“No discernible changes in future cancer rates and hereditary diseases”?

It is often quoted that Fukushima will produce “No discernible changes in future cancer rates and hereditary diseases”. This quote is from the UNSCEAR report on the Fukushima1. While other reports2 go into various criticisms of the UNSCEAR report this post is about what that phrase actually means. This post is not about whether this statement from UNSCEAR are correct or not.

“No discernible changes” does not mean that there will be no changes or those changes are not important. UNSCEAR actually states:

“the Committee has used the phrase “no discernible increase” to express the idea that currently available methods would most likely not be able to demonstrate an increased incidence in disease statistics due to radiation exposure. This does not rule out the possibility of future excess cases or disregard the suffering associated with any such cases should they occur.”

However, this is not clear much press coverage of the report and many people (including several comments left on this blog) mistakenly believe that ‘No discernible changes’ means that there is no effect.

To explain this matter a bit more let us have a look at the murder rate in the UK – does it have a ‘discernible’ affect on the UK death rate?

I have used the murder rate since we actually do know have a reasonable idea of the number of people murdered in the UK each year. However, if we did not then would we be able to notice any change in the murder rate from the death rate? In the graph below I have plotted the number of thousands of deaths3 against the number of murder in the UK4,5. Please note that the number and the variation of the number of deaths is 1000 times larger than those seen on the graph.
murder

So do we see any correlation between the death rate and homicides – no we don’t.

That there is no ‘discernible’ relationship – statistically speaking- does not mean that the relationship does not exist. Even if hundreds or even of thousands of people where killed every year it would still be difficult to see any correlation. Yet with the murders we do know that people have been killed.

With murder a knife in the back or a bullet through the head may be a bit of a give-away. However, cancer and other health effects associated with radiation is not so clear cut. Various factors including background radiation ( see Is Natural Background Radiation is Safe?) can also produce these effects. There is no direct casual link between say getting cancer and being exposed to radiation the same way that there is no direct casual link between smoking and cancer. No single cancer death can be attributed to radiation the same way as no single cancer death can be attributed to smoking. Radiation and smoking both increase the risk of getting cancer.

So with nuclear accidents such as Chernobyl or Fukushima we will never be able to directly attribute a death to radiation exposure. However, we do know that such radiation exposure will cause deaths – more on that in a future post.


1 Sources, Effects and Risks of Ionising Radiation, UNSCEAR 2013 (http://www.unscear.org/docs/reports/2013/13-85418_Report_2013_Annex_A.pdf)

2 Critical Analysis of the UNSCREAR Report, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), (http://www.psr.org/assets/pdfs/2014-unscear-full-critique.pdf)

3 Demography of the United Kingdom, Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demography_of_the_United_Kingdom)

4 Recorded Crime Statistics For England And Wales 1898 – 2001/02, UK Office of National Statistics (https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/116649/rec-crime-1898-2002.xls)

5 Recorded Crime Statistics For England And Wales 2002/03 – 2013/14, UK Office of National Statistics (https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/329801/rec-crime-2003-2014.ods)

 

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46 Responses to ““No discernible changes in future cancer rates and hereditary diseases”?”

  • robertok06 says:

    A useful rebuttal link, from very knowledgeable professional organization:

    http://www.nuclearsafety.gc.ca/eng/resources/mythbusters/index.cfm#M3

  • robertok06 says:

    @pete

    “Nobody in their right minds would argue that Chernobyl only caused 50 deaths and Fukushima caused zero”

    Read well, Peter!… do not misinterpret what I’ve said!… I’ve written “11 years after the accident”… and I stand to that… the few casualties at Chernobyl on the day of the accident (4 firefighters, I recall), plus a number of casualties in the days/weeks following the accident, acute radiation syndrome, totalling a few tens… and then the LESS THAN TEN young people killed by the consequences of thyroid cancer.
    That’s it, for Chernobyl in 1997, Peter, whether you like it or not.

    Concerning Fukushima, ZERO people have been killed by radiation, don’t be silly, please.

