Monday, May 14, 2012

FT: "Divisions over radiation risk have been exposed after Fukushima"

The article written by Mure Dickie and Clive Cookson for Financial Times that appeared in November last year seems to have engendered a lively discussion in the comment section regarding what is the "safe" radiation dose, if there is one.

From Financial Times (11/11/2011):

Nuclear energy: A hotter topic than ever

By Mure Dickie and Clive Cookson

Divisions over radiation risk have been exposed after Fukushima

In front of the government office in Japan’s Iitate village, the radiation monitor – a large metal box topped by warning lights – displays airborne levels in real time on a glowing digital display. A handheld dosimeter carried by local forester Toru Anzai gives more personal readings. In the nearby prefectural capital, sophisticated germanium detectors hum into the night analysing the radioactivity of local foods.

Eight months after a tsunami sent the Fukushima Daiichi atomic power station into near meltdown, data are pouring in across Japan on the scale of contamination caused by the world’s worst nuclear crisis in 25 years. Yet none of these detectors or their data can tell their users just how worried they should be. For the crisis has laid bare an absence of scientific and social consensus on radiation risk, which is undermining a disaster response already weakened by fractious leadership and an often slow-moving bureaucracy.

Uncertainty about radiation danger is not a problem for Japan alone. Atomic plants around the world are ageing fast, and more are being built in developing countries where there is often limited public oversight and high levels of corruption. It would be foolish for the world to assume that this crisis will be the last.

On one side, analysts say bowing to exaggerated fears of radiation will stunt global development of nuclear power, slowing economic growth and increasing pollution and global warming from fossil fuels. On the other, experts accuse the nuclear industry and government officials of playing down the dangers.

In May, radiation safety researcher Toshiso Kosako tearfully resigned as a scientific adviser to Japan’s prime minister after the government decided to set the limit for exposure in schools at 20 millisieverts a year, a level usually applied to nuclear industry workers. “It’s unacceptable to apply this figure to infants, toddlers and primary school pupils,” Professor Kosako said.

But Wade Allison of Oxford university says the 20mSv a year limit for evacuation should be raised to 100mSv a month, arguing that the principal health threat posed by the Fukushima Daiichi crisis is “fear, uncertainty and enforced evacuation”.

Underlying such stark differences lies a lack of clarity about what radiation does to the body at doses below 100mSv per year, the level at which an increase in cancer becomes clearly evident in epidemiological surveys. Prof Allison and many other scientists believe that, below a certain threshold, radiation is likely in effect to do no harm to health at all. However, the mainstream assumption is that even very low doses carry some risk, even if it is not yet measurable.

The result has been highly precautionary limits on artificial radiation exposure, such as an international safety standard for the public of just 1mSv in a year. That is less than half the exposure most people receive naturally from background radioactivity in rocks, soil and building materials, and from cosmic rays. This may make sense in normal times – but it means that in a crisis people tend to assume exposure above the limit is dangerous. The problem for authorities is that it is next to impossible to judge exactly at what point it will be safer to move a population away from the radiation or to limit its exposure by, for example, keeping children indoors and closing schools. Such moves themselves have health risks: evacuation can kill the elderly and thrust younger people into unemployment. Disrupted education can mar children’s future careers. Loss of exercise habits makes people vulnerable to illness and obesity.

David Boilley, a nuclear physicist and head of the French citizens’ radiation testing group Acro, believes the Japanese evacuation line of 20mSv a year is too high, but acknowledges that a 1mSv level would be unrealistic. French government experts have suggested setting the evacuation trigger at 10mSv per year – although this could mean adding another 70,000 people to the 150,000-200,000 evacuated from areas near Fukushima Daiichi.

“Evacuation is terrible [and we] need to weigh the burden and benefit,” says Mr Boilley, whose group is helping with monitoring in Fukushima, adding that the appropriate trigger point varies not only by area and exposure but also by individual. “Where to put it? That’s a very hard question,” he says. “I am happy I am not a politician who has to decide.”

