Time for the Green Party – and the Guardian – to ditch anti-nuclear quackery

Yesterday I was an environmentalist. Today, according to tweets from prominent greens, and an op-ed response piece in the Guardian, I’m a “Chernobyl death denier”. My crime has been to stick to the peer-reviewed consensus scientific reports on the health impacts of the Chernobyl disaster, rather than – as is apparently necessary to remain politically correct as a ‘green’ – cleaving instead to self-published reports from pseudo scientists who have spent a lifetime hyping the purported dangers of radiation.

I have discovered over the past few weeks that the anti-nuclear end of the environmental movement has no regard for proper scientific process when it comes to the issue which defines it. Perhaps this is no surprise, because as George Monbiot and others have shown, the methods used by campaigners on nuclear bear all the hallmarks of the methods used by anti-science climate change ‘deniers’.

Take the UK Green Party. Its ‘national speaker’ (de-facto shadow minister) on science and technology is Dr Chris Busby, the eminence grise of the anti-nuclear movement. Busby runs something called Green Audit, a purportedly scientific research outfit which has spent years ‘discovering’ non-existent leukaemia clusters and around Britain and blaming them on nuclear power stations. Green Audit is intimately tied up with the Green Party, and Busby’s line on nuclear dominates its thinking: scientifically, this is like the UK Independence Party getting its climate science from Lord Monckton, another absurdity which consigns this party too to the lunatic fringe.

[Update: it is unclear whether Dr Busby is still the UK Green Party’s science and technology spokesperson or not. A search of its website reveals lots of nuclear scare stories with quotes from Busby, but no mention of his current role. Readers might like to contact the Greens to seek clarification. ]

Green Audit graduates are careful not to portray themselves as such. Recently on a Channel 4 debate I found myself opposite a Dr Paul Dorfman, whose Guardian bio – that he “is a senior researcher, University of Warwick, and a member of the Nuclear Consultation Group” suggests independent expertise, not partisan ideology. Yet Dorfman is an ex-Green Audit hack. Yesterday’s ‘Chernobyl denial’ piece by Richard Bramhall in the Guardian also suggests academic credentials: his Guardian bio reveals that “Richard Bramhall is secretary of the Low Level Radiation Campaign; he was a member of the government’s advisory Committee Examining Radiation Risks of Internal Emitters from 2001 to 2004”.

But Bramhall is also a Green Audit comrade, not a radiologist, and the committee he refers to was set up by former environment minister Michael Meacher at the behest of none other than Chris Busby. Molly Scott Cato, another leading light in the UK Greens, was a co-founder of Green Audit, and co-authored some of its worst papers. Bramhall himself seems to have worked closely with Busby in the Welsh Green Party, including taking a role as press officer – though none of this background is mentioned in his current biog.

Green Audit’s work has been panned by real scientists on numerous occasions. Most spectacularly, Busby and his colleagues recruited a Welsh TV station as a collaborator on a recent research exercise to ‘prove’ that supposed leaukaemia clusters on the coast of North Wales were attributable to radiation releases into the sea by the nuclear complex a couple of hundred miles up the coast at Sellafield. (See the resulting Green Party press release alleging a “child cancer ‘cover up'” here) The only problems were that the cancer clusters never existed, and that even if they had, there is no plausible biological mechanism by which the infinitesimally small dosages of radiation received by coast-dwellers from Sellafield could have caused them.

None of this daunted Green Audit, which presumably knew its conclusions before it started its ‘science’. Busby’s work succeeded in scaring local people and generating media headlines, which was no doubt the intention. Claiming child leaukaemia rates twenty-eight times the UK average in the local area, Busby (who is portrayed as a “radiation expert”) told the local Daily Post that the “link between Sellafield and excess childhood cancer is indisputable”. As well as frightening people about radiation, this kind of exercise helps undermine public support for nuclear power, which is surely the broader underlying agenda.

But when real experts from the Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit tried to replicate Green Audit’s work, they found a trail of errors and distortions. (The resulting WCISU paper was then published in a ‘real’ scientific journal, the Journal of Radiological Protection (PDF here), unlike Busby et al, which was self-published.) Here are some choice quotes from the former:

In summary, the overall leukaemia incidence for Wales was counted twice… trebling the local incidence in north Wales. This error produced spurious clusters in various locations in rural Wales, with the notable exception of Powys in mid Wales. For example, Green Audit reported a ‘cluster’ of 10 cases of leukaemia in children aged 0–4 years in Snowdonia, whereas one case actually occurred during that period (1974–1989).

Whoops. And please remember, this work was conducted by the Green Party’s science spokesperson, and presumably adds to the party’s ‘evidence base’ on the strength of which it continues to oppose nuclear power. But there’s more. Much more. What about “Green Audit’s hypothesis that very low levels of human-made radionuclides have an effect on cancer incidence”? According to the Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit, “the claimed effect has no biological plausibility”. So why were Green Audit’s conclusions accepted so uncritically by the media and the public, if not by scientists? Because, “a high degree of mistrust in conventional agencies can make elaborate conspiracies seem plausible”.

So this is what Green Audit and other anti-nuclear campaign groups thrive on: distrust of both the nuclear industry and official health protection and regulatory agencies, allowing them to invoke shadowy conspiracies by men in white lab coats who presumably enjoy foisting dangerous radioactive materials on an unwilling public, all no doubt controlled by a sinister mastermind bearing a striking resemblance to Mr Burns off the Simpsons, the evil boss of Springfield Nuclear Power Plant.

The similarities with climate science ‘deniers’ is overwhelming. Take the selective use of data. Climate sceptics make much of the supposed lack of global warming over the last ten years – they do this by starting their data series in 1998, which was a very hot year, making it appear as if cooling took place thereafter. Similarly, Busby et al exclude Welsh leaukaemia data between 1974-81 (when there was only one incidence on the North Wales coastal strip, despite a much more lax safety regime in Sellafield during that period and consequently far greater releases of radiation into the sea), and use instead the period 1982-90, when there were nine. Had Green Audit used the longer data series, their conclusions would not have been statistically significant, which was presumably why the earlier data was excluded.

According to WCISU’s review of Green Audit’s statistical methodology, “we found clear evidence of data-dredging which renders all subsequent statistical inference spurious”. Instead of proper scientific objectivity being applied to the figures, there was evidence “that the dataset has been systematically trawled”. In other cases, Green Audit seems to have worked with media reporters to simply go around knocking on doors, as if the anecdotes they dug up would trump the quantitative data produced by official agencies (who might be in on the pro-nuke conspiracy). As the WCISU paper reports:

Welsh reporters have collaborated with Green Audit to carry out intrusive and inaccurate surveys rather than accept registry figures. Television documentaries, based on erroneous results, have spawned misleading articles in the national press and across the internet. In a process driven by these Green Audit reports, levels of public anxiety have been raised and trust in cancer registries eroded.

All this demonstrates at best a cavalier attitude to the scientific process. According to radiation epidemiologist Richard Wakeford, Busby even helped set up his own journal for a while because he was unable to get his sub-standard work published in the genuine expert literature. This European Biology and Bioelectromagnetics journal, was, according to Wakeford, “a curious entity that was launched in 2005 and claims to publish peer-reviewed papers, but which, after five issues of Volume 1, appears to have run out of steam after Issue 1 of Volume 2 in 2006.” (The link Wakeford gives, www.ebab.eu.com, now appears to be defunct, and links through to dating and adult websites.) He points out: “I shall let you be the judge of just what might be going on here by pointing out that Busby, a member of the Editorial Board, is an author of no fewer than eight papers in the currently existing (as of February 2008) six issues of the journal!”

Indeed. This reminds me more than anything of the snafu at Energy and Environment journal, which published a variety of flawed scientific papers a few years ago appearing to undermine the mainstream consensus view on global warming. This was decried by environmentalists at the time as being an egregious distortion of the proper scientific process. As US green writer Chris Mooney wrote about the above saga in 2004:

This is how it begins: Proponents of a fringe or non-mainstream scientific viewpoint seek added credibility. They’re sick of being taunted for having few (if any) peer reviewed publications in their favor. Fed up, they decide to do something about it.

They get their paper through the peer review process and into print. They publicize the hell out of it. Activists get excited by the study, which has considerable political implications.

Before long, mainstream scientists catch on to what’s happening. They shake their heads. Some slam the article and the journal that published it, questioning the review process and the editor’s ideological leanings. In published critiques, they tear the paper to scientific shreds.

But it’s too late for that. The press has gotten involved, and though the work in question has been discredited in the world of science, partisans who favor its conclusions for ideological reasons will champion it for years to come.The scientific waters are muddied. The damage is done.

Quite. Lastly, climate change deniers have made copious use of front groups, often sponsored by industry. Greens have worked tirelessly to expose links between commercial interests like Exxon Mobil and Koch Industries and the anti-environmental movement, particularly in the United States. But anti-nuclear greens like front groups too. Busby got himself on various scientific committees, and – when he didn’t like the consensus of his expert colleagues – self-published a ‘minority report’ to try to discredit the real thing.

In his Guardian piece Green Audit’s Richard Brahmall highlights the innocuous-sounding European Committee on Radiation Risk as having conducted real research on the dangers of ‘internal emitters’ in causing cancer (this is the latest wheeze to try to undermine the consensus findings on Chernobyl). He fails to mention that the ECRR was set up by European Green parties, and that its ‘scientific secretary’ is… (scroll down on this page) none other than Chris Busby.