  • Robertok06 says:

    @pete

    ,
    ‘Still there is a lack of a full understanding of the processes leading to cancer after low-dose radiation exposure.’

    A full understanding may still be missing, but after 60 years of nuclear power generation, and two major accidents, it is fully understood among those who get a proper education on the matter that nuclear is the technology entailing the smallest mortality and morbidity.
    Everything included, uranium extraction, plant construction, operation, accidents, decommissioning, you name it.
    11 years after Chernobyl a total of 50 people had died, just to make an example.
    Fukushima is still at ZERO, just to make another example.
    Even the disastrous handling of Mayak has generated less deaths than one year of coal, and that’s a third example.

    • Pete Pete says:

      Nobody in their right minds would argue that Chernobyl only caused 50 deaths and Fukushima caused zero – again take up your argument with IAEA, UNSCEAR, World Health Organisation, NRC, ONR… If you have found that everything that we have learned from Hiroshima/Nagasaki and numerous other studies is irrelevant then I think that you should let the world know and win a Nobel prize. If not then stop pushing this pro-nuclear propaganda

    • Pete Pete says:

      2400 deaths according to your figures using IAEA, ICRP and your analysis. If you use WHO and UNSCEAR with DDREF=1 then it is twice this.

      • roberto kersevan says:

        “2400 deaths according to your figures using IAEA, ICRP and your analysis.”

        YOu still don’t get it, do you?

        This death rate is going to happen, if at all, within the next S_E_V_E_N_T_Y Y_E_A_R_S !!!

        … a period of time during which the coal, gas and oil burned as the ONLY possible alternative to nuclear when your wonderful intermittent wind is not blowing (like now, 17:30, 0.45 GW from UK wind farms) will have killed hundreds of times more people than this????
        During regular operation of the said fossil fuel power stations, between “few” and TENS of deaths per TWh electric produced… and your country needs 300+ TWh/year in order to properly function, Peter!
        Wake up, Peter!

        R.

  • Robertok06 says:

    @pete

    ‘If there is an accident at a wind farm or solar plant then large amounts of radioactive material is not release.’

    Wrong again!

    When a wind farm does not produce electricity and the terrible emission-free nuclear is not used, it is coal or gas which MUST compensate the lack of electricity!… and those two KILL a lot more people than nuclear, just during their regular operation (see cited paper in The Lancet).

    That’s a well known fact among anybody who’s honest enough to put aside all ideological prejudices and is willing to get decent information.
    I’ve already given to you the means to do it, with proper citations, and yet you persist in your mystical struggle of good vs evil… I’ve always wondered how well they indoctrinate you ‘green’ guys, it’s amazing.

    • Pete Pete says:

      My comment is not wrong.
      Coal is being replace with renewables not nuclear. Where are your ‘proper citations’, where are your facts. I have presented mine but you have not presented yours. Sorry if you do not like the facts.

      • robertok06 says:

        What coal in which country, Peter??? Coal in England? Coal in Germany? Where?… in which fantasy land?
        Coal is on the rise on this planet, don’t you get it?

        Intermittent renewables lead only to things like this, everywhere they have been used at a large scale… Spain, Italy, Germany, Denmark… UK!…

        http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/budget/11718594/Green-energy-subsidies-spiral-out-of-control.html

        Enjoy the party until it lasts, Peter… because after that there will be only the misery of coal and gas power stations, plus loads of imports from EDF France, of course.

        • Pete Pete says:

          If you are quoting from the Torygraph rather than peer reviewed articles you must be desperate. As for importing from EDF in France see http://www.plux.co.uk/importing-french-nuclear-generated-electricity/

          • Robertok06 says:

            From your link, another pearl of wisdom!.. Peter, your are really incredible, believe me.

            ‘Nuclear power plants are very inflexible and cannot respond to demand.’

            Actually, France’s fleet of reactors modulate their production EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR, they do load following whenever necessary. All European nuclear reactors MUST be capable of doing so, in fact they can change their power output in a controlled way (i.e. other than a scram) at a rate of 5% of their nominal power PER MINUTE…

            Go get a decent introductory course on nuclear technology, and then come back, ok?

