Saturday, April 30, 2016

Appendix Part 2

3) Immunosurveillance systems are able to eliminate clones of transformed cells, as is shown by tumor cell transplants. The effectiveness of immunosurveillance is also shown by the large increase in the incidence of several types of cancers among immunosuppressed subjects (a link seems to exist between a defect in NHEJ DNA repairs and immunodeficiency).

These phenomena suggest the lesser effectiveness of low doses, or even of a practical threshold which can be due to either a failure or a low level of damage to sufficiently activate DNA repair mechanisms or to an association between apoptosis + error-free repair + immunosurveillance, to determine a threshold (between 5 and 50 mSv?). The stimulation of the cell defense mechanisms could also cause hormesis by fighting against endogenous mutagenic factors, in particular against reactive oxygen species. Indeed a meta-analysis of experimental data shows that in 40% of animal experiments there is a decrease in the incidence of spontaneous cancers after low doses.

This observation has been overlooked so far because the phenomenon was difficult to explain.

These data show that the use of a linear no-threshold relationship is not justified for assessing by extrapolation the risk of low doses from observations made for doses from 0.2 to 5 Sv since this extrapolation relies on the concept of a constant carcinologic carcinogenic effect per unit dose, which is inconsistent with experimental and radiobiological data. This conclusion is in contradiction with those of an article and a draft report [43,118], which justify the use of LNT by several arguments.

1. for doses lower than 10 mGy, there is no interaction between the different physical events initiated along the electron tracks through the DNA or the cell;

2. the nature and the repair of lesions thus caused are not influenced by the dose and the dose rate;

3. cancer is the direct and random consequence of a DNA lesion in a cell apt to divide;

4. LNT model correctly fits the dose-effect relationship for the induction of solid tumors in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki cohort;

5. the carcinogenic effect of doses of about 10 mGy is proven by results obtained in humans in studies on irradiation in utero.

With respect to the first argument, it should be noted that the physico-chemical events are identical but their biological consequence may greatly vary because the cellular defense reactions differ depending on dose and dose rate. The second argument is contradicted by recent radiobiological studies considered in the present report. The third argument does not take into account recent finding showing the complexity of the carcinogenic process and overlooks experimental data. Regarding the fourth argument, it can be noted that besides LNT, other types of dose-effect relationships are also compatible with data concerning solid tumors in atom bomb survivors, and can satisfactorily fit epidemiological data that are incompatible with the LNT concept, notably the incidence of leukemia in these same A-bomb survivors.

Furthermore, taking into account the latest available data, the dose-effect relationship for solid tumors in Hiroshima-Nagasaki survivors is not linear but curvilinear between 0 and 2 Sv. Moreover, even if the dose-effect relationship were demonstrated to be linear for solid tumors between, for example, 50 mSv and 3 Sv, the biological significance of this linearity would be open to question. Experimental and clinical data have shown that the dose effect relationship varies widely with the type of tumor and with the age of the individuals - some being linear or quadratic, with or without a threshold. The composite character of a LNT relationship between dose and all solid tumors confirms the invalidity of its use for low doses.

Finally, with regard to irradiation in utero, whatever the value of the Oxford study, some inconsistencies should lead us to be cautious before concluding to a causal relationship from data showing simply an association.

Moreover, it is questionable to extrapolate from the fetus to the child and adult, since the developmental state, cellular interactions, and immunological control systems are very different.

In conclusion, this report doubts the validity of using LNT in the evaluation of the carcinogenic risk of low doses (< 100 mSv) and even more for very low doses (< 10 mSv). LNT can be a pragmatic tool for assessing the carcinogenic effect of doses higher than a dozen mSv within the framework of radioprotection. However, the use of LNT in the low dose or dose rate range is not consistent with the current radiobiological knowledge; LNT cannot be used without challenge for assessing by extrapolation the risks of associated with very low doses (<10 mSv), nor be used in benefit-risk assessments imposed on radiologists by the European directive 97-43. Biological mechanisms are different for doses lower than a few dozen mSv and for higher doses. The eventual risks in the dose range of radiological examinations (0.1 to 5 mSv, up to 20 mSv for some examinations) must be estimated taking into account radiobiological and experimental data. An empirical relationship which is valid for doses higher than 200 mSv may lead to an overestimation of risk associated with doses one hundredfold lower and this overestimation could discourage patients from undergoing useful examinations and introduce a bias in radioprotection measures against very low doses (<10 mSv).

Decision makers confronted with problems of radioactive waste or risk of contamination, should re-examine the methodology used for the evaluation of risks associated with these very low dose exposures delivered at a very low dose rate. This analysis of biological data confirms the inappropriateness of the collective dose concept to evaluate population irradiation risks.

Friday, April 29, 2016


Academie des Sciences (Academy of Sciences) Academie nationale de Medecine (National Academy of Medicine)

Dose-effect relationships and estimation of the carcinogenic effects of low doses of ionizing radiation

March 6, 2005
Andre Aurengo (Rapporteur), Dietrich Averbeck and Andre Bonnin (all members of the Academie nationale de medecine)

Roland Masse (membre correspondant de l'Academie nationale de medecine)

Roger Monier, Maurice Tubianal (Chairman) (members of the Academie des Sciences)

Bernard Le Guen, Florent de Vathaire

Executive Summary

The assessment of carcinogenic risks associated with doses of ionizing radiation from 0.2 Sv to 5 Sv is based on numerous epidemiological data.

However, the doses which are delivered during medical X-ray examinations are much lower (from 0.1 mSv to 20 mSv). Doses close to or slightly higher than these can be received by workers or by populations in regions of high natural background radiation.

Epidemiological studies have been carried out to determine the possible carcinogenic risk of doses lower than 100 mSv and they have not been able to detect statistically significant risk even on large cohorts or populations.

Therefore these risks are at worst low since the highest limit of the confidence interval is relatively low. It is highly unlikely that putative carcinogenic risks could be estimated or even established for such doses through case-control studies or the follow-up of cohorts. Even for several hundred thousands of subjects, the power of such epidemiological studies would not be sufficient to demonstrate the existence of a very small excess in cancer incidence or mortality adding to the natural cancer incidence which, in non-irradiated populations, is already very high and fluctuates according to lifestyle. Only comparisons between geographical regions with high and low natural irradiation and with similar living conditions could provide valuable information for this range of doses and dose rates. The results from the ongoing studies in Kerala (India) and China need to be carefully analyzed.

Because of these epidemiological limitations, the only method for estimating teh possible risks of low doses (< 010 mSv) is by extrapolating from carcinogenic effects observed between 0.2 and 3 Sv. A linear no-threshold relationship (LNT) describes well the relation between the dose and the carcinogenic effect in this dose range where it could be tested. However, the use of this relationship to assess by extrapolation the risk of low and very low doses deserves great caution. Recent radiobiological data undermine the validity of estimations based on LNT in the range of doses lower than a few dozen mSv which leads to the questioning of the hypotheses on which LNT is implicitly based: 1) the constancy of the probability of mutation (per unit dose) whatever the dose or dose rate, 2) the independence of the carcinogenic process which after the initiation of a cell evolves similarly whatever the number of lesions present in neighboring cells and the tissue.

Indeed 1) progress in radiobiology has shown that a cell is not passively affected by the accumulation of lesions induced by ionizing radiation. It reacts through at least three mechanisms: a) by fighting against reactive oxygen species (ROS) generated by ionizing radiation and by any oxidative stress, b) by eliminating injured cells (mutated or unstable), through two mechanisms i) apoptosis which can be initiated by doses as low as a few mSv thus elimiating cells whose genome has been damaged or misrepaired, ii) death at the time of mitosis cells whose lesions have not been repaired.

Recent works suggest that there is a threshold of damage under which low doses and dose rates do not activate intracellular signaling and repair systems, a situation leading to cell death c) by stimulating or activating DNA repair systems following slightly higher doses of about ten mSv.

Furthermore, intercellular communication systems inform a cell about the presence of an insult in neighboring cells. Modern transcriptional analysis of cellular genes using microarray technology reveals that many genes area activated following doses much lower than those for which mutagenesis is observed. These methods were a source of considerable progress by showing that according to the dose and the dose rate it was not the same genes which genes that were transcribed.

For doses of a few mSv (< 10 mSv), lesions are eliminated by the disappearance of cells. For slightly higher doses damaging a large number of cells (therefore capable of causing tissue lesions), the repair systems are activated. They permit cell survival but may generate misrepairs and irreversible lesions. For low doses (< 100 mSv), the number of mutagenic misrepairs is small but its relative importance, per unit dose, increases with the dose and dose rate. The duration of repair varies with the complexity of the damage and their number. Several enzymatic systems are involved and a high local density of DNA damage may lower their efficacy. At low dose rates the probability of misrepair is smaller. The modulation of the cell defense mechanisms according to the dose, dose rate, the type and number of lesions, the physiological condition of the cell, and the number of affected cells explains the large variations in radiosensitivity (variations in cell mortality or probability of mutations per unit dose) according to the dose and the dose rate that have been observed. The variations in cell defense mechanisms are also demonstrated by several phenomena: initial cell hypersensitivity during irradiation, rapid variations in radiosensitivity after short and intense irradiation at a very high dose rate, adaptive responses which cause a decrease in radiosensitivity of the cells during hours or days following a first low dose irradiation, etc.

