519) cubic centimeters. When the total energy delivered by the alphas in one year to this microscopic volume is calculated, the dose is 17 rads. Taking into account the relative biological effectiveness of alpha particles, the dose to the vulnerable population of cells is 170 rem per year. In the microscopic domain, this is a tremendous amount of energy radiating through a very confined volume.

In discussing the results of this calculation, Leonard Dietz offers the following observation:

"The Code of Federal Regulations dealing with energy specifies permissible radiation doses. Occupational doses (for radiation workers) shall not exceed 5 rem/yr., except in unusual circumstances. For the general population, the annual limit is 170 millirem (0.17 rem) and a specific limit of 500 millirem (0.5 rem) for any individual in the general population.

If the above estimate of radiation dose (170 rem/yr.) received by lung tissue surrounding the depleted uranium oxide particle is correct, then it is 34 times the maximum dose that radiation workers are permitted to receive and 100 times higher than the maximum acceptable dose for the general population. For a 5 micrometer diameter depleted uranium oxide particle (8 times the volume), the estimated dose is 1,360 rem, or 272 times the maximum permissible dose to a radiation worker. Until these doses can be related to a cancer risk factor, they must be viewed as qualitative indicators of danger, as red flags."

Quite obviously, the currently accepted model “cannot deal with small volumes and inhomogeneities of dose, and for this reason is unsafe to apply to internal radiation” [1]. According to current statutes, a member of the public is permitted in any one year to receive no more than a dose of radiation to the whole body of 0.5 rem. It is thought that the organism can absorb the energy of 0.5 rem, and undergo the amount of ionization produced by this energy throughout its molecular structure without causing any significant health detriment. And yet, the single particle of depleted uranium transfers in one year 170 rem to the tiny cluster of cells in its immediate vicinity. This small conglomerate of vulnerable cells is driven into extreme chemical chaos by this single alpha-emitting particle. Until the risk to the hit cells is determined by experimentation, it is scientifically unwarranted to conclude that an inhaled depleted uranium particle is benign. This example highlights an important principle: It is at the level of the cell where radiation effects become significant, not over large masses of tissue. An honest approach to radiation safety would be grounded on this fundamental fact.

Busby has performed similar calculations to the one presented above. In his example, a particle with a diameter of 2 microns is lodged in the lymphatic system [2]. As with the previous example, the dose to the cells in the immediate vicinity of the particle is 150 rem (1500 mSv) per year. By comparison, Busby provides a calculation of how the ICRP would calculate the dose averaged over the whole lymphatic system which is considered to be a mass of 800 grams. By this method of calculation, the yearly dose to the lymphatic system is only a meager 0.0000021 rem (2.1 x 10-7 mSv).

Pause right here. Observe the crafty sleight of hand that is taking place as a card gets sloughed under the table. The International Commission on Radiation Protection is mesmerizing the world into believing the decay of depleted uranium atoms within the body is insignificant. By a system of smoke and mirrors, they take the energy transmitted by a few alpha particles to a small volume of cells and treat is as if this energy is distributed through 800 grams of tissue. Totally false to the reality of the situation, their system DILUTES the impact by suggesting that it is spread over a large volume. In calculating dosage by this manner, the biological effects of imbedded uranium particles is made to appear inconsequential. When the phenomenon is viewed in its true light, the dosage is distributed only to those cells that are actually hit by the marauding alpha particles. A whopping dose of radiation is deposited in a small volume creating significant chemical alterations in the affected cells and setting the stage for mutations and the possible induction of a cancer. When government spokesmen proclaim that depleted uranium does not present a radiation hazard, what method of calculating dosage do you think they are relying upon to substantiate their conclusion?

From these examples, a disturbing truth emerges: The calculation of dosages of radiation from internal emitters based on the averaging of energy over large masses of tissue is a scam. It’s charlatanism. It’s flimflam. It’s a racket of juggling numbers to get them to say whatever the juggler wants them to say. By mathematical prestidigitation, biologically hazardous quantities of radiation can be made to appear innocuous. The august scientific bodies around the world are fabricating lies based on models that do not accurately reflect the reality of the phenomenon. They have erected a monumental intellectual edifice designed to quell the concerns of the public while giving reign to the nuclear establishment to scatter with abandon dangerous quantities of radioactivity over the earth.


[1] European Committee on Radiation Risk (ECRR). Recommendations of the European Committee on Radiation Risk: the Health Effects of Ionising Radiation Exposure at Low Doses for Radiation Protection Purposes. Regulators' Edition. Brussels; 2003.

[2] Busby C. Depleted Science: Health Consequences and Mechanisms of Exposure to Fallout from Depleted Uranium Weapons. Contribution to International DU Conference, Hamburg, October 16-19, 2003. Aberystwyth: Green Audit; 2003.