            R.

            P.s.: the real time data of electricity production in France can be found on the web page of RTE, under the name ‘eco2 Liz’s.

  • Robertok06 says:

    @Peter

    ‘the energy density of Uranium Ore (which is the important thing) is large. Although uranium is not a rare element good ores are. There is much more wind and sunlight than there is Uranium and they are renewable.’

    1) for all practical purposes of mankind, present and future, there is enough uranium to satisfy all its energy needs.

    2) uranium can be extracted in large quantities, limitless, from ocean water

    3) wind and PV are intermittent, and therefore they won’t ever be able to replace non intermittent non renewable sources at the global scale. Global PV has not even saved a single gram of CO2 so far, and probably it is still in a negative energy balance… I’ve already given to you the relevant peer reviewed papers.

    R.

    • Pete Pete says:

      1 – just no – it is a finite resource. 100 years a current consumption a lot less if we ‘go for nuclear’.
      2 – just stupid – it is not limitless also what is the energy cost of the extraction.
      3 – nuclear is intermittent, power pants close down – e.g. S. Korea, Sizewell B shutdown for 6 months due to a faulty pressuriser – when was the last time we had 6 months without wind or sunlight? no you have not – what peer reviewed papers?

      • Robertok06 says:

        @Peter lux

        ‘– when was the last time we had 6 months without wind or sunlight? ‘

        We had 6 months of no sunlight EXACTLY during the last 12 months, peter!.. have you ever heard of the discipline called celestial mechanics?…
        Again, you must try harder than this.

        ‘no you have not – what peer reviewed papers?’
        Don’t even try it!… Dr Castro et al on the finiteness of the extractable wind power, and weissbach et al on nuclear vs other technologies, in terms of EROEI.

        • Pete Pete says:

          Sorry Roberto I do not live at the south/north pole. It is not totally dark in winter – perhaps you should revise your understanding of celestial mechanics?…

          • Robertok06 says:

            No nights in UK, you’re saying? 🙂

            Listen, can you stop the BS at some point and try to have a reasoned conversation?
            Thanks.

            • Pete says:

              That there is no daylight at night (when electricity demand is at a minimum) cannot be compared with 6 months of continuous loss of 3% of your electricity generating capacity.
              Unless you live near the poles then the sun will rise the next day. Electricity storage is already on the market – http://www.teslamotors.com/en_GB/powerwall and more will come before they even start building a nuclear power plant in the UK or finish Flamanville 3 or Olkiluoto 3 (if they ever go online).

      • robertok06 says:

        @peter

        “1 – just no – it is a finite resource. 100 years a current consumption a lot less if we ‘go for nuclear’.”

        100 years of what???? C’mon, who do you want to kid, Pete???? There are 360 thousand zettajoules of uranium in the oceans… I let you the math of converting 1 ZJ to TWh, OK?

        Harder!… you’v got to try harder!… this is not enough, Pete!

        P.S.: show your hand: where did you get the 100 year figure from?

      • roberto kersevan says:

        @pete

        “what is the energy cost of the extraction.”

        Dumber question you couldn’t ask, Pete!… the energy cost of the extraction of the HIGHEST ENERGY DENSITY FUEL ON EARTH cannot be nothing else than a SMALL FRACTION of the energy that is delivered by said fuel!… C’mon!…

        Data are available,for instance, on the Environmental Product Declaration of the nuclear kWh for Forsmark nuclear power station belonging to Vattenfall:

        http://gryphon.environdec.com/data/files/6/9914/epd21_Vattenfall_Forsmark_Nuclear_Power_Plant_2014-03-27.pdf

        …. page 24: uranium extraction+conversion+enrichment+fuel fabrication = 2.5 gCO2-equivalent/kwh… and from this value you can get an estimate of the amount of energy needed… which is literally PEANUTS, since most of the energy used is in the extraction process which uses fossil fuels, i.e. high ratios of gCO2/kWh.