2) Moreover, it was thought that radiocarcinogenesis was initiated by a lesion of the genome affecting at random a few specific targets (proto-oncogenes, suppressor genes, etc.). This relatively simple model, which provided a theoretical framework for the use of LNT, has been replaced by a more complex process including genetic and epigenetic lesions, and in which the relation between the initiated cells and their microenvironment plays an essential role. This carcinogenic process is confronted by effective defense mechanisms in the cell, tissue, and the organism. With regard to tissue, the mechanisms which govern embryogenesis and direct tissue repair after an injury seem to play an important role in the control of cell proliferation. This process is particularly important when a transformed cell is surrounded by normal cells. These mechanisms could explain the lesser efficacy of heterogeneous irradiation, i.e., local irradiations through a grid as well as the absence of a carcinogenic effect in humans or experimental animals contaminated by small quantities of a-emitter radionuclides. The latter data suggest the existence of a threshold. This interaction between cells could also help to explain the difference in the probability of carcinogenesis according to the tissues and the dose, since the death of a large number of cells disorganizes the tissue and favors the escape from tissue controls of an initiated cell.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The "Linear Mafia's" Last Hurrah?

On June 29, 2005, a politicized committee appointed by the National Academy of Sciences issued a well-publicized report that is in total disagreement with the unanimous French Academy of Science and Academy of Medicine's May 2005 report. H. Josef Hebert, an Associated Press writer [as printed in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Little Rock, Ark., June 30, 2005, p. 2], summarized its conclusions:

"The preponderance of scientific evidence shows that even very low doses of radiation pose a risk of cancer or other health problems and there is no threshold below which exposure can be viewed as harmless, a panel of prominent scientists concluded Wednesday.

"The finding by the National Academy of Sciences panel is viewed as critical because it is likely to significantly influence what radiation levels government agencies will allow at abandoned nuclear power plants, nuclear weapons production facilities and elsewhere.

"The nuclear industry... as well as some independent scientists, have argued that there is a threshold of very low level radiation where exposure is not harmful, or possibly even beneficial. They said current risk modeling may exaggerate the health impact.

"The panel, after five years of study, rejected that claim."

Needless to say, this report was met with outrage by the scientists who have incontrovertible evidence to the contrary - evidence that was simply ignored by a panel of the same Good Old Boys who held to the LNT hypothesis on earlier requests to examine the accumulating evidence. The reaction of Gerald Looney, M.D., a California physician, is typical:

"The medical profession is fully in favor of progress, but change is out of the question! I am embarrassed and frustrated by the rigid and reactionary viewpoints of my colleagues. Today's report carries the conclusion of a NAS panel of people who are old enough to know better but continue to support and promulgate the patently false Linear No-Threshold (LNT) hypothesis of radiation risk...

"Perhaps this myopic view could be tolerated a while longer, except that it has an increasingly harmful impact on future generations. The current public (and panel) phobia of even a single ionizing ray leads to an expectation of zero tolerance from current environmental and political leaders. Such fear and intolerance makes us easy prey and our cities potential and prolonged wastelands in the face of even a small dirty bomb producing a tiny and harmless, but definitely measurable, increased level of radioactivity over a wide area, thereby allowing a terrorist to literally hoist us on our own petard."

The doctor also has a frightening personal story to tell. He and his partner Nancy were scheduled for the type of whole-body scans (WBS) that the NAS panel's report recommends be avoided. Nancy took the advice of scientific colleagues who suggested she beware of ionizing radiation inherent in CT scans. Unfortunately, an asymptomatic cancer was already underway, and the lack of early treatment proved fatal. Dr. Looney was to take the scan, resulting in a cancer's being found on his kidney. That cancer was surgically removed, apparently successful.

Concerning the phobic position of the NAS, Dr. Looney writes:

"Public and professional policy, even when it comes from the National Academy of Sciences, seems clearly erroneous when a patient follows their official guidelines and advice but succumbs to curable pathology, while another patient ignores these same policies and thereby survives similar disease."

We began in the prologue with the sacrifice of my sister's fetus to an ignorance of low-level radiation effects, and we end with an avoidable death resulting from similar ignorance. Along the way, we saw, among many similar increases in life span and health, that a dose of 0.15 Gy would likely prevent 10,000 breast cancer deaths - with better than 99% certainty - if given to a million women.

How many more lives must be forfeited to a thoroughly discredited LNT before reason prevails?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Chernobyl Revisited

Let us return to mankind's worst nuclear disaster, Chernobyl. We have been told that the embryos and children in the downwind plume of extremely radioactive materials would be mutated. A recent report, which I was pleased to hear radio commentator Paul Harvey bring to the attention of his vast listening audience, found that the children of Chernobyl - eighteen years after the accident - were indeed showing effects, but not the type that were expected:

"The Chernobyl nuclear disaster has spawned a generation of 'mutant' super brainy children. Kids growing up in areas damaged by radiation from the plant have higher IQ and faster reaction times, say Russian doctors. They are also growing faster and have stronger immune systems. Radiation from the Ukrainian Chernobyl plant swept the globe and affected more than seven million people.

"Professor Vladimir Mikhalev from Bryansk State University has tracked the health of youngsters growing up in areas hit by the fallout since the 1986 accident. He compared their mental agility and health to those in unaffected areas and found they came out tops in tests." [As reported in the British newspaper The Sun, on May 26, 2005, as well as in the Russian newspaper Pravda, on May 24, 2005. The story was - not surprisingly - virtually ignored in the mainstream media.]

Obviously, this has nothing to do with mutations - only the predictable result of radiation hormesis.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Environmental Test Lab II

The unfortunate Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki provide us with a test lab without peer. Thousands of citizens of all ages were exposed to different amounts of radiation in a very short period of time. From their locations at the time of the blast, their exposures could be determined with relative accuracy. Moreover, they were expected to carry and update their health records. As has been shown, the exposed survivors had unexpectedly longer and healthier lifetimes than did their unexposed cohorts.

But there is now a laboratory for low-level radiation absorbed over a period of twenty years. From 1982 to 1984, about 180 apartment buildings housing 10,000 Taiwanese tenants were built with cobalt-60-contaminated steel (half-life of 5.3 years). Since, as we all know, radiation causes cancer, these unfortunates must be dying like flies.

Well, not exactly. The assessed cancer rate of occupants of the apartments is 3.5 deaths per 100,000 person-years. The average death rate of the general population over the same twenty-year period is 116 persons per 100,000 person-years - resulting in a 97% reduction of fatal cancer.

Have you heard about this story on Headline News? No? Well, maybe no one is interested in reducing his risk of cancer by ninety-seven percent. But just in case you are, you may want to take a look at a paper entitled, "Is Chronic Radiation an Effective Prophylaxis Against Cancer?" [Chen, W.L., Luan, Y.C., et al., "Is Chronic Radiation an Effective Prophylaxis Against Cancer?" Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, Vol. 9, No. 1, Spring 2004. Taiwanese officials have resisted providing information needed for a first rate epidemiological report, apparently embarrassed that their LNT predictions didn't pan out.]

Monday, April 25, 2016

Cutting the Utility Power Cord

In the text of the book, I opined, "As far as I know, a low-power, inherently safe reactor has not been designed for community or home use" because of the risk to investors for such a project. That is no longer true. Toshiba calls its design the "4S reactor" for "super-safe, small and simple." It would be installed underground, and in case of a cooling-system failure, heat would be dissipated through the Earth. There are no complicated control rods to move through the core to control the flow of neutrons that sustain the chain reaction. If the reflective panels are removed, the density of neutrons becomes too low to sustain the chain reaction.

Toshiba has offered to provide a complete nuclear power plant if the residents of the ice-bound 7,000-person town of Galena, Alaska, will but pay the operating costs - far less than the cost of barging diesel fuel in for the town generator. Will the anti-nuclear, primitivist-environmentalists be joyful because the townspeople won't be spilling diesel fuel during its arduous journey and will pay only a fraction of what they would pay for petroleum power? And because they won't be creating any of that pesky carbon dioxide that the environmentalists claim is warming the earth? Will they be grateful for the lack of long electrical transmission lines that somehow are sterilizing the caribou and ruining the vista for the six people that visit each year?

Certainly not. If nuclear power is shown to be as safe as it really is, then the anti-industrializers lose the only weapon they have to prevent a dynamically progressing civilization: their lies about an environmental apocalypse. Let us work to bring out the truth and have nuclear power in this remote village by 2010.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

International Recognition

In May 2005, the French Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Medicine issued a unanimous report that cut the legs from under both the LNT theory and collective dose. [An English translation of the executive summary of this important report is given in its entirety in the appendix.]

Regarding the former:

"In conclusion, this report doubts the validity of using LNT in the evaluation of the carcinogenic risk of low doses (<100 mSv) and even more for very low doses (< 10 mSv). LNT can be a pragmatic tool for assessing the carcinogenic effect of doses higer than a dozen mSv within the framework of radioprotection. However, the use of LNT in the low dose or dose rate range is not consistent with the current radiobiological knowledge."

In regard to collective dose:

"Decision-makers confronted with problems of radioactive waste or risk of contamination should re-examine the methodology used for the evaluation of risks associated with these very low dose exposures delivered at a very low dose rate. This analysis of biological data confirms the inappropriateness of the collective dose concept to evaluate population irradiation risks."

