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, September 30, 2010

The Trial of the Cult of Nuclearists: SCAM NUMBER THIRTY-EIGHT

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 THIRTY-EIGHT: Design epidemiological studies in such a way as to guarantee that the results will underestimate the risk to health from radiation in the environment.

What knowledge exists about the medical effects of radiation on populations has been garnered from epidemiological studies. This research also has been used to validate the models of radiation effects upheld by the radiation protection agencies. Since nuclear/radiological weapons, commercial nuclear power and the biological impact of low-level radiation are such highly politicized subjects, it is not surprising that epidemiological studies are sometimes structured and implemented, either by intention or accident, to reflect the prejudices of the researchers conducting them. Biased studies pollute the knowledge base and are a propaganda device. Of interest here are the distortions of fact that can be insinuated into population studies in order to “prove” the correctness of ICRP models and thereby “verify” the minimal hazard predicted by the risk factors.

The ECRR has identified a number of common errors that have appeared in published epidemiological studies of radiation risk:

1) Wrong Doses: Many of the dosage scams mentioned previously have become incorporated into studies of contaminated populations. When dosages are assessed inaccurately, no meaningful conclusions can be drawn about risks. In most studies of contaminated populations, dosages are not actually measured in each member of the study group but estimated or, in the vernacular of radiation epidemiologists, “reconstructed”. This practice, based on numerous assumptions about the migration of radionuclides through the environment, is a simple means by which radiation studies can be subtly manipulated to deliver predetermined or politically acceptable results.

A common tactic used by the AEC during the period of aboveground weapon testing was to formulate dosages to the population from fallout in terms of external radiation. Conveniently, this served to downplay the level of exposure to those people living downwind by ignoring the additional dosages caused by internal emitters. This error of ignoring the cumulative effects of all the radioisotopes involved has compromised the Hiroshima Life Span Study, studies of populations living downwind of nuclear weapon detonations and studies of Chernobyl. As a variation on this theme, population studies are invariably based on the currently accepted models of external radiation. In instances where internal emitters are taken into account, the contribution made from external radiation and internal radiation are usually combined to derive a single dose estimate which is treated as if it were completely delivered externally. If internal emitters pose an enhanced hazard, as this book argues it does, no reliable conclusions about the hazard posed by radionuclides in the environment can be produced by this methodology.

2) Wrong Controls: To study radiation effects, the incidence of illness in an exposed population must be compared to that of a similar population that did not receive the exposure. If an inappropriate control group is selected for study, the health risks from radiation can be rendered woefully inaccurate. One way where this can occur is when the population chosen as the control group has been likewise exposed to radiation. When this occurs, the radiation-induced cancer rate in the study population will be made to appear lower than it actually is, perhaps even “nonsignificant,” due to the heightened incidence of radiation-induced cancer in the control group. This error is a central shortcoming of the Hiroshima Life Span study, where members of the control group received undetermined dosages from internal emitters. It has also crept into studies of the inhabitants of the Marshall Islands, of people living downwind of the Nevada Test Site and of populations contaminated by the fallout from Chernobyl.

It is important to note that the entire human population has been exposed, both internally and externally, to radiation from weapon-test fallout, accidents, and routine ventings from nuclear installations. There is no uncontaminated subpopulation that can serve as a control group to test the impact of this pollution on the health of the human species. Internal contamination by novel fission products befouling the environment may be more hazardous than Natural Background Radiation but its effect is masked by this universal contamination. The presence of these radionuclides in the environment might well explain the rise in the incidence of cancer across the population since the middle of the last century. This lack of a suitable control group has important implications for interpreting of epidemiological studies of radiation and cancer causation. When the incidence of cancer in a study group exposed to the effluent of a radiation accident is compared to that of members of the general population, the frequency of radiation-induced cancer will end up appearing less than it in fact is, and the risk of cancer from radiation will be underestimated.

The ECRR notes that it may be inappropriate to select members of the general population as a control group if the study group does not itself reflect the general population. One example is the “war survivor effect” prejudicing the Life Span Study. Those in Hiroshima who survived a long war, the atomic bombing and the hardships that followed this holocaust became members of the study group in a project designed to determine radiation effects in humans. However, the survivors of this horrific ordeal might not have been representative of either the Japanese population or of the entire human race. The hardships of living through the war followed by the extreme trauma of the bombing, and survival through the subsequent five years before the onset of the study may have preferentially selected individuals with stronger immune systems or genetic resistance to certain types of radiation effects. As a consequence, their incidence of cancer may have been atypically low compared to members of the population at large. Similarly, employees in the nuclear industry may manifest a “healthy worker effect” which lowers their rates of cancer in comparison with equivalent age groups within the general population. Fit, employable individuals undergoing regular medical exams who selected themselves to work in the nuclear industry and were then selected again for employment may not represent a true cross-section of the general population. Such comparisons may generate spurious results about the risks to health from radiation exposure.

3) Wrong Sample: It is not uncommon for groups that have been differentially exposed to radiation to be pooled together in a common study group. For instance, people living within a defined radius of a nuclear installation may be grouped together in an effort to detect the effect of living near the facility on rates of cancer. This method can mask the fact, for instance, that those people living downwind of the plant will have received higher doses than those living upwind. When the number of cancers recorded is compared to the size of the population under investigation, those living upwind will dilute the findings, lowering the cancer rate and lowering the apparent risk.