        You must try harder, Pete!

        Next?

        • Pete says:

          You need to look at the energy density of Uranium ore – http://www.plux.co.uk/energy-density-of-uranium/ where I have already answered your similar comments.

          • robertok06 says:

            I –> DO NOT CARE IT DOESN’T MATTER <– what the energy density of the U ore is, Pete!
            What kind of silly argument is that?

            Example: one mine, Olympic Dam, in Australia, which CO-EXTRACTS uranium as a by-product of the extraction of copper, gold and probably also something else, provides a sizeable amount of the U used by the whole planet to produce, reliably 24h/24 and not intermittently in un-predictable quantities, electricity.

            Who cares about your bogus arguments, Pete? Nobody.

            What's the energy density of the praseodymium used in the permanent magnets of the wind turbines?
            What's the energy density of the cadmium used in thin-film PV modules?
            See?… it's easy… silly questions like yours using bogus/fake "arguments"… and all this just to deny one obvious reality…. i.e. that few TENS of square km of nuclear sites in Europe produce more than 800 TWh of electricity, 24h/24… and help you keep your sorry lights on on that side of the Channel… courtesy of EDF France.

            If it were for wind, you'd be running candles and oil lamps during most of the nights of the year.. you know that, right Pete?

            R.

  • Robertok06 says:

    @pete

    ‘is therefore an indication that leukaemia risks are similar for protracted and acute exposures’

    Only in your wildest dreams.

    • Pete Pete says:

      That is not my wildest dreams – please take that with the World Health Organisation and UNSCEAR.

  • robertok06 says:

    @peterl lux:

    ” In fact most see a 5% per Sv risk as bad enough.”

    Bqd enough what??? THERE IS NO “ZERO RISK” IN ANY HUMAN ACTIVITY, Peter!!! None!

    This is total nonsense!… look at the case of Fukushima, ther outcome of the adoption of nuclear technology in Japan in the early ’70s… very few casualties during the first 40+ years (criticality accident, 3 technicians killed) and TENS of THOUSANDs of TWh of emission-free electricity generated in the meantime (Ref. Hansen and Kharekha, cited repeteadly here)… now with the 5% increased of deadly cancers IN THE NEXT 70 YEARS (because this is what the model says) the total number of japanese killed is estimated to be in the few hundred at most… while had not nuclear been used at that time, coal and oil thermoelectric power stations would have initially taken the place of nuclear, more recently natural gas… and the epidemiological studies clearly show (again, Hansen and Kharekha, cited above) that for each TWh of electricity generated by coal combustion a number between 5 and 50 people would die UNDER A SHORT TERM (not 70 years!, paper published few years ago in The Lancet)… now I understand that mathematics within your ideological entourage IS ALSO an opinion, but among serious scientist it is not, and until proven wrong for the 280 TWh/y that the japanese reactors were churning out before the accident, you would have on one side the “few hundred deaths in 70 years” due to Fukushima (total!) vs FOR THE ONLY ALTERNATIVES POSSIBLE, 5~50x 280 (PER YEAR!!) times 35 years! … how do you think the 1.8 million “lives saved” figure comes out in Hansen and Kharekha???
    Do you understand this simple math or not, Peter????

    Please answer to me… show me there is a light at the end of the your tunnel…

    R.

    P.S.: please do not take my, how to say?.. rather emphatic prose?… for a lack of interest to have a discussion on this, it is simply that I cannot believe my eyes when I read generic “Joe the plumber” statements like “most see a 5% per Sv risk as bad enough”… most who? Joe?