(Full article and the comment section at the link)

Professor Wade Allison left his comment, saying:

I have written and explained in accessible language, but in some depth, why the evacuation level should have been set in the region of 100 millisievert per month, that is 1200 per year -- that is 60 times the current value, not five times, as quoted in this FT article.

Hey that means I was right, saying in my post that Professor Allison's annual limit was 1.2 sievert...

(H/T TS)


Anonymous said...

Professor Allison's annual limit was 1.2 sievert...So hes actually getting radiation at those amounts..himself? His family? What is his test case basis? Numbers/dates/times/places. Hard to believe he can state 1.2 sieverts (yes if 100 mSv a month his what he stated...!) is safe. Provide the research, not just the words Dr. Allison..

Anonymous said...

is it not a woman, this 1.2sievert/per earth rotation around the sun professor?
(sent from XBMCbuntu)

Anonymous said...

Radiation is pretty safe, if by safe you mean "not immediately fatal". If you consider how dangerous it is in the long term, even a small amount of exposure is effectively destroying the blueprints of our species for generations to come. That's hardly "safe", is it? At least, I don't think so.

kintaman said...

Those who set these limits must be forced to live in the affected areas with their entire family included. Simple as that. If they cannot do that they should not be setting such a limit

Anonymous said...

I would propose a different approach. IIRC, Cesium has a biological half-life of about 100 days. That means that you eliminate through bodily wastes half of it every 100 days. That is a much shorter half-life than the isotope itself. Checking people's cesium levels may be far more useful than checking environmental levels. I don't know if there is a simple blood test for that or if it requires a biopsy or something more difficult than a blood test. I also don't know if there is any chelation therapy that can shorten that half-life so that it is eliminated faster. If someone's cesium level is high and remains that way, I would think that person would be much more likely to suffer health consequences (all cesium isotopes are toxic, cesium 134 and 137 are radioactive and long-lived), than if cesium levels can be minimized. Likewise, monitoring people's cesium levels may be a better indicator of the need for evacuation than environmental measurements (i.e. cesium levels rise over time).

If cesium levels in a population can be succesfully monitored and controlled, then I would think that approach would be much more likely to minimize health consequences going forward than environmental monitoring as internal exposure is generally considered to be much more harmful than external exposure.

There is a tendency to reduce everything to a single number, but things are rarely that simple. First of all, the report on the Hiroshima and Nagasaki populations is in Grays. This article is in Sieverts. Although, IIRC, both are nominally 1 joule/kg, the difference isn't simple. Second, there are at least 16 different cases of exposure that I can think of quickly that may result in distinguishable long-term health effects: 4 different types of radiation (alpha, beta, gamma, neutrons) times internal vs. external for each times high-level acute dose (i.e. Hiroshima & Nagasaki) vs low-level chronic dose (i.e. Chernobyl & Fukushima) for each. I think Sieverts tries to weigh the different types of radiation differently when converting from Grays, but I don't think that unit distinguishes between internal vs. external or high-level acute vs. low-level chronic exposures.

Anonymous said...

5 paragraphs down from what is quoted above:

"Estimates of the radioactivity released by Fukushima Daiichi have also been revised sharply upward. The latest, published at the end of October by European and US scientists, found that the amount of caesium-137 that reached the outside environment was 42 per cent of the amount released in 1986 at Chernobyl, the world’s worst nuclear disaster. (Caesium-137, with a half-life of 30 years, is the most hazardous long-term pollutant following a reactor accident.)

Westerly winds pushed an estimated 79 per cent of the caesium-137 out over the Pacific Ocean, with 19 per cent deposited on land in Japan and just 2 per cent ending up in other countries. Unfortunately, the wind changed direction for a day or so when the emergency was at its height – on March 15 radioactivity was carried in a plume north-westwards with substantial fallout in rain and snow as far as 50km from the plant."

Dividing 0.42 by 0.19 is about 2.2, which one could interpret that it is estimated that Fukuichi emitted 2.2 times more Cesium 137 than Chernobyl. However, it should be remembered that the figures for both Chernobyl and Fukuichi are (and will probably always be) estimates and not measurements (the estimates I am sure are based on actual measurements, but the total quantity I believe has to be estimated).

Anonymous said...

