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EPA Makes a Rad Decision

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the appropriate-dose-of-overreaction dept.

Government 167

New submitter QuantumPion writes "The Environmental Protection Agency released draft guidelines last month that could significantly relax radiation hazard standards in the case of a radiological event in the United States by using risk-based decisions. The goal is to have limits that make sense in an emergency that are different from the limits in day-to-day life. From the article: 'Currently, the only guidance are the extremely strict standards that apply for EPA Superfund sites and nuclear plant decommissioning, which are as low as 0.010–0.025 rem/year, far below the natural background levels in the U.S. of 0.300 rem/year, and even well below the average amount of radioactive materials that Americans eat each year. And these guidelines aren’t really different from the 1992 PAG, except in the area of long-term cleanup standards and, perhaps, standards for resettlement. What’s the big deal here? As radworkers, we’re allowed to get 5 rem/year. 2 rem/year doesn’t rate a second thought. ... No one has ever been harmed by 5 rem/year, so setting emergency levels at 2 rem/year is pretty mild and more than reasonable. ... Think of it this way. The situations covered by these new guidelines are similar to someone dying of thirst who has the chance to drink fresh water having 2,000 pCi per gallon of radium in it. While the safe drinking water levels are 20 pCi/gal for Ra, 2,000 pCi/gal is of no threat, especially if you’re going to die from imminent dehydration. Of course, a bag of potato chips has 3,500 picocuries, so go figure.'"

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Excellent post. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43788259)

I got a real charge out of it!

pay for by mr bruns nuclear power co (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year and a half ago | (#43788287)

pay for by mr bruns nuclear power co

Oblig xkcd (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43788269)

Radiation Chart [xkcd.com]

Re:Oblig xkcd (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43789571)

Oblig misleading xkcd. The greatest danger is from ingested particulates and/or bioactive materials, not external dose.

Re:Oblig xkcd (4, Insightful)

lennier (44736) | about a year and a half ago | (#43789639)

Radiation Chart [xkcd.com]

Unfortunately that chart doesn't work for any kind of ingested radioactive substance, and it's kind of disingenous for Randall to present it as if it's a meaningful comparison. There's plan radiation, and then there's radioactive contamination in dust, liquid or aerosol form, and the second one is the gift that keeps on giving.

IANAhealthphysicist, but I can read Wikipedia, and I'm pretty sure you get a lot more radiation damage to your cells if you eat or breathe in a radioactive particle than if you sit next to the same number of bequerels on the bench, because your body can incoporate the radioactive emitter directly into your cells for the entire rest of its (maximum of bioactive and radioactive) lifespan, and your skin won't screen out the alpha radiation like it does for an internal source. Iodine-equivalents are pretty nasty since although they have a half-life on the order of days, if they get inside you they dump all that radiation into your thyroid, which is not a good place to have it. Long-term, Radioactive strontium is the worst because it replaces calcium and so binds directly to your bone marrow, which is not good for leukemia. And potassium-equivalents are in the mid range, with a half-life on the order of months to years and they are bioavailable, but not permanently so. As far as we know.

Oh, and a lot of those last have been dumped into the ocean by Fukushima, and are now inside fish. Do they bioaccumulate up the food chain? We're not really sure, but we'll probably find out. It's a wonderful science experiment!

tldr: Don't eat, drink or breathe radioactive gunk. It's worse for you than it looks.

Re:Oblig xkcd (4, Informative)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year and a half ago | (#43790309)

tldr: Don't eat, drink or breathe radioactive gunk. It's worse for you than it looks.

This advice is pretty much worthless, since no one is going to intentionally ingest radioactive gunk. So here is some useful advice:
1. Buy a shaker of "no-salt" (KCl) or "lite-salt" (mixture of NaCl and KCl).
2. Buy a bottle of water purification tablets (iodine).
3. Buy a bottle of calcium supplements.
You should do this now (or the next time you go shopping) because if you wait till after a radioactive event, they will be sold out. When there is a leak/detonation/whatever, you add these to your diet. The copious amounts of these elements will cause your body to expel the surplus in your urine, along with most of the radioactive isotopes of the same elements (or strontium in the case of calcium). This simple $10-$20 investment may save your life.

