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.]