Biological halflife only works when going from a dirty environment to clean.

You cannot detox in a polluted environment. In fact, there is a tendency for equilibrium - clean will get dirty and dirty marginally cleaner.

Logosky said...

This discussion is only focussing on external radiation, with even some mistakes in the commonly accepted ratio.
These people leaving arround the plant are not there for tourrism, they are farmers or sheperds.
Meanwhile, the discussion concerning evacuation should take into account the most armful radiation type to these people instead, which is the internal radiation (contamination of the food chain, by breathing spoiled air, supplied water condition, etc)
I qualified this type of discussion, (focussing on just external radiation which is the less armful) a volontary abstraction.
It is definitely the internal exposition to radiation that will arm the most, these populations. It should rather be a common sense to believe that such substences that could arm someone from distance, what if they laies next to a brain or a heart cell...

wade allison said...

Internal radiation by a certain dose is much less harmful than the same dose as a flash (acute) dose of external radiation. If this were not so, many courses of radiotherapy would be fatal. Fortunately that is not the case. Radiation spread in time does far less harm. Nobody has died of from radiation at Fukushima and nobody will do so, even in the next 50 years, not even any of the workers in all probability. If mankind is to survive on this planet, people need to do more thinking and studying. Where do the threats come from? Not from nuclear. Readers could do worse than read

Anonymous said...

So , Wade, what about it ok for them to ingest cesium? for example 90 bequerels per KG of rice , is it ok for them? show us your research prove it, better still why not feed your own kids that same rice with its cesium.

Take a look at this


Anonymous said...

Another video for Wade Allison to mull over here.


Chibaguy said...

@wade Allison, you are a fraud. The real Wade is just a prop.

@Kintaman, agreed!

wade allison said...

As far as I know I am the only Wade Allison explaining the effect of radiation! I have 6 grandchildren and I think it is very important for them to live in a nuclear world. To get the equivalent of 1 CT scan you would have to eat over 5 tonnes of rice in about 4 months. How do I know? I calculated it. In fact I found that my calculation of the eaquivalence was about the same as that given in the Govt Regulation published on 27 July 2011. So give it to my children? no problem. Can Cs-137 be dangerous? Yes, please sit down and Google "Goiania". You will read the story of children playing with a 50TBq Cs source in 1987! Hold it, that means 50 million million Bq. THAT was dangerous! Four died very soon from Acute Radiation Syndrome but others who received a dose of more than 5 Sievert did not. None have died of cancer since (as far as I have been able to discover) although there was 1 case of skin cancer that was treated among the 249 people exposed. I have 7,500 Bq in my body - and so do you. Half of that is from radiocarbon. Without that, as any archeologist will tell you, you must have been dead for at least 20,000 yrs. The rest is potassium-40 that has been in everything since the Earth began. It's natural. So 90 Bq per kg - no problem at all.

Chibaguy said...

@above, my dermatologist disagrees wih you and he has an oncology degree. Je also disagrees with your analogy. A CT scan is not comparable to digesting radionuclides day by day. Post a study please as no one has seen this before. Radiation causes cancer including melanoma. That's science. When you can refer to a study that actually applies please post. Aren't you the 1.2 Sv are year is okay individual? Where is the study? Not to nit pick but a professor telling people to google something is not professor like. I would hate to see you applying your proganda to your grandchildren. Finally, you assume only cesium was released. More research professor.

Anonymous said...

@Wade Allison , here is a freebie PDF that you must have heard of.. Conseqences of the catastrophe for people and environment.. are they just making it all up? its a long read done by the New York academy of science

Oh and by the way did you see the Arnie Gundersen links i posted earlier? about hot particles? ....are they misguided? do tell..

Anonymous said...

Wade Allison is either lying or deluded. The longest and most extensive radiation exposure survey in history has found no level under which exposure is harmless:

Anonymous said...

Is there a clear accessible explanation for supporting an industry that :
Is not financially viable on it's own ?
Produces countless tons of highly toxic waste that is not secure ?
Places a heavy cost burden on the medical care of the population ?
Lays waste to the ecosystem humans depend on for survival ?

