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[cdn-nucl-l] "Safety can be dangerous"
This is a rather interesting item.
Rather than solve the problem using good science, the DOE says, "I hope we
can come to a potential compromise, using the
> EPA standard,"
> From: Muckerheide[SMTP:email@example.com]
> Reply To: Ans-pie
> Sent: Friday, 2000 February 11, 12:51 AM
> To: Multiple recipients of list ans-pie
> Subject: From the Washington Times
> The following was forwarded by Aaron Oakley in Australia to the
> radsafe list:
> (I've expressed our appreciation to Mr Oakley, and Mr/Ms T. Smith :-)
> Perhaps we should send our letters to the Times, not just the Post!)
> Regards, Jim
> Radiation, Science, and Health
> Center for Nuclear Technology and Society at WPI
> Rachel Carson's curse
> If federal regulators announced tomorrow that airplane travel were a
> cancer risk and that they would restrict it accordingly, lawmakers would
> have them in front of congressional hearings faster than one could say
> "frequent flyer." Just because airline passengers are exposed to more
> radiation than their Earth-bound counterparts, most would agree, the feds
> shouldn't consider plane trips a cause of cancer. But officials at the
> Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) obsess about similarly minute health
> "hazards" all the time, and they do so in ways that ultimately threaten,
> protect, human health.
> Today federal lawmakers are weighing a dispute between regulators and
> the nuclear industry over just how safe a proposed repository for spent
> nuclear fuel in Nevada has to be. The industry, consistent with
> recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences, says it is
> enough to
> limit annual exposure levels to, in effect, the dose one would receive on
> five coast-to-coast, round-trip plane trips across the United States. But
> EPA is insisting on limiting exposure to the equivalent of three trips and
> possibly even lower. The agency wants to limit radiation exposure from
> ground water at the site - not tap water - to the amount one would receive
> from less than a coast-to-coast round trip.
> Nominally, at least, the debate in the Senate is about who should
> impose the standards - the Environmental Protection Agency or the Nuclear
> Regulatory Commission. The administration is insisting that EPA have the
> power, and is threatening a veto otherwise. Sen. Frank Murkowski says he
> fears, with some reason, that if EPA has sole responsibility to set the
> radiation standard, it would set impossibly high criteria that would
> effectively kill the plan for permanent storage at Nevada's Yucca
> The administration was supposed to have the repository open for
> business in 1998, but has been as obstructive as possible to an industry
> that Vice President Al Gore considers insufficiently friendly to the
> environment. "I hope we can come to a potential compromise, using the
> EPA standard," Energy Secretary Bill Richardson says.
> The more important argument here is whether trace exposure to
> radiation, of the kind one gets from cross-country plane trips, is worth
> argument. It sounds bizarre, a kind of academic exercise akin to counting
> angels dancing on pin heads. One wonders if these people don't have
> something more useful to do, like getting a drink at the soda machine or
> emptying the trash basket. But it is precisely this kind of regulatory
> regime with which Rachel Carson cursed the United States.
> Ms. Carson based her influential "novel," "Silent Spring," on the
> fiction that exposure to disappearingly small amounts of man-made
> and radiation might poison man and everything else on the globe. The
> was a biologist, not an expert in cancer research, and almost four decades
> later there is still no scientific basis for her warnings. But in the name
> of protecting the public, regulators now rely on her theory that there
> is no threshold below which exposure to alleged carcinogens is safe.
> This, in short, is the cancer-causing plane-trip theory.
> If the reasoning here seems strained, to put it mildly, the
> of the safety standards themselves is more dubious still. Because
> researchers can't actually link cancer to trace radiation exposures, they
> have to engage in some acrobatic calculations to arrive at the health
> involved. By collecting data on the cancer fallout in Japan after the
> States dropped atomic bombs there in World War II, researchers were
> able to
> establish a correlation between cancer and persons suffering high
> exposure. Then they extrapolated - guesstimated - the health effects of
> Hiroshima to what those effects might be at radiation exposure levels a
> fraction of that. The implicit assumption here is that if Hiroshima was
> dangerous, then plane trips can't be safe either.
> Still following? Is anyone out there afraid of getting cancer from
> flying from Washington to Los Angeles and back? Boredom, maybe. Bad food,
> possibly. But cancer? From a scientific point of view, EPA's groundwater
> standard is unwarranted. Complained the NAS in a letter to EPA last year,
> the agency's proposal "will add little, if any, additional protection to
> individuals or the general public from radiation releases from the
> repository." EPA, it said, "must make more cogent scientific arguments to
> justify the need for this standard."
> Although the health benefits are negligible, whether the one-trip
> standard or the five-trip standard applies, the difference in costs in
> trying to achieve the two is not. Chasing down every last molecule of
> radiation is very expensive and could threaten the feasibility of the
> repository and, ultimately, of the industry itself. Nuclear energy
> a little more than 20 percent of this country's electricity. What would
> replace it when the lights go out?
> It's also true, wrote William Hendee, a past president of the
> Association of Physicists in Medicine, in the 1996 American Enterprise
> Institute book, "Risks, Costs and Lives Saved," that "Money spent to
> those suspected but unproven risks is not available to prevent or correct
> problems such as industrial and domestic accidents, personal violence,
> tobacco use, alcohol abuse, and other known threats to human health. Those
> costs are the unfortunate consequences of misplaced fears and misused
> Although there is no way to quantify their consequences, the social
> implications of such actions is enormous."
> So safety can be very dangerous. Rachel Carson and her disciples in
> this administration deserve great credit for helping to make it so.