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, July 29, 2010

The Trial of the Cult of Nuclearists: SCAM NUMBER TWENTY

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 TWENTY: Entrust agencies of questionable objectivity with the power to establish the risk factors for low-level radiation exposure.

Historically, the radiation protection agencies and the committees that publish estimates of radiation risk have been staffed by people with close ties to government nuclear programs and the nuclear industry. When establishing guidelines for radiation safety, a fundamental consideration was the development of a system that enabled those with interests in nuclear technology to go about their business without undue interference. This clandestine alliance between regulators and users has introduced bias into the science of radiation protection and has ultimately been responsible for many of the scams unveiled in this Exhibit.

In the circle game of radiation protection, the ICRP earns its status and legitimacy from the regulatory bodies of governments that consult it for advice. Completing the circle, the radiation safety standards of a nation are deemed legitimate because they issue from such an authoritative and respected body as the ICRP. This incestuous relationship had its start at the beginning of the nuclear age, in 1946, when the AEC sought guidelines from the newly reformed NCRP, which it helped to establish through Lauriston Taylor. This, in turn, led to the formation of the ICRP. Today, the ICRP takes the position that its function is nothing more than to offer recommendations on radiation safety. In a meeting in Brussels in 1998, as recounted in the first publication of the ECRR, the scientific secretary of the ICRP, Dr. Valentin, told attendees “the ICRP was an independent body which gave advice on radiation safety, but that those who considered this advice unsafe or questionable were entirely free to consult any other group or organization” [1]. As fair and open-minded as this may sound, the ruse in the matter is that governments consult only the ICRP and the other copycat agencies when authoring laws and regulatory policies for their nuclear programs. Any individual or group is free to author whatever dissenting opinion they wish on the current safety of radiation standards, but it won’t make a damn bit of difference to the entrenched power structure and the nuclear programs it sponsors.

One would think that with the variety of international organizations involved in radiation safety, a number of different points of view on the hazards of low-level exposure would be represented. However, this is not the case. Except for minor differences, the various agencies base their work on the same assumptions and come up with similar risk assessments. They all embrace the flawed methodology outlined in Exhibits A, B, and D, and they all base their assessment of the risk of chronic, low-level internal radiation exposure primarily on the corrupted Hiroshima study or on other studies of acute, external exposure. All discount as inconsequential the health detriment posed by low doses of radiation. This unanimity of opinion can be interpreted in two different ways: either the science is so well understood that there is little room for disagreement, or a political agenda has taken hold of the various radiation protection agencies in order to control the perception of hazard posed by radiation exposure.

Control over what ideas occupy the minds of human beings are the stakes being played for in the debate over radiation risk. Those organizations fronting for the nuclear establishment promote a single, unified, dogmatic point of view of what risks are imposed on humanity. Given the influence and power of this tyrannical system, a new organization such as the ECRR should be welcomed into the debate for it provides fresh ideas, allowing the public to weigh alternatives and engage in free thought. To gain an appreciation of the importance for alternative points of view, it is instructive to compare the predictions of ICRP models and those of the ECRR on the losses imposed on humanity by nuclear technology. For instance, ICRP models predict that the worldwide health detriment from all nuclear activities (global nuclear tests, weapons fabrication, nuclear power production, radioisotope production, and accidents.) up to the year 2000 is 1,173,606 extra cancer deaths and 2,350,000 total cancers. Under these models, no infant deaths or fetal deaths are predicted as having occurred. By contrast, the ECRR has calculated an alternative picture of reality by adding additional risk factors to the ICRP methodology to fill perceived inaccuracies in that system. The ECRR models estimate the worldwide health detriment as totaling 61,619,512 extra cancer deaths and a total of 123,239,024 induced cancers. Further, they estimate that the human nuclear experiment has produced 1,600,000 infant deaths and 1,880,000 fetal deaths. Similarly, the predicted mortality from the accident at Chernobyl differs widely. ICRP models predict an excess of 30,000 fatal cancers worldwide, a figure that will be statistically invisible within normal population incidences of the disease. By contrast, ECRR models predict that the overall 70 year yield of fatal cancers, in Belarus alone, will be 1,200,000. Global figures are predicted to be in excess of 6,000,000.

