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Radiation Not As Hazardous As Once Believed 570

HeavensBlade23 sends in an article from the German site Spiegel Online about mounting evidence that nuclear radiation may not be as deadly as has been widely believed. The article cites studies by German, US, and Japanese researchers concluding, for example, that fewer than 800 deaths are attributable to the after-effects of radiation in over 86,500 survivors of the Hiroshima bombing. Other surprisingly low death rates are reported in studies of Chernobyl and of a secret Siberian town called Mayak, devoted to producing plutonium, that was abandoned after a nuclear accident in 1957.
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Radiation Not As Hazardous As Once Believed

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  • by LM741N ( 258038 ) on Monday November 26, 2007 @11:15PM (#21487697)
    Nuclear radiation will produce sterility in men. I know this as it happened to my uncle. Who knows what other diseases might show up that don't necessarily produce immediate death.
  • by garcia ( 6573 ) on Monday November 26, 2007 @11:17PM (#21487711)
    Nah, the aftereffects of radiation poisoning from Chernobyl [] weren't all that bad -- not nearly as bad as being dead.

    I love skew.
  • by tucara ( 812321 ) on Monday November 26, 2007 @11:18PM (#21487727)
    I'm not suprised to see studies like this coming out. With renewed interest in fission power as a clean (emissions-free) energy source, a big hurdle will be changing the public perception and fear of radiation. But, if something gets changed people are going to have all kinds of conspiracy theories about industry leaning on the government to change regulations so they can make $$ at the expensive of people/environment. There are many honest dangers with radioactive sources, but most of those that get used in labs aren't that harmful unless you do something stupid like eat them. I'm all for a critcal re-evaluation of radiation standards.
  • OK (Score:3, Interesting)

    by travdaddy ( 527149 ) <> on Monday November 26, 2007 @11:25PM (#21487797)
    But we still get just as many superpowers right?
  • If the Shoe Fits... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jomama717 ( 779243 ) * <> on Monday November 26, 2007 @11:32PM (#21487837) Journal
    Does this mean we can bring back the Shoe-Fitting Fluoroscope []? But seriously:

    One of the more serious injuries linked to the operation of these machines involved a shoe model who received such a serious radiation burn that her leg had to be amputated (Bavley 1950).
    I can't believe the Simpsons never parodied this thing, it's right in their wheelhouse...
  • Re:Hiroshima (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Fnordulicious ( 85996 ) on Monday November 26, 2007 @11:42PM (#21487919) Homepage
    Tell me when the actual research articles are available in a refereed journal. Until then, this is just more unreliable journalistic garbage designed to sell magazines and newspapers.

    Someday perhaps scientists will finally rebel against the awful state of science journalism. Until then, it's best to just ignore it.
  • by Caity ( 140482 ) on Monday November 26, 2007 @11:51PM (#21487981)
    The photoessay that that picture comes from is interesting, but really it says nothing in particular about the effects radiation.

    Most of those kids (other than the one in the picture linked by the parent poster) looked like they could be suffering from nothing more unusual than cerebral palsy or other reasonably common physical and/or mental defects. If I went into any disabled children's care facility or cancer ward in any large city in the world with a camera and knocked the kids out of their fancy western wheelchairs I could take pretty much the same pictures (barring my complete and utter lack of photographic ability).

    It's sad but sometimes birth defects do just happen. The question that isn't addressed in these sorts of emotive pieces - and research into which the originally linked article is discussing - is to what extent exposure to radiation increases their liklihood in a population.

    I do agree that TFA is highly skewed though.
  • by $criptah ( 467422 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @12:06AM (#21488105) Homepage

    I don't know if I would trust the state of NJ more than I would trust the Soviet government that was present in 1986. To be honest with you, may be in 50 years we will know 1% of the true effects. Remember how cocaine was legal in the United States?