In the United States, June 2005 marked formal establishment of a technical society for the study of hormesis, both from radiation and chemical hormetins. The International Hormesis Society, a spin-off of the less specifically directed Biological Effects of Low Level Exposures (BELLE) organization, is domiciled at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. You might want to visit its website at In 2006, it will take over and host the Fifth International Conference on Hormesis: Implications for Toxicology, Medicine and Risk Assessment.

Saturday, April 23, 2016


Writing a book seems to be much like building a house, where the final trimming and painting seems to take as much time as the rest of the project. I started this manuscript in 1998, and the first draft was complete in 2000. But then, because of personal circumstances, I was forced to put the book aside for several years. There was not a day during that period that I didn't kick myself for not getting this information out.

I mention this since you, dear reader, may have noted a dearth of studies and references after the year 2000. It is not because they're not there, but because if I had started over to include them, I never would have finished.

There are, however, several highlights during this time that I feel compelled to mention:


In chapter 10 (A Day or So in the Life of a Cell), it was noted that individual cells exposed to radiation in vitro, behaved as the LNT would predict: the more radiation, the less healthy the cell. And conversely when the cell was part of a system of cells (in vivo), the group of cells appeared to respond to radiation stimulation as a group - as if they were talking among themselves about the stimulus.

While I still have trouble believing it, there are now devices called "micro beams" that can shoot a single alpha particle into a particular cell. Along with this, there are methods to determine the chemical response to the target cell, as well as the cells in its vicinity. These experiments have clearly determined that cells do communicate - which we would suspect, as part of a complex organism requiring numbers of different types of specializations for survival. This confirms the existence of a mechanism known as the bystander effect, whereby a limited number of cells receiving a low dose can communicate a message to a large number of sibling cells.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Individual Action

So you're interested in seeing an honest re-evaluation of the effects of low-level radiation. What to do? Of course, buying and distributing huge quantities of this book would be my first choice, but there are others. If you are a member of a professional organization such as the Health Physics Society, write the president with copies to the other officers giving your opinion. There are organizations where the officers are very much behind the movement to bury the LNT theory but keep a low profile because of the "you've got to be kidding" response they tend to get on the subject. As knowledge of the subject becomes more widespread, more leaders are likely to become involved in the debate.

It may seem trite, but in this matter, writing your congressman and senators may have an effect. (Letters that don't start out "Why hasn't the government sent me my [fill in the benefit]..." get more attention because of their rarity.) As the debate heats up over the next months or years, an informative letter to your representative might even be appreciated.

Finally, this subject makes for a great letter to the editor. It is up to those of us who "know" to spread the word. With so much at stake, it is a timely and noble cause.

I leave you with my favorite quotation from one of the great physicists of the twentieth century, the late Nobel laureate Richard Feynman. He said it in 1965, long before the present controversy over the effects of low-level radiation, but certainly his words apply to today's battle with the false propositions of the LNT and collective dose:

"We look for a new law by the following process: first we guess at it. Then we compute the consequences of the guess to see what would be implied if this law we guessed is right. Then we compare the result of the computation with observation, to see if it works. If it disagrees with experiment, the law is wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science. It does not make any difference how beautiful your guess is. It does not make any difference how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is - if it disagrees with experiment, it is wrong. That is all there is to that."

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Other Factors?

While Logan lists the groups that he believes have an aversion to even considering the possibility of a new regulatory structure, I've got a few more groups and other factors that I'll list by motivation:

1. Inertia: When most of us make a mistake, we own up to it and try not to make that mistake again. But it is different for scientists whose opinions are their stock in trade. Once some people take a position and harden it (and scientists are included in "some people"), they will take a conviction to the grave rather than admit they have been wrong.

2. Money: There are on-going and proposed projects that are based almost entirely on the LNT theory and collective dose. An example is Yucca Mountain -- where scores to hundreds of scientists are engaged in the nuclear version of determining the number of angels who can dance on the head of a pin. Many of these scientists are among the smartest, kindest, nicest people on earth. Yet they intend to milk this cash cow for all its worth. (I understand this quite well, as I was in the NASA cow-milking business as a young engineer in the early 1960s.)

Suppose you are an associate professor at Armadillo State University, and your physics department head is on course for a $20 million federal contract to determine the safety of using residential smoke detectors. Are you going to blow the whistle and tell the grant committee that there are already data showing those devices are already completely safe? Oh sure you are - and you'll no doubt enjoy the sight of your effigy twisting in the wind from the lamppost in front of the physics building.

You remember the game: paper covers rock, rock breaks scissors, scissors cut paper. In federally sponsored research, politics covers truth.

3. The Good Old Boy Network: The National Fire Prevention Association is a non-government committee that seeks to minimize fire hazards in the United States. A subcommittee of this organization supervises the National Electric Code - or, in the parlance of all electricians, the Code. This subcommittee, which maintains and modifies the Code is made up of scientists, engineers, and master electricians. It also includes electrical contractors, users, manufacturers, and fire department officials - virtually everyone who is involved in the electrical industry. They are selected by an elaborate system that - while its primary function is to ensure safety and minimize fire risk - also recognizes advances in scientific knowledge, improvements in insulation and other materials, and new techniques that deliver electrical power safely and more efficiently. Without the NFPA and NEC, government-controlled agencies might still be requiring cloth insulation, fuse boxes and pull chains on all lights. The NEC allows innovators to get their say, too.

Unfortunately, in the nuclear-safety business, there are no such safeguards to keep a relatively small number of LNT believers - connected through interlocking protection organizations, universities and government agencies - from setting the regulation criteria. Independent observers and commercial interests not in the club need not apply.

Theodore Rockwell gives specifics of "good old boy networking" in regard to the selection process for the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation Committee:

"Most members have connections with the NRC, NCI and/or EPA. Six members have served with NCRP, five with RERF, four with ICRP, one with BEIR and one with NRPB. This is the same clique that has produced all the previous reports defending the status quo. This is not a group capable of producing the "independent, impartial review" called for by the American Nuclear Society." [Quoted from personal correspondence from Theodore Rockwell to the author.]

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Risk Analysis and Others in the Nuclear Field

The LNT theory and the concept of collective dose make it relatively straightforward for assessors to determine the risk of exposure to radiation. There is only one problem with this currently accepted method: for the levels of radiation with which they are normally concerned, the results are meaningless - or worse.

As we have seen again and again, a wealth of hormesis data indicates not only that the current assessments of low-level dose-response are wrong in magnitude - but also in sign, with increasing amounts of radiation causing a decrease in harmful response. Would acknowledgement of this fact cause an upheaval in the risk business or what? Instead of "radiation = bad," they'd have to contend with "low radiation = good, but high radiation = bad" - and, moreover, have to determine when the "low and good" became "high and bad."

Risk analysts have about the same problems noted above for regulators - and for a very good reason: regulations are made from risk assessments.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Regulatory Agencies

There are a number of national and international regulatory agencies (not to mention state, county and municipal affiliates) whose entire reason for existence is to measure, verify measurement, and regulate levels of ionizing radiation. If the radiation hazard is defined as a linear relationship between radiation dose and effect (the LNT theory), then the job is relatively straightforward. But abandonment of the LNT would mean tossing most reference books, revising all the charts, and taking down the ubiquitous posters with such catchy phrases as "Every Gamma Ray Can Be a Killer" or "Do You Really Need an X-ray?"

Given an understanding of low-level effects, many government agencies involved in such "non-protection" might mercifully go down the tubes; but for the technicians who have been working in the radiation environment, there may well be a silver lining. It is they who understand the mechanics of radiation - so who better to become operators or partners in the "hormesis clinics" that would undoubtedly spring up once the beneficial effects of low-level radiation were known? ("Good morning, Mrs. Jones, would you be interested in our special on two rads of deep therapy X-rays today for $225? It comes with a bonus of an hour in the 200 pCi per liter arthritis-relief chamber.")

As mentioned earlier, when one is looking forward to retirement, retraining is not a gratifying option - but what is the choice here? It is job security for a few people (who are, incidentally, quite employable) versus the continued enslavement of us all to a lie posing as science: the LNT hypothesis. At issue are the lives of all those who will die by following the LNT theory. Eventually, the truth will prevail - and we should continue to ask, "Why not now, rather than later?"

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Radon and Remediation Industries

One of the fascinating features of the free market is an almost instant appearance of entrepreneurs to fill a perceived need. Whether it is someone to build a skyscraper, supply illegal drugs, produce a million automobiles or a pornographic Mother's Day card - where there's a market, someone will appear to satisfy it. When the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend that you "fix the home if the radon level is 4 picocuries per liter or higher," it didn't take long for the "fixers" to step forward. Not just the fixers either; someone had to measure the radon, someone else had to build the instrumentation, others had to process the canisters, and still others had to evaluate the whole process. Soon an entire industry was created - and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. It's what we often term "the American way."

Because of their common interest, some of the parties involved in radon detection and remediation (mostly small businesses) joined together in an organization - the American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists, Inc. (AARST) - and there certainly isn't anything wrong with that, either. But let us look at a little problem caused by the inherent ability of human beings to rationalize when their personal interests are at stake. Would the four or five hundred members of the AARST applaud an investigation to determine whether residential radon is actually a danger - or that it might possibly be a bio-positive agent for human health? Some probably would, and might then turn their attention to ways to get more radon in the residences, but most - I suspect - would do all in their power to prevent any such investigation.