We haven't all died from acute radiation sickness, but we are slowly poisoning everything on this planet in ways we can't control or measure.
Mr. Allison, this is a choice you are comfortable with for yourself and your family.
My risk analysis for an extremely costly industry at all phases of operation that is relying on a group of rapidly aging machines and staff to run them is quite different than yours.
This technology was developed to kill.
Now we use it to treat the cancer we are giving ourselves, generate electricity, and produce more material for weapons that maim and kill.

No, just no

Anonymous said...

@Wade Allison
It is being discussed here, that the amount of caesium137 released in Fukushima may be comparable and close to that released in Chernobyl. You are telling us that nobody will ever die from radiation released in Fukushima. It would be interesting to hear from you how many people died from radiation following Chernobyl, in your opinion.

As far as I know, estimates range from around 50 (IAEA) to around 1.4 million (an international group of scientists). So, what's your number?

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

Dr. Allison, I'd appreciate if you could elaborate on the following:

1. In your view, is the Fukushima nuclear accident a minor one, if no one has died of acute radiation poisoning and if annual cumulative radiation of 1.2 sievert is safe for everyone? How many more nuclear accidents can Japan "safely" have?

2. Is your 1.2 sievert/year the same for adults and children including infants? Is there a scientific study that supports 1.2 sievert/year radiation exposure as safe?

3. Does 1.2 sievert/year include both external and internal radiation exposure? Exposure from what nuclides are included?

4. Many people in Tohoku and Kanto have complained of their poor health in a way they say they had never experienced before the accident. Is it all in their head and just a coincidence? What would be your advice to these people?

5. What do you think of the latest cohort study by the Radiation Effect Research Foundation (successor of the ABCC) of Hiroshima/Nagasaki atomic bomb victims, where the researchers concluded that there is no threshold?

6. What do you think of decommissioning work at Fukushima I Nuke Plant? Is it even necessary, given your position that 1.2 sievert/year is safe?

Anonymous said...

Ummm. Video from Fairewinds is hardly a credible counter-argument...

wade allison said...

There are many questions here. I am away from my desk but will answer them all when I get home. In the meantime, here are a few answers:
Yes, 100mSv permonth covers internal and external. Anybody had radiotherapy? The dose 100mSv/month is about 1/200 of the dose received to parts of your body near the tumour and from which you recovered, I hope.
The latest data from RERF covers 1950-2003, a small extension to the data for 1950-2000 which is discussed at length in my book Radiation and Reason. (You can download some chaps for free from website it is also available in Kindle/ePub edns.) The data do not say that there is no threshold.
Yes, many people at Chernobyl complained of poor health too. If you tell people that they are radiation victims they suffer from suicides, alcoholism, family breakup and the elderly die. This is fear which is very pernicious. The UN reports on Chernobyl, the IAEA report on Goiania tell the same story. Read, refs in my book. The news that comes from school teachers, doctors, community leaders at Fukushima tells the same story. Yes, I have been there and yes I have spoken with them. None of this is due to radiation, it is thevicious effect of fear.
I must go now. The damaged plants must be decommissioned of course. That is less of a problem than Bhopal. Less than Deep Water Horizon? I dont know. Anyway its a mess, but its not a world threat - unlike having all those workable power stations turned off and burning carbon instead! And the same in Germany! That is a world threat.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 11:39, surely you realize that the IAEA's report was also written by a group of scientists and doctors, all experts in their field. The Yablokov study that gets referred to so often in this comments section is not without controversy. It is a hardly an authoritative work on the health effects of ionizing radiation. That is not to say it isn't without merit. But both reports have their biases, and both should be viewed in that regard.

Pahl Dixon said...

The best thing that I have found, and am using, for personal protection from radioactive particle contamination is Biosuperfood bio-algae concentrates, which saved people at Chernobyl from sickness and death. Please see for information and links.

Anonymous said...

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is an agency to promote the nuclear industry.

How can a report by such an agency be seen to be credible.

It would be like asking the above post to report on the cancer producing effects of his snake oil, or whatever it is.

Anonymous said...