The reason for these wide discrepancies rests primarily on how the ICRP and ECRR models estimate the health detriment produced by internal emitters. This is the crux of the debate on low-level radiation effects. As we have seen throughout this chapter, the ICRP predicts health effects by calculating the total amount of energy absorbed by the body or organ from decaying radioisotopes external to the body and deposited internally, weights the contributions of alpha emitters within the body’s interior, and then averages the total energy over the mass under consideration (whole body or organ) to derive a dose. In sharp contrast, the ECRR model partitions internal and external doses. The calculation of the internal dose, contrary to ICRP methodology, includes weighting factors that take into consideration the specific biophysical and biochemical behavior of each isotope within the body and, further, discriminates between whether the isotope(s) is distributed as individual molecules or as sub-micron or micron-sized hot particles.

The skirmish over dose-response is not simply some esoteric and theoretical controversy by the experts with no practical significance for the rest of humanity. The fate of the whole human race may very well rest upon it. Our ideas of the anticipated effects of a nuclear exchange, the amount of wellness sacrificed to our continued reliance on nuclear power, the health detriment imposed on a population by uranium weapons, all rest on the model we choose for faithfully portraying reality.


[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.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Trial of the Cult of Nuclearists: SCAM NUMBER NINETEEN

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 NINETEEN: Mislead the world into believing that, below the dosages where deterministic effects begin to occur, the only health concern from radiation exposure is the risk of cancer.

To ensure the continuation of programs that contaminate the biosphere with radiation, the Cult of Nuclearists must downplay the detriment to public health that accompanies their deeds. A major tactic in this campaign is to fixate the attention of the public on the idea that the fundamental risk to health following radiation exposure is cancer. In living systems, the molecular damage produced by radiation injures the structure and function of cells. Vulnerable to harm are both the germ cells (the cells responsible for reproduction) and somatic cells (all the other types of cells making up the organism). For the individual receiving radiation exposure, the source of any health detriment is produced from damage to somatic cells. Damage to germ cells carries the additional risk of impacting on the health of offspring, from the moment of conception to birth and then onward through to old age until the final death of that individual. The central focus of radiobiology for the last half century has been the quest to understand how radiation can damage DNA and lead to cancer. Little research has been devoted to understanding non-cancerous processes induced by DNA damage, and the implications these have on cell function and the health of the organism as a whole. The entire biochemical structure and function of a cell or its descendants is vulnerable to radiation-induced alteration, depending on where along a chromosome damage is incurred. The science of radiation effects remains in its infancy.

Given that cancer is a recognized outcome of radiation exposure, the public health focus of the radiation protection agencies has been to assess the risk to the population from all types of exposure for all types of cancer. The probability of cancer is predicted by the risk factors embraced by the radiation protection agencies. In the high-dose range, these are based on the accepted epidemiological studies. In the low and intermediate dose ranges, extrapolations are made from known high-dose effects. For radiation protection purposes, a linear relationship is assumed between dose and cancer yield. According to the ECRR, for the ICRP, UNSCEAR, BEIR, NCRP, NRPB, and the state agencies of the member nations of the European Union, the only health effects considered to be produced by low-level radiation are “fatal” cancers, heritable damage, and IQ retardation. Members of the public may find this disquieting. What about nonfatal cancers and benign tumors? The incidence of these are many times more frequent than fatal cancers, and if nothing else, they adversely affect quality of life and take a toll on psychological/emotional well-being. Damage to germ cells with resulting hereditary disorders is acknowledged by the radiation protection agencies as a possible outcome of low-level radiation exposure, but the claim is made that these have yet to be identified as occurring in man. (Evidence to prove that this position is incorrect will be presented in Exhibit F.) According to the ECRR, “the ICRP only considers heritable effects which are measurable in phenotype after birth, e.g., congenital defects and perhaps increases in clinically diagnosed heritable genetic diseases.” However, there are other possible consequences of germ cell injury which are recognized by the ECRR but ignored by the radiation protection agencies that establish risk factors for radiation injury. Germ cell injury may produce developmental problems to the fetus from the moment of conception onward. These may result in spontaneous abortions or fetal deaths. Is the public informed that this is a possible outcome of low-level radiation exposure? No! Further, as a result of radiation-induced germ cell injury, a newborn child may carry in its mutated DNA non-apparent abnormalities that may cause or contribute to the full gamut of possible illnesses later in life. Is the public informed that this is a possible outcome of low-level radiation exposure? No! Aside from inherited damage, there are risks other than cancer to the developing fetus from low-level radiation exposure in the womb. These, also, are not adequately addressed by the radiation protection agencies. Given the vulnerability of the developing fetus for “low probability” events producing “high impact” effects, no consideration is given to the effect of low-level radiation on the birth rate within populations, the incidence of low birthweight babies, and the rate of infant mortality. Is the public informed that these are a possible outcome of low-level radiation exposure? No!