Today the danger is that, in the light of Fukushima, the flames of public anxiety about nuclear power and radiation are fanned anew by anti-nuclear activists who have scant regard for science and still less for the impact of their assertions on the general public they are so intent on scaring. Unfortunately the Guardian seems all too happy to publish many of their ‘reports’, with very little corrective information from the real experts. Just as the Telegraph is the in-house UK journal for climate science deniers, so the Guardian seems to have been captured by the radiation science deniers on the anti-nuclear branch of the green movement. That has got to change, or trust in this newspaper too will eventually be eroded.

And as for the UK Green Party, I suggest that potential voters make it clear to their aspiring representatives (of which Chris Busby is one) that they would prefer to vote for a political party which takes science seriously, and which is therefore able to shoulder the responsibilities of government in a rational and evidence-based way. Otherwise, if they ever get more than one MP, the UK greens could end up following the lead of their German comrades by switching off nuclear plants and turning their country back to coal.


  1. Paul Kingsnorth

    Well, according the the New Scientist today there is no consensus, even among the real scientists, about the health impacts of Chernobyl, so we probably shouldn’t believe anyone who claims to be certain about numbers there.


    Nevertheless, this looks like a justified kicking of Busby and Co (not that I’m really qualified to judge but I’ve had my suspicions about the LLRC for ten years or so.) Obviously anyone claiming to be making points based on science should be using science that, as far as they can tell, is sound. (Though having said that, not having something peer-reviewed is not necessarily a sign that it’s junk, as I’m sure both Einstein and Lovelock could confirm.)

    But I think the problem is dishonesty on behalf of some greens (including, perhaps, the Greens.) They are actually anti-nuclear for reasons that have nothing to do with science – political, emotional, intuitive, cultural or social reasons. Those are perfectly valid reasons, and not to be dismissed. But because the greens are scared of voicing them, lest they be dismissed as Romantic hippies, they pretend that their arguments are actually scientific, when they’re not. This obliges them to find some pseudo-science to dress the arguments up in, and then they look silly when it’s exposed.

    I’ve just read Simon Fairlie’s pamphlet ‘The Prospect of Cornutopia’, written in response to Lomborg’s first book. One of the few things he agrees with Lomborg on is that greens should stop hiding political, social, or cultural arguments behind a facade of science. I agree too.

    I don’t think it’s helpful to suggest that ‘science’ should be the final arbiter on something like nuclear power. It is only one metric that can (and should) be employed. I think it’s incumbent on the greens to use it properly when they do it employ it. But it’s also incumbent upon them to be brave enough to make arguments not couched in the comforting language of science and economics. I touched on that a bit here:


  2. Robin Smith

    There is an under lying agenda. But it goes deeper than you say.

    Anti nukes are socialist by nature in general.

    They know that nuke will be a big step advance in society.

    So will increase the wealth produced as do all labour saving devices.

    They also know about the wealth divide that shows how the more produced, the more unjustly it is distributed. More goes to non producers as unearned incomes. A natural law.

    Socialism is confused by this because they stop thinking about how this happens, which is a direct result of private property in land and resources and the rents charged for that privilege.

    So nuke is not really important to them nor is the science. They are opposing the increased injustice it will inevitably bring about.

    This is a false battle though. They should really be anti private rent collection and taxation. The great social wrongs compelling sane people to burn down the planet that gives them life.

    cc deniers are involved in a similar false battle. They do not really deny cc. They simply are not willing to pay for benefits received in pollution rights. They see this would make them poor.

  3. Paul Kingsnorth

    Not really, Robin. Socialism in its classic form is the ultimate techno-progressive ideology. The agenda of the USSR, after all, was ‘scientific socialism’, and they were very keen on nuclear reactors, as this post kind of suggests …

    Greens and socialists, by the way, are not the same thing, no matter how much stuff by Lomborg or Riddley you’ve been reading. Some greens are socialists, but then some greens are fascists. Others are conservatives, others are anarchists, other are market liberals. It’s a meta-ideology, or used to be.

  4. Barry Woods

    Obviously Mark still believes in climate change deniars ‘cherry picking’ things

    Might I ask how many ‘climate change’ deaths Mark thinks there are, in light of George Monbiots’s experience checking anti-nuclear sources for Chernobyl deaths?

    Franny Armstrong, in the Guardian scoop of the 10:10 ‘No Pressure’ video said 300,000 people were dying of climate change.

    Am I a ‘deniar’ to ask her where she got that figure from, or ask Damian Carrington who wrote the story to verify her source for that statement. At that time even Greenpeace were ‘only’ claiming 150,000 climate change deaths! on their website. So which one was right – FoE made no claim of atrributable deaths on their website.

    Who was right, I thought like George to check for sources.

    It would appear to be from a WHO report, with deaths probably inflated from an IPPR document that referenced it..

    The executive summary of The Institute of Public Policy Research document – ‘Positive Energy’ -2007, has it’s second sentence, to frame the entire document with an urgent ‘climate change’ message:

    “Behind the stories, real people are allready being hit, with climate change now killing 150,ooo people a year (1)”

    The IPPR is a major ’progressive’, UK think tank that has adviced the UK Government over the last decade. Here it is reported as a proven fact – now killing – designed to give an explicit urgent message to governments and policy makers

    I had to buy the report to find the reference, which was not included in the Executive Summary, (no politician usually gets beyond even the first couple of pages of an executive summary)

    (1)World Health Organisation: Climate and Health – 2005 factsheet

    I tracked this IPPR referenced factsheet down and this is presumably where the definite 150,000 ‘climate change’ deaths ‘facts’ for that report came from.

    “Measurement of health effects from climate change can only be very approximate. Nevertheless, a WHO quantitative assessment, taking into account only a subset of the possible health impacts, concluded that the effects of the climate change that has occurred since the mid-1970s may have caused over 150,000 deaths in 2000. It also concluded that these impacts are likely to increase in the future.” – WHO – 2005

    note the actual references words – might, estimate , very approximate, may, etc, may have caused in 2000, etc

    How did that turn into – NOW Killing 150,000 deaths, in a summary ofr policy makers, a bit of pr polishing perhaps?

    The WHO factsheet also says 600,000 deaths annually due to natural extreme weather related events – of which 95% in poor countries.

    Thus the biggest killer is being poor, not ‘climate change’. The authors of the report appear to have turned the very approximate, information on man made climate change deaths in the WHO document(itself subject to criticism) into a definite fact.

    Now I have done exactly the same as George, researched and verified whether sources match the claims, and have found exageration and less than solid evidence and I am less than convinced.

    Yet, I’m just a ‘climate change deniar’ who is apparently beneath contempt…

    Since then, Greenpeace have updated their website, and quote the report I mentioned earlier, which if you look into the references against the claims that are referenced, are again rather suspect.


    Mark seems concerned about being labelled a Chernobal deniar, I’m one as well now, by agreeing with his evidence. I sympathise. Thing is the same people would call me a ‘climate change deniar’, including Mark it seems.

    Yet I have domne the same exercise, asked found the sources for the claimms, and found them wanting and had the same reactin by environmentalists.

    I hope this comment is not dimissed out of hand, and Mark takes the time to look at the official WHO and UN sources for himself…

    I did write about it at one of the nasty, deniar blogs.

    I’ll have to add Mark Lynas to my blog role as a fellow deniar (Chernobyl) blog 😉
    (note – environmentalists seem to have much less a sense of humour)

  5. Barry Woods

    oops – I left out the link to the WHO factsheet.

  6. Lantzelot

    Interesting article, Mark!

    We have looked at some of Busby’s studies and I am sad to say that they confirm what you write. Some of Busby’s ideas are indeed interesting, and he is very productive, but after observing his handling of official data we can only conclude that he is either incompetent or a fraud.

    Last summer he tried to claim an increase in breast cancer along the Swedish Baltic Sea coast due to the Chernobyl accident, by referring to official data, but somehow forgetting about the data that spoke against his theory, see our Deep Repository for an account of the meeting I attended:

    In January there were claims by Busby & Collingridge of large amounts of enriched uranium around the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant. We also looked into that “study”, and found again a few serious flaws in it (I see that the Environment Agency has done some follow up on the issue since):

    The Green Party should indeed be able to use better arguments against nuclear power than to refer to Busby. In Sweden we have observed that some prominent members of the Environmental Party (Miljöpartiet) also tend to refer to Busby in their argumentation. This is unfortunate, because by doing this they exclude themselves from being taken seriously in the important debate about the positive and negative aspects of nuclear power.

  7. Rick

    Mark, this is an outstanding article. As a scientist, this type of corruption is depressing. It is a practice that is becoming more common, not only in nuclear matters but in social sciences, health and general environmental articles. The worst offenders are fundamentalist greens who like fundamentalists of all types discredit their broader cause. Your article should be compulsory reading, particularly in the Guardian, and here in Australia, the Age which has a similar attachment to this sinister form of dishonesty.

