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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 MrAndrews ( 456547 ) * <mcm.1889@ca> on Monday November 26, 2007 @11:07PM (#21487637) Homepage
    Apparently this is just an attempt by a Utah company to increase holiday sales []. Sigh.
  • by IgnoramusMaximus ( 692000 ) on Monday November 26, 2007 @11:10PM (#21487653)

    courtesy of Burns' Atomic Power! "We light you up!" is our motto!

    Smithers, pay the good Scientists for their efforts!

    • 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?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by timeOday ( 582209 )
        "Not as dangerous as previously thought" is a far cry from "safe". This is sort of like estimating the number killed in the holocaust or sentencing guidelines for pedophiles, who wants to be on the low side?
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @03:42AM (#21489473)
        It isn't the the safe levels have fallen it is that medicine has made the determination that no level of radioactive exposure can be considered safe. Exposure limits are then made so that it is extremely unlikely that someone will have their health compromised by radioactivity.

        A very important point to note is that the determination that no level of radioactive exposure is safe does not mean the same thing as low levels of radiation are extremely dangerous (which many might believe). What the doctors are literally saying is that they don't consider a 10^-20 or even a 10^-40 Curie source to be perfectly safe. One errant gamma ray from the decay of some radioactive substance might be enough to cause a fatal cancer. As there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos, PCBs, or arsenic, reasonable limits are proposed where very few people are injured by these substances. The same applies to radiation levels. If the danger due to low level radioactivity is determined to be a thousand times less dangerous than we thought it was then the exposure limits might be raised if convenient, but radioactive material will still not be considered safe, even in the smallest amounts.
    • by BlueParrot ( 965239 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @12:22AM (#21488225)
      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". The worst offenders are of course greenpeace, who will happily outright lie about it. Even using greenpeace's massively inflated numbers for the death toll from chernobyl, it would take several chernobyl style accidents per year for nuclear to even equal the death's from airpollition associated with fossil fuels. Yet the by far biggest demon in the eyes of this organisation, is the western nuclear industry.

      I don't know if they simply don't know better, if they are too afraid to lose face should they change their policy, or if they just want to make themself look important, but in any case their claims are just out of touch with reality. It really does pain me to know that my country country (Sweden ) could have been on the road to virtually eliminate fossil fuels, but because of this nonsense we are still left with 50% of our energy coming from fossil sources, and the "green" party here wants to shut down the reactors that remain.

      What every western country with half a bit of sense ought to do is to deploy large numbers of electric trains as alternative transportation ( maglev could even compete with airplanes in speed ), and produce the electricity with nuclear. If pressent developments in battery technology hold up, we could even have electric cars affordable within a few decades. IF we can keep the electricity price down. Sadly the latter is not going to happen by pushing for renewables that have multiple times the costs of current nuclear power plants.

      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 ).
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @01:13AM (#21488601)
        > 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 ).

        Not Kerry. Carter. Same party. Same environmental policy. Different dumbass.

        Sad thing is that Kerry's stance could be excused. Carter, as a nukeE, should have known better.

        In Carter's defense, he presumably did know better -- he merely (mis)judged the proliferation risk of all nuclear-power-producing companies getting into FBRs as "worse" than the risk of relying on foreign oil. Carter was dead wrong, but at least he thought about the issue, unlike Kerry, who just pandered to the lunatic fringe of the eco-left.

        • by tjstork ( 137384 ) <todd DOT bandrowsky AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @11:11AM (#21492229) Homepage Journal
          Not Kerry. Carter. Same party. Same environmental policy. Different dumbass.

          I agree, sorta. I'm a Republican and I can't stand Carter. He was certainly wrong about many things, and his killing of breeder reactors and fuel rod re-use was among them, however, he was also pretty darned right about promoting nuclear power.