4) Wrong Assumptions: This entire chapter has been devoted to proving that the current model of radiation effects is biased toward underestimating the risk to health from exposure to radiation. The assumption built into this model can profoundly influence the interpretation of data collected in epidemiological research. The ECRR provides a clear example. In studies of nuclear workers and the effects of Chernobyl in Europe, “the assumption of a linear no-threshold dose response has resulted in many clear observations of effect being discounted because high-dose groups may have lower cancer rates than intermediate-dose groups.” According to the LNT hypothesis, those in a population who received the highest dosages should manifest the greatest degree of radiation-induced illness. If the greatest number of casualties do not exist in the high-dose group, then radiation is discounted as the cause of any detected cancer increase across the population. This line of reasoning is based on models originally designed to understand the effects of external radiation. It may not be valid for low-level internal exposure. For instance, a study might reveal that the greatest incidence of birth defects or childhood leukemia occurred in the intermediate-dose group rather than the high dose group. Does this finding justify the conclusion that radiation was not the cause? Certainly not! Perhaps a greater number of fetuses were spontaneously aborted in the group suffering the greater exposure, thus lowering the incidence of disease in the children of members of this cohort. The expectation of observing a linear dose response can thus blind researchers into discovering that low-level internal exposure may carry with it an enhanced risk for radiation injury. In line with this observation is another which deserves mentioning. When speaking of the effects of Chernobyl on the rates of cancer in Europe, the ECRR makes the following point:

In addition, epidemiological studies have been influenced by or countered with the predictions of the ICRP risk models for populations exposed to the doses resulting from the discharges. These predict very modest effects which would generally be difficult to establish against the large background cancer rates experienced by the study populations and therefore, when increases in cancer are seen in such populations they are ignored or at least not ascribed to exposures from Chernobyl” [1].

Another incorrect assumption mentioned by the ECRR has been incorporated in studies of the rates of cancer in geographical areas of high Natural Background Radiation. To “prove” the harmlessness of low-level radiation, studies have been conducted comparing cancer rates between populations living amidst different levels of naturally occurring radiation. When the areas of high NBR are not found to demonstrate higher rates of cancer, the conclusion jumped to is that low-level radiation is not a hazard to health. One factor that is not taken into account is the selection over time of radiation resistance among members of a population exposed for generations to the elevated radiation in the environment. As noted by the ECRR: “Inducible radiation resistance has been demonstrated in animal studies yet no allowance has been made for this when comparing populations in Natural Background studies.”

As a third example, the ECRR notes that current models of radiation effects are based on the assumption that cancer is initiated directly from a single exposure event which induces genetic alterations. The genetic theory of cancer on which this is based fails to take into account other factors that may come into play in influencing the progression of a cancer. For instance, immune system stress, diet, or other environmental toxins may either aggravate or mitigate the effects of the initial aberration thereby affecting radiation-induced cancer rates within populations.

5) Wrong Conclusions: The ECRR notes that it is quite common for the conclusions drawn in an epidemiological study to be out of sync with the data collected during the course of the study. Journal abstracts or the conclusions appearing at the end of research papers claiming no observed effect between radiation exposure and cancer incidence have been observed to contradict the information included in tables or text within the body of the papers.

For a long and detailed examination of the types of errors that have corrupted important studies that purport to show that radiation exposure has little or no effect on public health, the reader is advised to consult chapter five, “Paradigm Deconstructed,” in Wings of Death.


[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, September 27, 2010

The Trial of the Cult of Nuclearists: SCAM NUMBER THIRTY-SEVEN

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 THIRTY-SEVEN: Block the dissemination of all information that raises questions as to the validity of the current estimates of risk from internal contamination by radionuclides.

Governments and the nuclear industry derive a tremendous boon from the flawed model of radiation effects as it applies to low-level internal contamination. It gives them license to contaminate populations with radionuclides and escape accountability for their deeds. Their minions, availing themselves of the types of scams elucidated within these pages, can demonstrate within the wake of even the most catastrophic releases that dosages to the exposed populations fall within the safety guidelines set by the radiation protection agencies, and thus, that the resulting risks to public health are relatively insignificant. To maintain this facade, the Cult of Nuclearists is heavily invested in creating the impression that the science of radiation effects is more advanced than it in fact is, and that a worldwide consensus exists in the understanding of how radiation affects human health. To give the impression that current models are impeccable, extreme pressure is brought to bear on dissidents who refuse to toe the line and who, in defiance of the status quo, voice unorthodox viewpoints. Routinely, these whistleblowers are marginalized and their work discredited. Among the tactics used to silence those promoting dissenting points of view: threats and intimidation, loss of employment, demotion, salary cuts, funding cuts, refusal of employers to allow publication of research, rejection of publication by the scientific journals and so forth. A common rationale for such retribution is that conclusions in defiance of current models are illegitimate because they fall outside the mainstream of accepted scientific thought. What escapes due consideration is the possibility that the mainstream itself is hopelessly polluted and in need of cleanup.

Given this tyrannical suppression of independent thought, it is not surprising that experts in the radiation sciences have been silenced when attempting to warn the world of the hazards of depleted uranium. A recent example came to light in February 2004, with the publication of an article in the UK’s Sunday Herald which reported that the World Health Organization had kept secret a report [1] warning that Iraq’s civilian population faced a long-term threat of increasing rates of cancer from inhaling DU dust from weapons fired by British and US forces. Dr. Keith Baverstock, who had been employed by WHO for 11 years as a senior advisor on radiation and health, authored the 2001 study in collaboration with Professor Carmel Mothersill of Canada’s McMaster University and Dr. Mike Thorne, a radiation consultant. Baverstock told the Sunday Herald: “Our study suggests that the widespread use of depleted uranium weapons in Iraq could pose a unique health hazard to the civilian population. There is increasing scientific evidence that the radioactivity and the chemical toxicity of DU could cause more damage to human cells than is assumed.” As reported by the newspaper which had attained a copy of the research:

Baverstock’s study pointed out that Iraq’s arid climate meant that tiny particles of DU were likely to be blown around and inhaled by civilians for years to come. It warned that, when inside the body, their radiation and toxicity could trigger the growth of malignant tumors. The study suggested that the low-level radiation from DU could harm cells adjacent to those that are directly irradiated, a phenomenon known as “the bystander effect.” This undermines the stability of the body’s genetic system, and is thought by many scientists to be linked to cancers and possibly other illnesses” [2].

Baverstock offered the following observation:

I believe our study was censored and suppressed by the WHO because they didn’t like its conclusions. Previous experience suggests that WHO officials were bowing to pressure from the IAEA, whose remit is to promote nuclear power. That is more than unfortunate, as publishing the study would have helped forewarn the authorities of the risks of using DU weapons in Iraq.”