  8. Larry Davis

    How convenient to dismiss anyone that disagrees with your only nuclear power can save us premise as pseudo scientists or quacks…

    It would serve you well to learn from a bit of your own British history concerning radiation research as it was Dr. Alice Mary Stewart and her associates that first proved the links between exposure to radiation and cancer in 1956. I suggest you read the book: ‘The Woman Who Knew Too Much, Alice Stewart and the Secrets of Radiation’ by Gayle Greene

    See: [ http://www.press.umich.edu/titleDetailDesc.do?id=16783 ]

    Dr. Stewart received the alternative Nobel Prize, the Right Livelihood Award in 1986 and the Ramazziai Prize in 1992. Her obituary in the New York Times notes how her findings were not welcome news for the nuclear establishment which led to her never again receiving a major grant in England. She lived long enough to see radiation science move in her direction, with each official estimate of radiation risk acknowledging greater danger than previous estimates admitted.

    She had the satisfaction of seeing one Secretary of Energy in 1993 open the record of the Government’s management of nuclear operations during the Cold War, including the records of human experimentation, and then seeing another in 2000 recommending compensation for nuclear workers suffering from cancers that may have been incurred at work.

    The point of all this is that there is ample evidence in her case and too many others where distinguished scientists and doctors doing research on the effects of radiation exposures have either had their findings suppressed or been ostracized by the governments, military, and industry who all have vested interests and liabilities to protect. This is not some conspiracy theory that has been cooked up – it is historical fact which can be researched with very little effort and considerable time given the voluminous nature of the record.

    If you still consider yourself as an environmentalist then I would challenge you to consider the fact that nuclear power, in its present state of development, is:

    1) Not an economical solution – but is something that will detract vast sums of money away from intelligent deployment of necessary solutions such as: energy efficiency, energy storage, distributed generation on microgrids, and energy from clean renewable sources;

    2) Not a solution for climate change given the time necessary to build such facilities and current worldwide shortages of proper grades of steel for reactor vessels and other components;

    3) Not able to capitalize or indemnify itself in private markets without the guaranteed support of taxpayers’ money – which obviously creates unequal competition in energy markets;

    4) Not as safe as clean alternative energy sources that do not have the unique ability to contaminate vast swaths of our environment with radioisotopes that accumulate in our food and ourselves; and

    5) Not as sane as clean alternative energy sources that cannot be diverted into nuclear weapons production and do not produce nuclear waste which we have no good solutions for.

    Please do us all a favor and research exactly what is involved in reprocessing spent nuclear fuel and the use of breeder reactors and what the historical record has been so far concerning routine emissions, inflated waste volumes, and contamination of local envrons produced from such facilities.

    Recognize the demonstrable facts that the “cavalier attitude” on topic has historically been represented by those who have developed, maintained, and promoted nuclear weapons and subsequent “atoms for peace” nuclear power – not the concerned scientists and doctors attempting to enlighten or challenge the established dogma.

    For example, take the nature of our universe – one only has to research how many men of science that preceded us and challenged similar authority faired until proven right – Brahe, Bruno, Galileo, Kepler, Einstein, etc., etc., etc.

    No one asked the American public for permission to build nuclear power plants. No public debate was held in the late 1950s and early 1960s on whether it was economical, safe, or a good idea…

    Nuclear power plants are one of the last vestiges of the cold war, they were built to provide political cover for nuclear weapon production reactors in the United States on the premise that nuclear war was winnable and low-level radiation from radioactive fallout was survivable and/or without significant long-term health effects…

    In the United States the nuclear power plants that were designed and constructed are largely derived from military designs for nuclear submarines, Pressurized Water Reactors (PWR) or nuclear weapon production reactors Boiling Water Reactors (BWR) and so-called breeder reactors like Fast Neutron Reactors (FNR).

    An additional planned benefit was to use the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel to help add to the weapons stockpile while providing recycled fuel for power generation. Because of this these reactor designs all have low fuel burn-up efficiencies to satiate the desire to produce nuclear weapons – which was far greater than utilizing safer reactor designs of greater efficiency that produce far less nuclear wastes and fissionable materials for bomb making (i.e. Liquid Fluorine Thorium Reactors, etc.)

    We need to leave this legacy behind us and get on with the solutions that we have in hand that are truly clean and sustainable and make the necessary efforts to replace both fossil fuels and nuclear power – it will be quicker, cheaper, cleaner, and will provide the local economic activity and job creation that we need worldwide.

    When making such judgments, perhaps common sense and this rule of thumb should apply:

    “…one should always ask oneself who has the greater financial interest, the industry or the concerned scientist trying to warn the public?” – Dr. George Wald, Harvard University (quoted during the Three-Mile Island incident of March 1979).

  9. Lantzelot

    Larry Davis,

    I think that you are missing the main point of Mark’s text. He is not dismissing people who are against nuclear power just because they think so, he is dismissing those who tend to twist data in order to prove their case, and those who repeatedly refer to these doubtful studies as arguments to strengthen their anti-nuclear agenda.

    The nuclear industry may have a number of items on their track record that should be brought into the light. If the anti-nuclear movement sticks to the real issues in their argumentation (according to you, there should be plenty of material), they will, in the long run (though probably unwillingly from the opponents, this has to be admitted) receive respect for bringing up important issues that need to be discussed. By referring to imaginary cancer clusters, inflated numbers of casualties from the Chernobyl accident, etc., they discredit themselves and it is difficult to take them seriously in the debate. If Busby has a clear agenda, there should be no need for him to handle data the way he has been repeatedly observed to do, the data sets should be able to speak for themselves. Because this does not seem to be the case, your rule of thumb does not apply.

    1. Larry Davis

      Sorry, but you are missing the point that medical or scientific studies that demonstrate that the accepted radiation exposure standards may in fact not be encompassing the whole story – especially when it comes to low-level exposures and/or internal exposures are always cast in a light as being “doubtful,” “twisted,” or “dodgy” by the supporters of nuclear power…

      Witness the elitism in the criticism of studies coming out of the former Soviet Union territories as if their study science and medicine is grossly inferior to our western science and the complete unwillingness of the nuclear power establishment to conduct confirmatory studies based upon their findings.

      And all the while another standard is applied to the research that ignores any contrary data or even continue to use data that now has been proven to be falsified as is the case with some early on official state data with respect to Chernobyl as if it is quite acceptable since it proves the accepted dogma.

      One only needs to see the history of this saga over time to recognize the pattern. Every time the accepted norm is challenged it is dismissed until the weight of proof is undeniable and the standards are lowered. It took seven Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR) panels and a Phase 2 in 2006 to finally admit what Dr. Alice Mary Stewart was saying all along since the mid 1950s that there is no safe level of exposure to radiation and that the effects are cumulative.

      I don’t support extreme statements that promote panic or are not founded in the scientific method. However, I do abhor the treatment of accredited and legitimate doctors and scientists being dismissed out of hand as though their scientific methods are not quite up to snuff when they are brave enough to report what ate obviously controversial findings in an effort to advance science often at the risk of further funding or their careers in the worst cases.

    2. Lantzelot

      Larry Davis,

      I do not support downplaying data because they speak against the present “truth”, and probably many of the examples that you bring up have a lot of truth in them. Neither am I supporting bad science, or extreme statements to promote panic. This applies to both sides, whether you are pro or against nuclear power. If I get you right then we both agree on this. But then you should be able to spot the difference as well instead of making categorical statements the way that you do (several of them implying that all we who are pro-nuclear just follow the common dogma, or the money, and therefore automatically downplay anything that may threaten the present regime, or shouldn’t be trusted no matter what we say). In fact, you are dismissing criticism of people with the same view of nuclear power as you, no matter what they are saying or how they are saying it.

      Busby/ECRR/LLRC/Green Audit/ have a history of alarmism and controversial statements, and a number of studies with results that can be questioned or doesn’t hold when scrutinized by others. And when people like me (or Mark Lynas) question it, the response is that we are bought by the nuclear industry, that our statements are libelous, and that members of radiation authorities and ICRP should be put in jail for crimes against humanity. Why defend people who give that kind of response?

      Please read the links from my earlier comment above, and you will see that Busby is either wilfully handling data in a way so that they give the answer he wants, or he is a bad researcher who doesn’t understand the weakness in his “methods”. Either way, the statements and press releases made by him in relation to these studies clearly fall in the category of alarmism. A concerned scientist trying to warn the public should have done the research properly first, wouldn’t you agree on that? Or do you have the opinion that all criticism of nuclear power is good, no matter how crazy the statements that are made?

      Busby could still be right on a number of things in some of his studies, and maybe he should even be taken seriously on some issues. But if so, why acting the way that he does? Why playing the alarmist card again and again? I’d rather look into the cases of the people you mention in some of your other comments, maybe I can learn something there.

      So please stop with your categorical statements and see Mark’s blog entry for what it is: It is not an attack on everybody who is against nuclear power, it is an attack of a specific group of people and organizations that should be critically scrutinized before being taken seriously (if at all). The Green Party is doing itself, and the debate about nuclear power, a big dis-service by referring to these people.

    3. Larry Davis

      I think we do both agree as far as persons speaking truth.

      I think the problem is twofold:

      1) First, for many on either side of the debate it’s a black or white world and cognitive dissonance plays a real part in the positions people take and the rhetoric spewed forth – supported by science and facts or not;

      2) Second, there is the problem of exploitation of the situation coupled with the disinformation perpetuated by an entrenched industry establishment with overwhelming resources which is used to muddy the public’s understanding and impede progress in both the science and the technology used by our societies.