Epidemiological studies have produced evidence of a wide range of health effects other than cancer. These are not addressed by the radiation “protection” community. To avoid repetition, the reader is directed to a fuller discussion of this topic in the last section of the chapter "A Primer in the Art of Deception".

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Trial of the Cult of Nuclearists: SCAM NUMBER EIGHTEEN

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 EIGHTEEN: Base estimates of health risks from chronic exposure to internal emitters upon instances of acute flashes of external exposure.

This scam is the centerpiece for much of the current mischief perpetrated by the radiation protection agencies. It is the practical implementation of the falsehoods rehearsed in Exhibits A, B and C. It is grounded upon the dubious premise, which has gained ascendancy in the discipline of health physics, that all types of health detriment from all types of radiation exposure is simply related to the total amount of energy absorbed. No distinction is made between energy delivered to the body externally by photons and energy delivered internally by alpha and beta particles, despite the fact that these can create completely different spatial and temporal patterns of molecular damage to cells and organs. In the case of external irradiation, the total amount of energy deposited in the body is conceptualized as being uniformly distributed, or “averaged,” over the target mass, be it the whole body or a particular organ. How risky this dose is for inducing cancer can then be estimated by consulting a handful of studies of acute external irradiation, the most prominent being the corrupted Hiroshima Life Span Study. The identical method, without question as to its legitimacy, is used for instances of internal contamination. First, the total energy emitted by embedded hot particles is calculated. This quantity is treated as if it were uniformly distributed throughout the target organ, even though in many circumstances this is certainly not the case. The likelihood of illness is then predicted according to the studies of external radiation. What is important to note is that the risk factors, the probability of cancer incidence, for the different types of exposure are derived from the same source: the corrupted Hiroshima study and the handful of other studies of external exposure. By this method, the radiation protection agencies pitch to the world their central, unverified hypothesis: that the biological response of chronic low-dose exposure to internal emitters incorporated in the body from nuclear pollution in the environment in no way differs from that produced by an instantaneous flash of gamma irradiation at one moment in time. By the logic of this schema, the data from the highly politicized Life Span Study insinuates itself into forecasts about the health consequences of chronic, internal, low-dose exposure from such situations as Chernobyl, living downwind from a nuclear installation, and inhaling weaponized uranium. Exhibit F will bear witness that this methodology produces risk factors that repeatedly underestimate the number of radiation-induced illnesses inflicted on the innocent and unsuspecting throughout the world.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Trial of the Cult of Nuclearists: SCAM NUMBER SEVENTEEN

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 SEVENTEEN: Disembowel the profession of health physics to such an extent that its members will turn a blind eye to the misdeeds of Government.

Of what use is the profession of health physics in protecting humanity from the hazards of radiation if none of its practitioners has the courage to speak out against Government abuse of science as exemplified by any of the previously mentioned scams?

Up to this point in Exhibit E, we have scrutinized that pesky and dodgy character dose, and witnessed some of the antics it is called upon to perform in the highly politicized extravaganza of downplaying the hazards of exposure to ionizing radiation. The time has come to turn attention to the other prankster in the carnival: risk. Determining the risks to health that accompany exposure is a central objective of the science of radiation protection. No sane community of human beings is going to allow the dispersal of a toxin within its midst unless it is confident that it has correctly assessed that toxin’s risk to health and found that risk to be acceptable. Analyzing ionizing radiation’s impact on health is a labyrinthine exercise, and conventionally, the issue has been the province of experts in the field. Due to the complexity of the subject matter, laymen have been forced to surrender their well-being to the radiation protection community and government decision makers. In a world operating on the principle that truth is the fundamental priority, this delegation of authority to the experts and those in power would be adequate to guarantee public health and communal well-being. Unfortunately, those who control the assessment of risk simultaneously control the perception of risk, and too much evidence has accumulated bearing witness to the fact that the integrity of the radiation protection community has been compromised by proponents of nuclear/radiological weaponry and commercial nuclear power. When the experts and those who sponsor them have their own priorities that take precedence over truth, the public is vulnerable to abuse. The fabric of a free and democratic society is rent asunder when its guardian institutions traffic in mischief in matters of basic science and replace truth with falsehood for the benefit of vested interests.

