Nuclear Cheerleaders Use Voodoo Science to Pretend Low Levels of Radiation Are Safe … Or Even Good For You

Department of Energy Pretends that Low Levels of Radiation Are Safe

Dr. Peter Karamoskos – a nuclear radiologist and a public representative on the radiation health committee of the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency – wrote in the Sydey Herald last year:

You have to hand it to the nuclear industry and its acolytes. In the middle of the second-worst nuclear power disaster in history at Fukushima, and with still no end in sight, you would think they would respond with contrition, humility and profuse mea culpas. Not on your life. The industry representatives and its acolytes came out swinging in full denial attire.


But more insidious and objectionable is the creeping misinformation that the nuclear industry has fed into the public sphere over the years. There seems to be a never-ending cabal of paid industry scientific ”consultants” who are more than willing to state the fringe view that low doses of ionising radiation do not cause cancer and, indeed, that low doses are actually good for you and lessen the incidence of cancer.

It is not only the nuclear companies who are pushing this junk science.

The Department of Energy is responsible for the design, testing and production of all U.S. nuclear weapons.  DOE also promotes nuclear energy as one of its core functions.  As such, it might not be surprising that DOE has been covering up nuclear accidents for decades.

DOE is also trying to replace the widely-accepted model of the dangers of low dose radiation based on voodoo science. Specifically, DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley Labs recently used a mutant line of human cells in a petri dish which was able to repair damage from low doses of radiation, and extrapolated to the unsupported conclusion that everyone is immune to low doses of radiation:

Another DOE-funded study published yesterday – which is being widely publicized in both the mainstream and alternative media – found that mice exposed to low-level radiation suffered no “apparent” genetic damage.  Sounds impressive, until you realize 3 basic facts.

First, the mice were only studied for 5 weeks.  The whole danger of low-level radiation is from repeated exposure over a long period.   A 5-week study is therefore scientifically meaningless.

Second, the study didn’t distinguish between radiation coming from outside the body and particles of radiation ingested into the body: what are known as “internal emitters”.   Internal emitters – say airborne radioactive dust which we breathe in or radioactive fish which we eat – are much more dangerous than general exposures to radiation. See this and this.

For example, the head of a Tokyo-area medical clinic – Dr. Junro Fuse, Internist and head of Kosugi Medical Clinic- said this month:

Risk from internal exposure is 200-600 times greater than risk from external exposure.

This is not some abstract, theoretical issue. For example, radioactive dust from Fukushima hit the West Coast of North America days after the accident.

Third, the DOE-funded researchers only:

Tested for several types of DNA damage, using the most sensitive techniques available.

However, DNA damage is only one of the two primary ways in which low level radiation causes damage.  The second – and perhaps more important – way that low level radiation causes damage is through lipid peroxidation.  Specifically, several studies have shown that the main culprit for the damaging effect of low-level radiation is its ability to cause radiolysis of water and formation of reactive oxygen species, resulting in lipid peroxidation in the body.   The DOE-funded study didn’t test for this mechanism at all.

As such, the new study is garbage and junk science.

Real Scientists: Low Levels of Radiation Can Cause Cancer, Genetic Damage and Other Serious Illness

The overwhelming consensus among radiation scientists is that repeated exposure to low doses of radiation can cause cancer, genetic mutations and other severe health problems.

A major new study of atomic bomb data by the official joint U.S.-Japanese government study of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors found that low dose radiation causes cancer and genetic damage, and debunks the radiation “hormesis” claim (the ridiculous claim that a little radiation is good for you) once and for all:

As Dr. Karamoskos notes:

Ionising radiation is a known carcinogen. This is based on almost 100 years of cumulative research including 60 years of follow-up of the Japanese atom bomb survivors. The International Agency for Research in Cancer (IARC, linked to the World Health Organisation) classifies it as a Class 1 carcinogen, the highest classification indicative of certainty of its carcinogenic effects.In 2006, the US National Academy of Sciences released its Biological Effects of Ionising Radiation (VII) report, which focused on the health effects of radiation doses at below 100 millisieverts. This was a consensus review that assessed the world’s scientific literature on the subject at that time. It concluded: “. . . there is a linear dose-response relationship between exposure to ionising radiation and the development of solid cancers in humans. It is unlikely that there is a threshold below which cancers are not induced.”