Re:Oblig xkcd (1)

gstrickler (920733) | about a year and a half ago | (#43790331)

Well, you apparently don't read very well. Inhaled radiation is definitely more dangerous. However, ingested radiation depends upon the type of radiation emitted and the specific element. Ingested uranium or plutonium will pass right through the body without being absorbed, so the exposure is very time limited. We ingest radioactive potassium every single day, in fact, our lives depend upon it, and >99% of all potassium on earth is radioactive.

Re:Oblig xkcd (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43790543)

IANAhealthphysicist, but I can read Wikipedia, and I'm pretty sure you get a lot more radiation damage to your cells if you eat or breathe in a radioactive particle than if you sit next to the same number of bequerels on the bench,

Yes, but notice that the chart is not in becquerels, but in sierverts, which taken into account relative biological damage, and if used right, will take into account exposure to different specific organs, etc.

Well duh! (-1)

Travis Repine (2861521) | about a year and a half ago | (#43788315)

Um, you do realize that radiation is everywhere. So it's nearly impossible to be not exposed to radiation. Hell, even television that we watch gives off a fair amount of rads, so either you can accept it, or freak out about it. Your choice, although, if you choose the first part, you're liable not to have as many ulcers in the nearby future!!

Re:Well duh! (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43788773)

Is there a way to totally filter out users with the little Twitter, Facebook, or G+ badge next to their name? Normally I'm fine just scanning past them, but once in a while I catch a couple words and a little bit of stupid gets in.

Re: Well duh! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43788911)

The fact that there is naturally occurring radioactivity does not mean it is safe to add more. Have a look at studies of increased mortality in nuclear workers from cancer, extra rads do matter and the public should not be exposed. Also, one needs to be very cautious in equating external dose with ingested dose, for some isotopes it may have similar impacts but breathing in plutonium for example is ill advised.

Re: Well duh! (1, Informative)

khallow (566160) | about a year and a half ago | (#43789067)

The fact that there is naturally occurring radioactivity does not mean it is safe to add more.

But it is a good indication that one can safely add more. As to the rest of your post, look at the error bars of such studies. I bet you'll see no actual evidence of increased mortality for small doses of radiation. Instead you'll see evidence consistent with a wide range of possibilities.

Re: Well duh! (2, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | about a year and a half ago | (#43789443)

No, it's not an indication of any such thing.

Bottom line is that some radiation exposure is inevitable and that some more probably isn't going to kill you, the reality is that ionizing radiation is ionizing radiation and that you shouldn't just assume that you can add more just because you haven't been killed by the radiation in bananas.

What's more, it makes a huge difference if you're prepared for the exposure versus not expecting it. It's normal when working in a nuclear plant to be taking potassium iodide on a regular basis, which isn't something that the general populace is likely to be doing. It's also not typical for the general populace to be wearing protective gear either.

And lastly, it makes a huge difference what kind of radiation you're dealing with and what the duration of exposure is.

Re: Well duh! (2)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about a year and a half ago | (#43789549)

It's normal when working in a nuclear plant to be taking potassium iodide on a regular basis, which isn't something that the general populace is likely to be doing. It's also not typical for the general populace to be wearing protective gear either.

Really?

I've never worked civilian nuclear power, but when I was a Navy Nuke, we didn't wear protective gear, nor did we take potassium iodide supplements.

Re: Well duh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43790075)

Protective gear depends on the specifics of the job, and you damn well should have been taking the supplements if you were working anywhere near the reactor. The last thing you want is the thyroid absorbing radioactive isotopes. Thyroid cancer is one of the big concerns that comes from exposure to nuclear radiation.

Re: Well duh! (2)

dasunt (249686) | about a year and a half ago | (#43790111)

Protective gear depends on the specifics of the job, and you damn well should have been taking the supplements if you were working anywhere near the reactor. The last thing you want is the thyroid absorbing radioactive isotopes. Thyroid cancer is one of the big concerns that comes from exposure to nuclear radiation.