So here we have a case where a few thousand highly motivated protectors of the status quo might be able to thwart an investigation that could be highly beneficial to hundreds of millions of uninformed - indeed, unaware - citizens. This is the basic reason that science, when politicized, is no longer science at all - but merely an extension of actions that enrich one group at the expense of another.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Anti-Nuclear Camp

The anti-nuclear zealots will go to any lengths to preserve the myth that "no level of radiation exposure is safe." Their tactic is often to use ridiculous anecdotes ("fish so radioactive they glowed in the dark") to incite fear in the technically ignorant.

More than twenty years ago, I was present when the minions of Dr. Benjamin Spock were "debating" representatives of Arkansas Power and Light. [Arkansas Power and Light was then owner of Arkansas Nuclear One - a complex with two 1,000 megawatt nuclear power plants.] It was a rout. Spock's activists had no idea of the reactor contents or of any way to begin quantifying the potential dangers of the plant. But they knew how to frame the debate: It was all about greedy industrialists intentionally endangering children, the elderly, the handicapped, the fishermen on the river, even birds flying over. Indeed, no one was safe from attack by this ruthless, rapacious cartel of profit mongers. Each accusation by Spock's forces brought forth wild cheers and applause.

The utility representatives were reduced to looking at each other with mouths wide open and eyes rolling. They came prepared to talk about containment building integrity and cesium 137 - but not about their war on the community. When anyone from the nuclear camp dared to open his mouth, it was to a chorus of boos and heckling.

When the bloodbath was over, the anti-nukes marched out of the meeting as a cheering horde; the physicists and engineers were still sitting in shock when I left. Attempts to use a logical technical argument with this anti-nuclear group reminded me of trying to teach a pig to sing: It frustrates you and annoys the pig.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Overcoming Vested Interests

Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status. - Dr. Laurence J. Peter

In light of the available evidence showing either the hormesis model or a threshold below which no harm occurs, it is difficult to understand why anyone would cling to the LNT hypothesis. This question was addressed at the 1999 Tucson Waste Management Conference in Stanley Logan's paper, "Radiation Exposure: Overcoming Vested Interests That Block Good Science." [While I have borrowed heavily from Dr. Logan, I have embellished his material with my comments. In essence, the facts are his; the opinions are mine.]

After outlining the evidence for a re-evaluation of the entire radiation protection mechanism, Dr. Logan defined the following groups that oppose or ignore evidence pointing away from the LNT and collective dose theories. [Stanley E. Logan is founder of the Sante Fe consulting engineering firm that bears his name. A former associate professor of nuclear engineering, Dr. Logan has 27 years experience in areas of hazardous waste management and probabilistic risk analysis.]

Friday, April 15, 2016

Yes, You Can Be Too Careful (Part 2)

Bernard Cohen reports, in his book The Nuclear Energy Option, [Plenum Press, New York, 1990] that $100,000 in medical treatments or highway safety improvements would save a life. Government, meanwhile, spends - or requires the spending of - $2.5 billion (yes, that's billion) to save a life from radiation exposure at the cost of 25,000 less "obvious" lives. And it now appears that the life supposedly saved from low-level radiation wasn't saved at all, as it is surfacing that the decrease in hormetic range radiation is actually costing lives.

Another appalling case reported by Rod Adams, editor of Atomic Energy Insights, involved a project used to blast out "contaminated soil" near the nuclear reactor at McMurdo Sound in Antarctica. Battling potentially lethal weather conditions, the task was completed at considerable risk to the workers and immense cost to taxpayers. So what was done with the offending material that may have caused a needed hormetic effect in the radiation-poor polar region? It was shipped (at another obscene cost to the taxpayers) to the United States, where it was used for parking lot fill in Port Hueneme, California.

Rather than trying to paraphrase the flowing and informative prose of Dr. Rockwell, here is a final example of government's mindless adherence to the Linear No-Threshold hypothesis - in his words:

"The question of whether tiny amounts of radiation must be avoided, even at great cost, is neither abstract nor trivial. Hundreds of billions of dollars are to be spent 'remediating' U.S. sites even though there is no scientific basis for claiming any health or other benefit. Worldwide, this cost has been estimated at more than a trillion dollars. [A more recent estimate, based on actual remediation projects, is $3 trillion worldwide, and $1 trillion for the United States alone. Using the figure of $20 million per life sacrificed, a trillion dollars is equal to 50,000 lives at the shrine of the Linear No-Threshold hypothesis.]

"This is in addition to the unquantifiable cost of lives lost by fear of mammograms, radioactive smoke detectors, irradiated food, or other beneficial uses of radiation. Most, if not all, of this cost would be saved if we did not try to reduce radiation levels below the natural radiation background, which is several hundred times lower than the lowest levels at which any health effects have been found."

Rockwell continues:

"But one person's wasted tax money is another's lucrative contract. Here's one example to remember. At some 46 sites in 14 states, there are some 82 million cubic feet of uranium tailings left over from the wartime weapons program. This material is what is left when you take as much uranium out of the natural ore as you can. It is now less radioactive than the original ore, and 20 times less radioactive than what the law calls "low-level waste." There is a lot of natural rock that is more radioactive. [Emphasis added.]

"The Dawn Mining Company was recently licensed to haul 35 million cubic feet of this material from the East Coast to a huge pit at its closed uranium mine near Ford, Washington. The material will travel to Spokane by train, then be transferred to trucks for the trip to the final destination. The company says this will require about 40 very large trucks, with six to nine axles and weighing 93,000 pounds each when loaded. These trucks will travel over the back roads each day for 260 days a year for five to seven years."

Of course, this doesn't include the expense of maintaining the roads under this unplanned-for load and the cost of the statistically certain accidents that will result from 93,000 pound trucks travelling some 5 million miles. But if you weren't lucky enough to get this contract, don't fret. There are another 47 million cubic feet of this material at other locations across the country. While you won't be producing any beneficial health effects, nobody really cares... and it's just taxpayers' money.

Even our state officials charged with insuring the public health are rebelling against the EPA and other heavy-handed federal government intrusions that have the force of law. For example, the EPA limit on radium-226 in drinking water is 5 pCi/l (0.18 Bq/l). The average adult will consume about one liter of water per day. Is there any evidence that 6 pCi/l will harm you? Not a whit. Yet to remove the radium is an expensive proposition borne by the local citizenry for an arbitrary, bureaucratic caprice. [A South Carolina rural water district manager recently told me that one of their wells tested at 5.6 pCi/l, requiring special treatment at a cost of $30,000 per year to the customer base for that single well.]

What evidence is there concerning the harm of ingesting radium - in addition to the fact that people have been drinking the water for hundreds of years without ill effects?

There is good evidence of a death from radium about sixty years ago. But it wasn't from drinking water with 6 pCi/l.

In 1928, an eccentric millionaire, Eben Byers, was so enthusiastic about the invigorating qualities of a radium-based patent medicine that he partook of three to four vials per day of Radithor. Each vial contained 3,500,000 pCi of radium - a 1,918-year supply according to the EPA's limitations. He eventually died of his addiction after ingesting an estimated 10 billion pCi - a 5,480,000-year dose consumed in three years.

Eben isn't the whole story, however. There were 400,000 to 500,000 vials of Radithor sold with no indication that it caused any problems whatsoever. With what other "poison" can you consume 700,000 times the government-dictated maximum dose and still walk away... not once, but on a regular basis? Could the poison be in the dose?

While support for the LNT and collective dose is rapidly waning in light of the evidence brought forth by Luckey, Cohen, and a growing flood of researchers, there are still those who will (or perhaps feel they must) defend these hypotheses. Do they do so with evidence, such as dose-response curves? Not once have I seen low-level evidence showing increased risk - unless it was an extrapolation from high-level data. The response is invariably the same: It is better to err on the side of safety than to take any chances on the possibility of an increased cancer risk.

If you're building a bridge, it doesn't cost much to increase its safety factor; a little more steel and concrete will do the trick. But the same doesn't go when building an airplane, as too great an emphasis on structural safety factors would keep the airplane from ever getting airborne. Regulators and bureaucrats - who are willing to see nuclear technology and hormesis research stay on the ground rather than expend the effort required to give a proper analysis to the overwhelming amount of data pointing to the threshold/hormesis models - are doing a great disservice to those whom they claim to be safeguarding. Whenever any of them starts feeling complacent about their rules and how they might be helping to save some theoretical life somewhere, I wish they would think a few seconds about a number - the number 100,000.

That's the lower estimate of unborn children who were aborted out of a totally unreasonable fear of their being "nuclear monsters" [after Chernobyl]. I wonder if those (almost) mothers sacrificed any Mozarts or Madame Curies or Salks on the altar of the LNT?

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Yes, You Can Be Too Careful

Hundreds of billions of dollars are to be spent 'remediating' U.S. sites even though there is no scientific basis for claiming any health or other benefit. - Theodore Rockwell

In 1988, and earthquake registering 7.9 on the Richter scale devastated Soviet Armenia, leaving more than 25,000 people dead. Four years earlier, in far more densely populated Mexico City, an 8.1 earthquake (with a 7.8 aftershock thirty-six hours later) killed 9,000 people.