      I have always said that everyone has their roles to play and contribute. While not justifying those playing loose with the facts whatsoever, persons on the fringe nevertheless do contribute if for nothing else but make the actual truth speakers look more reasonable and enabling them to push the envelope further than they could on their own…

      So mine is not so much a defense of the shoddy as an understanding of the big picture so to speak and a real concern that the criticism should be left up to our opponents on the dark side whom never hold themselves to the same standards. I would put forth that the better effort would be to help build credibility behind the scene rather than outright public criticism.

      In other words I hate the back biting that takes place in the broad community of individuals and organizations that concern themselves with how we live on our planet and what kind of future we leave for the children and other living beings that inhabit it. Such criticism is often exploited by opponents and the media to portray a split within the community (i.e. See they can’t even agree, so why should you listen to what they have to say?).

      Finally I hope that you will dig deeper into the back ground on “all things nuclear” and you will also find as I have that my understanding of it as a solution to our energy problems has substantially soured given the facts and outright deceit that some supporters have undertaken.

      Unfortunately, it would appear that more brazen illustrations of this can now be had in the former Soviet Union Republics concerning the truth surrounding Chernobyl and other previous major nuclear incidents as truth seeking science finding adverse impacts there has been cut from funding and some researchers have even been incarcerated on trumped up charges to silence them – there is a real desire to portray things as normal and attract outside investment in the economy than to pursue the course that truth and science may lead to…

      Start here: [ http://www.amazon.com/Legacy-Chernobyl-Zhores-Medvedev/dp/0393308146 ] ‘The Legacy of Chernobyl’ by Zhores Medvedev, ISBN-13: 978-0393308143.

      And Here: [ http://www.amnestyusa.org/action/special/bandazhevsky.htm ] Amnesty International Special Focus Case – Yury Bandazhevsky, Prisoner of Conscience.

      [Excerpt] “Yury Bandazhevsky devoted much of his working life to investigating the effects of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear reactor explosion upon the people of southern Belarus. A respected medical academic, his knowledge of the situation compelled him to criticize the government’s response to the disaster. Authorities responded to Bandazhevsky’s criticism by arresting him in 1999.”

      Also: [ http://www.chernobyl-international.org/galina.html ] ‘Meet Galina Bandazhevskaya
      Pediatrician, Minsk, Belarus’ – Chernobyl: 20 Years 20 Lives, Chernobyl Children’s Project International.

      Chernobyl Documentary: [ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiCXb1Nhd1o ] ‘The Battle of Chernobyl’ A Film by Thomas Johnson [1hr 32min] Best History & Biography Program, 2007 Banff World Television Awards and Best Documentary, 2006 Prix Italia Festival.

    4. Larry Davis

      By the way I should have pointed out that the film “The Battle of Chernobyl” does have a few glaring misrepresentations… None the least is the use of an atomic explosion as an illustration of what a complete meltdown would look like!

      I listed as something to consider only it because it does document what types of exposures people actually received and what the continuing effects of long-term radioisotope contamination represent to the people living there…

  10. Pingback: Climate Resistance » Mark Lynas Doesn’t Get It

  11. turnages

    Larry Davis, you are under some misapprehensions. Let’s look at some facts in relation to the 5 points you raised in your post.

    1) “Not an economical solution – detracts vast sums of money away from deployment of … clean energy solutions”

    The current construction cost of nuclear in Korea, China, Finland etc is, as a rough average, around $3000/kW. This is for a station occupying about 1 sq km per 1000MW which it generates on demand. Capacity factor about 90% day and night, regardless of weather.

    Compare that with $5000 – $10000/ nameplate kW for wind on/offshore. Superficially not so much more than nuclear, until you look closer. For that money, you get a 20-30% capacity factor meaning you only get the same % of nameplate, multiplying the price per kWh by a factor of 3 – 5 times what you would get with 100% capacity factor. And then, you don’t get it when you want it so you have to add a similar amount of backup generation (typically gas) for when the wind doesn’t blow, and extra transmission from the new sites which is inefficient because it has to be sized for full nameplate rating but is only carrying an average of 20%-30% of that.

    Solar is even worse. By 2013, Germany will have committed itself to paying 77 billion euros in feed-in tariffs for its installled solar panels, which be supplying about 2% of what the nation’s kWh was in 2007.

    What was that you were saying about vast sums of money?

    2) “Nuclear is not a solution for CC because it will take too long.” Well then, wind is even worse, because its current energy contribution worldwide (not nameplate capacity) is roughly 10% of what nuclear currently generates. Solar is much worse at < 1% of nuclear. Nuclear is increasing at 3% per annum at the moment, according to the IEA. How much would wind have to increase to be equivalent? And if it did, what would be the CO2 footprint of wind + gas backup? Roughly 300g/kWh. A whole lot more than nuclear at 20g/kWh, that's for sure.

    3) At present, nuclear does require state support. Over longer periods of 20+ years however, it generates an excellent rate of return. Entergy runs its BWR stations in NE USA at about $1m operating profit per station per day. Nuclear electricity exports are a big earner for France. Germany was planning to tax its cash-cow nuclear stations about 3bn euros per annum to subsidise its absurdly expensive renewables before it got nuclear cold feet.

    4) Per kWh, nuclear is the safest worldwide. See http://nextbigfuture.com/2011/03/deaths-per-twh-by-energy-source.html . Nuclear "contamination" of food is grossly exaggerated. Did you realise that you are "contaminating" yourself with radioactive potassium-40 every time you eat a banana? And that you are contaminating yourself with radium-226 and radium-228 when you eat a brazil nut?

    5) Proliferation – No reactor design currently being built is at all suitable for making weapons grade Pu, which has to be 90%+ pure Pu-239 metal. They use mixed-oxide or nitride pellets and the used fuel has a a cornucopia of denaturing substances. Useless for bombs without very sophisticated and expensive reprocessing. If you wanted a bomb, you would build an altogether different (and rather cheaper) reactor.

    5) Nuclear waste – nonsense. France manages just fine. Even in the US, dry cask storage is working OK until reprocessing options come along. A picture of dry cask storage is shown here. Each cask consists of 22 inches of reinforced concrete surrounding a 2-inch thick sealed steel vessel. Contained in these casks is the ENTIRE waste stream produced by the 619MW nuclear station over 28 years. Over this period, it produced 110 billion kWh = 12.5 GW-years. If this had been generated by coal the emissions would have been 150 million tons of CO2 plus great piles of toxic wastes containing beryllium (55 tons), arsenic (400 tons), selenium, cadmium, mercury etc, with INFINITE half-lives. As an environmentalist, how, precisely, would you dispose of THAT? Would you not agree, Mr Davis, that nuclear is at least far preferable to coal?

    You said: “An additional planned benefit was to use the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel to help add to the weapons stockpile while providing recycled fuel for power generation. Because of this these reactor designs all have low fuel burn-up efficiencies to satiate the desire to produce nuclear weapons”.

    You are a bit behind the times here. The opposite process is in fact taking place. You should read up on the “Megatons to Megawatts” program at http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf13.html .

    1. Larry Davis

      Additional Comments

      Capacity: [ http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-05-02/u-s-nuclear-output-falls-to-near-12-year-low-as-reactors-close.html ] “U.S. nuclear-power production fell to the lowest level in almost 12 years as reactors shut in New Jersey, Minnesota and California, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said. Power generation nationwide decreased 2,611 megawatts, or 3.7 percent, from April 29 to 68,667 megawatts, or 68 percent of capacity, the smallest amount since May 10, 1999, according to an NRC report today and data compiled by Bloomberg.”

      In fact according to the U.S Energy Information Agency, 2011 will be the year when wind capacity surpasses nuclear power in the United States. See: [ http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/ieo/ ] and [ http://www.eia.doe.gov/forecasts/aeo/ ]

      Costs: Please see response to your comments below; and consider that Nuclear power plant Decommissioning costs are roughly equivalent to Construction costs so add them into the equations also…

      Also, I never said that it wouldn’t take vast sums of money to establish sufficient capacity of energy efficiency, energy storage, and clean sources of renewable energy; one only has to look at what it historically took and continues in today’s subsidies in dollars to establish the fossil fuel and nuclear industries…

      What I did and continue to point out is those unrealistic plans and misguided financial supports for things like “clean coal” and more nuclear power plants diverts substantial investment money from energy efficiency, energy storage, and clean sources of renewable energy.

      You really cannot be serious to assert that wind power along with other renewable energy technologies are not being built out faster than nuclear power… If so please provide references.

      Your rates of return do not include nuclear power’s lifecycle costs like decommissioning, fuel reprocessing, or waste disposal costs – sure it looks profitable if you myopically look at the operating costs and revenue once construction has finished and ignore the future costs cited above.

      Deaths per Kilowatt is also discussed in the response to your comments below.

      Your arguments, which I have seen given by others, pertaining to Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM) accumulating in foodstuffs would have much more credibility if you would also acknowledge that:

      1) That the 100 or more manmade radioisotopes that didn’t exist before man split the Uranium-235 atom do not belong in our air, water, or food!