Anon a couple of days ago posted this:

>the amount of caesium-137 that reached the outside environment was 42 per cent of the amount released in 1986 at Chernobyl

>winds pushed an estimated 79 per cent of the caesium-137 out over the Pacific Ocean, with 19 per cent deposited on land in Japan

>Dividing 0.42 by 0.19 is about 2.2, which one could interpret that it is estimated that Fukuichi emitted 2.2 times more Cesium 137 than Chernobyl

Are you a bit thick?

If total releases from Fukushima were 42% compared to Chernobyl, and from that 42% only 19% fell in land within Japan, that would mean that contamination in Japan is around 8% of the total releases from Chernobyl (around 12.5 times LESS and not 2.2 times MORE)

Using the real numbers from the Stohl study, 36 PBq of Cs-137 were released compared to 85 PBq from Chernobyl.

Of those 36 PBq, around 7 PBq fell in Japan.

Anonymous said...

* a few issues to note

1) All current Fuku estimates have been on the assumption of very little radiation breaching the containments - this is obviously false

e.g. poster above! bought the japanese / pro nuc hook line + sinker - yeah less than 1% of total cesium escaped containment

2) Deaths are not the main issue - its DNA damage - thats is passed on and down
3) As more and more humans are damaged and reproduce - our DNA will be permanently damaged
4) Can people like Wade just stop talking about external radiation does - love to see the punter eat his 100bq rice for a few years
5) Provided people are past reproductive age - I have no issue with them living in a contaminated zone

Anonymous said...

>1) All current Fuku estimates have been on the assumption of very little radiation breaching the containments - this is obviously false

You have no clue, man. The data in the Stohl study come from the CTBTO stations and others. They are not estimates, they are based on air concentrations measured all over the world including Japan, which were used to create an atmospheric transfer model to estimate the source term. Here you have it:

m a x l i said...

Wade Allison said:
"Anyway its a mess, but its not a world threat - unlike having all those workable power stations turned off and burning carbon instead! And the same in Germany! That is a world threat."

Nuclear power stations deliver only a part of the world's electricity and electricity makes up only a part of the world's energy needs. Alltogether nuclear power stations deliver only 2 (yes: two) percent of the world's energy needs, or at least did so before Japan switched off all of it's nuclear reactors. This means, we could switch off all the world's nuclear reactors very soon and replace them by anything else - the effect on our carbon output would be minimal and certainly not a world threat. Germany is moving away from nuclear AND carbon. When you name Germany's doing a "world threat", this tells everything about you. When your world is the profits of the nuclear industry, yes - then your world is in danger.

Anonymous said...

Up to 30% of Japan's energy needs came from nuclear power, up until March 11th of last year. Since shutting off their plants, the imports of natural gas and oil has increased. The net effect is that oil prices globally have increased, and Japan's balance of trade has sunk into negative territory (see Primavera's recent post on this). This could have massive, destructive repercussions on global financial markets. The idea that nuclear could be eliminated easily is at odds with the current reality of dwindling oil resources, and the ever-increasing need for electricity generating capacity. So its not accurate or honest to suggest we could "soon" replace nuclear with something else. (But I do agree that a nuclear-free world is something worth shooting for).

Anonymous said...

Only 2 percent of the worlds energy needs are now nuclear. We could turn them off and still manage to survive.

Yes it will be hard for some countries like Japan but they are already looking at large scale solar and wind. Something they would not be doing if it had not been for Fukushima.

We don't need to have another nuclear disaster to tell us which direction we should be going.

wade allison said...

You should read this new work from MIT which agrees exactly with what I have been saying for past 3 years.
It came out today. 400 times background about as I suggested in my analysis.

Anonymous said...

MIT, hahahahahahahahhhhhhha!!!! That's where Josef Oehman graduated from. STUPID IDIOT #1. Look him up. He's actually a risk assessment dude and not a nuclear physicist. That made him even more of an embarrassment. "Japan has nothing to worry about...."

Went viral on the net for laughs. You are the next Josef Oehman, Wade Allison.

Anonymous said...

Wade Allison - please see this summary of the latest comprehensive research at and the paper itself at

It says you are talking complete and utter nonsense.

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