Seven years after the Armenian quake, they were still trying to get electrical power to the cities for more than two hours per day; Mexican Power and Light restored power to its 3,200,000 customers in seventy-two hours.

While Mexico isn't exactly the most advanced country in our hemisphere, compared with the communist paradise of Armenia it is Beulahland. Its buildings were built to stronger, more earthquake-resistant standards; when people were trapped in collapsed buildings, there were tools to get them out, and power to run the tools. There were hospitals for the wounded, and sanitary conditions prevailed for the survivors. In short, Mexico had a superior infrastructure and was richer than Armenia. Its wealth saved the lives of thousands of people who would have otherwise died.

There have been many attempts to determine a reasonable estimate for the value of a human life in the United States. One of these I can remember set the figure at $20 million, contending that for every $20 million taken out of the economy, the lowered standard of living for all would cause the premature death of one person. [This sounds a lot like collective dose to me; except that we can - on occasions like Armenia - count the dead.]

While I can't vouch for this particular figure, the Armenian-Mexican situation shows clearly that there is a relationship of this nature. And it may be logically inferred from this that government, by wasting or compelling others to waste money, has a detrimental effect on the well-being of its citizens. [In 1980, Congress commissioned the National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program, which was expected to show that the utilities were responsible for acid rain. It found, to the amazement of the scientists involved, that this was not true. But Congress, which had paid $500 million for the study, ignored it and mandated scores of billions of dollars in unnecessary "scrubbers" to remove an insignificant fraction of power-plant emissions. At $20 million per life, politicians killed hundreds with this single vote.]

Theodore Rockwell, in an article "What's wrong with being cautious?" [from Nuclear News, June 1997. A large part of this chapter is blatantly taken from this excellent article.] suggests five different kinds of harm that originate in the Linear No-Threshold hypothesis:

  • Billions of dollars wasted
  • Ridiculous regulations imposed that degrade the credibility of science and government
  • Destructive fear generated
  • Detrimental health effects created
  • Environmental degradation accelerated. (This final item refers to the incredible amount of ash and sludge - equal to about 100 truckloads per day - produced by a coal-fired 1,000 megawatt power plant, compared with less than a Volkswagen full per year of actual high-level wastes from an equal-sized nuclear plant.)

Rockwell gives an example of a forklift driver who moved a small spent fuel cask from the fuel-storage pool to another location. As the cask had not been completely drained prior to being moved, some water was dribbled onto the blacktop along the way. But since storage pool water is defined as a hazardous contaminant - by the regulators, not plant employees who had earlier used the pool for unauthorized midnight swims - it was deemed necessary to dig up the entire path of the forklift, some two feet wide by one-half mile long. It doesn't stop here.

Because the paving contractor used thorium-rich slag from a local phosphate plant as aggregate in the new pavement, it was more radioactive than the material that had been dug up - which was marked with the ominous radiation symbol and hauled away for expensive, long-term burial. Fortunately, it was only taxpayers' money.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Five-Page Penalty for Delay of Book

Sorry to have spent so long on the subject of terrorism. It is far afield from hormesis and the positive applications of nuclear energy, but it is a false argument so often used by anti-nuclear people, and it is never refuted - or even questioned - in the media. We might note that our overseas neighbors know this "threat of terrorism" malarkey is total rot - but what do they care what we think? If it goes on long enough, they will be able to sell high-energy content products to us... while we lap up good old safe solar energy in our cotton fields. Suffice it to say that the "terrorists with the plutonium" excuse for stopping a major reprocessing facility is as thin as a dime - and worth far less.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

There Has Just Got To Be A Better Way

Anyone who has the lightest familiarity with nuclear power knows that it is impossible to steal fuel from an operating reactor. Even assuming a terrorist knew how to shut it down, there is still the problem of very high level radiation within the reactor core that would be fatal in a matter of minutes for anyone who attempted to break in. (Our brave terrorist - pardon the oxymoron - would find this a very unpleasant way to enter paradise.)

The same goes for hijacking the spent-fuel truck or train on the way to the reprocessing plant. After storage for at least five years at the power plant site, the "spent" fuel is still highly radioactive and thermally quite hot. Hijacking 44,000-pound fuel containers - designed to smash into a concrete wall at 60 mph or fall onto a spike from thirty feet without rupturing - is a bit difficult to do surreptitiously.

This leaves us with raiding the reprocessing plant (bad idea) or stealing the fuel from shipments to the power plant (best bet). Assuming that the militants can make off with a huge truck, monitored as all valuable shipments are with global positioning electronics and probably guarded, and that no one notices this cargo with the huge radioactive symbols all over it, the hijackers must plan ahead to make sure their plutonium reclamation plant is near by. Typically the price tag on such a facility is in the hundreds of millions, or billions of dollars - and, of course, they've got to hide this construction from the prying eyes of swarms of government inspectors looking for something to inspect... or, even more difficult to avoid, the office-supply salesmen in the four surrounding counties.

Assuming the truck is hijacked and taken to the secret $100 million facility, the problems are just starting for our ill-intentioned thieves. Now they must cut up the fuel assemblies and dissolve them in nitric acid. After that, the chemical processes to separate the plutonium from the uranium are devilishly tricky - in part because an almost-certainly fatal criticality accident can occur quite easily when the plutonium is in a liquid form. But let's assume that our "clever" terrorists are successful in refining out the plutonium and have shaped it for a bomb. Two big problems:

The first is obtaining the explosive charges necessary to "implode" a sphere of plutonium in on itself - essentially taking a hollow globe and compressing it down to a golf or tennis-ball-sized solid... well, almost solid. Regular explosive won't work, as the charge must have different characteristics as it "burns" to maintain the shape of the shock wave that is doing the compressing. Then there is the matter of the initiator, or trigger - the device that produces a stream of neutrons to start the reaction inside a one-tenth microsecond envelope when they are needed. This was considered by the Manhattan Project team (approximately 130,000 personnel, including arguably the best physicists and engineers in the world) as one of the most difficult items to design. Polonium 210 and beryllium must be mixed thoroughly - but this must occur within the aforementioned 0.0000001-second time frame. But let's suppose they are able to do all this. Sorry, still no cigar.

For you see, problem two, the plutonium they liberated from the Imperialist Yankee Running Dogs is not suitable for making a decent bomb. Since BWR and PWR reactors "burn" fuel slowly, Pu239 is created not only from the U238, but also from the Pu240 isotope. While not a fissionable isotope (which wouldn't make much difference in small concentrations), it is a spontaneous neutron emitter, which bodes ill for aspiring bomb makers. Even a very small amount of Pu240 is sufficient to throw off the timing of the necessary bomb reaction by starting it before the implosion is complete - causing the bomb to fizzle. Oh, you'll get an explosion of sorts - perhaps sufficient to flatten a city block or two - but not as awful as what you could do with ammonium nitrate and a little fuel oil, a la Oklahoma City. (The 1947 Texas City blast - where 512 were killed - was also a fertilizer explosion, which didn't require any plutonium at all.)

Terrorists are, in my mind, among the most despicable of humankind. But this isn't to say they are stupid. If they want to kill people and spread fear, there are a lot of easier ways to do this, and they know it. Poisoning the water supply, blasting a hole in a dam, setting oil storage facilities afire when the wind is blowing toward a heavily populated area - the list goes on and on. But building a dud bomb from hijacked plutonium isn't one of them.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Where the Terrorists Have Already Won

In 1978, Jimmy Carter reneged on the opening of a reprocessing plant that was nearing completion in Barnwell, South Carolina. This facility was to take "spent" fuel rods from power reactors owned by the utilities, dissolve them in acid, then separate the uranium and plutonium from the contaminants that would "poison" and eventually stop the chain reaction. The highly radioactive progeny of the energy-producing reactions - amounting to some 1% or 2% of the volume - would be disposed of by any one of a number of perfectly safe methods. The fuel portion would then be reformed into uranium or "MOX" pellets for insertion into fuel assemblies.

Hold on. Could one infer from this that these "spent" fuel elements contain in excess of 90% of their intial fuel? Yes, one could. Is this what we plan to bury under Yucca Mountain? Precisely.

Does this make sense to you? It certainly doesn't to the English, French, Japanese, Russians, and others who think we are absolutely nuts for planning to bury unbelievable amounts of readily obtainable energy. But it made sense to the Carter administration, and even though Reagan reversed the decision, there were no corporate takers who were willing to risk their shareholders' money on a project that could be changed by the whim of a government with a history of caving in to the slightest pseudo-environmentalist pressure. And there would certainly be pressure - since, as we "know," all radiation is dangerous, since any gamma ray could cause cancer... even though the odds against it are 30 quadrillion to one.

What was the reason - excuse, really - that the Carter administration used to stop reprocessing? It was the threat of terrorism. Let's consider briefly the problems from the standpoint of terrorists who are planning a heist of plutonium, with which they intend to make a bomb.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Dirty Bombs

We have been led to believe - on the basis of the LNT theory and collective dose - that terrorists could mount an effective attack by the use of "dirty bombs," i.e., bombs that spread radioactive materials by use of conventional explosives. At present, such bombs would be an effective weapon, since the fear of radiation, as in Goia and Three Mile Island, would doubtlessly cause panic and result in deaths from heart attacks, auto accidents and the like. But if we understand the actual effects of radiation, we can respect it without allowing it to overcome our rational thought. Let's look at the worst case.