      2) Consumption of air, water, and foodstuffs contaminated with radioisotopes from manmade nuclear activities by individuals is largely involuntary by people that are uninformed and often find it necessary from a survival perspective which is especially true for the locally affected indigenous or poor peoples.

      3) The most important considerations concerning the ingestion of radioisotopes are:

       The specific types of ionizing radiation produced by the radioisotopes and its daughters in the decay chain;

       its occurrence or natural abundance and also whether it can bioaccumulate a.k.a. biomagnify in the food chain (i.e. Cesium-137 in an aquatic food chain);

       its fate and distribution in the body (what organs or tissues it will accumulate in);

       its biological half-life (how quickly its eliminated from the body);

       its Specific Activity or Decay Rate – the amount of radioactivity given off per unit of radioactive substance; e.g. how often radiation is produced when disintegration or decay occurs… This is related to the radioisotope’s half-life. For example: comparison of the same number of atoms of two radioisotopes; one with a long half-life will give off less radiation than one with a short-half life over the same amount of time. Thus radioisotopes with a shorter half-live and greater Specific Activity may result in more exposure and increased risk when ingested as internal emitters in our bodies. The radiation is only given off upon a disintegration a.k.a. decay into another radioisotope or stable form.

      For example: Potassium-40’s natural abundance is 0.012 percent of all Potassium we encounter. Potassium-40 is quickly absorbed in the body and distributed to all organs and tissues and it’s eliminated from the body with a biological half-life of 30 days.

      Potassium-40 has a half-life of approximately 1.3 billion years and thus has a low Specific Activity of 0.0000071 Ci/g it decays 89% of the time to Calcium-40 by emitting a Beta particle with no attendant Gamma Ray radiation and 11% of the time it decays to the gas Argon-40 by electron capture with emission of an energetic Gamma Ray.

      Compare that to Iodine-131 which has no natural abundance. Iodine-131 is manmade from the fission of Uranium-235 comprising up to 3 percent of the total fission products by weight so you should never encounter it in your air, water, or food – period!

      Iodine-131 is quickly absorbed in the body and its fate is as follows: 30 percent is distributed to the thyroid gland; 20 percent is eliminated via the gastrointestinal tract; and 50 percent eliminated via the urinary tract. Iodine-131’s biological half-life ranges from 11 days in infants to up to 80 days in adults and is predominantly dependent upon the functional activity of the thyroid gland.

      Iodine -131 has a half-life of approximately 8 days and thus has a very high Specific Activity of 130,000 Ci/g it decays to Xenon-131 by emitting both Beta particles and Gamma Ray radiation. Goat’s milk and sheep’s milk can contain approximately 10 times the concentration of radioiodine found in cow’s milk from animals fed the same Iodine-131contaminated pasture grasses.

      See: [ http://www.evs.anl.gov/pub/doc/ANL_ContaminantFactSheets_All_070418.pdf ]

      4) Radioisotopes that are internal emitters of ionizing radiation such as Alpha and Beta particles are thought to cause more damage to body tissues due to particle sizes, charges, and penetration energies. Internal emitters of Alpha and Beta radiation are less penetrating than Gamma Rays and thus distribute their ionizing radiation energies to nearby tissues with an Alpha emitter concentrating its energies on only a few cells and a beta emitter spreading its energies out over a larger volume of tissue as compared to the Alpha emitter.

      Alpha particles have very little tissue penetration whereas Beta particles have high mean energies with a typical beta-decay spectrum of 190 keV and a tissue penetration range of 0.6 to 2 mm.

      Gamma Ray radiation often passes through the body without interaction like an X-ray having the highest ionizing radiation energies in millions of electron volts. For external exposures to ionizing radiation Gamma rays are considered the most damaging and pose the highest risks for adverse health effects…

      5) That the half-life of a radioisotope is most relevant in representing how long the hazard of the radioactive material will be present in our environment. In order to figure that out; take the half-life multiplied by a factor of 12 to determine when the hazards posed will become negligible.

      Proliferation: Ever heard of a “dirty bomb” or a radiological weapon? It doesn’t have to be an atomic bomb to cause substantial radiological concern or long-term damage from contamination as we have seen in the exclusion zones of Chernobyl and Fukushima… These are areas that once were highly productive and important agricultural lands and fisheries that are now lost for who knows how long?

      In order for nuclear power to have any viable long-term future, fast neutron breeder reactors are required to produce the nuclear fuels of the future. These reactors have been fraught with design and operational problems which I will not discuss here due to the length of this post already. This option also requires spent nuclear fuel reprocessing and separation along with disposal of more nuclear waste produced from the process.

      If you have the technology to reprocess spent nuclear fuel as you’re advocating then you have the expertise and technology to produce weapons grade materials.

      The French Superphemix liquid sodium breeder reactor ran a total of 174 days, was shuttered in 1998, and cost about $11.8 billion in 2000 dollars.

      The only breeding nuclear reactor design that shows any real potential has never been fully demonstrated is the Liquid Fluorine Thorium Reactor (LFTR) which should be further researched as a possible technology to use in the transmutation of high-level nuclear wastes – if it can avoid similar risks and emissions.

      Nuclear Waste: the preverbal final nail in the coffin! See additional comments in the response to your comments below. It takes more energy to partition and transmute long-lived high-level radioactive waste into safer short half-life radioisotopes than what was derived from the Uranium-235 in the first place… Contrary to your assertions we simply do not have any good SOLUTIONS for spent nuclear fuels and nuclear wastes – we only have Management Options and their associated costs in externalities and dollars…

      Please read: ‘Spent Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing in France, A research report of the International Panel on Fissile Materials’ by Mycle Schneider and Yves Marignac, April 2008.

      [ http://www.fissilematerials.org/ipfm/site_down/rr04.pdf ]

      [Excerpt] “In 2000, an official report commissioned by the French Prime Minister concluded that the choice of reprocessing instead of direct disposal of spent nuclear fuel for the entire French nuclear program would result in an increase in average generation cost of about 5.5 percent or $0.5 billion per installed GWe over a 40-year reactor life or an 85 percent increase of the total spent fuel and waste management (‘back-end’) costs.”

      [Excerpt] “…there was a total volume of some 344,600 m3 of conditioned high, intermediate and low-level waste as a result of spent-fuel reprocessing in France as of the end of 2004.” “The inventory also does not account for Marcoule waste that was dumped into the sea in 1967 and 1969, the equivalent final volume of which is estimated at 12,000 m3 or more.” That waste was dumped at sea off the costs of Spain and Brittany…

      [Conclusion Excerpt] “An overall cost-benefit analysis of spent fuel reprocessing in France would find that the economic, environmental, health, safety and security costs clearly outweigh the benefit of minor savings of natural uranium.”

      France has over 900 metric tons of surplus Mixed-Oxide (MOX) nuclear fuel with blended down Plutonium isotopes of 0.5 to 3 percent that are utilized at a rate of about 33 percent in the reactor’s core for the few conventional nuclear power plants actually using this fuel type. France is accumulating surplus MOX at a rate of an additional 100 metric tons per year – nobody wants it!

      Unfortunately, the story is the same in Japan take a look at these two power point presentations one from a pro and one anti perspective:

      [ http://www.narucmeetings.org/Presentations/nucwaste_Matsuo_s05.pdf ] (Costs detailed starting on slide 27)
      [ http://www.citizen.org/documents/AileenMiokoSmithPresentation.pdf ] (Costs detailed on slides: 2, 19 and 21)

      It’s a very good idea to make surplus Plutonium unsuitable for weapons use but there is far less demand as compared to excess supply so the Plutonium and security issues are far from solved by the “Megatons to Megawatts” program.

    2. Johan

      About what you write about radionuclides. To summarize, do you honestly believe and claim that a cell can tell the difference between being ionized by the decay of a naturally occurring radionuclide and the decay of a “artificial” radionuclide? Because that is in essence what you are writing.

    3. Larry Davis

      Johan says; “To summarize, do you honestly believe and claim that a cell can tell the difference between being ionized by the decay of a naturally occurring radionuclide and the decay of a “artificial” radionuclide? Because that is in essence what you are writing.”

      Absolutely not! That is not the point I was making at all… The point is that people should not be exposed to the radioisotopes created from nuclear fission in their air, water, or food. And if nuclear power could contain even its routine emissions of radioisotopes let alone the unplanned ones due to mishap then it might have more credibility in its safety claims.

    4. Johan

      Well the routine emissions from NPP’s causes much (orders of magnitude) smaller radiation doses than the geographic variation in background radiation, so I have a hard time seeing what your point really is? Lowering it from absolutely insignificant to even less absolutely insignificant?

      If you worry about health effects from very low dose radiation, then I would take you more seriously if you also argue for relocating people away from high background areas and for abolishing air travel completely.

    5. Larry Davis


      I worry about things that we can actually do something about including the misinformation spread by vested corporate and governmental interests…

      I worry about how the public can be unduly influenced and mislead instead of informed and trusted to make the correct decisions in a democratic manner…

      Upon in depth research it appears that this in fact may be the case for low-level exposures to radiation which if proven true and finally accepted by regulatory bodies would significantly change how we manage our atomic industries…

      It also might have significant effects on what energy sources we choose to use.