How would radioactive iodine be released by the normal functioning of a nuclear reactor?

And in abnormal functioning, would the problem of being right next to a nuclear reactor with breached containment make any questions about developing thyroid cancer a few years down the road a rather trivial concern?

Re: Well duh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43790091)

but people in the military, especially the lower ranked ones, are expendable. taxpayers' money or your life? survey says: $.

in case anyone thinks this is sarcasm. it's not. i hate the military and i hope you get an exotic cancer that gives you excruciating pain, you stupid footsoldier of unconstitutional wasteful wars.

Re: Well duh! (0)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year and a half ago | (#43790199)

But you were Navy. Sailors are expendable.

Re: Well duh! (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year and a half ago | (#43790339)

nor did we take potassium iodide supplements.

How do you know that the Navy wasn't just dumping into your chow?

Re: Well duh! (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year and a half ago | (#43790427)

It's normal when working in a nuclear plant to be taking potassium iodide on a regular basis, which isn't something that the general populace is likely to be doing.

You would have to have a significantly elevated risk of being exposed to radioactive iodine to justify it. Just working at a nuclear plant doesn't mean you have that risk.

And what does "not assuming" such things do for us? Not much in the absence of evidence.

Re: Well duh! (0, Troll)

FirstOne (193462) | about a year and a half ago | (#43790439)

The fact that there is naturally occurring radioactivity does not mean it is safe to add more.

But it is a good indication that one can safely add more. As to the rest of your post,

No.. Our bodies regulate the levels of potassium, of which only 0.012% is the radioactive(K40) isotope with a half life of 1.248 Billion years. Any extra potassium you ingest, will result in an equal amount being expelled(sweat, urine, etc). thus the whole banana equivalence chart is bogus.

Meanwhile, radioactive Cesium-134 has a half life 2.06 years and decays with both Gamma and Beta emissions. Making it 10 trillion times more radioactive than potassium in a banana. And Cesium-137 has a half life of 30.167 years, with a Beta, and a 85% chance of gamma emission. Making it 638 billion times more radioactive than an equal amount of potassium.

It would be most wise to to avoid ingestion or inhalation of radioactive Cs isotopes. If it doesn't kill you with a cancer, the radiation can degrade your immune system, heart, digestive track, etc.

For me, I think the EPA' decision to shorten US residents useful lifespan by 2, 5, maybe 10 years after the next nuclear incident is justification for shutting ALL nuclear reactors down, NOW!! Why should you, me, anyone take that kinda of risk and give it away to billionaire stock holders for free. It's obvious that the US government is planning for another incident, maybe deliberately perhaps to save Social Security.

Just how many times do you need to get burned before learning not to play with fire?

Re: Well duh! (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year and a half ago | (#43790521)

For me, I think the EPA' decision to shorten US residents useful lifespan by 2, 5, maybe 10 years

Or maybe 0 years. Or given the circumstances, even a negative amount of years since they are weakening the regulation in the advent of an emergency, which is where one would expect other rather urgent issues affecting life expectancy to rear their ugly heads. Is it somehow better to die of thirst or starve to death now than live with a slightly shorter lifespan maybe?

Re: Well duh! (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year and a half ago | (#43790367)

The fact that there is naturally occurring radioactivity does not mean it is safe to add more.

There is some evidence that a small amount of additional radiation is actually good for you. This is called radiation hormesis [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Well duh! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43788957)

You are very mentally deficient. Perhaps less time next to the TV and more time reading books can save you.

Re:Well duh! (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year and a half ago | (#43789427)

Um, you do realize that radiation is everywhere. So it's nearly impossible to be not exposed to radiation. Hell, even television that we watch gives off a fair amount of rads, so either you can accept it, or freak out about it. Your choice, although, if you choose the first part, you're liable not to have as many ulcers in the nearby future!!

If you're referring to x-ray radiation given off by CRT TV's, I'd bet that most people here haven't watched TV on a CRT in a number of years. I haven't owned a CRT TV for 6 years - and it's been about 10 years since I've had a CRT monitor.

Re:Well duh! (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about a year and a half ago | (#43789725)

What about the hard UVs given off by CFL backlights? They have the same exact problem with CRTs once the phosphor layer starts to break down.

