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

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Trial of the Cult of Nuclearists: SCAM NUMBER NINE

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.

SCAM NUMBER NINE: Let the fox guard the henhouse; leave radiation monitoring and dose reconstruction in the hands of those who have a vested interest in minimizing the perception of hazard.

This scam recurs every time radiation is released into the environment. A clear, documented example from recent history will suffice to expose the deviousness at work when the government takes responsibility for determining dosages and their medical consequences. In 1979, during the Carter administration, a radiation study was undertaken by the Task Force on Compensation for Radiation-Related Illnesses. The purpose of this study was to explore the feasibility of compensating radiation victims living downwind of the Nevada Test Site. The Task Force was comprised of 13 members, six from the Departments of Energy and Defense, with the others drawn from the Veterans Administrations and from the Departments of Justice and Health. In their final report, they estimated that, within the 250 mile radius of the test site, 170,000 people received radiation exposure. Using the “available monitoring data,” they “estimated” that

“19 people had been exposed to more than 5 rems, 10,817 persons had been exposed to between 1 and 5 rems, and the remainder had received less than 1 rem.

Using dose-response statistics published in the controversial 1979 draft report of the National Academy of Science’s Committee on the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (the BEIR III report), the task force estimated that between 18 and 48 cancers above the expected number might occur, of which from 6 to 18 could be fatal. Applying an uncertainty factor of 2, the number of such cases could be as high as from 36 to 96, of which from 12 to 32 might be lethal. ‘Thus, from an overall public health perspective,’ the report stated, ‘the added risk to the downwind population from fallout was very small’” [1].

By this time, the reader should be able to spot some of the elements of the game being played by poker-faced representatives of government. Monitoring data throughout the whole period was inadequate. Dose estimates were based entirely on external gamma irradiation. The medical impact of internal contamination by fission products was conveniently swept under the table and made to disappear from the mind of the casual reader not versed in issues of radiation. Missing entirely from the report was any mention of thyroid doses, knowledge that had been assembled thirteen years earlier by Gofman and Tamplin in Estimation of Dosage to Thyroids of Children in the US From Nuclear Tests Conducted in Nevada During 1952 Through 1957. In that report, the estimated dosages to the thyroid glands of children living in cities within 250 miles of the test site included St. George, 120 rads; Roswell, New Mexico, 57 rads; Salt Lake City, 46 rads [1]. Only by ignoring the available evidence could the task force conclude: “Thus, from an overall public health perspective, the added risk to the downwind population from fallout was very small.”

In contrast to this politicized attempt to sanitize the misdeeds of the government, the National Cancer Institute published an interesting study in 1997. The study attempted to come up with a reasonable estimate of the amount of cancers induced in the population from weapon testing from internal contamination by a single fission product, iodine-131. It’s important to emphasize that only this one isotope was considered. Left out of consideration were the cancers induced by internally incorporated isotopes of strontium, cesium, plutonium, and the other radionuclides meriting attention. Their conclusion was sobering. They estimated that 150 million curies of iodine-131 were scattered over the United States in doses large enough to produce 10 to 75,000 cases of thyroid cancer, with 10% of these being fatal.


[1] Fradkin P.L. Fallout: An American Nuclear Tragedy. Tucson: University of Arizona Press; 1989.