    One of my most exciting moments of my childhood was the rain of April 26th, 1986. I was walking from the hospital when it started raining and I got soaked by the time I got home. Several days later we were told to throw away the clothing used on that day and take a long shower because a chemical plant not so far away had a problem. Cool huh? As somebody who was under 10, it was "it!" I was a part of something that the government asked me to do. It felt great until my mom got a call from my grandmother: My uncle was traveling to Belaja Tserokv' (White Church) with a his chem-bat (chemical forces battalion). My grandma was a nurse and she suspected that something was going on since they tons of firefighters were shipped to the area. It was highly unusual to send that many people for a small chemical spill at a nuclear plant. I will skip you the stories about carefully re-adjusted radiation meters given to the soldiers and other tricks that were used to keep public away from the information about the real aspects of the accident. Everything was "peaches and cream" according to the top brass. My uncle delivered cement to the reactor thinking that they were putting down some important fire. Only later we were told about the nuclear disaster and its impact. During the times of Perestroika this became more public and we finally realized what has hit, but it was too freaking late.

    I would like to come back and visit the ghost areas. Many areas of Belarus and the Ukraine (Belarus was hit the hardest due to the North-Western winds) became ghost towns. It is a lot like what you can find in the prominent historic parks of the U.S.: Whole towns are there, but no people want to live there for the exception of an occasional squatter. You may see a Western tourist here and there and that is about it. Whoever thinks that radiation is not damaging needs to get their head examined. Yes, a direct death from the exposure may be unlikely, but I'd rather not wait for the long term effects. Honestly, I have seen that stuff and it is not pretty. I'd take a bullet over slow death any time.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @12:08AM (#21488123)
    Madam Curie = Radium came
  • Let's wait for a bit (Score:4, Interesting)

    by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @12:08AM (#21488125)
    In the beginning, radiation was fantastic stuff that only had the effect of whitening your teeth. From 1970..2005, the "safe levels" have only fallen. Now some new guy says otherwise. Gee. I wonder how long his evidence will last?
  • by Petro123 ( 833232 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @12:44AM (#21488375)
    Not to mention about DNA damage that may be passed onto further generations! Interesting related story about Australian and New Zealand soldiers used as guinea pigs during nuclear testing can be see here [] where they finally have proof about how messed up their DNA is.
  • by m2943 ( 1140797 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @01:18AM (#21488649)
    You see this is the problem with the anti-nuclear moment. They have become so obsessed with ending everything that contains a nucleus that they see it as acceptable to dismiss any science to the contrary as "biased"

    Look, it's really not that complicated: radiation increases the risk of cancer and birth defects, at any dose. The mechanisms are understood, and there have been tens of thousands of experiments confirming that. Trying to argue that this isn't the case is simply insane. And it doesn't matter what kind of radiation it is.

    Now to follow is the usual nonsense about uranium running out within 60 years, nuclear waste being impossible to deal with, and another chernobyl being just about to happen. It's all nonsense, and has been for two decades at least, yet we still burn coal rather than transmuting our nuclear waste in fast reactors ( Thank you for that one Kerry ).

    It was Reagan that killed breeder reactors in the US (and effectively elsewhere). He claimed it was for proliferation concerns, but that makes no sense; more likely, he did it for economic reasons: nuclear fuel is big business for the US.

    With breeder reactors, nuclear energy could possibly be an option. Without them, nuclear power is sheer lunacy.

    So, complain to Reagan and the Republicans for the lack of responsible nuclear power in the US.
  • Yea!!!!! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by NetNed ( 955141 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @01:40AM (#21488805)
    Yea, how dare they say that radiation doesn't kill as many people as was reported, because reporters never embellish anything.

    It's time to blame : insert name
    • bush
    • republicans
    • the illuminate
    • big nuclear
    • big business
    because they want to make money off nuclear power since they funded the study. Greenpeace told me so and they never, embellish either!
    They didn't say radiation is good for you, didn't say you should shower in it, just that studies of effects don't jive with reports.
    Now can someone come up with a REAL reason that this study is bunk? Maybe some REAL connection between nuclear plants and the research group?
  • Re:It's not that bad (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @01:48AM (#21488849)
    The various counter-intelligence programs have to get some creative people hired. These stories don't seem to be getting past anyone. I guess this story is supposed to alert us to the fact that they're planning on making more bombs and building more nuclear plants, whether we want them or not. do you make these poor psychopaths disappear?
  • by joemontoya ( 704695 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @03:13AM (#21489315)
    At least that is the way I have always understood it. IANANP or a physician, but every bit of information I have seen on the matter emphasizes not inhaling radioactive dust/gas or consuming something contaminated. The 4,000 thyroid cancer cases caused by Chernobyl was in children that consumed cow's milk contaminated by iodine 131 fallout on the grass the cattle ate. A very nasty business indeed. Clearly a high acute dose, about 1000 times background level, can be lethal in a small percentage of cases, but if short term low-level exposure was dangerous people would die all the time from flying on commercial airliners, where you get about 200x background exposure.
  • by Geezle2 ( 541502 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @03:15AM (#21489319)
    I'm living in Japan now, and I have to say that the roads are most certainly NOT better than what I was accustomed to back in the States. Sure, the toll roads are not too bad, but that is only due to the fact that no one uses them because they are outraeously expensive. $1/mile for the lightest class car is just insane.