The WHO was quick to dismiss these allegations as totally unfounded. “The IAEA role was very minor,” said Dr Mike Repacholi, the WHO coordinator of radiation and environmental health in Geneva. “The article was not approved for publication because parts of it did not reflect accurately what a WHO-convened group of international experts considered the best science in the area of depleted uranium,” he added.

As an aside, the Sunday Herald article concluded by offering observations by Pekka Haavisto, chairman of the UN Environment Program’s Post-Conflict Assessment Unit in Geneva:

Haavisto’s greatest worry is when buildings hit by DU shells have been repaired and reoccupied without having been properly cleaned up. Photographic evidence suggests that this is exactly what has happened to the Ministry of Planning building in Baghdad.

He also highlighted evidence that DU from weapons had been collected and recycled as scrap in Iraq. “It could end up in a fork or a knife,” he warned.

‘It is ridiculous to leave the material lying around and not to clear it up where adults are working and children are playing. If DU is not taken care of, instead of decreasing the risk you are increasing it. It is absolutely wrong.’”

The suppression of the Baverstock study is not an isolated phenomenon. Investigating the medical effects of depleted uranium can lead to termination of employment. After 19 years of service to the US government, Dr. Asaf Durakovic, Chief of Nuclear Medicine at the Veterans Administration hospital in Wilmington, Delaware, was fired after undertaking investigations into the medical effects of depleted uranium on sickened veterans from the first Gulf War. Although he had served in the Gulf himself, Durakovic was unaware until he returned to the US that depleted uranium munitions had been deployed in the Gulf. Says Durakovic:

I only discovered indirectly in September 1991 that depleted uranium had been used on the battlefield. I was horrified. When scientists conduct experiments using this material, we dress like astronauts. Our soldiers had no protection. And this attack could have potentially exposed the entire population of the Gulf region. Soil samples from Iraq show radiation levels more than 17 times the acceptable level” [3].

Dr. Durakovic’s story of the obstacles he encountered while attempting to treat contaminated veterans is interesting and well worth repeating. It is a textbook case of the types of intrigue that can be waged against honest scientific investigation.

In 1991, 24 soldiers from the 144th Transportation and Supply Co., New Jersey, were referred to me by Ventnor Clinic in my capacity of Chief of Nuclear Medicine, VA Medical Facility, Wilmington, DE. All of the veterans were referred to me for the opinion and diagnostic assessment of their DU body burden. My expertise is in the internal contamination of radioisotopes and I was the only published researcher in the federal VA system with research on transuranic elements at the time these soldiers were referred to me. Although I personally served in Operation Desert Shield as Unit Commander, my expertise of internal contamination was never used because we were never informed of the intended use of DU prior to or during the war.

The research on the effects of transuranic elements in the human system is not well known as prior accidents have dealt with many isotopes (Chernobyl) and the Persian Gulf War deals with one actinide, i.e., uranium.

From January 1991 until August 1991, these soldiers were on a tour of active duty in Saudi Arabia and after the ground war started were located at the KKMC, King Khalid Military Camp, where it was their duty to unload battle-damaged M1A1 tanks, Bradleys, and M113 tanks destroyed by DU armor-piercing shells from friendly fire of helicopters, airplanes, and other tanks.

The soldiers worked on these tanks. During this time, soldiers had constant contact with these vehicles. Those that were required to receive the vehicles actually lived very near them, ate lunch on top of them, and cooled themselves inside of them. They had been told not to let anyone photograph or take souvenirs from them so they kept the tanks close at hand.

On March 10, 1991, a Battle Damage Assessment Team dressed in full radioprotective clothing arrived, stating that they were from Washington to assess the radioactivity of specific tanks. They reviewed the tanks for four days, fully dressed in the 90 degree temperatures.

At the conclusion of the assessment, the soldier in charge of the crew required to move the equipment, was told that the tanks were “hot,” to mark them with the atomic symbol and not to let people go near them. The Assessment Team had detected .26 to 1.0 rad inside the tanks. [With an RBE (Relative Biological Effectiveness) factor of 10, the dose rate is 2.6 to 10.0 rem/year for the surrounding body tissue. In the US, the Code of Federal Regulations regarding energy specifies an annual limit of 0.17 rem/year and a specific limit of 0.5 rem/year for an individual in the general population.]

After that evaluation, the soldiers were told to cover the tanks with tarps and not to photograph them. The Team stated that the tanks were not dangerous to those required to work in their environment. One soldier was given an outdated dosimeter which began to detect radiation right away despite the fact that it was long past its expiration date.

My diagnostic strategy consisted of their referral to the VAMC [Veterans Administration Medical Center] of Boston to the internationally known expert on low energy detection of internal contamination, Dr. Belton Burroughs who with Dr. David Slingerland performed whole body count of uranium-238 on several of the referred veterans. It was found by a rather insensitive and outdated whole body count that 14 of the 24 patients referred contained decay products of radioactive uranium. On the basis of this, more sensitive equipment, specifically a Germanim crystal, was applied for for the project which was then terminated. All work that was conducted on behalf of DU contamination was coordinated through the Persian Gulf Registry of the Wilmington VA hospital. All records were subsequently lost.

The urine samples of these same patients were sent to the US Army Radiochemistry Lab in Aberdeen, Maryland. Again, some samples never reached the lab and the results of those that did were supposedly lost.

According to my experimental research on lab animals and extensive review of the literature, uranium can hardly be detected by the external methods including whole body counting and urine analysis. Therefore I recommended that the veterans should be sent to the SANDIA National Labs in Albuquerque, NM which specializes in the pulmonary pathways of contamination with transuranic elements.

Furthermore, an objective analysis in the main site of uranium incorporation which is the skeletal system, should be performed by an autoradiographic analysis of the skeletal deposition of uranium by the bone necropsy specimens.

Neither of the above recommendations were followed because no one took the veterans' illnesses seriously. Two of the 14 soldiers have died since returning from the Persian Gulf. A recommendation for autopsy which should have included autoradiographic analysis of the skeletal deposition of uranium, was ignored.