Re:Well duh! (1)

slick7 (1703596) | about a year and a half ago | (#43789777)

Um, you do realize that radiation is everywhere.

But thanks to the people who brought you Fukashima, the background levels and fission fragments now put everyone in a whole new ballgame. A game where only the radioactive get to play.

Potaytoe Chips (4, Informative)

mrmeval (662166) | about a year and a half ago | (#43788343)

Re:Potaytoe Chips (0)

mad flyer (589291) | about a year and a half ago | (#43789223)

For once. I'm happy to be protected by a paywall from the stupid...

Where did the chips come from? (1)

Technician (215283) | about a year and a half ago | (#43788437)

Article is devoid of citations. Are Irish spuds as highly radioactive as Idaho spuds? Are spuds from Oregon spuds from volcanic spuds as radioactive?

Chips can't be radioactive if produced from material free of radioactive material.

Re:Where did the chips come from? (2)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about a year and a half ago | (#43788505)

"Are Irish spuds as highly radioactive as Idaho spuds?"

What do you mean? Russet or Yukon Gold?

Re:Where did the chips come from? (5, Informative)

krlynch (158571) | about a year and a half ago | (#43788557)

Of course, potatoes can't be produced from material free of radioisotopes..... http://www.livestrong.com/article/303878-a-list-of-the-most-radioactive-foods/ [livestrong.com]

Potatoes contain gobs of potassium, which has a naturally occurring radioactive isotope (K40). Bananas have the same issue. Unlike C14, K40 is primordial, so everywhere you have potassium, you have essentially the same concentration of K40.

Re:Where did the chips come from? (2)

Goaway (82658) | about a year and a half ago | (#43788645)

Chips can't be radioactive if produced from material free of radioactive material.

No such materials exist. At least no such biological materials. Both potassium and carbon are naturally radioactive, and biological matter contains plenty of them.

Re:Where did the chips come from? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43788889)

You can get non-radioactive biological materials, it's just more expensive. I don't know if anyone has bothered to separate potassium isotopes, but mice have been raised without carbon-14.

http://discovermagazine.com/1992/jul/thelazarusmice86

Re:Where did the chips come from? (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year and a half ago | (#43789109)

You can get non-radioactive biological materials

Where?

but mice have been raised without carbon-14

There are other radioactive materials than just these two. Sure, you can separate out every radioactive isotope at least to some rather impressive level. But that hasn't been done.

And even if you did do it, you still have to worry about contamination later. For example, it takes an impressive amount of shielding to block cosmic rays. You basically have to dig a big hole in somewhat radioactive earth to get away from that. That leads to several possible sources of radioactive contamination which have to be blocked at considerable additional cost (or at least setting the radioactivity threshold above that point).

Re:Where did the chips come from? (5, Interesting)

Hartree (191324) | about a year and a half ago | (#43789381)

They weren't free of it. The mice had only one fifth of the carbon 14 normally in them.

That's quite an improvement and allowed tracking of tagged substances. But it's still a long way from free or near enough to do truly low radiation studies. It also doesn't address the other radio-isotopes.

It's extremely experimentally difficult to raise animals free of radionuclides. Everything they eat drink or breathe has to be isotopically free of multiple radionuclides. You have to do that for at least a couple generations so that mothers don't pass on so much of the radionuclides from their own blood and tissues to the developing fetuses inside them, or the eggs they lay.

It's been proposed to set up a laboratory to do this for the purpose of setting baselines for radiation standards by comparing what the effect of nearly zero radiation on life is.

The cost would be quite high and as yet there hasn't been a lot of support for it especially from the UN.

Re:Where did the chips come from? (-1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about a year and a half ago | (#43789103)

No, biological matter does NOT contain plenty of them.

The only radioactive isotope of carbon is C14. The amount of C14 versus C12 is roughly 0.0000000001%.

That is one part in one trillion.

A human body has roughly 80 trillion cells.

So 80 of your cells contain *ONE* atom of C14.

Your whole body contains 80 C14 atoms ... plenty is something different. At least according to my definition of plenty.