          When TMI happened, Carter went there, to illustrate that it was perfectly safe. At that moment, Republicans actually jumped the pro-nuclear boat and hopped onto the anti-nuclear bandwagon, and used the moment to show that Carter was being irresponsible, doesn't have a clue, even though Jimmy, as one of Rickover's boys, probably knew more about nuclear power than just about anyone. As a result of this moment of bipartisan acord between the loonie left and right, nuclear power was killed in America, and Reagan actually never advanced it.
      • by catmistake ( 814204 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @01:13AM (#21488605) Journal
        You ought to pay more attention to the nonsense. A nuclear acceident is only like 20 mistakes away at any particular moment. And, at least in the US, every single spent nuclear rod containment facility at every single operating plant is at capacity. So, nonsense or not, we haven't figured out what to do with the stuff. Its been like 60 years, and we just don't know where it can be safely stored for 30,000 years. Considering that nuclear power has only gotten cheap due to the massive resources poured into its development since the 1940s (for bomb fuel, remember power from fission is a side effect), if the same resources were poured into solar development, then solar would be cheap.
        • by SEWilco ( 27983 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @01:29AM (#21488723) Journal
          We do know what to do with used nuclear fuel. Reprocess it into nuclear fuel, like France does. It's only being blocked by the stroke of a pen. That will be taken care of if we have an energy crisis.
        • by shmlco ( 594907 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @02:57AM (#21489235) Homepage
          "... and we just don't know where it can be safely stored for 30,000 years."

          Oh please. Research the term "half-life", and then get back to me when you have half an education. Anything that's going to be seriously radioactive for 30,000 years is going to be an alpha emitter. Whose highly dangerous particles need massive shielding between you and the source, like that provided by, say, a piece of paper. Rule of thumb: highly energetic equals extremely short half life.

          There are two problems in the quoted fragment: The use of "we" and the use of "safely". We, because with people like you in the picture it's obvious that WE don't have a clue. Safely, because everyone who's against it defines "safe" as zero risk, when NOTHING in this world is zero risk. You're at risk from a meteorite bashing your brains out while you sleep. Are the odds against it? Yes. Is the risk zero? No.

          Last time I checked, I believe it's said that in 10,000 years all of the material of which speak so alarmingly would still be radioactive. Well, at least as radioactive as the raw ore from which it came. You know, like rocks? Which we've had buried in the ground unshielded, leaking dangerous trace amounts of radioactively into our groundwater supplies for a few billion years or so. I tell you, someone should DO something!

          Not to belittle this, but we've had two major, ultimately worst-case radiological events occur: Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And yet, both of those sites are habitable today. Millions of people live there, work there, play there. Let's repeat that. Two atomic BOMBS.

          And you want to bitch about the "dangers" of a material fused into glass, tucked behind shields, and buried in a fucking mountain?

          Dude, you ought to pay LESS attention to the nonsense. You've been brainwashed by too many b-grade science-fiction movies with giant radioactively mutated spiders/scorpions/bats.
          • by HuguesT ( 84078 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @05:36AM (#21489975)
            Responding to your points :

            Actually those alpha emitters are very poisonous. Artificial radionucleides like Neptunium, Plutonium etc can easily get into the food chain and stay there as heavy metals. The fact that they are radioactive is not a nice bonus. It's very important we know how to store them safely for extremely long periods with no access to underground water.

            Natural Uranium is by nature very diluted. Plutonium essentially does not occur naturally. We are talking here about very concentrated sources produced by the nuclear industry. If you have a workable solution let's hear it.

            Worst-case biological events are not necessarily bombs. The two examples you quote were very small bombs by today's standard BTW. However a blown up plant like Chernobyl releases far more nasty stuff than bombs : tons rather than kilos. I don't think the area around Chernobyl will be habitable in 50 years time.

            • by jsoderba ( 105512 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @06:43AM (#21490217)

              Spent fuel is stored encased in glass and concrete. The risk of leaks is very small, and because the low volumes of waste can be concentrated in a few locations, only small areas would be contaminated even if there was a leak.

              The Chernobyl plant was a very poor design and nobody is pursuing similar designs any more. The RBMK design encased the fuel in flammable graphite as moderator. When the reactor overheated and the hot graphite was exposed to the air a raging fire immediatly began, tearing the reactor core apart and sending particles of spent fuel into the air in great clouds of smoke. Water moderated designs obviously don't have this problem. (The experimental pebble-bed reactors are graphite moderated, but they are much less likely to overheat.)

              The bombs used in Japan were also very dirty. Modern designs consume a much larger part of their fuel. The chief danger is that setting off a nuke on the ground will mix the nuclear material with dirt, causing concentrated fallout within a few miles of ground zero, instead of dispersing it relatively harmlessly in the atmosphere like an explosion in mid-air.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by jc42 ( 318812 )
            Anything that's going to be seriously radioactive for 30,000 years is going to be an alpha emitter. Whose highly dangerous particles need massive shielding between you and the source, like that provided by, say, a piece of paper.