The 144th Transportation and Supply Company has since been scattered all around the United States, making it impossible for unified testing and analysis.

Due to the current proliferation of DU weaponry, the battlefields of the future will be unlike any battlefields in history. Since the effects of contamination by uranium cannot be directed or contained, uranium's chemical and radiological toxicity will create environments that are hostile not only to the health of enemy forces but of one's own forces as well.

When released, DU aerosol particles are carried on the winds, their range as fallout virtually unlimited and as they migrate they contaminate air, soil, and water. So released, it is available for uptake by humans via inhalation, ingestion, or absorption. In such a toxic environment, fighting personnel will find themselves victims of their own weapons as well as those of the enemy. Due to the delayed health effects from internal contamination of uranium, injury and death will not always be immediate to the battle, but will remain lingering threats to “survivors” of the battle for years and decades into the future. The battle field will remain a killing zone long after the cessation of hostilities. Environmental contamination will linger for centuries posing an ongoing health threat to the civilians who reclaim the land and subsequent generations” [4].

In one interview, Durakovic offered an opinion as to way the US government was actively engaged in hiding the effects of depleted uranium:

Was there a reason officials didn't want information on DU victims of the Gulf War to become public? According to Dr Durakovic there are two main reasons - and they both involve money. By the year 2000 the bill to clean up waste uranium from the US nuclear industry would have amounted to more than $200 billion. So a lot of cash could be saved if the uranium was recycled in the arms industry. And of course there is the issue of compensation. The US Government would have to pay out billions if it could be conclusively proven that DU-coated weapons were causing illness in returned American troops” [3].

In February 1997, Dr. Durakovic, on behalf of Gulf War veterans, wrote a letter to President Clinton asking for an inquiry into DU contamination. Two months later, he was fired. In an interview on the radio show Democracy Now, Durakovic spoke of his termination:

I was fired in the year 1997. Because after the Persian Gulf War I, I was approached by the officials of the different departments of the US government who asked me to stop my work on the depleted uranium, which I obviously could not agree with, because I was mandated by the government of the US to take care of my patients, and I was the head of Nuclear Medicine Department of the V.A. Hospital in Wilmington, Delaware. So when I discovered a high percentage of contamination with the DU in Gulf War I veterans, every effort was made to stop my work. Which I obviously couldn't. I'm a medical doctor, and my responsibility is for the well-being of my patients. So, in 1997, I was fired” [5].

Dr. Durakovic has offered a sobering thought in regard to the misapplication of uranium for military purposes:

Uranium is dangerous, it does cause cancer, uranium does cause mutation, and uranium does kill. If we continue with the irresponsible contamination of the biosphere, and denial of the fact that human life is endangered by the deadly isotope uranium, then we are doing disservice to ourselves, disservice to the truth, disservice to God and to all generations who follow” [6].

The Cult of Nuclearists will use any means to silence its critics of the currently accepted model of radiation effects. Free minds and unbiased intellectual inquiry are its most potent enemies, and it is these that must be silenced. Its raging intolerance was recently in evidence on a seemingly inconsequential battlefield, the meeting table of CERRIE, the Committee Examining Radiation Risk from Internal Emitters. In 2001, Michael Meacher, then Environment Minister in the UK, established CERRIE. Due to the controversial nature of its subject matter, CERRIE was structured along novel lines for a panel offering scientific advice to policymakers. Members of the committee were selected from three different camps. Some came from the National Radiation Protection Board and British Nuclear Fuels, a government-owned company which produces nuclear fuel, runs reactors, generates and sells electricity and reprocesses spent reactor fuel. Other members of the committee represented the Green movement or were people whose scientific views challenged those of the NRPB. The remainder were supposedly neutral academics. The mandate of the committee was to undertake a review of the health risks posed by internal emitters and produce a final report which adequately presented the views of all parties. Topics for which a consensus was reached were to be identified. For subjects on which differences of opinion were irreconcilable, the reasons for the disagreements were to be elucidated in accessible language and suggestions were to be made for avenues of future research which might help resolve the conflicting points of view. All committee members were to agree to the final report, acknowledging that it faithfully included the full breadth of the committee’s deliberations and that it accurately presented all opposing arguments.

Typifying the titanic struggle between those who endorse technologies that liberate ionizing radiation into the environment and those who oppose them, CERRIE failed to fulfill the directive with which it was charged of producing a document agreed upon by all of its members. The working coalition split along ideological lines, and the final report exhibited obvious bias in favor of the reigning orthodoxy. In flagrant violation of the reason for which it was created, CERRIE authored a paper that failed to present a full and fair presentation of all points of view. Disagreements among committee members were in many cases mentioned only in passing, and no space was allotted to adequately explain to the reader the underlying reasons for the differences in scientific opinion. On the important subject of post-Chernobyl infant leukemia, the final report [7] did an excellent job of whitewashing the evidence of major errors in the risk factors published by the ICRP. Those who felt their points of view were not accurately reflected in the document published a separate minority report which contains the information suppressed by the majority [8].

The CERRIE debacle is mentioned here for only one reason. As the committee’s deliberations drew to a close, representatives of the Cult of Nuclearists interjected a novel method of intimidation into the proceedings with the intent of controlling the final report and stifling free and open discussion that the current model of radiation effects is flawed. At the committee’s last meeting, the Chairman produced a letter written by lawyers within the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The letter warned that if the final report contained any libels or “negligent misstatements on factual matters,” liability could potentially fall on everyone connected with the report: the committee members, the government departments, the printers and the distributors. In a blatant threat to the livelihood of each member of the committee, the letter indicated that each member individually would be liable for damages if the government were sued by anyone on the basis of these unspecified negligent misstatements. As to why the committee failed to produce a unified report, the probable explanation was revealed in a Sunday Times article by Mark Gould and Jonathan Leake entitled “Government Gags Experts Over Nuclear Plant Risks” [9]. According to this article, the 12 members of CERRIE each received a letter warning them that they could be sued for defamation if they included within their final documents the contents of what eventually became the minority report. This harassment produced the desired results. The “official” CERRIE document gives no indication that serious questions exist as to the accuracy of the current model of radiation effects. Successfully marginalized, the separately published minority report will undoubtedly receive little exposure.