To estimate the potential threat to an individual or a population following a radiation release, the first requirement is a determination of the probable dosages involved. The scams revealed up to this point amply illustrate that the seemingly straightforward process of establishing objective dose measurements is an opportunity for great rascality and devilment. In addition to dosages, a body of epidemiological studies must be available that demonstrate from previous instances of exposure the relationship that exists between the size of a radiation dose and the incidence of disease. Exhibit C reviewed some of the currently relied upon studies and demonstrated their limitations. In particular, it highlighted the prominent place awarded the corrupted Hiroshima study and detailed how this study has been purposely designed to skew risk assessment in favor of the nuclear industry for generations to come. A third essential element for evaluating the risks following a radiation event is a reliable model of dose-response into which new data can be plugged in to derive estimates of collective health detriment in an emergency. For scenarios of low-dose exposure, the favored method of extrapolation from high-dose effects is the fundamental determinant of what risks are thought to exist. This explains the fierceness of the battle over the shape of the dose-response curve. The reigning model controls the perception of risk. From this point, a disturbing conclusion emerges: the objectivity of science is a myth. Those in power control the science, and they use their corrupted science to justify whatever programs they elect to sponsor.

When the human organism is exposed to ionizing radiation, deterministic effects and/or stochastic effects may be induced. A deterministic (nonstochastic) effect occurs when exposure exceeds some threshold dose and results directly from the effects of the killing of cells. It’s a predictable outcome observed in most or all of those receiving the threshold level of exposure, and its severity is dose-related. Deterministic effects have yet to be identified as occurring at low dosages. In contrast, stochastic effects are those that depend upon chance or probability. In whole-body doses of less than one sievert (100 rems), stochastic effects are the predominant concern. In doses above one sievert, stochastic effects can be produced in addition to deterministic effects. Cancer and inheritable genetic damage are examples of stochastic effects. These effects arise from cells that are altered by radiation and that manage to survive. The probability of their occurrence increases as the dose increases, but their severity is independent of dosage. At present, the majority of radiation scientists operate on the assumption that there is no minimum threshold dose required to induce stochastic effects. Even a single track through a cell, the lowest possible dose, is thought capable of producing stochastic effects, though the probability of this occurring is extremely low. This point is a major source of contention due to the many uncertainties of effect in the low-dose range. When stochastic effects are produced, they are initiated at the moment of exposure, but years or decades might elapse before the whole-organism response to these changes manifest as altered functioning and ill health.

In harmony with the computational system for determining dosages, mathematical models have been developed to assess the risk of cancer in both individuals and whole populations following radiation exposure. A number of organizations involved in radiation protection, such as UNSCEAR, BEIR, ICRP, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have published estimates of risk. Although differing in minor ways, they all are in substantial agreement. These estimates are based on the study of survivors from the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on groups who received radiation for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes, and workers who received occupational exposure. Successful modeling of the risk of cancer incidence demands consideration on a wide range of variables. According to BEIR V:

"The risk depends on the particular kind of cancer; on the age and sex of the person exposed; on the magnitude of the dose to a particular organ; on the quality of the radiation; on the nature of the exposure, whether brief or chronic; on the presence of factors such as exposure to other carcinogens and promoters that may interact with the radiation; and on individual characteristics that cannot be specified but which may help to explain why some persons do and others do not develop cancers when similarly exposed."

For the sake of simplicity, the mathematical model to assess risk can be reduced to its bare essentials. Only three numbers are required to estimate the increased risk of cancer to a population resulting from radiation exposure: the dose to the average individual, the number of people receiving that dose, and the risk factor applicable to the type of cancer under consideration. To give an example, if the average dose to a population of 10 people is 100 rems, the collective dose is 1000 person-rems (10 x 100). Similarly, if the average dose received by a population of 10,000 people is 0.1 rem, the collective dose works out to be the same: 1000 person-rems. In order to calculate the number of fatal cancers expected in the two populations, the collective dose is multiplied by the appropriate risk factor. The risk factors per sievert (per 100 rems) have been developed by the international radiation protection agencies to cover different scenarios of whole-body exposure and/or exposure to individual tissues and organs. Note that when the identical collective dose in the two examples mentioned above are multiplied by the same risk factor, the number of cancers anticipated in each population is the same. This conclusion is a consequence of the Linear No-Threshold Hypothesis. Cancer yield is proportional to the collective dose. The same numbers of cancers will be produced whether 1,000,000 people each receive a thousandth of a rem or 1,000 people each receive one rem. In the low-dose range, this assumption of linearity is under increasing fire for either under- or overestimating the cancer yield or for being woefully simplistic.