            Yeah, but haven't you heard - paper is obsolete. It's all been replaced by computer displays (and "electronic paper"). If the alpha particles start whamming into those, before long you have lots of dead pixels. And we can't have that, now can we?

            If we have to re-establish paper p
      • 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.
        • by BlueParrot ( 965239 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @02:07AM (#21488973)

          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.

          I was referring to this bit ( quoted from wikipedia: [] )

          With the election of President Bill Clinton in 1992, and the appointment of Hazel O'Leary as the Secretary of Energy, there was pressure from the top to cancel the IFR. Sen. John Kerry (D, MA) and O'Leary led the opposition to the reactor, arguing that it would be a threat to non-proliferation efforts, and that it was a continuation of the Clinch River Breeder Reactor Project that had been canceled by Congress. Despite support for the reactor by then-Rep. Richard Durbin (D, IL) and U.S. Senators Carol Mosley Braun (D, IL) and Paul Simon (D, IL), funding for the reactor was slashed, and it was ultimately canceled in 1994.

          Also, I never claimed Chernobyl wasn't bad (nor did the article ), I'm claiming organisations like greenpeace are deliberately lying about it dismissing all science saying they are wrong, with the explicit intent to try to convince the public that Nuclear power is too dangerous to be used responsibly. Solar panels contain small amounts of polluting chemicals, but if I were to push pictures of solar cells next to children with birth defects, arguing that the people who promote their use are corrupt evil capitalists who don't care about hurting babies, then I'd rightly be criticised for lying in order to intentionally mislead the public. I'm saying anti-nuclear campaigners should be held to the same standards.

      • by einhverfr ( 238914 ) <> on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @02:28AM (#21489075) Homepage Journal
        A couple points in response:

        1) You are absolutely right about bad figures. On average, coal-fired plants produce much more exposure to radiation than nuclear plants and this is generally ignored by the anti-nuclear folks (of which I still count myself one). However, I will say that if it were a choice between coal (lots of green house gases, radioactive pollution, etc) vs nuclear (waste disposal issues, etc) I would choose the latter. In short, nuclear may be bad, but coal is definitely worse.

        2) We need to understand that energy use has environmental cost. Simply throwing more power generators at a problem doesn't fix it. We need to do what we can to minimize that cost and this means a multi-level strategy. There is no magic bullet. A few nuclear power plants may be necessary but if we are smart we will pursue a number of other means first.

        3) Cost per kWhr is not the only measure of energy's real cost. I think one must factor in the total environmental cost as well. This includes carbon consumption, hazardous waste disposal, environmental cost of production and disposal of generating equipment etc. We need to start at the bottom and work our way up. This means:
                a) Conservation-oriented policies. Let us help try to get people to push for more energy efficiency in general so we don't need as many generators as we might otherwise.
                b) methane from manure composting from dairy farms which may have close to a net zero cost. (On one hand capturing/burning the methane is *good* for the environment. On the other, the equipment still has to be manufactured and disposed of.)
                c) Encouraging thermal solar energy use from areas where one would normally waste the energy is another proven area where we could come out ahead in terms of general conservation.
                d) Wind power, properly done, is something I would call low-cost.
                e) Any other ideas on agricultural waste, esp. the stuff that normally just gets burned?
                f) fish-friendly hydroelectric dams
                g) Current generation of nuclear reactors should replace coal generators.
                h) More research needs to be done on renewable energy sources, and on storage and transmission systems (I think that ultracapacitors should also be seen as a green alternative to batteries in wind generators, for example).
                h) More research needs to be done on fuel cycle issues and how to effectively eliminate waste (for example, by using the waste as fuel in other nuclear reactors)

        I don't think it is an either/or question. I am not convinced that it is practical to use renewable energy at the current generation for current or future electrical needs, but I would think that everyone should be in favor of minimizing the role of non-renewable energy (in general) and the environmental cost of energy as a whole. Nuclear almost certainly has a part to play, but let's not make it any larger a part than it needs to be.
      • It's sadly true (Score:5, Insightful)

        by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @08:04AM (#21490587) Homepage

        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".