The tactics used by elements within the British government to subvert CERRIE provides strong evidence that a new Inquisition is evolving to persecute heretics who preach against the state-sponsored doctrine. Anyone proposing ideas at variance with what is promoted as true by those in power may be brought to trial for libel and fined or imprisoned. This tolls the death knell for unbiased scientific inquiry — a cornerstone of Western civilization for the last four hundred years. To declare and support with evidence that the Hiroshima Life Span Study is flawed science, or that the ICRP publishes inaccurate risk factors, or that Sellafield is inducing leukemia in children will no longer be tolerated as a valid alternate interpretation of what is going on in the world. These pronouncements will instead be judged as “negligent misstatements on factual matters” and their authors will be criminalized.


[1] Baverstock K., Mothersill C., Thorne M. Radiological Toxicity of DU. (Repressed WHO Document). November 5, 2001.

[2] Edwards R. WHO ‘Suppressed’ Scientific Study Into Depleted Uranium Cancer Fears in Iraq. Sunday Herald Online. February 22, 2004.

[3] Arbuthnot F. Asaf Durakovic: A Respected Scientist Fighting on Behalf of American Gulf War Veterans. New Internationalist. September 1998.

[4] Durakovic A. Statement of Dr. Asaf Durakovic, Chief of Nuclear Medicine, on the Medical Implications of Depleted Uranium. International Action Organization.

[5] Democracy Now. Broadcast Exclusive: U.S. Soldiers Contaminated With Depleted Uranium Speak Out--A special investigation by Democracy Now! co-host Juan Gonzalez of the New York Daily News. Monday, April 5th, 2004.

[6] Catalinotto J. VA Medical Expert Exposes Pentagon Cover-Up. Workers World Newspaper. August 14, 1997.

[7] CERRIE Majority Report. Report of the Committee Examining Radiation Risks of Internal Emitters. London. 2004.

[8] CERRIE Minority Report. Minority Report of the UK Department of Health Department of Environment (DEFRA) Committee Examining Radiation Risk from Internal Emitters (CERRIE). Aberystwyth: Sosiumi Press; 2005.

[9] Gould M., Leake J. Government Gags Experts Over Nuclear Plant Risks. Sunday Times. August 1, 2004.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Trial of the Cult of Nuclearists: SCAM NUMBER THIRTY-SIX

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 THIRTY-SIX: Violate people’s innate process of evaluating and assuming risk in their daily lives by imposing highly risky technology upon them and then falsely underrate the risks that accompany that technology.

In 1953, President Eisenhower initiated the Atoms for Peace Program. A major unstated goal of this initiative was to assuage the terror that had settled into the hearts of a large segment of the population as a result of the development of nuclear weapons. These monstrosities did tremendous violence to people’s sense of personal security and trust in the uninterrupted continuity of life. The possibility of instantaneous demise by forces beyond one’s control was constantly on peoples’ minds. Images of brutal victimization were deeply disturbing to the psychological equilibrium of many. Responding to this unease, the government crafted a propaganda campaign to transform the menacing atom into the beneficent atom. This well-orchestrated crusade was intended to pave the way for the public’s embrace of nuclear power. However, despite the best efforts of government PR, the majority of the population remained wary of the new technology. In people’s minds, nuclear power was incestuously intertwined with nuclear weapons, and the possibility of radiation-induced disease, regardless of how remote, was terrifying. This mindset, an obstacle to the plans of the empowered, became an area of academic interest and was studied by experts in the field of risk analysis.

According to the website of Argonne National Laboratory, risk analysis can be defined as follows:

The systematic study of uncertainties and potential harm that may be encountered in such areas as the environment, business, engineering, and public policy. Risk denotes a potential negative impact to an asset or some characteristic of value that may arise from some process or future event. Risk analysis seeks to (1) identify the probability of loss, or risk, faced by an institution or business unit; (2) understand how and when risks arise; and (3) estimate the impact of adverse outcomes. Once evaluated, risks can be managed by implementing actions to mitigate or control them.”

Basically, risk analysis is a study of systems. After defining the successful operation of a system, efforts are made to identify the factors that might disrupt the operation of the system, the consequences of this disruption and ways to minimize the likelihood that such disruptions might occur. An adjunct to this study, one relevant to the nascent nuclear industry, was the study of the likelihood of events that would lead to the release of radiation into the environment and what risks such releases might pose to the health of the surrounding population. When the infinitesimally small projections of risk predicted by the nuclear industry failed to quell opposition to nuclear power, social psychologists began investigating risk assessment: how do human beings evaluate risks in their daily lives, and how do they prioritize which risks they are more or less willing to expose themselves to in exchange for the benefits derived?

This field of inquiry delivered novel insights into human behavior. It revealed that all modern human beings share similar criteria for evaluating potential hazards. These patterns of thought act as filters that color people’s perception as to what risks are acceptable or unacceptable. The accompanying table summarizes these perception factors.

Risk Perception

Acceptable Unacceptable

Voluntary Involuntary

Individual Control Others Control

Clear Benefits Unclear Benefits

Trustworthy Sources Untrustworthy Sources

Ethically Neutral Ethically Objectionable

Natural Artificial

Familiar Exotic

No Historical Associations Memorable Associations

Less Dread High Dread

Visible Undetectable

Immediate Effect Delayed Effect

Known, Understood Uncertainty, Variability

Little Media Attention High Media Attention

Copyright 2002 Phil Rutherford.