    6. Johan

      Well it is quite simple. If low dose radiation is as bad as the likes of Caldicott claims, then we should begin relocating people away from high natural background areas. Living there then means a unacceptable risk since the extra dose rates are orders of magnitude higher than anyone living close to a nuclear power plant is exposed to. Air travel also has to be suspended and indoor radon levels have to be extremely strictly monitored.

      Either an ionization is a ionization and then you are inconsistent in complaining about some minuscule dose rate increase while ignoring much larger ones. If you worry about low dose radiation, then there are lower hanging fruits than going after the nuclear industry. Did you know for instance that a phosphate processing plant is emitting more radioactive material to the Irish sea than Sellafield?
      Yet I suspect you will much rather go on the barricades and champion the closure of Sellafield than the closure of the Whitehaven?

      It seems to me your beef is with the nuclear industry and low level radiation is an easy scapegoat for you to abuse.

    7. Larry Davis

      Sorry that is not just wind power but all renewable energy combined… My bad for not reading the chart properly…

      Wind does make up a large part of that along with biomass. And wind power expansion this year will be what puts renewable over the top in installed capacity.

  12. Caroline Webb

    Larry Davis,
    I think that this statement of yours needs elucidating: ” there is ample evidence in her case and too many others where distinguished scientists and doctors doing research on the effects of radiation exposures have either had their findings suppressed or been ostracized by the governments, military, and industry who all have vested interests and liabilities to protect. This is not some conspiracy theory that has been cooked up – it is historical fact which can be researched with very little effort and considerable time given the voluminous nature of the record.”

    I want to know the names of those whose work was suppressed. Since you are the person making claims to know their names, please make another comment here so you help the rest of us out. Only with names, dates, locations, and the official records of their work that you claim was suppressed can this allegation be investigated and either found credible – historically true – or not.

    If those unnamed people, and Helen Caldicott, plus Yablokov et al who produced the report that NYAS has published at the end of 2009, are all so correct in their understanding of the effects of radiation on humans and rats and other living beings, how come there are vastly more people who have studied this topic in great depth who do not find the same results or make the same wild predictions of the fate of anyone caught up in a dilute fallout of radionuclides which are barely distinguishable from background levels of radiation? Are you seriously trying to claim that thousands of people who have struggled through the arduous process of getting PhD’s in nuclear science or in medicine, or radiology or epidemiology and more, are all to be judged effectively dishonest non-scientists, falsifying their findings because they are in the pay of evil corporations who run nuclear power plants or in the pay of completely corrupt international organizations, even the International Red Cross? Is this what it comes down to? A total smear on the integrity of thousands of scientists and their science which is all subject to the review of their peers and rests on the deep work of thousands more who are no longer alive? Come on. This IS conspiracy thinking. It deserves special study and publication in a reputable journal by people qualified to investigate it. The phenomenon of denouncing all the science that has been done about radiation within the normal framework of science is surely a sociological and psychological phenomenon worthy of study now. It amounts to an assault on the whole of science, because if there is one thing true about our world, it is that everything is hitched up to everything else as John Muir famously observed. You pull out what you don’t want to believe – and you pull down the whole darn thing. Sorry, but it cannot be done. You are in the minority and will remain there.

    1. Larry Davis

      Dr. Helen Caldicott did not produce the book:

      ‘Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment’ by Alexey V. Yablokov (Center for Russian Environmental Policy, Moscow, Russia), Vassily B. Nesterenko, and Alexey V. Nesterenko (Institute of Radiation Safety, Minsk, Belarus). Consulting Editor Janette D. Sherman-Nevinger (Environmental Institute, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan). Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Volume 1181, December 2009.

      [ http://www.nyas.org/publications/annals/Detail.aspx?cid=f3f3bd16-51ba-4d7b-a086-753f44b3bfc1 ]

      I have already mentioned Dr. Alice Mary Stewart and her associates that first proved the links between exposure to radiation and cancer in 1956. I suggest you read the book: ‘The Woman Who Knew Too Much, Alice Stewart and the Secrets of Radiation’ by Gayle Greene

      [ http://www.press.umich.edu/titleDetailDesc.do?id=16783 ]

      A short but very incomplete list of American scientists historically suppressed or ostracized would include:

      American physicist Dr. Karl Morgan – the founder of Health Physics, a discipline which approaches questions of radiation dose and effects primarily from a physical rather than a biological perspective. He was instrumental in showing that there is no safe dose of radiation. He resigned his position as Head of Health Physics at Oak Ridge in 1972 when he was ordered by his superiors to suppress information in his possession about the toxicity of plutonium. See: ‘The Angry Genie, One Man’s Walk though the Nuclear Age’ by Karl Z. Morgan and Ken M. Peterson, ISBN 978-0806131221.

      [ http://www.amazon.com/Angry-Genie-Mans-Through-Nuclear/dp/0806131225 ]

      Dr. Thomas F. Mancuso a pioneering epidemiologist at the center of a bitter dispute with the Department of Energy (DOE) over the possible long-term effects of small doses of radiation on nuclear bomb workers.

      His conflict with the agency began in 1974 when a Washington State epidemiologist presented data indicating that former workers at the Hanford nuclear reservation were dying of cancer at abnormally high rates. Dr. Mancuso was asked to endorse a press release that contradicted the finding, but he refused, saying that his research was not finished. He later presented a study concluding that low doses of radiation had caused an increase in the number of cancers.

      His dismissal eventually led to Congressional hearings. ”This disillusioned him to a certain degree,” said his son, Thomas P. Mancuso. ”He was very clear about being scientific.”

      In 1992, after the DOE dismissed him, and after a lengthy struggle for access to the data, he wrote another study on cancer among workers at Hanford. The study, of 35,000 workers concluded that small doses of radiation were far more dangerous than official estimates.

      Dr. Alvin Weinberg was fired by the Nixon Administration from Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 1973 after 18 years as the lab’s director because he continued to advocate increased nuclear safety research at a time when a powerful click in Washington, viewed safety concerns as standing in the way of nuclear progress. There is little doubt, that Washington Power interests, including Congressman Chester E. (Chet) Holifield, AEC Commissioner James Ramsey, and AEC Reactor Research Director Milton Shaw, were behind Weinberg’s firing, Weinberg believed that it was important to understand the social and political role of science in the United States during the mid-20th century, and coined the term, big science, but he was blind to the impact of power interests on the course of American science.

      Nuclear censorship has been ongoing since the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan in 1945. See Glenn D. Hook’s book entitled; ‘Roots of nuclearism: Censorship and reportage of atomic damage in Hiroshima and Nagasaki’ ASIN B00071EPDU.

      [ http://www.deepdyve.com/lp/de-gruyter/roots-of-nuclearism-censorship-and-reportage-of-atomic-damage-in-EBH9tPUT3k ]

      [Excerpt] “The occupation censors reduced the quantity and perverted the quality of information on the atomic damage by (1) restricting the publication of material critical of the United States, (2) denying after-effects from nuclear exposure, and (3) blurring the victims’ perspectives on the atomic bombings.”

      Sound familiar? Perhaps something of the effect that: those Chernobyl victims are suffering from psychosomatic illness not from any health effects of ingesting radioisotopes in their food!

      There are others, more information, and additional life histories including recent developments if you require more evidence just say so…

  13. Mikel

    Worth a read: The science of why we don’t believe Science


    For me, one of the huge benefits of using the scientific method is that it allows you to change your mind in the light of new evidence. However, belief in the scientific method is also a belief system. Perhaps we should pass this over to the philosophers!

  14. Barry Woods

    Remeber that oft quoted figure of 97% of ‘climate scientists’ believe in etc,etc.

    Well thanks to the Carbpn Brief. I’ve found the original paper, and read the whole survey..

    Appendix F is interesting, along with the fact that it is so ambiguously worded, that Professor Lindezen Carter and Spencer are on the record with agreeing with it…

    The survey that generated the often quoted 97% figure, asked 9 questions, these 2 questions were in the link

    1. When compared with pre-1800s levels,do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?

    2. Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing
    mean global temperatures?

    ie significant warming? could be 5%, 10 %, yet overall mean nothing, a very badly worded survey… with the 97% coming from 75 out of 79 people (active climate scientists, with 50 paper)

    Enough of my wittering, Appendix F is interesting…

    You can buy the whole thing as a download for £1.50



    why not trace this quote back to source… and see how well it holds up.

    Further comments at The Carbon Brief, with views from Lindzen, Carter, and Christy


    Basically a meaningless statistic used as a PR tool, to label everybody else a ‘deniar’, check the quality of the source, it will cost anybody £1.50. Then google for criticisms of it.. (Appendix F has quite a few feedback repsonses)

  15. Barry Woods

    By the way, I like the new blog design….

  16. Larry Davis

    For some reasom my reply to “turnages” dosen’t post so here it is:

    It’s helpful to look at the levelized costs:

    [ http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/aeo/electricity_generation.html ]

    Along with costs over the total lifecycle and the amount of subsidies provided by governments.

    It is clear that a comprehensive and combined strategy of energy efficiency, energy storage, and clean renewable energy has not been supported at the same level as fossil fuels and nuclear power…

    Chart: [ http://www.eli.org/pdf/Energy_Subsidies_Black_Not_Green.pdf ]

    Everyone that looks at that is blown away because they had no idea how unbalanced the playing field is against clean alternative energy because of the subsidies going to the fossil fuels and nuclear power – and it’s been that way forever.