        I used to do research on the biological effects of ionizing radiation and we knew decades ago that most of the commonly held views of radiation exposure stem from 1950's vintage sci-fi movies. Not helped by later movies like China Syndrome, which had all the scientific accuracy of The Matrix. The anti-nuclear movement is one actor in a parade of misinformation.

        One thing that challenges even knowledgeable people was that in population dosimetry studies the low dose groups would consistently out-live the controls. A little bit of radiation exposure was frequently better than none at all.

        I always thought it was funny the public idly tolerates 500 people dying on the nation's highways on the average weekend but would chain themselves to a fence to protest a nuclear power plant in their state. I'd live next door to a nuke plant, provided it wasn't down wind from one of the old Russian carbon-core reactors. Your lifetime exposure would present a lower risk than a single trip to grandma's over the holidays.

  • Ehhhh... (Score:3, Funny)

    by TOI_0x00 ( 1088153 ) on Monday November 26, 2007 @11:10PM (#21487657)
    and the offspring of the survivors just happend to be looking a little bit funky....
  • by Bombula ( 670389 ) on Monday November 26, 2007 @11:14PM (#21487681)
    It says 'only' 800 deaths resulted, but last time I checked there were plenty of fates worse than death, and severe radiation sickness is probably one of them.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by garcia ( 6573 )
      Nah, the aftereffects of radiation poisoning from Chernobyl [] weren't all that bad -- not nearly as bad as being dead.

      I love skew.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Caity ( 140482 )
        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 wester
    • No, it's true. 800 died from the radiation, and the rest died from normal everyday cancer. It's hard to blame that on the A-Bomb.
      • by croddy ( 659025 ) *
        Discovered by Madame Curie.
        Not as harmful as believed.
      • by djupedal ( 584558 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @12:33AM (#21488315)
        There is something you need to understand about how the Japanese use statistics.

        As an example, in Japan, to be tallied as a highway fatality, you must expire within 12 hours of the car accident that resulted in your death. If you die outside the 12 hour window, you fall into another category. 'heart failure - liver failure - kidney and lung failure'.

        Japan is always happy to show off their annual "oh so low" highway death rates (so many per 1000 of the driving public, etc.), claiming their drivers are better trained and behaved than those from other countries. The Japanese govt. also insists that their cars/trucks and roadways are more modern, more advanced and more safe than those from other countries with higher death rates. "Look at us - WE'RE BETTER!"

        I'm not at all surprised to hear that 'only' 800 died from radiation poisoning...that just means it was bad enough that it killed them before they had a chance to die from having all their skin burned off or their lungs turned to burnt toast. Or any of the other dozens of medical nightmares that are still being swept under the rug of history, even today.
    • by explosivejared ( 1186049 ) <> on Monday November 26, 2007 @11:22PM (#21487759)
      I mean yeah... "only" 800 deaths is kind of callous. I'm not sure what the whole aim of that was. "Ten's of thousands died from the blast, but only a measly 800 died directly as an effect of radiation after surviving the attack."

      A lot about this study doesn't really add up. If you're using death as the only symptom of something dangerous then your observations are definitely going to be flawed. All in all these studies don't make a whole lot of sense in there conclusions.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Try reading the article instead of picking holes in research based on a 5 line summary.
      • In 2001 I had radiation treatment for cancer. I didn't have any symptoms before starting the radiation treatment, but within days I was too sick to lift my head off the pillow, my hair fell out, I couldn't hold food down and I had severe formication, which is the feeling of bugs crawling on your skin. I remember a level of pain and discomfort that to this day makes me nauseous just to recall.

        Yes it cured my cancer, along with surgery and medication, and nearly 7 years later I am still cancer-free. Howev
  • 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.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Firethorn ( 177587 )
      Nuclear radiation will produce sterility in men.

      Makes sense, the testes has some of the fastest reproducing cells in the human body - and we use radiation to treat cancer, which kills vulnerable fissioning cells much quicker than cells not undergoing mitosis.

      I know this as it happened to my uncle. Who knows what other diseases might show up that don't necessarily produce immediate death.

      True, but we've had 60 years to study the issue, and mostly the results are that some radioactive materials(like iodine en
    • by john57 ( 988099 ) <evk57 AT yahoo DOT com> on Monday November 26, 2007 @11:42PM (#21487925)
      I happened to be in the military at the time Chernobyl accident happened. They sent us there without explaining anything. The result - I saw a lot of 20 years old people who had all kinds of medical problems (of cause, nothing to do with exposure to radiation).