To illustrate the utility of this material, a simple example will suffice. If asked, a majority of people will say that they feel a lot safer driving their car than flying in an airplane. They cling to this belief even after being apprised of the fact that driving is statistically much more hazardous than flying, and the likelihood of being in a fatal accident on the highway greatly exceeds that of being in one while airborne. That people feel safer in the more dangerous situation is not so enigmatic when the thinking behind such an assessment is understood. People know that driving a car is a risky venture. But while driving, they feel in control of their vehicle and are in a familiar situation. They are on terra firma rather than up above the clouds. This not only produces less dread, but it seems to offer more options in the event that the situation turns unpredictable. Further, car accidents are rather humdrum whereas fiery air crashes make front page news. And bumping into another car and being forced off the round is, on reflection, less fear-inducing than being trapped in a terrifying descent that will surely lead to a fiery crash that burns hundreds of bodies beyond recognition.

The vehement opposition to nuclear power is no mystery once the mechanisms of risk perception are understood. Nuclear power has been imposed on populations throughout the world without recourse to referenda. Due to the complex nature of the technology, others are in control of it, and this increases feelings of vulnerability. The benefits are unclear, given that other methods of generating electricity are available, and the safe disposal of radioactive waste is an unsolvable dilemma. Originating from government and big business, and with a long history of cover-ups, nuclear power is perceived as coming from an untrustworthy source. Being intertwined with the production of nuclear and radiological weapons, the technology is perceived as ethically objectionable. Being extremely high-tech, it is viewed as artificial and exotic. It has memorable associations with Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. The idea of a catastrophic nuclear accident instills extreme dread. Released radiation is undetectable and health effects from exposure are delayed, uncertain, and variable. And reportage in the media of accidents, shutdowns, protests, cost overruns and so forth has furthered people’s suspicions of the technology. In a nutshell, the majority of people, due to their inborn psychological processes that come into play when assessing risks, perceive nuclear power as hazardous and unacceptable.

The nuclear industry found itself behind the eight ball as the process of risk assessment began to be delineated. In response, they devised a brilliant gambit to woo public opinion and make nuclear power appear less risky. The PR strategy they adopted went something like this: The study of risk perception provides concrete evidence that people can be irrational when assessing risks in their daily lives. When assessing alternatives, they give themselves over to emotion and make choices based on fear that are not in their best interest. When a number of people do this simultaneously, they develop unwise social policy that is not for the common good. To prove this, let’s apply statistical analysis to the host of risks people confront daily. When we do this, we discover that nuclear power is less risky than a whole host of risks that people voluntarily assume without hesitation.

This appeal to rationality over what is painted as spontaneous, unreflective prejudice is a highly seductive argument. And it was supported with a number of interesting, and sometimes humorous, observations. For instance, Mettler and Moseley in their book Medical Effects of Ionizing Radiation provide information on how various conditions are statistically associated with lifespan shortening. For instance, a male who remains unmarried can expect for his life to be shortened, on average, by 3,500 days. A male cigarette smoker will lose approximately 2,250 days from his life. Being 30 percent overweight will reduce lifespan by 1,300 days. Having cancer robs its victims, on average, of 980 days, and a stroke diminishes life span by 700 days. Compared with these life-shortening factors, radiation appears downright innocuous. Natural background radiation, according to BEIR 1972, shortens life by eight days, medical x-rays by six days, and reactor accidents between 0.02 and 2.0 days.

Following a different track, Medical Effects of Ionizing Radiation [1] reports the risks confronted in daily life that increase the chance of death by one chance in a million. These include the following:

Activity Cause of Death

Smoking 1 cigarette Cancer, heart disease

Drinking 1/2 liter of wine Cirrhosis of the liver

Living 2 days in New York or Boston Air Pollution

Rock climbing for 1 1/2 minute Accident

Traveling 6 minutes in a canoe Accident

Traveling 10 miles by bicycle Accident

Traveling 30-60 miles by car Accident

Flying 1000 miles by jet Accident

Flying 6000 miles by jet Cancer caused by cosmic radiation

Living 2 months in Denver Cancer caused by cosmic radiation

Being a man age 60 for 20 minutes Illness

Eating 40 tsp of peanut butter Liver cancer caused by alfatoxin B

Eating 100 charcoal-broiled steaks Cancer from benzopyrene

Living 5 years at site boundary of a Cancer caused by radiation

typical nuclear power plant in the open

Living 150 years within 20 miles of a Cancer caused by radiation

nuclear power plant

Risk of accident by living within 5 miles Cancer caused by radiation

of a nuclear reactor for 50 years

This data is intended by the nuclear establishment to awaken people to their inherent foolishness, which by implication is the basis for their resistance to nuclear power. The peanut butter eaters and the bicycle riders are silly to object to nuclear power. In the course of their daily lives, they choose activities that carry similar or greater risks than those posed by nuclear power. The routine pleasures of life put people in jeopardy. If they saw clearly, they could not possibly find fault with nuclear power.

This line of reasoning leads to a disturbing conclusion: basically, people are dummies. They don’t understand themselves, and they don’t understand the world they live in. They must be rescued from their follies by science and rationality. An elite body of enlightened policy makers must arise to lead humanity out of ignorance to a new golden age. This perspective is typified in an article that appeared in the Washington Post, entitled “Let’s Get Real About Risk ” It was written by Daivd Ropeik, director of risk communication at the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis. Although not mentioning nuclear power directly, it could easily be used in its defense. The author begins by illustrating how much human effort is misdirected:

Hundreds of thousands of Americans will die this year, deaths that can be prevented. Millions will get sick with preventable illnesses. Billions of dollars and countless hours of human effort will be wasted unnecessarily — all because we are afraid of the wrong things.

In a frenzy of fear we are pouring millions this summer into protecting ourselves from the West Nile virus, and spending only a fraction of that sum on public education encouraging people to wash their hands, which would eliminate far more disease transmission than killing every mosquito in America.

Public and private spending on the cleanup of hazardous waste in America is estimated at $30 billion a year. Hazardous waste is a real problem, but the number of people whose health is at risk because of it is actually quite low. Compare that $30 billion with only $500 million a year on programs to reduce smoking, one of the leading preventable causes of death in America”.

After illustrating the folly in current decision-making, the cause of this folly is diagnosed: fear.

We could make decisions that are more rational and informed. In many areas, science can identify the physical hazards, tell us how many people are likely to be affected by each one, what various mitigations will cost and how effective we can expect them to be. We can rank risks and remedies and put things in perspective. But we don't. Instead, we make policy based more on fear than fact.