    • Pete Pete says:

      Roberto – I have little interest in having a personal debate with you since I doubt that I will change your opinion. You are correct that I am wrong in saying that ‘most see 5% risk as bad enough’ – sometimes I do not express myself correctly as you often do – as can be seen in your numerous posts.
      Again you have gone into a pro-nuclear rant rather than addressing or critiquing what I have said in this post. I have addressed the fact that there is no ‘zero risk’ in any human activity in other posts – so please don’t SHOUT at me.
      I probably will at some point give my critique of the Hansen paper – nothing against Hansen and in fact I admire not only his scientific work but the way that he is willing to put his body where his mouth is. Not many lead scientists at NASA get arrested so often. However, I do feel that he is making the wrong comparisons and misses the massive opportunity costs that have occurred due to going for nuclear rather than alternatives such as energy savings and renewables. Nuclear is not happening/happening quick enough to counter climate change and only distracts from what needs to be done to make real change.
      I am allowing you to post comments on my site (which I pay for) so please do not make personal attacks on myself and others (Ian Fairlie) but rather the arguments, please do not misrepresent what I say and keep your comments on topic rather than an excuse for your pro-nuclear ranting. You do occasionally make some good points and I shall try to address them – however, I find your signal to noise ratio is very poor.

      • robertok06 says:

        @peter

        ” Nuclear is not happening/happening quick enough to counter climate change and only distracts from what needs to be done to make real change.”

        Well, again you speak out of a lack of knowledge of the matter you are discussing… as a matter of fact nuclear is the technology for the production of electricity which has had the fastest growth of all available technologies, there is simply no comparison possible, look at this excellent blog…

        http://www.theoildrum.com/node/8936

        Figure 5.

        And, again, this the obvious consequence of the fact that nuclear has the highest energy density of them all, and therefore there is no way that the lowest density sources, like PV and wind, will ever be able to match nuclear’s rise.

        So, here we go, once more I’ve tqught you something you didn’t know in the field of energy production… the ball is in your field, Peter… it’s up to you to show using DATA a different picture… but beware, popular galore is not part of this match.

        Have a good one,

        R.

        P.S.: And all this from a guy with a noise to signal ratio like mine… must be frustrating, uh? 🙂

        • Pete Pete says:


          Wind vs Nuclear
          As I have said before the energy density of Uranium Ore (which is the important thing) is large. Although uranium is not a rare element good ores are. There is much more wind and sunlight than there is Uranium and they are renewable.

          • Robertok06 says:

            Peter!

            Why are you using the trollish argument that compares the NOMINAL INSTALLED power when everybody knows that the capacity factor of nuclear is at least 3 times that of wind, not to mention the 8 times more than UK ON?

            Again, you’ll have to try harder.

            R.

    • Pete Pete says:

      @roberto
      UNSCEAR – dose from Fukushima is 18,000 man-Sv over 1st year, 36,000 man-Sv over the first 10 years and 48,000 man-Sv lifetime.
      Apply your 5% per man-Sv and do the maths.

      • robertok06 says:

        Reply:

        I do the math:

        0.05×48000=2400 “casualties” within the next 70 years… and all this for generating 280 TWh of electricity during 30 years (assuming that Japan will not resume operation of its reactors, which is not the case)… means, even assuming 2400 deaths, a mortality of 2400/280/30=0.285 deaths/TWh

        Now, Peter… YOU DO THE MATH and try to get data about mortality from production of electricity from other sources (like PV AT NIGHT!, or wind during a wind spell) and show to this high-noise-to-signal-guy like me that there are other better ways to generate electricity.

        Make my day, Peter!

        R.

        • Pete Pete says:

          If there is an accident at a wind farm or solar plant then large amounts of radioactive material is not release. Therefore if you compare ‘like for like’ there will be 0 deaths/TWh.
          This is not to say that wind and PV do not cause deaths – nothing is without risk. There are deaths when mining the minerals, during construction, associated road traffic deaths etc. However, this is the same for nuclear as wind and PV. Over 270 people died building Sizewell A. To do a proper like for like analysis then you would have to consider all these factors plus the number of deaths due to mining the Uranium which include mining accidents and cancers caused by the radioactive ‘mill tailings’ which are left near the mining site. There may be differences in the risks of PV/Wind construction and nuclear – possibly due to the lower capacity factor of wind/PV but does this compensate? I doubt it – balls in your court – you do them maths. Also there is a difference between having a high paid job because it is risky e.g. working on offshore wind and being unfortunate enough to live near a nuclear power plant.