The most comprehensive study of nuclear workers by the IARC, involving 600,000 workers exposed to an average cumulative dose of 19mSv, showed a cancer risk consistent with that of the A-bomb survivors.


IARC states that ”by 2065, predictions based on these models indicate that about 16,000 cases of thyroid cancer and 25,000 cases of other cancers may be expected due to radiation from the accident and that about 16,000 deaths from these cancers may occur”. Whether we will be able to detect them when there will also be more than 1 million other cases of cancer over this period is debatable. But every one of these excess cancers is a tragedy for each victim and their family, and is no less so simply because cancer is a common disease.

Many studies have shown that repeated exposures to low levels of ionizing radiation from CT scans and x-rays can cause cancer. See this, this, this. this, this, this, this, this, this and this.  (Remember, the radiation from CT scans and x-rays are external emitters – the radiation emanates from outside the body.)

Research from the University of Iowa cconcluded:

 Cumulative radon exposure is a significant risk factor for lung cancer in women.

And see these studies on the health effects cumulative doses of radioactive cesium.

As the European Committee on Radiation Risk notes:

Cumulative impacts of chronic irradiation in low doses are … important for the comprehension, assessment and prognosis of the late effects of irradiation on human beings …

And see this.

A military briefing written by the U.S. Army for commanders in Iraq states:

Hazards from low level radiation are long-term, not acute effects… Every exposure increases risk of cancer.

(Military briefings for commanders often contain less propaganda than literature aimed at civilians, as the commanders have to know the basic facts to be able to assess risk to their soldiers.)

The briefing states that doses are cumulative, citing the following military studies and reports:

  • ACE Directive 80-63, ACE Policy for Defensive Measures against Low Level Radiological Hazards during Military Operations, 2 AUG 96
  • AR 11-9, The Army Radiation Program, 28 MAY 99
  • FM 4-02.283, Treatment of Nuclear and Radiological Casualties, 20 DEC 01
  • JP 3-11, Joint Doctrine for Operations in NBC Environments, 11 JUL 00
  • NATO STANAG 2473, Command Guidance on Low Level Radiation Exposure in Military Operations, 3 MAY 00
  • USACHPPM TG 244, The NBC Battle Book, AUG 02

Why was the military advising commanders on radiation in Iraq? Presumably because the American military used depleted uranium in Iraq (see this, this, this, this, this and this).

Indeed, the top government radiation experts – like Karl Morgan, John Goffman and Arthur Tamplin – and scientific luminaries such as Ernest Sternglass and Alice Stewart, concluded that low level radiation can cause serious health effects.

Low levels of radiation cause not only cancer, but heart disease, stroke and other serious illness.

And it’s not just humans:  scientists have found that animals receiving low doses of radiation from Chernobyl are sick as well.

Nuclear Cheerleaders Just Trying to “Keep People Calm While They’re Being Poisoned”?

This is actually part of the trend of governments worldwide raising acceptable radiation levels based upon politics.

No wonder one medical doctor asks whether acceptable radiation levels are being raised “to keep people calm while they’re being poisoned”.

Indeed, while counter-intuitive, many preeminent scientists believe that repeated doses to low level radiation can cause more illness than short, high-dose exposures.  And see this.


This entry was posted in Energy / Environment, Politics / World News, Science / Technology. Bookmark the permalink.
  • erichwwl

    “There is nothing comparable in our history to the deceit and the lying that took place as a matter of official Government policy in order to protect this [the nuclear arms] industry. Nothing was going to stop them and they were willing to kill our own people.” — Stewart Udall

    June 09, 1993 NYTimes

  • Rezwan Razani

    “Whether we will be able to detect them when there will also be more than 1 million other cases of cancer over this period is debatable.” What does that mean? It means that the additional cancers are lost in the pile of general background cancer.

    Was that dismissive? “But every one of these excess cancers is a tragedy for each victim and
    their family, and is no less so simply because cancer is a common disease.”

    True. Any additional death is tragic.

    Which makes the 4000 time greater death rate from coal per unit of energy 4000 times more tragic than nuclear. FOUR THOUSAND TIMES THE TRAGEDY.

    I would rather the undetectable slight elevation in cancer risk over the 4000 time greater and more palpable death toll of coal any day. 4000 times the lives. 4000 times. 4000 times. 4000 times. Let me write that 4000 times. Are you more outraged by the one person killed by nuclear energy or the 4000 people killed by coal? Coal, the fastest growing energy source in the world.