Re:Where did the chips come from? (5, Informative)

PDF (2433640) | about a year and a half ago | (#43789303)

The only radioactive isotope of carbon is C14. The amount of C14 versus C12 is roughly 0.0000000001%. That is one part in one trillion. A human body has roughly 80 trillion cells.

Yes.

So 80 of your cells contain *ONE* atom of C14. Your whole body contains 80 C14 atoms ...

No. An 80-kilogram person has about 14 or 15 kg of carbon atoms. This works out to trillions of carbon atoms per human cell. Therefore every cell has approximately one atom of C14, and the human body as a whole has almost a quadrillion C14 atoms.

Re:Where did the chips come from? (0)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about a year and a half ago | (#43790017)

I did not make the (your) math, but you correctly pointed out my mistake.
Nevertheless that means one atom per cell ... so it is pretty meaningless in relation to my parents claims.

Re:Where did the chips come from? (2)

ChrisMaple (607946) | about a year and a half ago | (#43789339)

Your math is defective.

Re:Where did the chips come from? (1)

varmfskii (2910763) | about a year and a half ago | (#43789351)

So, you are assuming that each cell in your body contains one carbon atom????

Let's try this again:
Mass of human body: ~75kg
Carbon makeup of human body: ~18%
Ratio of C12 to C14: 1.35x10^12

which gives us ~1x10^-8 g C14 in human body or more than 4x10^14 atoms of C14.

Re:Where did the chips come from? (0)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about a year and a half ago | (#43789973)

So, you are assuming that each cell in your body contains one carbon atom????
Guilty. Well, not really. I wrote that and saw my error when I clicked "submit".

You are right, erm, half right.

You are definitely right about my mistake, but I did not follow your math so far (I hope it is right?).

Point was: my parent claimed human bodies are full with radioactive isotopes. They aren't. Especially the two he mentioned, carbone and potassium.

Only one of a trillion carbone isotopes is C14. (My mistake was to google for the amount of cells in a human body instead of simply doing the math you did)

Re:Where did the chips come from? (2)

krlynch (158571) | about a year and a half ago | (#43789365)

Check your math ... your numbers are implausibly low. Hint: if there were that few C14 atoms in a body, carbon dating wouldn't work.

Re:Where did the chips come from? (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about a year and a half ago | (#43789935)

Yeah I made an error ;D

However I'm surprised someone realized!

Re:Where did the chips come from? (1)

uncqual (836337) | about a year and a half ago | (#43790191)

Indeed - I didn't bother with following the math because the conclusion was so implausible given that carbon dating works.

Re:Where did the chips come from? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43789865)

Actually, you have to calculate by mass.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Composition_of_the_human_body#Elemental_composition [wikipedia.org]

16kg of Carbon. From there on, I'd leave the calculation of real numbers as exercise to the reader.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon-14#In_the_human_body [wikipedia.org]

Now, the kicker is that Carbon, unlike Cesium or Iodine or Strontium or Plutonium, forms part of your DNA. And we have enough Carbon and cells, that about a dozen or so cells will literally have their DNA exploded from within by Carbon 14 *in* the DNA changing to Nitrogen-14.

Go ahead, calculate the exact number if you wish. Keep in mind this time there are about 3,200,000,000 base pairs in every cell's DNA. ;) Which makes a few hundred Carbon-14 per cell *in* the DNA. And since there are (as you say), 80,000,000,000 cells, they are going off like popcorn! And that's just DNA, never mind the much larger rest of the cell.

And then there are the muons that will slam you from above with 1TeV energy every second, light up path, ionizing you from the tip of your head down and out your toes. Thousands to millions of ionized molecules, every second, day or night. And every half a minute or so, one of these muons will stop in your body and blow up like a little bomb.

Re:Where did the chips come from? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43790371)

Others have pointed out the math issue for C14. However, that isn't the main radioactive isotope in the human body, instead it is potassium-40, which comprises 0.01% of natural potassium. While the human body is only ~0.25% potassium by mass versus 18% for carbon, this works out that there are almost a million times as many potassium-40 atoms in the human body than C14 atoms. Although the half-life of K40 is about 200,000 times that of C14, so in the end, it still works out that about a quarter of the reactivity of the human body comes from C14 (which total is several thousands of reactions of a second).