Terrorists park a car bomb filled with strontium 90, which has a long half-life (twenty-nine years) and the propensity for replacing calcium in bones. At noon, with the maximum numbers of people walking down Wall Street on the way to lunch, the bomb is exploded, and strontium 90 is blasted into the air. Radioactive debris is scattered by the wind over an area of many blocks.

Let's look at this scenario as graduates of Hormesis U. First, where are the terrorists going to get a carload of strontium 90? It is a product of nuclear explosions and found in reactor "wastes." Like so many other "waste" radionuclides, it is a valuable commodity being used in medical and agricultural tracers as well as in RTGs (radio thermo-electric generators) for navigational beacons and weather stations. Medically, it is used for treatment of eye diseases and bone cancer. It is a valuable commodity and certainly not widely available in quantities like the ammonium nitrate and fuel oil used in the Oklahoma City bombing.

The EPA's Radiation Information website [] tells us that "swallowing Sr-90 with food or water is the primary pathway of intake."

The same source tells us that strontium 90 is a beta emitter. Graduates of Hormesis U. know that beta radiation can travel only a few feet through air and causes minor burns (beta burns) to exposed skin. Knowing this, what action would be required after a terrorist went to the trouble and expense to disburse this most dreaded of radioactive materials in the canyons of Manhattan? I would suggest a warning to the local inhabitants not to lick the pavement or buildings. After that, I would wait for a rain that would wash the dust down the sewers leading to the Atlantic Ocean, where there are already quadrillions of curies (septillions of becquerels) that will still be there long after the vestiges of strontium 90 have disappeared. A potential problem: the sewer rats might be affected bio-positively and take charge of the large metropolitan cities.

So much for dirty bombs.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Dirty Bomb's Dirty Little Secret

Anyone who has the slightest familiarity with nuclear power knows that it is impossible to steal fuel from an operating reactor.

Is there a nuclear threat to Western civilization? No question. As long as there are nuclear weapons and Islamic terrorists who would murder thousands of innocents without conscience, such a possibility exists. Actions to prevent this are a subject far afield from hormesis, but one possibility might be to offer a higher-than-market price for plutonium to be blended into MOX, rendering it unusable for weapons, as a fuel for power reactors.

MOX is mixed oxide fuel composed of 7% plutonium mixed with depleted uranium. Currently about 2% of reactor fuel is MOX. A very good discussion of MOX and the use of reactor-grade plutonium in weapons can be found online at the following address:

Friday, April 8, 2016

And Finally...

Many of us think in terms of our present energy situation and don't consider what benefits our world would have if the LNT did not cloud the minds of those who could do great works - if allowed to do so by the regulators. While the American Nuclear Society is still on the fence in regard to scrapping the LNT and recognizing the possibilities of hormesis, Gregg M. Taylor, the editor-in-chief of the organization's magazine - Nuclear News - wrote an absorbing editorial entitled, "We have met the solution, and it is us."

In this monograph, he noted that one of California's big problems - echoed in many countries around the world - is the availability of water for agricultural irrigation. Water from the Colorado River is coveted by all and is a constant source of political turmoil. But what if we built nuclear desalination plants, he asks, strategically located along the coast? They could be pollution free - with guppy rights properly observed.

One might wonder how this could dovetail into Dr. Cohen's extraction of uranium from the sea - surely there is a synergistic connection here as part of the desalination process could well be the initial step in obtaining the metal. How much more habitable - for people like you and me - would the Earth become if our deserts could be irrigated... at no cost except the premature use of the nuclear energy in uranium and thorium. They are going to lose their energy over time anyway - we're just appropriating it for our short-term use. Besides, a quarter of the uranium and two-thirds of the thorium would still have its energy when the sun flakes out on us in eight or ten billion years.

Editor Taylor also touches on another touchy subject: toxic wastes. Noting that most of us remember "disintegrators" from our sci-fi days, he observes that it takes only sufficient energy - which can be provided readily by clean nuclear sources - to reduce the most horrible kinds of toxic waste into its constituent atoms, which would totally lose their identity and could be recombined as the purest substances possible.

Let your mind roam free for a moment. What scourge of mankind might not be alleviated by sufficient energy availability?

  • Floods and hurricanes? Better materials requiring more energy, high dikes - both a function of available energy.
  • Starvation? Hydroponics from desalinated water.
  • Locusts? Airplanes, chemicals, huge nuclear flyswatters (just kidding).


If man is to advance to another higher plateau - past the industrial and information revolutions - it can be done only in conjunction with an unencumbered access to energy. Otherwise, we are dooming generations to untold misery and suffering.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

What's the Holdup?

Fuel reprocessing and breeder reactors are major world-class technologies that our government is keeping its citizens and non-international businesses from participating in. Without it, the fuel for our existing reactors is in jeopardy of becoming uneconomical to mine and process within the next several decades. And without it, we as a nation will be starved for energy and un-competitive in the world marketplace. How can this be? Who would stifle the production and distribution of energy? Who would not stem the misery brought about by an energy poverty?

I am sad to say, there are those who seek this condition. I don't think they believe themselves hateful or misanthropic. They feel that sacrificing others today will bring about a better life for many more others. They are the spiritual descendants of Thomas Malthus and Ned Ludd - and are not aware of the vast gains of the industrial revolution in general, and nuclear power in particular. Nor are they aware of the ability of markets to provide a life with great worth for billions of participants and critics like.

I feel sorry for them in their lack of knowledge.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Energy Sources for the Future - Take Your (Limited) Choices

Fossil fuels will be around as long as mankind, but there is historical reason to believe that they - like whale oil and placer gold - will be diminishing in economically recoverable supplies. "Renewable sources" - such as solar, wind, hydro, tidal, geothermal and chicken manure energies - are frankly just not going to fill the bill when it comes to an industrial economy with billions of people requiring an ever-increasing supply of energy. [For instance, energy-balance calculations reveal that the energy cost of building a solar plant exceeds the energy it is expected to capture and utilize over a forty-year lifetime.]

Fusion, as noted, would be wonderful... if it is possible as a source, and if we have the ability to develop it in the next twenty generations. Which leaves us with one proven source of sufficient energy for the world during the next several millennia: nuclear fission. There are, as far as is known today - and we know quite a bit - only three choices for fissionable materials:

Number 1: Uranium 235. This is the granddad of fission. It naturally occurs as 0.7% of the element found on Earth, and - if economically recoverable supplies are considered - is probably good for powering the world's energy needs for the next century or so. Many observers say forty years, but "Julian Simon's Law" would no doubt govern this commodity also. [Simon, Julian. The Ultimate Resource, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1996.]

Number 2: Plutonium 239. Easily "bred" from common uranium 238, transmutation of existing stockpiles should last several hundred years at present use rates. But as Dr. Cohen points out in The Nuclear Energy Option, with breeder technology it becomes economical to separate uranium from sea water - where there are some 2 trillion curies - allowing man all the energy he needs until the sun burns out in 4 or 5 billion years.

Number 3: Uranium 233. This is the sleeper. When thorium 232 is exposed to neutrons, as in the transmutation of U238 to Pu239, another miraculous thing happens. Dirt becomes and incredible energy source. As mentioned in chapter 1, the Earth's surface averages 2.5 tons of thorium in the first foot of each square mile of area. The late Dr. Edward Teller was a strong advocate of thorium transmutation using a CANDU-type heavy-water reactor. His design would allow plentiful and inexpensive thorium to be entered in one side of the reactor, converted slowly to U232, which would be fissioned for power, with the "really spent" fuel exiting from the other side months or years later. He calculates this would give earthlings sufficient energy to provide for the next seven ice ages. [Teller is known as the "Father of the H-bomb" - but more accurately described as the defender of the free world from Soviet totalitarianism. See "CANDU Is Really Remarkable," Power Projections, May 1980.]

Add this to Dr. Cohen's four or five billion years, and we're really starting to talk about some time.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

But What About Fusion?

It is so inviting... to think that our planet can be powered from ocean water. That, as you probably well know, is the expectation of many who would eschew other forms of energy generation. "Cold fusion" - which many of us would hope to be a viable energy source - is unproven. Which leads, naturally, to the hot variety. And I do mean hot!

You may remember from your freshman days at Hormesis U., that both deuterium and tritium are isotopes of hydrogen. (See chapter 5 if your memory is a bit rusty.) As it is generally understood, a fusion reaction in the sun occurs at temperatures in excess of 1,000,000 degrees Fahrenheit, when a deuterium and a tritium atom are crushed together to form helium and expel a neutron. It would be much cleaner if two deuterium atoms could do the trick without a neutron chaperone, but the universe just wasn't made that way. And while it's true that there is a virtually infinite supply of deuterium in ocean water, the horrible fact is: there isn't any tritium. (OK, a few quadrillion atoms or so, but not any that we can extract.) In fact, in the entire United States, there isn't much tritium at all, since your government considers this beta emitter - used on luminous watch dials - to be hazardous to your life. (Please be appreciative.)

Where would we get the tritium? I don't know, and I don't think anyone else does either. But there are other problems that I suspect are overwhelming in light of our present-day engineering and material capabilities - and may be physically impossible to solve. [For more on this subject, see the August 1999 edition of The Energy Advocate, published by Howard Hayden, professor emeritus of Physics, University of Connecticut. P.O. Box 7595, Pueblo West, CO 81007 - or ($35/year.)]