To appreciate the function played by risk factors in estimating cancer incidence, a simple example will suffice. The 1990 ICRP absolute risk value for fatal cancer probability in the high dose and high dose region was 8 x 10-2 (0.08) per sievert. To calculate the number of fatal cancers in an exposed population, this risk factor is multiplied by the average dose to each member of the population which in turn is multiplied by the number of people receiving that dose. Thus, if 10,000 people each receive a dose of 1 sievert, the probable number of fatal cancers will be 800. (0.08 x 1.0 x 10,000 = 800). The utilitarian value of this methodology is obvious. In the aftermath of a radiation release, an estimate can be quickly generated satisfying the intellectual desire to come to terms with the health consequences of what has taken place long before the actual pain and suffering becomes apparent within the population, if they ever become apparent at all. (Of course, the stricken victim will be aware of his own pain and suffering, but he may be handicapped by the long latency period of radiation-induced cancer of ever knowing if the origin of his illness is radiation-related.)

Because it is difficult to observe low-dose effects in populations, attempts at estimation have extrapolated from relatively reliable high-dose effects. The data from Japan clearly shows an adverse health effect among adults who received a dose above 200 milliSieverts (20 rems) and children who received a dose about 100 milliSieverts (10 rems). The key question that draws daggers out from underneath lab coats is, what is the risk to health at levels of exposure below these dosages?

To gain an appreciation of the difficulties of determining cancer incidence at low doses, let’s suppose that in a population of 10,000 people, each member received a dose of only 10 millisieverts (1 rem, i.e., one hundredth of the previous example.) The expected number of fatal cancers in this instance would be 8 (0.08 x 0.01 x 10,000 = 8). Normally, approximately 20% of the population dies of cancer. So rather than 2,000 cancer deaths, the expected number of cancer deaths in the exposed population would be 2,008. Due to statistical fluctuations and normal levels of uncertainty, there is no way to be sure that radiation caused excess cancers in this population. As Caufield observes:

"With such a large base of cancers, it may be statistically impossible to detect a relatively small number of extra cancer deaths. Some scientists argue that in order to get statistically reliable data on the effects of doses on the order of one rem, it would be necessary to study 10 million exposed people, and a matching group of ten million people who have not been exposed to radiation. Matters are further complicated by the need to continue a study from the first exposure until death" [1].

Given these uncertainties, the radiation protection agencies rely on their risk factors for interpreting the health consequences of radiation accidents and planned radiation releases. These risk factors are the eyes for all human beings who wish to evaluate radiation effects, for they enable us to see what is invisible and unmeasurable. They inform us of the level of human suffering produced by nuclear weapons, nuclear reactors, radioactive waste, and now, non-nuclear weapons containing radioactive material.

At this juncture, the reader might reflect on a number of questions: What if the risk factors are wrong? What if they produce calculations that misrepresent, by underestimating, the actual health consequences of human exposure to radiation? Given that in the absence of direct observation, the risk factors are the central window through which we perceive the hazards of a radiation release, are they not the likely focal point for intentional malfeasance by the Cult of Nuclearists so as to keep the world ignorant of the breadth of their misdeeds? And finally, isn’t the raison d'ĂȘtre of the corrupted Hiroshima study now perfectly clear, since by it, the current risk factors are justified?

If the risk factors are wrong, humanity has been hoodwinked and rendered blind by artful lies. Crimes against humanity and crimes against life can be committed before our very eyes, and we will fail to see them for what they are. Could there be a more perfect crime than one committed before a world of blindfolded witnesses?

Exhibit F will testify to the falsehood of the current risk factors. But before we walk down that road, we must first explore the vagaries of that shifty character called “risk,” and observe some of the many tricks its handlers can make it perform to alter the perception of hazard of ionizing radiation.


[1] Caufield C. Multiple Exposures: Chronicles of the Radiation Age. Toronto: Stoddart; 1988.