      Me? I am still alive, thanks. I cannot have children. I am also bold since I was around 25. Where do I sigh for manifestation that radiation is not hazardous?

  • So far 301 have died of lung cancer," says Jacob. "But only 100 cases were caused by radiation. The others were attributed to cigarettes."

    So heavy doses of radiation still have a decently high probability of causing nasty side effects. The quote I provided illustrates what I have concluded from this summary. You can downgrade radiation from supermegaultra, don't-go-near it danger to megaultra, don't-go-near it status. Radiation is still dangerous. This study was just a refinement of probability.
  • Mutant fauna and flora damaged by the Colour of Outer Space are actually quite cuddly.
  • 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
  • Sources? (Score:3, Funny)

    by 7-Vodka ( 195504 ) on Monday November 26, 2007 @11:18PM (#21487733) Journal
    If I were paranoid I would investigate whether this coincidentally has anything to do with the resurging nuclear industry in the US.

    But this is slashdot so i'll never rtfa.

  • That means I can now brush my teeth with radium, and have, gasp, *Glow In the Dark Teeth!!*. On second hand, are you SURE this stuff isn't as dangerous as they say??
  • by Alexx K ( 1167919 ) on Monday November 26, 2007 @11:20PM (#21487741)
    I've just exposed myself to 15000 REMS of radiation. It looks like these guys were right. I just feel a bit warm an
    • by RuBLed ( 995686 ) on Monday November 26, 2007 @11:58PM (#21488055)
      Well it looks like radiation is bad for keyboards...
    • by sxltrex ( 198448 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @01:04AM (#21488533)
      King Arthur: What does it say, Brother Maynard?
      Brother Maynard: It reads, "Here may be found the last words of Alexx K of Aramathia. He who is valiant and pure of spirit may find the holy grail in the Castle of Aaauuuggghhh..."
      King Arthur: What?
      Brother Maynard: "The Castle of Aaaauuuggghhhh"
      Sir Bedevere: What is that?
      Brother Maynard: He must have died while carving it.
      King Arthur: Oh come on!
      Brother Maynard: Well, that's what it says.
      King Arthur: Look, if he was dying, he wouldn't have bothered to carve 'Aaaauuuggghhhh'. He'd just say it.
      Sir Galahad: Maybe he was dictating it.
      King Arthur: Oh shut up!
  • Old news (Score:3, Funny)

    by stuntpope ( 19736 ) on Monday November 26, 2007 @11:22PM (#21487753)
    Ra-di-a-tion. Yes, indeed. You hear the most outrageous lies about it. Half-baked goggle-box do-gooders telling everybody it's bad for you. Pernicious nonsense. Everybody could stand a hundred chest X-rays a year. They ought to have them, too.
  • Hiroshima (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wonkavader ( 605434 ) on Monday November 26, 2007 @11:24PM (#21487779)
    Ok, thousands of people were exposed at Hiroshima, and we have a breakdown of what they died of. Boy, these people are healthy. Where's the weird cancers which people die of now and then? Where's the skin cancer? Prostate? I suspect an incredible scrubbing of data. Only cancers they decide are radiation-related are listed. And they're deciding.

    There might be something to this, but I smell a grossly twisted study which eliminates complexity and debatable data by wiping it away with a sweep of a pen.
    • 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.
  • OK (Score:3, Interesting)

    by travdaddy ( 527149 ) <> on Monday November 26, 2007 @11:25PM (#21487797)
    But we still get just as many superpowers right?
  • by $criptah ( 467422 ) on Monday November 26, 2007 @11:30PM (#21487823) Homepage

    This reminds me of that news program where the journalist debunked 10 common myths like "underpaid teachers" and "Chernobyl was not so bad." I don't remember the name of the guy, but he runs a regular show on one of the major TV stations. I only wish I could send this report to many Chernobyl veterans and their kids who would say otherwise.