First, the energy required to magnetically contain the process (the only way it can be contained, since these temperatures decompose all materials into constituent atoms) invariably requires more energy than can be generated. Yet if, and when, this obstacle can be overcome, we have the problem of that pesky neutron.

While other particles can be redirected magnetically to where they have little danger to humans or equipment, the electrically neutral neutron has a mind of its own. When a plethora of neutrons are released around normal materials, those materials are transmuted into other element that are typically radioactive. Wouldn't this make the fusion reactor radioactive? Yes it would, which is probably why hot-fusion experiments reportedly must be cooled-down, dismantled, and decontaminated after every test run of only a few seconds. This might prompt us to ask, "What about the delivery of energy, twenty-four hours per day, 365 days per year?" There are, in my opinion, two choices.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Five Million Miles on a Pound of Plutonium?

In the early 1950s, when I was an almost-teenager reading all the popular magazines on science and mathematics I could read at the drugstore newsstand, there were articles on "atomic propulsion" for every conceivable vehicle from motorcycles to space ships. (Well, maybe not motorcycles.) A lot of the concepts were just that: concepts. Grandiose ideas sold magazines but would probably not have done much to power your fishing boat.

Only a few years later we learned the horrors of exposure to radiation. I can remember reading - even before age thirteen - not only the heart-rending stories of A-bomb victims, but also about the unfortunate Japanese fishermen who were accidentally exposed to H-bomb test fall-out. I thought they all had died. (Although billed by the press as "Lethally Exposed," except for the one who died from acute radiation sickness, none of the other twenty-two was a cancer fatality as of twenty-five yars after exposure.) [Kumatori, T. Ishihara, T., Hirshima, K., Sugiyama, H., Ishii, S., and Miyoshi, K. Follow-up studies over a twenty-five-year period on the Japanese fishermen exposed to radioactive fallout in 1954. The Medical Basis for Radiation Preparedness, Hubner, K.F., and Fry, A.A., editors, Elsevier, New York, 1980.]

It wasn't long after this that the "atomic power" articles, and much of the interest in nuclear technology, dried up. The Linear No-Threshold hypothesis was soon to send all of those ideas into the black hole of radiation avoidance - which later became radiation hysteria. Did we miss the "nuclear vehicle" boat because of our fears and the rules imposed on the nuclear industry? "What might have been" is truly an impossible question to answer. Thousands of independently acting entrepreneurs would have answered it for us, had they been given the chance.

Neither the pressurized water reactor (PWR) nor the boiling water reactor (BWR) - the mainstays of the U.S. nuclear power industry - are adaptable to smaller scale, mobile applications. A variation of the CANDU reactor principle would come closer by using low-boiling-point compounds such as CFCs to spin a turbine, but even that is a stretch for anything smaller than a large bus. (Not to say that it couldn't be done if technology is given a chance.)

But why worry about atomic-powered anythings? What we're currently using is working out pretty well, isn't it? True, but let's look for a moment at how we fuel our vehicles. And though I don't think we are in danger of "running out of oil" any time soon, it is logical to assume that the energy cost of obtaining oil will increase as the oil-bearing strata become more and more difficult to access.

If we take your politically incorrect sports utility vehicle out on the open road with one pound of gasoline in it, the heat energy content of the fuel will propel you about three miles. By comparison the heat energy in one pound of plutonium would take you some 5,420,000 miles down the road - using the same efficiency figure as the gasoline engine. [The efficiency would be lower using today's technology. But even at half or a quarter the already-low efficiencies of internal combustion engines, the incredible heat content of many radioactive isotopes makes for unbelievable comparisons to all fossil fuels.]

Since this is about thirty times more than the typical mechanical life of a vehicle, it is likely that any nuclear-powered vehicle would be fueled for life at the factory.

All well and good, you might say. But what about the lack of adaptability of power-plant technology to mobile vehicles? Good question. There are other nuclear technologies, besides trying to shrink a power plant, that would be interesting to explore. One of these is the radioisotope thermo-electric generator or RTG.

The RTG is based on a very simple physical principle known as thermoelectricity. ["Simple" in practice, as anyone can connect different types of wires together; the theory, known as the Seebeck effect, is a little more complicated.]

If you take two wires of different materials and connect their junctions in a loop, a current will flow when the temperature of the "hot junction" is greater than that of the "cold junction." In the RTG, a radioisotope supplies the heat, while a "heat sink" - such as you might find on the rear of a high-powered stereo amplifier - cools the cold junction. Any number of junctions can be connected in series (known as thermopile) to produce whatever voltage is desired, while connections are paralleled to increase the current flow. The inherent low voltage of the device can be increased with a dc-to-dc or dc-to-ac converter. [Transformers, used on alternating current circuits, do not work for direct current. A "dc-to-dc" converter chops the dc, making it appear to be ac, transforms it to a different voltage, and then rectifies it back to dc.]

An obvious advantage of the thermo-electric generator is its total lack of moving parts - since electrons don't count.

The Manhattan project scientists had inadvertently discovered this "warmness" of the plutonium 239 isotope. [Actually all radioactive isotopes generate heat as a byproduct of decay - but both the rate and the type of decay emissions are important. You really wouldn't want to cozy up with a strong gamma ray emitter.]

Project experimenters supposedly used the plutonium received from the Hanford reservation - gleaned and refined at an almost unbelievable price - as hand warmers. While alpha particles lose their energy too quickly to penetrate the skin, these atomic "shot-puts" collide with and agitate atoms with which they come in contact, hence the feeling of warmth.

As we might expect, the rate of decay of the isotope has much to do with an isotope's heat-producing potential. While bomb-grade plutonium 239 (with its 24,110-year half-life) is okay for hand warmers, another plutonium isotope (atomic weight 238, with a half-life of only 87.7 years) is the candidate of choice for our extraterrestrial deep-space probes. Plutonium 238 can really kick atoms around, to way beyond the boiling point of water. [Spacecraft power supplies operate at approximately 800 degrees Fahrenheit. RTG temperatures can exceed 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit.]

This is not new technology. All deep-space probes must have some sort of nuclear power supply, as none of the alternatives are able to supply usable amounts of power for the years it takes to complete these missions. Batteries are out of the question for even short missions, and solar panels don't work well, since the energy available drops off as the square of the distance from the sun. A ten-by-ten-foot collector for Earth-Moon operations, for instance, would swell to tennis court size for missions to Jupiter, and blossom to the equivalent of more than two football fields for exploration of Neptune. Moreover, Earth-based solar cells are not easy to mount efficiently, even with a solid terra firma foundation. How about trying to maneuver football-field sized collector banks - structures and deployment mechanisms - in a zero-gravity environment? [Fuel cells would be find, except that the weight of the fuel - and its containers - would't allow for much else on the voyage. We might want to note, thanks to the science eduation given by the mission and movie Apollo 13, most of us are now well aware that fuel cells must carry their own oxidizer - which, in the case of oxygen, was not readily available in interlunar space.]

While the RTG has been the only practical choice for deep-space missions, anti-nuclear propagandists have portrayed it as a hazard to the entire human race because of its use of plutonium fuel. The misguided protesters wring their hands over seventy-two pounds of plutonium that they contend might somehow be released into the atmosphere and over the effect that might have on humankind. However, they totally ignore the fact that two to three tons of various vaporized (and hence, breathable) plutonium isotopes were injected into the biosphere by the Nagasaki bomb and the hundreds of above-ground tests just after World War II; yet the last time I looked, the human race was still alive and kicking.

While spacecraft have shown the reliability and longevity of the RTG, why haven't there been applications in transportation utilizing this technology? [Another very successful use of the plutonium RTG was in pacemakers. From 1973 through 1987, 155 radioisotope-powered pacemakers were implanted in a Newark Beth Israel Medical Center study. With a half-life of eighty-seven years, the nuclear devices outlasted battery operated devices - which required surgery for re-implantation - by many years and were ultra-reliable. And although "it has been shown beyond any reasonable doubt that there is no increased risk of malignancy in this group of patients" few, if any, new nuclear devices are being installed. Why? It's our good friend, the Linear No-Threshold hypothesis. See "The Nuclear Pacemaker: Is Renewed Interest Warranted?" American Journal of Cardiology, Oct. 1990.]

It certainly doesn't require a rocket scientist to conceive of an RTG automobile that would have both a generator and auxiliary batteries available for acceleration and hills - yet would recharge itself, both while driving and while sitting all day in a parking lot. But if you remember the story about the Goianians, you may have already considered the possibility of being stoned whenever you pulled your Plutoniumobile out of the garage - not to mention having to deal with swarms of bureaucrats from every imaginable protective agency who would be on the spot to make sure no alpha ray is loosed on the public. With incentives like these for the buyer, entrepreneurs are not exactly standing in line to enter this market.

Want to get 5,420,000 miles to the pound? Me too. Sorry to say that's never going to happen, because the long-standing and difficult problem of squeezing actual energy from potential energy is fraught with some inconvenient impossibilities. But if we are to approach the theoretical limits of physical science, it will take an understanding of the real dangers of radiation, and getting the government out of the policing business. Plus, no doubt, many billions of dollars in research and development costs; but that's what capitalists do: invest their money to make profits from producing things that cause our lives to be more satisfying.