    A Battelle report estimated the Federal subsidies (in 2007 dollars) between 1950 and 1977 between $1.2 and $2.2 billion each year for each energy source: coal, hydroelectric, and nuclear power.

    From 1947 to 1999 the U.S. government spent approximately $150 billion on energy subsidies for wind, solar and nuclear power–96.3% of which went to nuclear power.

    Lifecycle costs for nuclear power generation in the United States have been estimated at approximately 12 cents per kilowatt hour. NOTE: This doesn’t include spent fuel reprocessing or nuclear waste costs.

    Lifecycle costs for wind power generation in the United States have been estimated at approximately 4 cents per kilowatt hour.

    The December 2010 average commercial sector retail price was 9.81 cents per kWh, increasing 1.2 percent from December 2009.

    With regards to construction costs:

    In France, from the low-cost point in the mid-1970s to the high-cost point in early 1990s, costs for new reactors have more than tripled. The cost escalation came in three spurts, from the mid-1970s to the end of the 1970s, from the mid-1980s to the end of the 1980s, and in the beginning of the 1990s. French costs increased from a low of just under $1,000/kW to $1,500/kW by the end of the 1970s. The costs escalated to $2,000/kW by the end of the 1980s and $3,000/kW in the 1990s. The projected cost for the reactor currently under construction is in the range of $4,500 to $5,000/kW.

    The U.S. cost increase was similar to the French in the first decade, from about $1,000/kW to $2,000/kW, with the average cost for the decade of about $1,250/kW. Cost escalation was faster in the U.S in the second decade, with the French going from $2,000/kW to $3,000/kW while the U.S. costs increased to an average of $3,600/kW, with a number of units much higher. The current projected costs of reactors in the U.S. are literally all over the map, with the 2008-2009 cost estimates clustering in the $4,000 to $6,000/kW range, with estimates going as high as $10,000/kW.


    1) ‘An Analysis of Federal Incentives Used to Stimulate Energy Production’ – PNL-2410 REV. – U.S. Department of Energy, Battelle Memorial Institute, Pacific Northwest Laboratory, December, 1978.

    2) Federal Energy Subsidies: Not All Technologies Are Created Equal’ – Marshall Goldberg, Renewable Energy Policy Project, July 2000.

    3) ‘America’s Energy Future: Technology and Transformation’ – National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, National Research Council ISBN: 0-309-15710-2, 2010.

    4) ‘Average Retail Price of Electricity to Ultimate Customers by End-Use Sector, by State, December 2010 and 2009’ – United States Energy Information Administration, March 11, 2011.

    5) ‘Policy Challenges Of Nuclear Reactor Construction, Cost Escalation And Crowding Out Alternatives, Lessons From The U.S. and France For The Effort To Revive The U.S. Industry With Loan Guarantees And Tax Subsidies’ – Mark Cooper, Senior Fellow for Economic Analysis, Institute for Energy and the Environment, Vermont Law School, September 2010.

    And I didn’t even mention the Price Anderson Act which limits liability on Nuclear Power Plants and transfers the excess liability onto taxpayers – a cost that is never figured into the equations…

    As for wind power, if your assertion is true, please explain why in the United States; 38 states now have utility-scale wind power facilities with a total installed capacity in 2010 of 40,180 Megawatts…

    Take a look at figures for Europe’s off shore wind, the most expensive kind of wind power and further along in development than in the U.S., the Return On Investment (ROI) is as high as 18 percent according to Martin Billhardt, chief executive officer of PNE Wind AG.

    “In 2009, for the second year in a row, both the US and Europe added more power capacity from renewable sources such as wind and solar than conventional sources like coal, gas and nuclear, according to twin reports launched today by the United Nations Environment Programme and the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21).” – Global Trends in Green Energy 2009: New Power Capacity from Renewable Sources Tops Fossil Fuels Again in US, Europe’ by UNEP, July 15, 2010.

    Your deaths by kilowatt assertion are only true if you ignore the nuclear fuel cycle impacts and the second law of thermodynamics. Of course you do not accept any of the contradictory data on impacts and deaths from Chernobyl even though nuclear advocates like the IAEA estimate 4,000 deaths and the deputy head of the National Commission for Radiation Protection in Ukraine – Nikolai Omelyanets puts the total deaths at 500,000 people out of the 2 million people who were officially classed as victims of Chernobyl in Ukraine alone.

    Should I even bother to mention: ‘The Other Report on Chernobyl (TORCH)’?

    [ http://www.nirs.org/c20/torch.pdf ]

    Reprocessing is without problems?

    Reprocessing has a horrendous record of accidents, fires, leaks, and spreading radioactive pollutants in addition to producing weapons grade fissile materials and large volumes of low-level nuclear wastes.

    The only commercial reprocessing facility in the United States was the West Valley Reprocessing Plant at west Valley, New York which was only open for 6 years from 1966 to 1972, processed nuclear waste mostly from weapons production, and resulted in the generation of: 660,000 gallons of highly radioactive liquid waste; 170 tons of used nuclear fuel assemblies; 140,000 cubic feet of solid waste; 2.4 million cubic feet of buried low-level radioactive wastes; a 15 acre landfill for the disposal of radioactive waste from commercial waste generators; and another seven acre landfill to dispose of waste generated from the nuclear waste reprocessing itself.

    According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the West Valley Demonstration Project clean-up will cost taxpayers over $8 billion dollars. The West Valley cleanup involves: the main processing building, 4 storage tanks, several lagoons, 2 landfills with no liners, a multi-fingered groundwater plume of radioactive water, an airborne surface deposition of radioactive particulate from vent stack releases. The site ultimately drains to Lake Erie. Evidence of Strontium and Plutonium contamination has been found in the delta of the Niagara River at Lake Ontario.

    Peruse this controversial report: ‘Possible Toxic Effects From The Nuclear Reprocessing Plants At Sellafield (UK) and Cap De La Hague (France)’ – European Parliament, Directorate General for Research, Directorate A, The STOA Programme, November 2001.

    [ http://www.wise-paris.org/english/reports/STOAFinalStudyEN.pdf ]

    Or Beyond Nuclear’s fact sheet: ‘Nuclear Power and France: Setting the Record Straight’

    [ http://www.psr.org/nuclear-bailout/resources/nuclear-power-in-france-setting.pdf ]

    Obviously such biased sources couldn’t have a single scrap of valid data – right?

    Once again my point is that the data and its validity should be evaluated upon its factual content and the scientific method and its repeatability using the same methodology not from what source it comes from.

    There are no doubts that bias exists from all sides on this topic. But to continue to face the facts that nuclear power cannot finance or insure itself; and given an objective examination of the known effects and costs of both nuclear power and fossil fuels and come to any other conclusion than they are both too costly and it’s time to move on to something better posthaste enters into the realm of a belief system rather than economics or science.

  17. Larry Davis

    Hello, FYI… Our modern day version of Thomas Edison:

    Stanford Ovshinsky: Pursuing solar electricity at a cost equal to or lower than that of coal electricity Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, May/June 2011; vol. 67, 3: pp. 1-7.

    [ http://bos.sagepub.com/content/67/3/1.full ]

    Stanford Ovshinsky: Pursuing solar electricity at a cost equal to or lower than that of coal electricity


    The inventor and industrialist—whose materials-science discoveries more than a half-century ago and subsequent inventions led to broad advances in photovoltaics, batteries, displays, and computer memory—describes his new efforts to develop cheaper and more efficient photovoltaic technology. Ovshinsky offers his perspective on institutional roadblocks to clean-energy technologies and characterizes the successful influence of the fossil-fuel lobby in Washington. He asserts that he has established proof of principle for a photovoltaic production plant—one that could be built now—that is capable of building enough panels in a year to generate a gigawatt rather than megawatts of solar electricity and thus allow solar to compete economically with electricity from fossil fuels. He says that in building photovoltaics and related renewable-energy infrastructure, America can again become the “machine shop for the world.”

    Throughout the latter half of the twentieth century, the largely self-taught materials scientist Stanford Ovshinsky was a technological and industrial pioneer. In 1955, he transformed the then-obscure field of “amorphous materials”—materials lacking an ordered crystal structure—by discovering new kinds of semiconductors, including thin-film amorphous silicon for photovoltaic solar panels. (The field took on the moniker “Ovonics,” short for “Ovshinsky Electronics.”) Later, at his company, Energy Conversion Devices, he created a system for mass-manufacturing photovoltaic panels by depositing these silicon semiconductors on a thin metal sheet in a roll-to-roll process like newspaper printing, a major step forward. Other discoveries led to the nickel metal hydride battery, which enabled the electric and hybrid vehicle industry, as well as certain types of computer memory and liquid crystal displays (LCDs) that are in common usage, as in thin-film TVs.

    Along the way, Ovshinsky acquired an appreciation of institutional roadblocks to advanced energy technologies. In 1992, a consortium consisting of the US government and the big three auto companies—General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler—selected his nickel-metal-hydride battery technology over 60 competitors to replace the heavier lead-acid batteries for future electric cars. The new battery technology, now a mainstay of hybrids from Toyota, Ford, Honda, and other automakers, first appeared in the second-generation EV1—GM’s electric car—and increased the EV1’s range to 140 miles. But although GM bought a majority stake in the company, Ovonic Battery, the tide soon changed. The oil lobby killed California’s zero-emissions vehicle requirement that would have helped create markets for electric and hybrid vehicles. And GM literally scrapped its EV1 fleet and sold its share of Ovonic Battery to Texaco (now part of Chevron), which was fighting the California mandate, resulting in Ovshinsky being kicked off the Ovonic board.