    My uncle was in Chernobyl right after the crap hit the fan in 1986. He went in a young man with good health and came back on a partial disability due to radiation. No, radiation did not kill him but it rendered his eyesight useless. When my cousin was born it was found that he lacked a good immune system due to effects of radiation as well. With all this crap my family considers itself to be lucky. We did not have to watch our loved ones dying from the inside. The Soviets did a great cover-up preventing most Western media from accessing the people and the territory until things were hanky panky. What many people did not see was the kids born after the disaster and increasing cancer rates. You know things are pretty crappy when you have routine cancer checks in middle schools. How many American schools consider this to be yearly procedure? I remember a woman telling a story about her husband. She had to spent all of her savings on vodka and moonshine in order to calm her husbands pain and let him die without screaming. Oh yeah, save those jokes about drunk Russians: The guy did not drink until his muscles started to fall of the bone. Finally you may take a look at the effects of radiation on Kazakhstan. After years of being used as a Soviet nuclear testing ground, the country has plenty of polluted land. Perhaps the authors of this report want to buy some prime real estate in the land of Borat?

    I don't doubt that we will find out more about radiation as we go on; however, it is silly to think that nukes (be it peaceful or military) are a joke. It is a serious business with serious side effects.

    • I hate to be blunt, but do you actually have any evidence to support your contention that what happened to your family was caused by radiation? Plenty of people not exposed to fallout from nuclear accidents get eyesight problems, and autoimmune problems. I should know - I've got one (thankfully a pretty mild case, but it still put me in hospital twice).

      Scientific studies have generally failed to show is unusual rates of this kind of disease in areas affected by Chernobyl fallout. The one clear health ef

      • It couldn't have possibly been due to eating only one potato a week for years, working 20 hours a day on a collective farm, drinking wine made from radiator fluid and vodka made from brake fluid. So it must have been the radiation.
    • First, I'm sorry for your loss, but nobody's saying that radiation isn't dangerous - just that it's not as dangerous as people make it out to be.

      It'd be like saying 'You're 200% likelier to die of lung cancer if you smoke', then researchers come out and say 'No, it's only 100%'. Keep in mind that it's still the worst nuclear power* disaster in history.

      In the ensuing decades, up to 4,000 cleanup workers and residents of the more highly contaminated areas died of the long-term consequences of radiation expos
    • Your comments are no better than a Godwin argument. You are actually trying to say that if the researchers don't say that Chernobyl is infinitely bad, then they must be saying it was perfectly OK? And, working in the lending industry, my wife has seen W-2 from literally thousands of teachers. They make pretty good money for a part time job.
      • Yeah, part time. Let's see, 7:30 AM to 3:00 PM, then extra-curricular duties, lesson planning, grading papers, and taking the continuing education courses required of them at their own expense. Yeah, any job that takes only 70 hours a week out of 168 is definitely part-time. Then, of course, there's the three months of the year the kids are out. Only one and a half to two and a half months of which are, for teachers, typically taken up by meetings, room setup, conferences, and often teaching summer school.
  • 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...
  • by heroine ( 1220 ) on Monday November 26, 2007 @11:45PM (#21487939) Homepage
    Time to move to Nevada and take a mud bath. Funny how the more expensive oil is, the less dangerous radiation is.

  • by teebob21 ( 947095 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @12:03AM (#21488093) Journal

    The article was refreshingly in-depth and it covered both sides of the issue - surprising, considering most ./ articles are not much more than short blog rants. I do wish it had pointed readers to an online location of the studies cited, but the reports are verifiable. I was aware of cooperative studies done after WWII by the US and Japan, among others.

    My gut reaction is to accept the information presented as reliably true. I have two reasons for this. First, this was published to a German site. I trust a German site slightly more than your average dot-com because of the competing forces at play in the current US 9/11 mindset. The Bush "gubmint" wants you to cower in terror every damn day fearing random acts of violence by brown people (Appropriate thanks to George Carlin). The more peaceful side of the US continues to try to reassure the public that much of the terror threat is FUD (which it is - seriously, we've been at the Orange terror level for months, meaning "High Risk of Attack". No attacks, no highly publicized failed plots to garner support for the omnipresent Orange. I doubt the FBI/CIA/DHS is doing THAT well). I admit the US has its enemies, and that fact should not be discounted. It's true that someone may someday use a nuke (or more likely a dirty bomb) in an American metropolis. But if this was posted to an American website, I would have a harder time accepting it at face-value, rather than subtle "fear not" messages by pro-nuclear lobbyists. That said, as an American citizen in a metro area, I'm happy to see that moderate radiation may be tolerated by the body better than expected, and i am also in support of more nuclear power plants in the US. Nuclear power done right releases less radioactivity into the air per year than a coal plant...and probably less than the pack of cigarettes I'll finish tonight.