Re:Where did the chips come from? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43789367)

Quick ban potassium! The potential for dirty bombs is too great....

Oh noooo the bananas!!!!!

-ac because while I know this is funny and trendy I don't feel like being easily indexable by carnivore.

Re:Where did the chips come from? (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about a year and a half ago | (#43789867)

So would a mechanism that splattered everyone with banana cream pie be considered a "dirty bomb"?

Re:Where did the chips come from? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43790121)

Hahaha yep.

Re:Where did the chips come from? (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a year and a half ago | (#43788807)

Chips can't be radioactive if produced from material free of radioactive material.

Maybe potato chips are the secret ingredient in Andrea Rossi's E-Cat Cold Fusion machine . . . ?

Re:Where did the chips come from? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43788845)

Only organic potatoes are radioactive, the inorganic ones not only have a higher mineral content but they're also less likely to have potassium in them.

Re:Where did the chips come from? (1)

dissy (172727) | about a year and a half ago | (#43789471)

Chips can't be radioactive if produced from material free of radioactive material.

No, but if you made potato chips out of the element Lead and then ate them, you would die from a whole new set of reasons.

It's All Relative (3, Insightful)

IonOtter (629215) | about a year and a half ago | (#43788457)

"We're changing the standards so you can't sue us immediately after the disaster. But if you get cancer 30 years down the line, we and our money will be long gone and no longer giving a darn in Pattaya Beach, Thailand."

Re:It's All Relative (1, Redundant)

Xyrus (755017) | about a year and a half ago | (#43789073)

You're going to have one hell of a time trying to prove your cancer 30 years down the road was caused by some insignificant radiation exposure and not some other biological/ecological factor. Carcinogens. Carcinogens everywhere.

Re:It's All Relative (3, Insightful)

mad flyer (589291) | about a year and a half ago | (#43789247)

Yes, that where the scumbags can get their money today and weasel out of the consequences later...

Re:It's All Relative (1)

cheater512 (783349) | about a year and a half ago | (#43789439)

"He's had a cup of coffee in his lifetime! Judge please throw out this case."

Re:It's All Relative (5, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year and a half ago | (#43789099)

"We're changing the standards so you can't sue us immediately after the disaster. But if you get cancer 30 years down the line, we and our money will be long gone and no longer giving a darn in Pattaya Beach, Thailand."

Okay, I know you're trying to be funny, but let's be serious for a moment: Why shouldn't the EPA try to limit lawsuits? They cost you and me, the taxpayer, a lot of money. It slows down the entire judicial process, and increases the cost of excercising your rights in the judiciary. There's filing fees now, lawyers fees, and every motion and such you file also costs money. This is fine for corporations who can just pass the buck on to their customers, but for Joe Average, commencing or defending against a legal action can easily bankrupt him. Is that fair? Shouldn't he be able to sue people who have legitimately wronged him as well -- or should that be something reserved only for the wealthy? Conversely, if he is on the receiving end... should he be bankrupted defending against an action that ultimately failed? Any contact with the judicial process tends to be highly corrosive to the average person. It is often ruinous, irrespective of the merits of their position.

Given that, why shouldn't the government try to limit personal injury cases to those where the only evidence of harm won't surface for thirty years? Do you want a legal system that punishes people based on probability, or actuality? If so, thought crime suddenly becomes a lot more justifiable, as well as imprisoning people based on genetic markers, etc.

But I do acknowledge that statistically, we know that in a given group of say, 100 people, if exposed to X intensity of radiation over Y amount of time, Z of them will develop health problems. We can't say with any confidence which of them will develop health problems, but we can say with confidence how probable it is that at least Z of them will. In a case like this where you know harm has happened but the costs won't be known for a long time, a fine seems like a better way to deal with this than lawsuits, provided the fine is proportional to the actual harm caused, plus whatever punitive damages are justified (was it really an accident, or negligence?).