Let's be blunt. This irrational response kills people. In a world of finite resources, we can only protect ourselves from so many things. If we overspend on risks such as pesticides or asbestos, which are real but of relatively low magnitude, we have less to spend on greater threats such as bacterial food poisoning or fossil fuel emissions. As a result, thousands of the people exposed to those higher risks will die.

The usual suspects blamed for bad policy are politics, greed, the media, even the open, manipulatable nature of democracy itself. True, these are all factors in a process that often becomes a battle between competing private agendas rather than an informed search for policies that will serve the greatest common good. But the principal underlying cause of wasteful choices that seek protection from the wrong bogeymen is fear.”

Ropeik then identifies how irrational fear, when embraced by large groups of people, can lead to adoption of irrational public policy:

But society, with limited resources, must be more rational than that. When individual fears become group fears, and when those groups, organized or not, become big enough or visible enough to put pressure on the government to provide protection from less dangerous threats, we can end up with policies that leave a lot of people in the way of harm from higher risks that we're doing less about.”

For the greater good, the solution to this dilemma is deference to the wisdom of a body of independent experts for the rational assessment of societal risks. Ropeik proposes the creation of a nongovernmental agency to “provide us with credible, trustworthy guidance on risks.” His Risk Analysis Institute would rank hazards according to their likelihood and consequences, and oversee cost-benefit analysis to outline possible solutions and maximize resources to protect the greatest number of people. To assure the objectivity of the institute in promoting rational policymaking, the utopian ideal is presented that funding would have no strings attached, and that the “scientific work would have to be carried out by professionals who are chosen for their education and training, their expertise and reputations for integrity, neutrality and open-mindedness, not for who their political friends are.”

Without question, there is tremendous merit in the idea of injecting rationality and objectivity into the process of risk assessment in order to create effective social policies. However, in the hands of an empowered clique such as the Cult of Nuclearists, risk analysis has been transformed, yet again, into a mesmerizing display of smoke and mirrors. As such, it has become a tool to confound the better judgment of people and do violence to their deep-seated impulse to arrange their lives for the maximum degree of safety, security, and tranquility. The attempt to manipulate the perception of the risks posed by nuclear power is readily understood within the context of how this technology initially evolved. Nuclear weapons were imposed on society by government without any form of democratic debate. As the implications of Hiroshima and Nagasaki burrowed deeply into the collective consciousness, people responded appropriately to these weapons from their inborn processes of risk assessment, and by all criteria, judged them to be unacceptable. However, they lacked the political strength to demand limits to the technology or the foresight to realize that, left to its own devices, the Cult of Nuclearists would assemble before everyone’s eyes the arsenal of Armageddon. For a large sector of humanity, the normal process of managing risk was forever upset. They were victimized and traumatized by this reconfiguration of their familiar landscape. Impotent to change this external menace, people’s psychology was forced to undergo modification. They had to integrate into their lives increased feelings of dread and insecurity, fear for the future welfare of their children, anxiety about the precarious fragility of all that made life worth living. People had for the first time in history to face the horrible possibility that the continuity of life into the future might be irrevocably interrupted. When nuclear power appeared on the landscape, these same feelings became associated with the threat of the accidental release of radiation. By the way people normally go about assessing risk, this attitude was not unjustified.

The crux of the problem of nuclear weapons and nuclear reactors is that the Cult of Nuclearists has always prized these technologies above the psychological well-being of the people of the Earth. They introduced a technology that by all measures was inappropriate to human happiness and safety and remained unmoved by the average person’s response to this technology, i.e., that it was unacceptably risky. Rather than respect this instinctive judgment and work to create a new world order more friendly to the inhabitants of the Earth, the Cult of Nuclearists advanced its own agenda. To this end, they fabricated elaborate deceptions to beguile people’s natural inclinations. This was the motivating impulse for much of the lying and deceit revealed within these pages. When the process of human risk perception began to be clarified, proponents of nuclear weapons and reactors manufactured a strategic response for the purpose of demonstrating how misguided human beings can be when relying upon their native instincts for assessing risk. A new social-psychological paradigm was promoted, centered upon the idea that humans are essentially irrational when assessing certain types of risk. To save them from their folly and guide them to seeing the world in its “true” light, social scientists needed to present the risks of daily life in the cold logic of statistical analysis. By this method, humanity could be freed from its “irrational” fears, limited funds could be apportioned more wisely for addressing “real” hazards, more lives could be saved and the greatest good could be achieved for the greatest number.

At the risk of offending the reader, there is no word in the English language that comes close to characterizing this line of reasoning other than “mind-fuck.” It is a cheap trick designed to belittle and invalidate humanity’s collective perception of the nuclear hazard. Rather than admit to the inappropriateness of their technology, inappropriate to the pervasive human desire for safety, security, and a sense of well-being, the Cult of Nuclearists is attempting to beguile humans into accepting that they, the people themselves, are inappropriate to the technology. According to their argument, human nature as it applies to risk assessment is imprisoning the species in fear and shortsightedness, thus holding society back from progress. People are repelled by nuclear technology only because they don’t see the world aright. The cure for this pervasive nuclear phobia is reeducation by the enlightened perspective of “objectivity.” Once this is accomplished, people will awaken to the realization that nuclear power presents no greater risk to their welfare than a short trip in a canoe or a brief ride on a bicycle.

This argument is hogwash. It is based on the fallacy that the perspective of the social scientist and that of the risk-taker are freely interchangeable. Social scientists use statistical analysis as one window on life in their attempt to discern patterns in human behavior. They objectify life in order to study it. They abstract from all the nuances that are involved in individuals formulating preferences of one course of action over another in order to draw certain generalizations about population dynamics. The perspective of the risk-taker, the one who is at risk, is entirely different. For this person, the assessment of risk is a multifaceted process which takes into account past history, knowledge of the world, expectations, preferences, aspirations, intuitions, physical sensations, appetites, emotions, desires, and so forth. If making choices were an entirely rational process and if knowledge of statistics were sufficient to alter behavior, no one would smoke, no one would be overweight and everyone would wear a seat belt. Obviously, this is not the case.