    Second, the effects of short-term radiation exposure are typically exaggerated, in my non-professional opinion. A chest X-ray for example, is roughly equal to 10 days' worth of background radiation dosage; fewer if you live 5000 feet or more above sea level. Not bad considering your heart and lungs are the target of a quick 120,000 electron-volt blast (Linkage) []. Cancer treatments can exceed 10 MeV. Granted, I'm talking about reasonable short-term exposure, something less than 3 or 4 Greys for a one-time worst-case scenario. I'm not going to argue that pulling a Spock and walking into a reactor for a while will leave you anywhere near healthy.

    I think long-term radiation exposure is where we need to concern ourselves. For example, Marie Curie handled radioactive material with little to no protection for nearly 40 years, before dying of anemia in 1934. This can be partly attributed to the fact that much of the radiation she was exposed to was alpha radiation. However, long-term exposure to radium (which is over a million times more radioactive than uranium) and its byproducts, including radon gas and ionizing beta particles most likely led to her death. Gamma radiation is much more harmful, with the ability to knock base pairs out of DNA. Even the most loved radiation of all, UV, that elixir of youthful bronzed skin, has been shown to cause harm. But no one gets carcinoma from a single sunburn, or a single tan. The most deleterious effects add up over time, but are not caused by forgetting to slide the lead suit over the family jewels during an X-ray at the dentist.

    Saying that only 800 or so out of 86,000 survivors died of radiation-related illness is not enough for me. How many showed non-fatal illness extending beyond 1 year of exposure to the bomb? What was the change in infant and child mortality 5/10/20 years after? How did the population histogram change over time - were elderly affected more than children or vice versa? How much radiation WAS deposited to the environment after the detonation of Fat Man/Little Boy -- accident at Chernobyl -- accident at Three

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Gertlex ( 722812 )
      Germany does have the fact that currently the government is on track to phase out [] all of it's nuclear reactors within the next few decades. There are those who'd love to reverse that direction (and a couple of people in the US nuclear industry that I've talked to have said this reverse of policy is almost inevitable). There's certainly a source for bias. How strong? I don't personally know.
  • by Zarf ( 5735 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @12:10AM (#21488137) Journal
    Miracle Max voice:

    It's only mostly deadly... mostly deadly means partially harmless!

  • by Crypto Gnome ( 651401 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @12:29AM (#21488287) Homepage Journal
    As observed from atomic explosions (tests as well as deployment during war) HIGH radion doses are lethal.

    But there's extensive research [] being done today [] which seems to be indicating that low-dosage radiation is not only non-lethal but can actually be beneficial [].

    I saw recently a (BBC?) documentary about ongoing research into the effects of radiation exposure. Basically we have *more than enough* evidence of the effects of short-term high-dosage (the upper/right side of the curve) but damn close to zero data regarding the lower/left side of the curve.

    The does seem to be evidence that in some cases ongoing exposure to (relatively) low-level radiation (but still higher than "generally accepted" levels/"normal background" levels) is actually beneficial.

    There was some village (Israel/Palestine/Middle-East 'ish') where the natural background radiation was something like two-hundred (200) times "normal" levels. The people there were perfectly normal, fine and healthy. In fact, researchers found the villagers were more healthy than normal/average for some diseases/conditions.

    From Memory: I think the science is currently leaning towards the theory that even with radiation (which previously we thought that *any* was bad), "a little" can be good because it basically prompts the bodies natural response to damage/injury (eg in the same conceptual way that an innoculation helps prevent disease) .

    Not that I'm pushing "radiation is good", but there's more than enough evidence to show that we clearly do not fully understand all the implications of exposure to radiation, especially when it comes to ongoing low dosage exposure over long time periods.
    • IANANP (I Am Not A Nuclear Physicist)
    • YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary)
    • TANSTAAFL (There Aint No Such Thing As A Free Lunch)
    • GIYF (Google Is Your Friend)
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by xPsi ( 851544 ) *

      There was some village (Israel/Palestine/Middle-East 'ish') where the natural background radiation was something like two-hundred (200) times "normal" levels. The people there were perfectly normal, fine and healthy. In fact, researchers found the villagers were more healthy than normal/average for some diseases/conditions.

