Nearly ten years have passed since a major earthquake and devastating tsunami damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. Not a single case of radiation illness or death occurred as a result of escaped radiation. A result we should all be celebrating. But years of media rants left this an untold story. The tsunami and subsequent pollution from waste water resulted in the loss of thousands of lives, yet none because the area gained its electric power from nuclear energy.
How many people in this country are aware of this outcome? The answer is very few because the media failed to follow up their hysterical warnings of radioactive waste reaching our shores. None ever did. Another celebration was in order.
Yet with no scientific reason Japan and Germany shut down most of their nuclear reactors. Construction of additional nuclear power plants around the world was slowed for most of the decade. Now they are largely back on track, but not in the United States.
Approximately 160,000 people were evacuated from the area around the Fukushima nuclear power plant shortly after it was damaged by the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami. An evacuation order forced 70,000 people to leave the area, and an additional 90,000 left voluntarily. They returned soon afterward. The 70,000 forced evacuees also eventually returned to their homes.
Sadly it is estimated that 1,600 people died prematurely from stress related illness in the evacuation process. The “precautionary” action, taken in response to hypothetical health risks, was more harmful than the risks themselves. This tragic event illustrates the need for public policy decisions to be made based on sound science rather than unsupported environmental scares. The science was clear before the event that fears surrounding the damaged nuclear power plant were vastly overstated.
CLOSING THE BOOK ON FUKUSHIMA
Despite the breathless media reports of radiation threats issued in the immediate wake of the earthquake and tsunami—and still repeated to this day—United Nations health experts have closed the books on any asserted risks from the nuclear power plant damage. The UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) issued a press release two years later that said “Radiation exposure following the nuclear accident at Fukushima-Daiichi did not cause any immediate health effects. Eight years later, still none have appeared. It is unlikely to be able to attribute any health effects in the future among the general public and the vast majority of workers”
UNSCEAR explained, “To date, there have been no health effects attributed to radiation exposure observed among workers, the people with the highest radiation exposures”
Why does uncertainty remain about the effects of low level radiation in light of any long-term negative impacts? All living organisms have been in a sea of radiation since their first appearance, and radiation has been affecting their genes all of this time. Approximately 15,000 gamma rays or particles hit the average person every second. And after more than 120 years of extensive health effect studies, we know more about ionizing radiation than we do about any other stressor on human health.
Lauriston Taylor, a founder of the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) observed back in 1934 that “No one has been identifiably injured by radiation while working within the first standard set at 0.2 roentgen/day by the US National Commission on Radiological Protection (NCRP)” and now the ICRP.
IMPORTANCE OF DOSE LEVELS
After the discovery of x-rays and radioactivity more than120 years ago, hundreds of medical practitioners began testing and using the penetrating radiation to examine internal injuries and illnesses, reducing the guesswork in diagnosing diseases. They discovered low level radiation produces remarkable beneficial effects, while they also knew high-level short-term exposures cause significant harm.
IS THERE A SAFE LEVEL OF RADIATION, MOST DEFINITELY THERE IS… BUT!
So why is there a perceived radiation problem? What is the reason for the fear, uncertainty, and doubt regarding the effects of radiation? To understand this we need to consider the origin of the linear no-threshold (LNT) dose-response concept which forms the basis for radiation protection activities and cancer risk calculations that have been costly mistakes for decades.
The invention and use of atomic bombs in 1945, the nuclear arms race, and the rise of the anti-nuclear movement likely induced many concerned scientists to disregard 70 years of research and experience on the use of radiation to stimulate the protection systems of living organisms. Many scientists instead accepted the new fear generating LNT concept that says a risk of cancer and genetic disease increases linearly with radiation dose, from a single atom of radiation.
The International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) made a 180 degree turn by rejecting its 1934 standard that was based on the tolerance dose which had stood for many years without any problems being recognized. It issued new recommendations based on the use of the Linear No Threshold (LNT) model to evaluate the statistical risk of cancer from any radiation exposure. This is the basis of our unfounded radiation scare.
Dr. Edward Calabrese, a world renown Radiation toxicologist at the University of Massachusetts said in the 2013 Archives of Toxicology, “In 1956, the US National Academy of Sciences Committee on Biological Effects of Atomic Radiation Genetics Panel issued the most far reaching recommendation in the history of risk assessment that genomic risks associated with exposure to ionizing radiation should be evaluated with a linear dose-response model, no longer via the threshold dose-response model that had long been the ‘gold’ standard for medicine and physiology. The Genetics Panel members believed that there was no safe exposure to ionizing radiation for reproductive cells with the mutation risk being increased even with a single ionization. In 1958, the LNT concept was generalized to somatic cells and cancer risk assessment by the National Committee for Radiation Protection and Measurement.”
Dr. Calabrese discovered that many of the panel members had a conflict of interest in establishing this flawed rule. As practiced by the modern radiation protection community, the LNT hypothesis is one of the greatest scientific scandals of our time.
I documented this fraud from Calabrese’s research into the lies and biases in the work of early researchers in an essay at CFACT.org on August 18, 2020.
IT IS TIME TO CORRECT THIS TERRIBLE LNT POLICY
It is essential that we revert to the ICRP standard of 1934 and the tolerance dose concept for radiation protection. This change would remove many constraints on the use of x-rays, CT-scans, and nuclear medicine techniques for the diagnosis of many illnesses. It would also pave the way for clinical studies on many potential applications for low radiation to treat very important diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, by reducing restrictions regulating adaptive protection systems.
The urgent justification for this change in concept is the divergence between fear and facts regarding Fukushima. Radiophobia erupted around the world despite the scientifically expected lack of any serious radiation harms. Germany and Japan decided to phase out nuclear energy and lifesaving radiation medical applications continue to be impeded. Let’s celebrate the availability of this life saving technology rather than stopping it to appease self-interest, which is definitely the prevailing case today.