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The Forum > Article Comments > No safe dose > Comments

No safe dose : Comments

By Bill Williams, published 12/12/2006

The Switkowski Report on Uranium Mining Processing and Nuclear Energy gives a whitewash to a complex and controversial subject.

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Some strange reasoning here; nuclear energy will increase greenhouse gas emissions? Nuclear waste is undoubtedly a toxic legacy but what about the legacy of fossil fuel burning? That's not just warming but heavy metals, particulates and organic toxins. I should state that I don't believe renewables can plug the energy gap for several decades so it comes down to coal vs nuclear.

I don't have a link but I believe there have been studies that show some low level background radiation correlates with population health; Florida and Colorado I believe provide a good contrast. Ironically the abandoned Chernobyl site has become an accidental refuge for embattled animals and plants. For more than 20 years I have kept a tube of yellowcake from the old Radium Hill processing works; admittedly I've kept it in a shed.

I'd advise scaremongers to change tack.
Posted by Taswegian, Tuesday, 12 December 2006 12:05:37 PM
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Dr. Williams,

Your paper is unbalanced and exaggerates the minimal risk, if any from low exposures say below 50 to 100 mSv. You quote:
“These doses are estimated to have already resulted in 430,000 additional fatal cancers worldwide by the year 2000, and a total of 2.4 million extra cancer deaths long-term.”
These deaths are theoretical only and not supported by body counts. How about some confidence intervals? What are the errors in transferring data obtained from a Japanese Population irradiated in 1945, to a modern population with a different age and sex distribution and not affected by the ravages of war?
Do you not agree that there are more potent environmental carcinogens then a weak radiation exposure? I have in mind, smoking, alcohol, dietary factors, numerous infectious agents, certain chemical exposures and so on.
The low dose argument or (collective dose) can be compared to the following analogy. A dose of 1000 aspirin tablets administered to one man will be fatal. Therefore one tablet given to each of a 1000 men will cause one death. Likewise a tenth of a tablet administered to 10,000 men will result in one death. This is clearly a manifest absurdity.
Posted by anti-green, Tuesday, 12 December 2006 12:32:36 PM
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The rights and wrongs of, or more accurately the probabilities of something happening, related to levels of radiation is a question much muddied by the proponents of Nuclear. Bit like Climate change, the vocal climate lobby, prepared to use any data from anywhere, that was (IS?).
Yes I read the report of thriving animal life but it failed to record later life effecting illness, nor did it seperate reproduction from entry to a now uninhabited area. Since we spend so much trying to prolong human life this data is needed or perhaps the unwanted or people with no other choice will live there, a real goad to the competitive story.

If there are two ways of doing something one having a greater probability of harm then you choose the other unless.
1 are not in position to make choice and as we have seen over the Iraq illegal actions the public can be fooled into thinking the action correct. Of course they may still think the action useful, 650,00 extra deaths a trashed country and instability for the American umbrella!

2 you are not the entrepreneur, who will no receive no benefit if the more dangerous choice is not proceeded with or maybe you an Australian citizen standing to benefit from the trickle down effect of wealth, that is little.

3 you are not in a position to improve the present economy such that these measures of progress are no longer needed. Energy efficiency will go some way to improving employment, reducing GHG and adding to GDP, population reduction or at least rate of increase, meaning immigration ignoring prostituting your wife for the third Australian as Mr Costello would have you do, would help at perhaps some standard of living and any dependence on such schemes
Posted by untutored mind, Tuesday, 12 December 2006 1:23:53 PM
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This article is typical of the semi-truthful guff put out by the anti-nuclear lobby. Let us examine the facts:

1. They are quite truthful in saying that there is no safe level of nuclear radiation, and that there is no place on earth free of radiation.

2. They are truthful in quoting the small amount of additional background radiation due to nuclear activities, and the statistical number of deaths that would result from these activities.

3. What they do not mention is that background radiation increases by 1% every 23 metres that you rise above sea level. If they are so concerned at the deaths that result from nuclear activities, they should be campaigning to ban all air travel, as the amount of radiation absorbed by air travellers, particularly aircrew, dwarfs that from nuclear activities. An example of this is the uranium mine at Roxby Downs. This mine releases radiation into the environment. The amount is equivalent to living one floor higher in a building than you really are.

4. Their statistical calculation of the deaths from additional radiation takes no note, of course, of the lives saved by the electricity and other good things generated by the nuclear activities.

5. In particular, they take no note of the millions of lives saved by the atomic bomb. Starting with the Allied prisoners of war, who all would have been killed if the war against Japan had been fought to the death, we need to add millions of Japanese who would have died in the invasion, and the millions of allied soldiers who would have also died in an invasion. Anyone who studies the death rate in the battles for Okinawa and Iwo Jima would agree with these figures. Then we need to add the millions that would have died in a war between America and Russia, which would certainly have been fought if it were not for the nuclear stalemate. So far, the atomic bomb has been a great boon for humanity, as it has protected us from ourselves.
Posted by plerdsus, Tuesday, 12 December 2006 8:23:16 PM
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Radioactivity is a health problem even at low levels? Hard evidence of that seems to be scarce. To make reference to models that predict numbers of deaths is to argue circularly.

Still, let's do something about it. Number one on the list should be the closing down of all coal-fired power stations, because they are significant sources of radioactivity; there are radioactive elements in coal, and the burning process releases them into the air. A typical coal fired station releases much more radioactive material than a nuclear generator of equivalent power.

In practice, of course, we're not going to do that. We need the power, and there are no economically viable alternatives (other than nuclear). Certainly wind and solar don't cut it. The only one that comes close is hot-rock technology, but that's still under development.

There is little doubt that radioactivity can cause some deaths, but poverty most certainly does. Bankrupting our economy out of a misguided desire to eliminate all risks will kill more people than the small amount of radioactivity released either by coal fired stations, or by future nuclear power stations.

Posted by Sylvia Else, Tuesday, 12 December 2006 8:40:43 PM
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No safe dose... I would rather work in an Australian nuclear power station than in a Chinese coal mine any day.

The fact is that there is no safe limit to anything. My risk of car accidents was reduced when speed limits went from 60km/h (local roads) to 50. The same logic would apply if they went from 50 to 10km/h, and ditto if they were reduced to zero.

The reality is though that there are hazards from coal. Real health hazards. There are hazards from lead. There are hazards from cars, from gas and from hydro. People die when dams burst. Workers were killed in the Longford gas explosion in Vic also. Don't forget these people.

And with (ionizing) radiation - there is a background radiation level, from the ground, from the sky, from concrete, from xrays and from medical procedures which are now euphemistically called "scans".

However... I wouldn't rush in to nuclear power.

In fact I'd protest against it at the moment (why rush!).

So I'm anti-nuclear, for now, but I believe this article overstates the risks - which to me relate more to human error and carelesness.
Posted by WhiteWombat, Tuesday, 12 December 2006 10:57:38 PM
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