      That's right. For example, from the ionizing radiation article on wikipedia [] (units in mSv -- 1 mrem = 0.01 mSv):
      260 Ramsar, Iran, annual natural background peak dose
      175 Guarapari, Brazil annual natural radiation sources
      50 USA NRC annual occupational limit
      3 USA average dose (per year) from all natural sources

      I don't want to sound like a troll, but radiation safety in the US is almost certainly far too conservative to the point that it has made the public (including many slashdotters, apparently) su

    • Radiation hormesis (Score:4, Informative)

      by Wilson_6500 ( 896824 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @04:19AM (#21489659)
      What you're talking about is called "radiation hormesis."

      We have more or less only one good epidemiological set of data for various-dose radiation--atomic bomb survivors. Those data are extrapolated to low doses, and that's a large part of the data set from which the current "radiation damage" model (the LNT or "linear-no-threshold" model) is derived (actual survival of cells is predicted by a different model--the LNT model is for radiation effects on a person). Since the LNT model is the most widely-accepted standard in the field as far as I've seen (medical physics student), the hormesis promoters have the burden of proving the protective effect.

      The parent is right in that we don't have a good understanding of what goes on at low doses of radiation, and we don't have a model backed by strong empirical observation either. Radiation protection, however, is founded on the principle of keeping doses as small as is reasonably possible, and it's irresponsible to try to wave around that small doses MIGHT not be as harmful as people currently think. I would say that radiation science still basically wants to say that there is no lower threshold for radiation damage, and thus that there is probably not a hormesic (hormestic? I don't know the adjectival form of hormesis) effect. It doesn't really need to be stated that we don't know a lot about low-dose radiation--you start from the assumption that you don't know a lot about it until you can prove that you do. Right now, all we can prove is that it's pretty likely that if damage is linear, then low-doses are bad too.
  • by nilbog ( 732352 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @01:18AM (#21488637) Homepage Journal
    "Those people didn't die from radiation! They died of exposure when their skin fell off!"
  • by coolmoose25 ( 1057210 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @01:39AM (#21488801)
    It is important to realize that the radiation deaths at Hiroshima were mostly caused by direct exposure to the radioactivity of the bomb blast itself, NOT from "fallout" as most people commonly believe. This is due to the fact that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were airbursts of the weapons - they detonated 2000 feet or more above the surface. When this happens, the atomic blast destroys more buildings and causes more destruction over a larger area than had the bomb been dropped to ground level. This was intentional, as the goal of the bombing was to inflict as much damage as possible. But the side affect of this was that very little fallout was generated. Typically fallout is created when an atomic (or thermonuclear) weapon explodes in a ground burst. In a ground burst, the soil, rocks, building materials, etc. that are not vaporized are turned into ash that becomes radioactive due to the direct exposure. The ash is then swept up in the mushroom cloud and dispersed over a wide area. Chernobyl was far and away more dangerous with respect to fallout, because the radioactive core burned and spread really bad isotopes that would not happen to such a great degree with either a ground or airburst of a nuclear weapon. But then again, as has been pointed out, Chernobyl was an example of a bad idea gone worse - a flawed design, with no pressure dome, and human operation intentionally creating a dangerous situation not fully understood. Modern, Western nuclear reactors could never have the same kind of accident...
  • by r_jensen11 ( 598210 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @02:14AM (#21489007)
    Wildlife is returning to Chernobyl and surviving due to the lack of mankind in the area. Obviously, diversity and levels are down below pre-kaboom, but the wildlife is managing. My unscientific and Business background is telling me that it's probably related to lower lifespans and less time for each individual animal to develop cancer. Long-term effects are yet unobservable, but will most-likely be pronounced.

    But don't confuse the aftermath with the immediate consequences of the meltdown. How anyone can say that those effects are not as hazardous as we believed last week had better have some damn good and robust statistics.
  • by jopet ( 538074 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @07:47AM (#21490497) Journal
    No real need to worry then. And what a nice coincidence that these insights come just at the time when nuclear power is getting lobbied as a wonderful climate preserving technology for the future.

    We are looking forward to a bright nuclear powered future just like in the fifties again. Thank you Mr. Atom!

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