For the moment, let’s assume that the foregoing statistics are accurate and that there is no difference in the risk to life-shortening between eating 40 teaspoons of peanut butter and living for five years at the perimeter of a nuclear power plant. Knowledge of this fact is not sufficient to change most people’s attitude or behavior. Peanut-butter eaters will continue to eat peanut butter with abandon and real estate values around nuclear power plants will remain in a slump. Why? Because personal risk assessment involves more than simply selecting the objectively safest alternative. It involves the very subjective process of creating within oneself a sense of security and safety. All of us are gamblers in the casino of life. We are constantly exposed to a vast matrix of risks, any one of which could ruin or end our lives. To manage this, we push many risks out of our awareness. Others that are more within our control, we may choose to address so as to reduce the hazard they may produce in our life. We choose to better our odds of avoiding certain types of catastrophe by electing to wear seat belts, stop smoking, or go on a diet. However, these efforts offer no complete assurance that we will not die in a car accident, contract lung cancer, or suffer a heart attack. Constant vulnerability to chance and the unexpected is the reality of life. The psychological cushion to this state of precariousness is the sense of security derived from one’s personal process of risk assessment and management regardless of how accurate it may be objectively.

If statistical knowledge of relative risk lacks the power to supplant most people’s inborn processes of risk assessment, what alternative remains for those intent on creating social policy at odds with the public’s perceptions? The only option is to circumvent these perceptions by ignoring and overriding them. This is the ultimate purpose of the proposed Risk Analysis Institute. “Experts” are to be enlisted to apply their “superior” wisdom and purported “objectivity” to contravene what is characterized as the passions and ignorance of the masses. Sidestepping the annoying pitfalls of having to deal with public opinion, these experts will work directly with policy makers and lawmakers to create a society reflecting their own values and interests. Undisguised, this is social engineering of a new world order by an elite class not accountable to the people who will have to live under the social policies imposed upon them without consensus. The Risk Analysis Institute is a utopian ideal fraught with peril for humanity. This is most clearly illustrated by a living embodiment of such an organization, the ICRP. To all external appearances, this body of experts provides lawmakers throughout the world with objective information on radiation risk. But as we have revealed, behind their facade of purported objectivity, this organization is a whore of the Cult of Nuclearists, bolstering and legitimizing its misdeeds while ruining the health of untold numbers of victims.

The safety of commercial nuclear power plants is a subject besmeared with obfuscation. Consequently, a legitimate avenue of investigation is to question how the statistics of relative risk listed above were derived. If they are based on the “presumed” dosages to the population from the “assumed” levels of radioactive effluents routinely vented into the environment, and if the risk factors of the ICRP are then applied to these dosages, it should be apparent by this point in the discourse that the hazard to health will be greatly understated. As we shall explore in the following chapter, if the statistics of risk are based on the casualty data recorded in the US Radiation Accident Registry, the conclusions reached as to the hazards of nuclear power plants will be nothing less than a mockery to intelligence. Not everyone in the population is equally at risk from discharges of radioactive pollutants from nuclear installations. If the total amount of radiation released into the environment is treated as if it were distributed to the entire population, the presumed risk is vastly underrated. It would be more accurate to examine the risk incurred by those individuals living immediately downwind of nuclear power plants. As will be revealed in Exhibit F, this type of investigation will reveal elevated risks of breast cancer to people living downwind compared to those living upwind of these facilities. Inclusion of this data in comparisons of relative risks would forever tarnish the myth of the harmlessness of nuclear power.

Statistics can be easily manipulated to create this or that false impression. For instance, statistical analysis may be used to demonstrate the low risk of life-shortening posed by nuclear weapons, the improbability of another Chernobyl-type accident, or the minuscule hazard posed by the planet’s accumulated radioactive waste. But such fine number-crunching would be brought to naught by the single improbable occurrence of a nuclear war that decimated 90 percent of the population of the Earth. The safety record of commercial nuclear reactors can be touted ad infinitum, but the low-probability event of a simultaneous breach of containment and loss of coolant to a reactor core would contaminate the entire population of a large metropolis. Stored nuclear waste has yet to cause catastrophic loss of life, but the safety record of today may fail to account for hazards facing an unsuspecting humanity thousands of years in the future. Mathematical probabilities may predict that nuclear accidents are far-fetched and unlikely, but far-fetched and unlikely things happen all the time. The question is not how improbable the risk, but whether or not we can afford to have such a risk in our midst at all. Is the technology worth the risk of the mass casualties that seem so implausible? Rather than go to the statistical tables for answers, we should travel to Belarus and ask people there if another Chernobyl is worth the risk. We should travel to Hiroshima and ask the survivors what they think of America’s defense policy. We should ask sick veterans returning from Iraq whether they think the ICRP’s risk factors for inhaled uranium are accurate.

Contrary to the beliefs of the pundits within the Cult of Nuclearists, the people of the Earth are not dummies. We recognize the lies for what they are. We are acutely aware that we are living on the brink of nuclear catastrophe. We have witnessed calamitous radiation accidents, and there is nothing that can convince us that these will not happen yet again. Where before we used to protect our children from discovering about the birds and bees, today the horrific secret to be kept from tender ears is that their lives can be incinerated in a microsecond by some deluded idiot. We long to live in a world where we can ride bikes and go canoeing and eat peanut butter sandwiches without being burdened by the thought of having our world ruined by radioactive contamination. We recognize that the Cult of Nuclearists and their policies are an embedded cancer in the body politic. Excising them from our midst may be treacherous because such an operation may kill the host as well. But the people do not have unlimited patience with threat, injustice and deception. Let us hope that Cult of Nuclearists will quantify that risk as well.


[1] Mettler F.A., Moseley R.D. Medical Effects of Ionizing Radiation. Orlando: Grune and Stratton Inc.; 1985.

[2] Ropeik D. Let’s Get Real About Risk. Washington Post. August 6, 2000.