    The regular prefectural and town roads, on the other hand, are a horror show. Paving crews seem to just pave everything in sight and paint some lanes on later. Intersections seem to be the result of negotiations between rival paving crews that happen to run across each other. Let's not even talk about roads out in the mountains! You get a few feet off the beaten path and you'll be lucky to ever make it back. Imagine endless blind switchbacks on a strip of pavement less than ten feet wide! If you run across someone coming from the other direction, one of you will have to back up a half mile or so.

    Furthermore, driver education in Japan is worse than useless. You are trained to operate a supplied vehicle on a closed course (sorta like a go-cart park). You have to shift into the proper gear at precisely marked points in the course, signal your intention to turn at another marked point in the course, etc. In short, you are trained to operate a particular vehicle to exacting standards ON A PARTICULAR CLOSED COURSE!

    I was forewarned about the silly test and was therefore able to pass it my first time without taking classes. Fact is, however, that I was the only one to get my license that day.

    The low fatality rates on Japanese roads is more reasonably attributed to the fact that no one ever actually drives faster than about 25MPH. Even in the little kei cars you have half a chance of surviving an accident at those speeds.

    Japanese drivers suck. Oh, they are sorta 'polite' and all. They don't talk on their cell phone while driving. In fact, if they get a call, they'll stop before answering. . .right in the middle of the traveled way! No effort made to get their car off the road or to a safe place. . .Nope, the phone rings, they set the parking brake wherever they happen to be, be that a blind curve, an intersection or on the highway.

    If people here ever actually had to travel a significant distance and did so at the sort of speeds typical in the US, you can bet they'd leave the US far behind where highway carnage was concerned.

  • by Bryan Ischo ( 893 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @04:54AM (#21489807) Homepage
    Clearly your statement depends very heavily on what 'quality of life' means. Your statement *sounds* logical until one realizes that it is based on such a subjective concept - quality of life.

    I sincerely believe that quality of life can be *better* with less consumption, and at the same time better for the planet, and for this reason, I reject your claim that the cost of meaningful conservation would impact quality of life. It would change lifestyles for sure, but I don't think they would be 'worse' lifestyles from a quality of life standpoint.
  • by ( 595837 ) <slashdot.advid@net> on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @06:07AM (#21490075) Journal

    radiation increases the risk of cancer and birth defects, at any dose. The mechanisms are understood, and there have been tens of thousands of experiments confirming that
    Wrong. You won't find any scientific experiment showing that radiation increase risks of cancer at very low dose.

    But you may find interesting some experiments that show the opposite result: low radiation dose stimulate the DNA repair mechanism of cells and finally people become more resistant to some other cancer factors. Search for a study in Indonesia about houses insulated with glass wool recycling low activity wastes (my source is paper print).

    Trying to argue that this isn't the case is simply insane.
    What is insane: refusing to be challenged by scientific experiments or new discoveries. It remind me people saying "rogue waves of 20m physically can't exist, it is proven, everybody know that". Still they do.
  • by RafaelGCPP ( 922041 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @06:25AM (#21490147)
    From TFA:

    About 4,000 children were afflicted with cancer. Less well-known, however, is the fact that only nine of those 4,000 died -- thyroid cancers are often easy to operate on.