    Now, at 88, Ovshinsky is gearing up again with visions of establishing a new era in photovoltaic industrialization at the scale needed to combat climate change. He left Energy Conversion Devices in 2007 and now says he has mapped a new approach to photovoltaic thin-film production that speeds up the manufacturing process by two orders of magnitude while significantly increasing the efficiency of the resulting materials. He asserts that these basic advances could allow factories to make enough solar panels in a year to produce at least one gigawatt of electricity annually—roughly the scale of a nuclear power plant—at the price of coal.


    BAS: You are 88 years old. Thinking about retirement?

    Ovshinsky: I know this is contrary to what you read in the books: that mathematicians can’t go beyond their 31st birthday, and scientists are done by about the time they are 40. Hell, I have more than 400 patents and 15 pending out there right now, and going for more. As long as I know I can do it, it is my civic responsibility to do it because of the character of the problems. Somebody has got to do it.

  18. Larry Davis

    A new report from the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (COMARE)

    [ http://www.comare.org.uk/ ] webpage
    [ http://www.comare.org.uk/press_releases/14thReportPressRelease.htm ] press release
    [ http://www.comare.org.uk/press_releases/documents/COMARE14report.pdf ] full report

    ‘COMARE 14th Report: Further consideration of the incidence of childhood leukaemia around nuclear power plants in Great Britain’ – 6 May 2011.

    [Excerpt] “Finally COMARE is of the view that there is no current evidence to support the hypothesis that in utero exposures from tritium and carbon-14 radioactive discharges have been underestimated or that such discharges are associated with increased risk of childhood cancers.”

    [Excerpt] “In conclusion, COMARE’s primary analysis of the latest British data has revealed no significant evidence of an association between risk of childhood leukaemia (in under 5 year olds) and living in proximity to an NPP.”

    Comments: Well of course the accusations of bias or even more are already flying from both sides.

    In case you think that this finally settles things one and for all, take a moment to put this latest round in proper context; realize that the discussions over these concerns have been ongoing since 1928 when at the Second International Congress on Radiology a Radium Protection Committee was established…

    If you’re wondering, there is an organized public relations campaign that has been launched in relation to this report and how to manage “stakeholders.”

    COMARE was established in 1985 in response to the Report of the Independent Advisory Group on the: ‘Investigation of the Possible Increased Incidence of Cancer in West Cumbria’ edited by Sir Douglas Black which confirmed Leukaemia clusters around the Sellafield nuclear complex. British Nuclear Fuels and the government have disputed any linkages between nuclear power plants and the incidence of cancer ever since.

    The subsequent debate, still ongoing, about differences in health effects presented by external versus internal radiation emitters by various radioisotopes lead to the establishment of the Committee Examining Radiation Risks of Internal Emitters (CERRIE) by COMARE. See:

    [ http://www.cerrie.org/ ] webpage for the final report and press release.

    The main criticisms are all too familiar:

    1) Sticking to the linear threshold theory of radiation’s health effects which is based upon the external exposure estimations of Gamma radiation received by the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 and subsequent observed health effects. Note that these health studies were not started until 5 years after the bombing and that there are documented reports of suppression of information and underreporting of health effects due to the stigmatization of the victims by long established Japanese cultural ideals in addition to the fact that the survivors could hardly be considered a normal population to be studied given the totality of known circumstances. For example: the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) has a position that: the available epidemiological and experimental evidence indicates that risk estimates derived for acute high dose exposures can be extrapolated to lower doses and applied to internal as well as external sources of exposure.

    2) Ignoring the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR) VII Phase 2 [ http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=030909156X ] findings of no safe level of exposure, including unavoidable background levels, for radiation risks and that effect are cumulative over a lifetime;

    3) Dismissing new clues and science pertaining to the interworking of the cell and biological effects radiation from of internal emitters; the Petkau Effect observed by Dr. Abraham Petkau; the supra-linear theory of radiation’s health effects, etc.

    4) Blaming natural background radiation; biological agents; stress, population mixing, etc. for observed health effects and outcomes for those exposed persons studied when in common sense would tell you that all of these factors need to be accounted for and that it is increasingly difficult to do so with small populations where adverse effects are observed;

    5) Endeavoring to prove no linkage versus letting the science lead the questions and answers. This includes using radius populations instead of populations most likely to be exposed by considering: localized distribution; environmental fate; weather patterns; time spent in known sites with contamination hazards; types and amounts of tainted food consumed; accumulated radioisotope body burdens; etc.

    So what’s the truth?

    Almost all reasoned persons on both sides of the debate acknowledge that for the health effects of low-levels of radiation that there are uncertainties present in the science and methodologies used to study it. The debate often centers on what order of magnitude, or magnitudes, they’re off by and what direction these uncertainties actually exist…

    In other words, we do not know with certainty what is true.

    The historical trend of what is considered an acceptable exposure has diminished in an ever decreasing amount over time. If you accept the BEIR VII Phase 2 panel’s findings then even background radiation presents some level of chronic risk and that any exposure added to that simply increases risk of an adverse outcome over your lifetime.

    In other words, just like climate change, pollution, pesticides, and toxic chemicals the best approach for potential sources of radioisotopes in our environment is to utilize the Precautionary Principle. For example see:

    [ http://www.hse.gov.uk/aboutus/meetings/committees/ilgra/pppa.htm ]

    P.S. For your viewing pleasure and to understand a little of both sides of the argument here is a video of a debate between Dr. Busby and Dr. Valentin on the standard radiation risk model set by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) – there’s a surprising agreement between them for many aspects of the debate upon their first face to face meeting:

    [ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2JFxnAkTW4 ] part 1
    [ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmY5smeLGKw ] part 2
    [ http://vimeo.com/15382750 ] full presentations part 1
    [ http://vimeo.com/15398081 ] full presentations part 2

    Also referenced in the above video by Dr. Busby is this controversial documentary:
    [ http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=8746168177815160826# ] nwa-schweiz.ch – Nuclear Controversies by Wladimir Tchertkoff, 2003.

  19. jim jepps

    Just a note to say that Chris Busby has not been a spokesperson for the Green Party for some time. Our current science and technology spookesperson is Cllr James Abbott.

  20. Wildberry

    Having read this interesting set of exchanges, most (but not all) characterised by reasonable good manners, one looks forward to the day when Mr Lynas can finally slough off his remaining tendency to dismiss with contempt those who do not agree with his own view of Global Warming. Since he has now suffered the sneers and derision of the Green Believers, would it not be nice for him to concede that there are many distinguished scientists who are brave enough to voice their doubts about AGW and about the CO2 alarmism. This would, of course, require the abandonment of his own sneering dismissal of “deniers” who decline to agree with him. But he has been brave enough to change his mind on nuclear power and the highly debatable renewables argument. He has also pointed out the chillingly anti-democratic Green programme of coercion to make people behave in a “correct” Green manner. Why not go one step further and join the growing band of scientific sceptics? As Simon Jenkins has pointed out, scepticism is the only true approach for anyone calling himself a scientist . A similarly open-minded approach from people like Mark Lynas would breathe a little fresh life into the rancid debate we are presently having to endure.

  21. Jean Demesure

    “anti-science climate change ‘deniers’.”
    What an idiotic nonsense !
    The deniers are those who think that climate is stable and we should and could keep it stable.

  22. DaveA

    Did you read the latest at the climate denying* Guardian?


    Your comparison was always spurious. Skeptics claim a current pause, which there is. Naturally when you wish to gauge the length of the current pause you go back to the date when the current pause started. It’s no more cherry picking than it is to use the current temperature to estimate the current temperature. A lack of warming for this long is inconsistent with modeled forecasts and has implications for sensitivity calculations (I hope you’ve at least came to realize that climate skeptics are generally not people who think ‘its all crap’).

    * I assume they are climate denying, as they’ve acknowledged a pause, since about 98 – completely cherry picked!

  23. MacAllister

    In the 50 s during the cold war, many poplee built fall-out shelters in/under their yards or under their homes. These usually consist of very thick concrete walls, contained ventilation systems, a separate well, chemical toilet, etc. Watch the movie Blast from the Past to get the general idea. It can be as elaborate as you can afford and want to make it.Seeing as I’ve actually seen footage of scientists observing nuclear tests in the desert at close range in similar shelters, I have to assume it is possible to survive the initial blast in such a shelter. The real key is surviving long-term how much food can you store, clean water, sewage problems, power, light, comfort items .uh, companionship? How about communication bring a short-wave radio perhaps?I’ve often pondered this very question. I’m a survivor and I like life. I wouldn’t cave to an apocalypse easily and I’d want to be as prepared as I could.

  24. Dr Paul Dorfman

    I’ve just seem this and I must say Mark, I find your description of me rather confused and, frankly, insulting. Please see my ‘linked in’ bio for a more informed perspective: https://www.linkedin.com/pub/paul-dorfman/8/b5/79

    Dr Paul Dorfman, The Energy Institute, UCL


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