Oh, and not to worry. Manufacturers of nuclear-powered vehicles are not going to fry their customers with gamma rays any more than Campbell's would put botulin toxin in the soup.

It's not good for business.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Cornucopia of Nuclear Power

You will remember from chapter 21 that we have two neutrons, on average, emitted whenever a U235 atom undergoes fission - or "splitting." One of these is necessary to fission another atom to keep the chain reaction going. But what happens to all of those second neutrons? Some of them, as mentioned, are absorbed by the structure of the reactor or by the control rods, which slide in and out of the reactor to keep the reaction at - or just very slightly above - the critical point. But others smash into, and are captured by, the plentiful U238 atoms that make up from 95% to 96.5% of the fuel rod contents. When this happens, a truly miraculous thing takes place: This practically worthless material is transformed into one of the most concentrated sources of energy on Earth - or in the universe for that matter - plutonium 239, and element so evil that it was named for the god of the underworld. (Not really, but that's what some would have you believe.) [Plutonium was named in honor of the discovery of the planet Pluto, just as neptunium and uranium were named for Neptune and Uranus.]

This happens in every one of the world's 500 power reactors, plus thousands of research reactors, every day they are in operation. In fact, a sizable fraction (up to about 30%) of electrical energy generated by a power plant comes from this plutonium, which arises as a natural consequence of the uranium fission reaction - without any effort on our part - and supplements the scarce U235 fuel.

Some reactors, however, are designed to intentionally make plutonium. If it is to be used in bombs, it is normally made in a reactor with another modulator - such as the carbon-modulated reactor at Chernobyl. A reactor designed specifically to make only fuel-grade plutonium is called a breeder reactor, since new fuel is "bred" from an almost worthless byproduct of the refining cycle. [Breeder technology seems to be on hold for a couple of reasons: (1) in the prevailing anti-nuclear climate, few entrepreneurs or speculators are willing to make investments in nuclear power for fear of laws that can make their investment instantly worthless; and (2) at the present time there is a glut of plutonium available from the dismantlement of nuclear weapons.]

Are we speculating here on new technology like "fusion" power? Hardly.

The first reactor ever to produce electric power from nuclear energy was a "liquid metal fast breeder reactor" known as the EBR-I. (By the way, liquid metal means that the coolant was not our old friend water, but liquid sodium; fast means that it used "fast neutrons," not the slowed-down, moderated variety.) Designed by physicist Walter Zinn in 1944, his brainchild went critical at 11 am, December 20, 1951 - producing the first steam in history produced by man-made nuclear heat. Like the Manhattan reactor in Chicago and the SLOWPOKE reactor in Canada, EBR-I was not designed to produce electrical power but to prove the concept of fuel breeding (which it did along with its successor, EBR-II). [Declared a national landmark in 1966, the EBR-I is open to the public from mid June to mid September. Located eighteen miles southeast of Arco, Idaho, on Highway 26, visitors must be at least sixteen years old (too much neutron violence?) and U.S. citizens (fear of spies who might steal this technology?).]

The EBR-II had "on the spot reprocessing," which reprocessed 35,000 fuel elements between 1965 and 1969. But the facility was not without problems: the fence around it kept out the coyotes, causing the rabbit population to outbreed the reactor.

Does the ERB-II sound a little familiar? It should since it has another name we used in chapter 21 - the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR).

While many U.S. politicians have never heard of breeder technology, Europeans have. Sadly, "Green" activists there have been successful in shutting them down or keeping them from ever starting up.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Energy: Don't Leave Home Without It

Did we miss the "nuclear vehicle" boat because of our fears and the rules imposed on the nuclear industry? "What might have been" is truly an impossible question to answer.

With the population of the Earth now surpassing 6 billion, and the requirement for energy per capita continually increasing as mankind is being liberated from the yoke, we can expect an exponential increase in the requirement for energy. Some of you believe that we need to limit the population of the world. I disagree - and if you're interested you can read a summary of my position in the footnote.

[Footnote: In the thousand years that the Earth had a low and "flat" population, the inhabitants suffered unbelievable deprivation by our standards. Today the population of the Earth and the standard of living are higher than ever. An unproductive person is indeed a drain on society; but, until government prevents it, more people are in productive activities than living off the productive.]

Some would fear that our unspoiled wilderness and irreplaceable wildlife will be destroyed if the population continues to grow. Again, I disagree, but go to the footnote only if this is of any interest to you.

[Footnote: If you want to see true environmental catastrophe, take a look at (a) the energy-impoverished countries were vegetation is stripped to the roots as a source of cooking fuel and tribesmen must spend most of their day's energy output in foraging for firewood, or (b) the Eastern-bloc countries, where almost an entire continent would be declared a Superfund site under our system. And you might note that only those creatures that are "owned by all of us" are in danger. Species in private hands do quite well.]

Regardless of what you believe, the odds are in favor of a continued growth with these trends predominating. So what are to be the energy sources in the future?

Many environmentalists are excited about solar power. How can you blame them? It's everywhere - and it's free. But there are a few other considerations. While many low-powered applications are feasible, when it comes down to commercial and industrial applications, solar energy becomes pretty darn environmentally hostile. A fairly modest eight- or nine-story suburban office building might require a megawatt of electrical energy at its peak monthly need. The dedicated solar energy plant - with 10% efficiency (not yet attainable), a 50% collector spacing, and a load factor of 75% (it must be able to supply 75% of the maximum load at any time) - required to support this building situated on less than one acre of ground, would need approximately 100 to 300 acres of collection and storage (battery) space, depending on climate. Energy-intensive industrial plants could easily require 500 to 1,000 acres of solar facility for each factory acre. Just as it would be a lovely thing to have a solar-powered car like those that race on the Australian desert (in the daytime), it is just a crying shame that the sun doesn't supply more than one kilowatt per square meter anywhere on Earth.

Wind energy has such obvious problems with availability - in addition to being very insensitive to passing birds and eerily noisy to nearby residents - that it really can't qualify as a reliable source. And while hydroelectric power is a wonderful thing (until the dam silts up), there are only a limited number of sites in the United States with any real energy potential. Imagine, if you will, trying to build a hydroelectric dam in Florida or southern Louisiana, and you'll get the idea. I'm not even going to discuss chicken manure or geothermal energy. If you're hanging your hat on these, you're obviously in the wrong book.

Friday, April 1, 2016

SECURE and the IFR

Other low-temperature reactors - used for warming entire communities - are not new to the world... just to U.S. citizens with our abysmal lack of scientific knowledge. For instance, a Swedish and Finnish consortium has designed a 200 MW inherently safe reactor called SECURE - with no moving parts, not even control rods - as the reactivity level is controlled by the content of boric acid in the coolant/moderator. [Safe and Environmentally Clean Urban REactor]

Finally, there is another reactor design known as the Integral Fast Reactor, which I find fascinating, because it is fueled by natural uranium and is as close to a perpetual motion machine as we are likely to get. [See Integral Fast Reactor, available from Argonne National Laboratories, P.O. Box 2528, Idaho Falls, ID 83415.]

It operates in a vessel filled with liquid sodium (melting point, 208 degrees Fahrenheit), which is a much better heat-transfer agent than water - along with having certain desirable nuclear characteristics. It reportedly produces 100 to 200 times more electrical energy per pound of fuel than obtainable from existing plants. The prototype plant, at Idaho Falls, was designed to be virtually self-contained with the capability of fabricating, using and reprocessing the spent fuel "on-site." It is inherently safe from a meltdown, since the fuel assemblies are configured in such a manner as to shut down the reaction when the temperature increases above its maximum design point. As a test, the entire heat transfer system was shut down while operating at full power - without causing any harm to the reactor.

While it is unlikely that the fuel-processing part of the operation could be scaled down to community or residential proportions, the inherent safety of the reactor is intriguing, along with its use of natural (unenriched) uranium. It is likely that radiation would be an insignificant factor compared with keeping the sodium contained, since contact with either water or air causes some pretty nasty chemical reactions. (It is best kept submerged in kerosene or naphtha.)

As far as I know, a low-power, inherently safe reactor has not been designed for community or home use. Why? I suspect it's because the prevailing fear of low-level radiation would keep any reasonably intelligent investor in the "sow bellies futures" market where at least there is a chance of making a profit. Why design a product that will cost more in attorneys' fees each time you sell one than the sale price of the product itself? Although much of the technology is there and proven, it just won't happen in today's climate ruled by the Linear No-Threshold bureaucracy.

But if we can create an understanding of actual - as opposed to perceived - radiation dangers, the technology will surely flourish. Because of higher efficiencies? No, large power reactors operating at high temperatures have higher efficiencies than would a home or community reactor and are well suited for commercial and industrial power production - but they also have transmission losses, transformer losses, costs of installing and maintaining pole-line hardware, and other overhead expenses that can be eliminated by decentralization, especially for small, off-the-beaten-path residential customers who use only a few thousand kilowatt-hours per month.

Would we require a government program to make this happen? Not at all. Just get the government out of the way, and let market forces determine what is worthy and what is not. As Paul Johnson put it: "For capitalism merely occurs, if no one does anything to stop it. It is socialism that has to be constructed, and as a rule, forcibly imposed, thus providing a far bigger role for intellectuals in its genesis." ["The heartless loves of humankind," Wall Street Journal, January 5, 1987.]