          • Robertok06 says:

            @Peter

            ‘Also there is a difference between having a high paid job because it is risky e.g. working on offshore wind and being unfortunate enough to live near a nuclear power plant.’

            Yeah!… I see all those ‘unfortunate’ millions of tourists visiting the city of pipes, Avignon, placed 10 km away from a nuclear site, former Phenix breeder reactor, and downwind of the 8 reactors of Tricastin and Cruas, 30 km away.

            The matter of the fact is that the reality is this,

            http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abs/kh05000e.html

            and no matter what ideological or semantic tricks you may try, it will not change.
            Intermittent renewables will never be able to replace thermoelectric power stations, it is physically impossible, especially in your country. The sooner you will get it, the smaller your disappoint will be.
            I can only wish you not to live downwind of a COAL power station, which is the favorite alternative to nuclear.

            R.

  • robertok06 says:

    @peter lux

    Few comments on your non peer-reviewed “counter-analysis” refernce 2:

    1The validity of UNSCEAR’s source term estimates is in doubt

    There are several source term data sets, which are updated very often. The fact that UNSCEAR adopted that one, which may now have been superseded, does not mean much, as long as the population is concerned.

    2 There are serious concerns regarding the calculations of internal radiation

    Not at all!… actually exactly THE OPPOSITE is true!… the initial estimates of internal contamination, based on previous accidents like Chernobyl, where much higher that the full-body measurements have shown it to be. Lot’s of peer-reviewed paper on that, I can make a long list if you want, Peter.

    3 The dose assessments of the Fukushima workers cannot be relied upon

    Of course it can!… it probably is not 100% accurate, but it is certainly a useful set of data, upon which to build in the future long-term follow-up of the health of said workers.

    4 The UNSCEAR report ignores the effects of fallout on the non-human biota
    Possible, but that doesn’t mean much… again, there are TONS of peer-reviewed papers on such contamination and impact, and they all show that it is more than negligible as an additional radiation dose.

    5 The special vulnerability of the embryo to ra diation is not taken into account

    Wrong: they do not take into account unproven “hypothesis” like those made up by notorious anti-nuclear scientis (I have a hard time not putting “” before and after scientist) like Ian Fairlie that you seem to like so much.

    6 Non-cancer diseases and hereditary effects were ignored by UNSCEAR

    Not true. Next?

    7 Comparisons of nuclear fallout with back ground radiation are misleading

    Misleading for whom? Nuclear fallout has added to the world much more that Fukushima or even Chernobyl did!… that’s a KNOWN FACT!… and talking about natural radiation Cs-137 is biochemically affine to potassium, and it decays in similar ways, actually the energy of the gamma ray emitted by K-40 is higher than that of Cs-137… popular anti-nuclear galore claims that the Japanese should not eat fish contaminated by Cs-137 over 100 Bq/kg… while some fish contains upt to 800 Bq/kg of K-40, not to mention the NATURAL Po-210 and lead.
    Nice try, anyway…

    8 UNSCEAR’S interpretations of the findings are questionable

    Questionable by whom? By a collection of medicine doctor’s group with a clear anti-nuclear agenda and most likely ZERO professional experience in radiology or epidemiology?
    What has “doctors against nuclear WEAPONS” to do with CIVIL nuclear REACTORS???

    9 The protective measures taken by the authorities are misrepresented

    UNDER-represented, that is…. they have done much better than in Chernobyl; and in fact there will be basically NO thyroid cancer incidence increase, as we are already withnessing.

    10 Conclusions from collective dose estimations are not presented

    Have to check the vericidity of this… but even if true they have not done it because collective effects in case of EXTREMELY LOW individual doses, cannot lead to meaningful conclusions… the LNT is plain WRONG at low doses, why do you guys refuse to accept it?… because without it one of the pillars of anti-nuclear ideology (which goes against the epidemiological data, as well explained in Hansen and Kharekha’s paper) would fall?
    It’sa pitiful way of avoiding a real, constructive dialogue, do you understand that Peter?