    Lives are at stake. 4000 times the lives. Tragic. Tragic. Tragic. 4000 times tragic.

    • steve

      Your argument is invalid. There have been very few incidents involving nuclear energy in the few decades it has been available. Coal has been around for centuries. A nuclear incident like fukishima happening is extremely devistating and will lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands. People today still suffer from birth defects from the atom bomb dropped in japan and that was 70 years ago! Nuclear energy, although cleaner, is much more dangerous than coal. Not to mention most countries use coal over nuclear energy.

      • Kyle

        I think you missed the part where she said “per unit of energy”, meaning your rebuttal is invalid.

      • Rezwan Razani

        Hi Steve, yes, Kyle is right. The “Per Unit of Energy” thing is the key to getting the risk. Say you need 100MW to power a city. If you supply that energy with coal in the US, you’ll cause the death of 2500 more people than if you supply that same amount of energy with nuclear power. That’s the measuring stick you need to use to assess the risk. More on the body counts here:

      • Rezwan Razani

        Steve, you say, “There have been very few incidents involving nuclear energy in the few decades it has been available.” This also reinforces the safety of nuclear. It supplies ~19% of US electricity – and no death. In contrast, solar supplies ~0.2% (less than 1%!) of US energy, and there have been at least three deaths of rooftop solar installers just in California since 2009. Imagine if they start to scale up. And we’re not even looking at the manufacturing side – lots of fancy chemicals in those panels. Plus, what an awful way to die. Lots of young people in their prime, falling off roofs, rather than a handful of people who’ve lived a long life, getting a cancer diagnosis later on, with time to prepare for the end. Ideally, no one dies. But if you’re going to die, put it off as long as possible.

      • greenthinker2012

        So Steve is basically saying that nuclear power is too safe to measure how dangerous it is.

  • BrightMusic

    This is a very helpful post – thank you so much. I have long found it quite difficult to find authoritative and accurate accounts of radiation risk, so this is really helpful. I still cannot make sense of the very widely divergent accounts of the effects of the Chernobyl disaster…

    • Rezwan Razani

      Here is some information on the body counts:

      And here is some information on the after effects of Chernobyl on wildlife – “Radioactive Wolves”

      • Chris Murray

        It’s a false choice, saying that it’s either nuclear or coal. Also, the deaths per terrawatt hour calculation for nuclear uses a figure of only 4,000 deaths from Chernobyl, and none from Fukushima. Even the Chernobyl Forum in 2006 estimated up to 9,000 deaths in the most affected areas alone, and the WHO last year stopped using the DDREF (Dose and Dose Rate Effectiveness Factor – a divisor which was used to allow for lower doses and dose rates) of 2, so you’re talking 18,000 deaths. If you allow for irradiation across wider Europe, you’re probably talking over 30,000 deaths, from cancer alone. Fukushima may kill hundreds, if not thousands.

        Plug in these numbers and nuclear, although still much safer than coal, oil and gas (assuming those figures are right), is broadly comparable at the moment, assuming no further disasters for a long time, to rooftop solar, and much more dangerous than wind and hydro. It’s probably also much more dangerous again than energy conservation, and still yet more dangerous again than energy reduction.

  • Angie Cross Mattz

    So we are slowly going to die? Why don’t you just come out

    and say that?

    • greenthinker2012

      We are going to die after the average number of years, just the same as before Fukushima.
      The amount of radiation released is very small compared to natural background levels of radiation.
      WHO and UNSCEAR have each published reports that conclude there will be no detectable increase in cancers as a result of the radiological release.
      UNSCEAR Link:
      “there have been no health effects attributed to radiation exposure observed among workers, the people with the highest radiation exposures. To date, no health effects attributable to radiation exposure have been observed among children or any other member of the population;”
      WHO Link:
      “The present results suggest that the increases in the incidence of human disease attributable to the additional radiation exposure from the Fukushima Daiichi NPP accident are likely to remain below detectable levels.”

  • greenthinker2012

    The risk at these low exposures “may” exist but it is so low that it is almost impossible to see the effect above the statistical noise.
    Compare this to eating red meat, BBQing and drinking beer….the cancer effects from these sources is easily measured because the effects are well above the statistical noise.
    Basically this means that people are freaking out over a danger that is less than that posed by everyday things like eating and drinking.
    It is important to keep things in perspective.
    This article definitely does not keep things in perspective because dull reality sells less papers than exciting exaggeration.