    Great!! Having cancer and not dying of it is really something everyone should try!!
    No, thanks! I'd rather keep my thyroid where it is!
  • by stdarg ( 456557 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @08:31AM (#21490735)

    less cars=> more bus-drivers
    I think you mean, 40 fewer cars = 1 more bus driver

    less malls=>more small shops in the center
    Malls are already central locations with lots of small shops... why would your idea be more efficient?

    less coal-power plants => more PV/windpower-technicians...
    Maybe, I don't know the ratio, but going with PV/windpower just to make more jobs than nuclear isn't good to me.
  • by ( 595837 ) <slashdot.advid@net> on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @09:41AM (#21491215) Journal

    Radiation does increase the risk of cancer at any dose; it follows from the way it works
    Radiation makes damages, especially to DNA. Those damages constantly occur naturally and cells are repairing their DNA. They can repair because DNA has its own copy (remember: this is a double helix), DNA is unfolded, a bit striped on one of the pairs around the damage, and replicated locally to match the opposite pair. This is the way it works.

    As long as the damage rate is below the repair capabilities of the cells there is no long term consequences. Otherwise cancer rate would be in correlation to local and natural radioactivity (and it is not).

    Of course, you can't experimentally measure the increased risk of cancer at very low doses
    Well, we both agree: no scientific proof of what you assert about increased cancer at any dose.

    and you may not care about the slight increase, but it's there
    It's there when it's statistically significant otherwise you just don't know and it is as if it has no affect (so who cares?).

    About you saying "argue that ... is simply insane": what I mean is that one should always be listened to in a scientific debate, without contempt but with rational minds, see in history of sciences how many times we had to change mainstream views (did my rogue waves example stroke you ? ;-).

    I'm not challenging you with the radioactive glass wool study but what strikes me is that you name it right away a poorly done study, without reading anything of it. That's the clue I needed to guess what kind of mind is making such comments.

  • by Lord Ender ( 156273 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @11:34AM (#21492557) Homepage
    If you ever worked for an organization like the CDC, you would go insane. When comparing disasters, it really is useful to point out the fact that some are relatively better than others. Our interpersonal emotional reactions to suffering have no place in a study of population-level problems.
  • by bar_jebus ( 1194487 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @12:36PM (#21493411)
    Workable solution: Glassification of the waste. How do you think we get rid of other toxic wastes??? Turning our radioactive left overs into harmless crystal and dumping it in ocean trenches is easily the safest answer. Contrary to many peoples views, the middle of the ocean is almost devoid of life. The life that exists in the trenches is questionable as new species are being discovered down there, however, even they wouldn't be impacted because of the DRASTICALLY reduced level of radiation produced by glass waste. This is not a new solution, and plants are being built in numerous locations to help deal with our ever increasing production of toxic wastes such as left overs from Nuke plants.
  • by grep_rocks ( 1182831 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @03:18PM (#21495569)
    Those numbers are from 2004, my guess is with the depreciation of the dollar Europe has an even better MJ/$ number than it did then... Also the real metric is Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) per person not necissarily GDP/person [] - PPP tries to level out the exchange rate issue - by the time Bush is through with us I am pretty sure Europe will be ahead as far as I can tell when I visit there they live better than we do but I digress... If the developing world is inefficient - so what? too bad for them, their economy will suffer even more than ours from high fuel prices and the effects of global warming. The point is that there are inefficiecies in our system that are costing us dearly and destroying our competetive advantage, we are more sensitive to fuel costs than Europe and we devote ridiculous amounts of resources in the name of securing our energy supply ($1 trillion for Iraq) which could be better used to reducing our dependence. Finally I do think it is useful to compare different developed countries to see how they use energy. There is no reason why the U.S. can't be as efficient as Europe, we just have to have some zoning laws and a gas tax - but nobody wants to hear that. I just don't buy the "U.S. is a big country so we need cars to go anywhere" argument, nobody should have to live 40 miles from work just to live in a community with a decent school district and have get in their car and drive 5 miles to get their groceries - get real - we trashed our cities in the 60s and gutted our public transportation infrastructure and exchanged it for a suburban wasteland of Chili's and WalMarts and crappy houses with asphalt roofs and thin insulation... We have not invested our resources wisely.

All science is either physics or stamp collecting. -- Ernest Rutherford