Merchants of Fear – for profit

George Erickson

John LaForge, who writes the NUKE WATCH soap opera, which is loosely based on fact, is clearly not a scientist or an engineer of any type, especially nuclear. 
Like the Trump White House, “radioactive” John fills his columns with “alternative facts” while ignoring his own body’s radiation of thousands of beta & gamma decays per second. Worse yet, he knows better, but persists despite being repeatedly corrected by scientists who are experts in their fields. 

Some will call this stubbornness, but I call it willful ignorance, a tragic and common problem for many “greens” who are addicted to the “renewable Kool-Aid” that is displacing the safest, most efficient, most environment-friendly way to produce electricity - CO2-free nuclear power. 

 https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/nuclear-power-must-make-a-comeback-for-climate-s-sake/  Real scientists favor nuclear power. 
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/nuclear-power-is-the-greenest-option-say-top-scientists-9955997.html. 65 scientists urge nuclear power as the “greenest” option:

https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/100-percent-renewables-plan-has-significant-shortcomings-say-experts#gs.D_I63tk). Renewable defects. 

LaForge, in his April 12 column, worried about the amount of tritium in a monitoring well at or near the La Crosse nuclear power plant as if it were being used for public consumption, which it isn’t, and even if the well were being used, it wouldn’t create a problem. Here’s why - for at least the third time, John.)

Tritium emits a beta particle so slow that it can’ even penetrate skin - unlike the far more energetic beta particles emitted by the potassium-40 WITHIN US from the bananas that most of us enjoy. Must we stop eating bananas, John? And how about potatoes, nuts and other foods that contain K40, not to mention our smoke detectors that rely on radioactive Americium-241? Furthermore, John, you’d best stay away from the ocean, because just one cubic yard of seawater contains some 10,000 decays per second.

Here’s another example of radiophobic silliness caused by John’s fellow Merchants of Fear: When people were seen swimming near the cooling water outlet of a Florida nuclear power plant, “green experts” expressed alarm even though the beer that those critics consume is 13 times more radioactive than the water discharged from any nuclear power plant.

Mr. LaForge always uses American BEIR statistics that are based on the erroneous belief that even tiny amounts of radiation can be lethal. That belief, which is contrary to United Nations standards, has created an anti-nuclear bias called ALARA – As Low As Reasonably Achievable –that has permeated our regulations. However, “reasonably” is vague, and “achievable” depends on technology, not health effects.

For example, the World Health Organization has set a public exposure limit for tritium from nuclear plants. Canada’s reactors comply with this limit, but due to our foolish adherence to ALARA, our upper limit is 60 % lower than Canada’s. Why? Because it was achievable - not because it is necessary. (In Australia and many other countries, the tritium limit is far higher than Canada’s.  

ALARA can lead to absurdities: For example, airline passengers are exposed to about 20 times more cosmic radiation than those at ground level, but despite the dire predictions of those who, like Mr. Laforge, fear even tiny amounts of radiation, they experience no more cancer than those who don’t fly. Should jets be required to fly at low altitudes, where they produce more greenhouse gases, just to satisfy ALARA? And what about the flight attendants and pilots who constantly work in higher levels of cosmic radiation that penetrates our bodies just as easily as the radiation from John’s dreaded cesium, which he mentioned in the same column.  

Because radioactive elements are constantly decaying, our ancestral life forms developed during times when radiation levels were far HIGHER than they are today. As a consequence, we evolved some very effective ways to repair DNA damage caused by radiation and OXIDATION, which is why we are told to favor anti-oxidants like grapes and greens. (Even the highest natural background radiation rate is insignificant compared to the damage caused by our internal chemistry. DNA bond breaks caused by oxidation and toxins occur hundreds of times more frequently than breaks caused by background radiation. In addition, DNA can also be damaged by ultraviolet light from the sun, industrial pollutants and natural toxins like cigarette smoke. What fights the pandemonium are our natural DNA repair mechanisms.)

If people understood that “…we have billions of cells that die every day and must be replaced, they will be better able to accept the fact that our bodies have efficient repair mechanisms that can handle low level radiation.”  SCIENCE magazine, March, 2015. (Adults have about 37 trillion cells.)
Because of their daily exposure to low levels of radiation, which seems to stimulate the DNA repair system, nuclear power plant workers get 1/3 fewer cancers than other workers. They also lose fewer work days to accidents than office workers.
Knowing this, it is no surprise that, when steel containing cobalt-60 was used to build Taiwan apartments, which exposed 8,000 people to as much as 100 times more radiation than normal during some twenty years, cancer incidence was sharply down, not up 30%, as the anti-nuclear zealots would have predicted. Instead, the residents’ adaptive response to low-level radiation seems to have provided health benefits. 

 

Given this information, it seems reasonable that radiation limits should be the same regardless of the source of the radiation. Nevertheless, nuclear plants are held to a standard 100 times higher than coal plants, which actually emit MORE radiation than nuclear power plants. Even granite buildings irradiate their occupants more than nuclear power plants.

In the Indian state of Kerala, children under five have the lowest mortality rate in the country, and life expectancy is 74 despite background radiation rates that are as high as 30 times the global average.  http://bravenewclimate.com/2015/01/24/what-can-we-learn-from-kerala/.
For thousands of years, Keralites have lived with radiation 3 to 15 times the level that caused the evacuation at Fukushima, and many Keralites also eat food that is five times as radioactive as food in the United States.
Despite these radiation levels, cancer incidence in Kerala is the same as the rate in greater India; which is about 1/2 that of Japan’s and less than a third of the rate in Australia. As the linked article says, “Cancer experts know a great deal about the drivers of these huge differences, and radiation isn’t on the list.”   

Furthermore, in 2015, a study of bacteria grown at a dose rate 1/400 of normal background radiation yielded a reduction in growth. When the cells were returned to normal background radiation levels, growth rates recovered. The conclusion: Insufficient radiation can yield harmful results. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/evolution/life-without-radiation/

Finally, with the 31st anniversary of Chernobyl approaching, I predict that NUKE WATCH will again feature the usual distortions and half-truths, while failing to mention that Chernobyl, which was deemed illegal by other nuclear countries, is the only “civilian” plant to cause fatalities, which have been far fewer than predicted.  

If Mr. LaForge cares to learn the facts that caused that failure, he can find them and a lot more in Unintended Consequences: the Lie That Killed Millions and Accelerated Climate Change, the book I am making available for FREE to everyone who emails me at tundracub@mediacombbBP.net or downloads it from http://www.unintended-consequences.org. The links within the text are “clickable,” so there is no need to type them into your computer.

George Erickson is a member of the National Center for Science Education and the Thorium Energy Alliance. His website is www.tundracub.com. For a presentation on nuclear power and energy alternatives, email tundracub@mediacombb.net or call 218-744 2003.