    Later.

  • robertok06 says:

    @peter lux

    “However, we do know that such radiation exposure will cause deaths – more on that in a future post.”

    No, “we” don’t know that… only “you” and your accolites anti-nuclear ideologues “know” thqt.

    Exposure to radiation during the regular operation of reactors is KNOWN (to “us” who spend time to read the correct literature, possibly written by knowledgeable people and published on peer-reviewed journals) to have a LIFETIME rate of cancer death (all cancers together) of 5% per Sv of dose, but this NOT if the dose is received little by little, that only if there is an acute dose (so this rules out the emissions during regular operation of the reactors).
    And this estimate, which cannot be tested directly due to the much larger background of cancers caused by nature or other kinds of contaminations, only assuming the validity of the Linear No-Threshold model… which is NOT confirmed very frequently, practically daily over decades of reliable data acquisition.
    There is so much literature and data on this that, if printed, you could easily post it with pins all over the walls of your house, probably on double-triple layers.

    Of course it is waaaay easier and so much more ideologically comfortable, to keep on thinking that the whole nuclear civil industry should shut down even if only ONE life is going to be taken… but this, again, is NOT a rational thinking, rational people and countries make a cost-benefit analysis, and for that, again, fifth time I reference it, the situation is like this, in spite of anything you may argue:

    “Because nuclear power is an abundant, low-carbon source of base-load power, it could make a large contribution to mitigation of global climate change and air pollution. Using historical production data, we calculate that global nuclear power has prevented an average of 1.84 million air pollution-related deaths and 64 gigatonnes of CO2-equivalent (GtCO2-eq) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that would have resulted from fossil fuel burning. On the basis of global projection data that take into account the effects of the Fukushima accident, we find that nuclear power could additionally prevent an average of 420,000-7.04 million deaths and 80-240 GtCO2-eq emissions due to fossil fuels by midcentury, depending on which fuel it replaces. By contrast, we assess that large-scale expansion of unconstrained natural gas use would not mitigate the climate problem and would cause far more deaths than expansion of nuclear power.”

    http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abs/kh05000e.html

    Cheers.

    • Pete Pete says:

      I do not want to get into an epistemological debate – philosophical discussion about the nature of knowledge. However it is definitely not KNOWN what the risk of exposure to radiation is – this is very clear from reading BEIRR, ICRP plus all the volumes of peer-reviewed papers. Due to the uncertainty and the necessity for people to do some sort of risk assessment a very crude measure of the effect is measured by the Sievert (Sv). As a ‘rule of thumb’ a risk factor for cancer fatility of 5% per Sv is used. It does not take into account the different affects due to age, sex or whether the dose is chronic or acute. I do not think it takes much epistemological argument to come to the conclusion that what is known that radiation causes cancer but what is not known is the exact relationship. While there is some debate over the exact risk factor even some of my more extreme ‘accolites’ (who I do not necessarily agree with) are not arguing about differences of many orders of magnitude. In fact most see a 5% per Sv risk as bad enough.
      Just to make something clear (not to you but to other readers). The risk factor is Sv per person per year and is the change of getting cancer over your lifetime – i.e. if you get a certain dose one year and the same the next it doubles your change of getting cancer.
      You are correct that the affect of chronic (little by little) doses is less known than that of acute doses. This is because it is easier to study acute doses (say a CT scan) than it is chronic doses. This does not mean that there is any evidence that chronic doses are less harmful than acute doses it just means that our uncertainty is greater. Is it more harmful to smoke 30 cigarettes in one day or to smoke one a day for a month? We don’t know but smoking increases your risk of cancer. Also nuclear power plants do not emit radiation little by little every day but in bursts during refueling, venting containment or in accidents such as Fukushima, Chernobyl, Three mile Island…
      The LNT model is used due to the difficulty in seeing the affects at low doses due to the larger background of cancers. There is very little evidence against the LNT model while there is a growing body of evidence for it. The whole point of my post is that although things may not be easily discernible above a background it does not mean that it is not important.

      • robertok06 says:

        As a ‘rule of thumb’ a risk factor for cancer fatility of 5% per Sv is used.”

        NO! IT IS –> NOT <– a rule of thumb!… it is the coefficient of the straight line fitted to THE DATA about incidence of cancer vs absorbed dose.

        the "rule of thumb" is, at the limit, the value of 5% sharp, which some studies find at 4%, others at 6%… so the reasonable and scientifically accurate thing to do is, in the so-called meta-studies, to calculate some sort of average, and round it, for practical purposes and to convey an order of magnitude easy to understand to the general populace, to 5%.

        R.

        • Pete Pete says:

          NO! IT IS –> NOT < – a rule of thumb!… it is the coefficient of the straight line fitted to THE DATA about incidence of cancer vs absorbed dose.
          No Roberto that is too much of a simplification of what is going on. the difference between internal and external emitters, different radionuclides, age and gender, chronic vs acute exposure is not well understood. The whole idea of ‘absorbed dose’, although useful as a ‘rule of thumb’ does not represent what the real risks are.

          • robertok06 says:

            Yes… it represents reasonably well the risks!… read YOUR OWN references!… like reference 104 cited in your paper 2 above!… You must read the literature, Peter… you can’t simply listen to the anti-nuclear propaganda… radiation damage on human cells is a field which has generated literally thousands of articles in literature… nuclear medicine IS A SCIENCE!… millions of people get irradiated, way, way much than the people in Fukushima, just to mention an “apocalyptic accident”, as some green blogs have dubbed it… and the incidence of tumors after irradiation is known… low-dose irradiation CANNOT be worse than the acute one!… C’mon… if that were the case there would be no life form on earth.

            Next?

            • robertok06 says:

              … sorry…

              ” like reference 104 cited in your paper 2 above” should have been ref. 107

    • Pete Pete says:

      Just one more thing you say
      ” to have a LIFETIME rate of cancer death (all cancers together) of 5% per Sv of dose, but this NOT if the dose is received little by little, that only if there is an acute dose (so this rules out the emissions during regular operation of the reactors)”.
      However, as you should know, the difference between the acute and chronic dose is taken into account using the DDREF factor of 2 – which is why it is 5% per Sv rather than 10% per Sv. However, I have noticed that WHO and INSCEAR are now using a DDREF of 1 – i.e. the chronic and acute are the same. To quote from the WHO (http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/78218/1/9789241505130_eng.pdf)
      “Consideration of uncertainty led to the development of probability distributions of DDREF for use in risk assessment (89). Still there is a lack of a full understanding of the processes leading to cancer after low-dose radiation exposure. The solid cancer risk in 12 epidemiological studies of radiation-exposed workers and of the population residing at
      the contaminated Techa River in the Southern Urals, Russia, was compared to cancer
      risks among the Japanese atomic bomb survivors (74). Overall, risk estimates were similar to those among the atomic bomb survivors, suggesting that a DDREF of 1 would be reasonable. A meta-analysis has considered recent epidemiological evidence on leukaemia mortality and incidence risks from protracted low-dose and low-dose-rate exposures to γ -rays. It included an extensive literature review of studies on groups of people who were either occupationally or environmentally exposed (92). The main risk measure value reported in this meta-analysis (ERR) indicated that the baseline leukaemia risk (i.e. risk for a group of unexposed persons) increases by 19% after exposure to a dose of 100 mGy. This increase was reported to agree closely with the risk from acute exposure of the Japanese atomic bomb survivors and is therefore an indication that leukaemia risks are similar for protracted and acute exposures.”

      • robertok06 says:

        OK… we are going to nowhere with this discussion… let’s try this.

        What would that 19% of increase mean in terms of additional deaths from leukaemia?
        Let’s say over a 100k population to make the calculation easy?


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