In this case, the government should be the plaintiff, not the individual. Conversely, the government should take the money gathered from these fines and put it into a general fund. If and when affected individuals develop health problems consistent with previously-documented radiation exposure, the government pays out of that fund.

I think this is the most fair method of enacting justice in such a situation -- the companies (or individuals) involved are penalized shortly after the actual accident occurs, so there is financial incentive to prevent it in the future, and no possibility of them profiting from it later, but at the same time recognizing that we may not know for a very long time who was actually harmed, or to what degree.

From the looks of it, this is more or less what the EPA is trying to do. Of course... such an elegant solution will never survive contact with Congress, but... it's the thought that counts.

Re:It's All Relative (2)

mad flyer (589291) | about a year and a half ago | (#43789243)

Okay, I know you're trying to be funny, but let's be serious for a moment: Why shouldn't the EPA try to limit lawsuits? They cost you and me, the taxpayer, a lot of money. It slows down the entire judicial process, and increases the cost of excercising your rights in the judiciary.

yeah, fuck people after all... it cost muney and stuff...

Re:It's All Relative (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year and a half ago | (#43789437)

yeah, fuck people after all... it cost muney and stuff...

Did you bother reading the rest of my post where I go into how we can balance public and private interests here without creating a cluster-f*ck of high cost litigation that ultimately winds up costing all of us? Or did you just knee-jerk your foot into your own mouth?

Re:It's All Relative (1)

interval1066 (668936) | about a year and a half ago | (#43789301)

"Good news everyone! I've invented the Smell-O-Scope! We'll be able to sniff that radiation out!" Prof. Farnworth two minutes before dying of radiation poisoning.

Re:It's All Relative (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43789543)

Actually no. Using an example with made up numbers, let's say out of 100 people, 30 +/- 10 will get cancer from some source.

One group of 100 people is exposed to a low level radiation source. Out of them, 32 get cancer.

A control group of 1000 people is not exposed to the same source. Out of them, 27 get cancer.

How many people did the radiation exposure cause to get cancer?

Re:It's All Relative (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about a year and a half ago | (#43789705)

Zero?

Re:It's All Relative (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43790105)

EPA [forbes.com] welcomes lawsuits and if you are the right person they will guarntee you a win before you even start the lawsuit.

This is how the EPA is currently funding enviornmental groups with tax payer money. The EPA welcomes lawsuits that they plan on losing, they just don't wany YOU suing them because you are not part of their "team".

Re:It's All Relative (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43789323)

or Fermi 1 cough, cough.

maybe Reddy Kilowatt won't even bother
to *tell* us about the event again....like they did before.

we need mandatory employee day care facilities in all
containment buildings, then we will never another problem.

jr

Re:It's All Relative (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43789497)

It has nothing to do with lawsuits. They are doing it so millions of people aren't forced by law to abandon their homes when an accident causes radiation levels to rise to a level comparable to natural background levels in other locales.

litigation (1)

zlives (2009072) | about a year and a half ago | (#43788463)

future proofing the failure litigation.

Stupid fucking headline (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43788471)

This isn't Fark

Re:Stupid fucking headline (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43789037)

Arh, fark arff, yar farking martherfarker.

Re:Stupid fucking headline (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43790541)

"Potato chips gives you cancer in three ways at least!!OMGLOL"
There, a great headline.

Bad News, Everyone! (0)

Grog6 (85859) | about a year and a half ago | (#43788509)

Everything with Potassium is Radioactive!!

OMFG, let's all die of eliminating an essential mineral from our diets. :)

BTW, That Red clay mud that half the country is covered with has Uranium in 3-4% concentration in a lot of places; thus the Radon problem.

Vitamin R is provably good for your health, from thousands of Manhattan Project retirees, if you're not predisposed to leukemia...

.

Re:Bad News, Everyone! (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#43788945)

BTW, That Red clay mud that half the country is covered with has Uranium in 3-4% concentration in a lot of places; thus the Radon problem.

I would worry since that stuff is all around me, but I know from experience that there's no dirt in our soil, just a whole shitload of rocks.

Re:Bad News, Everyone! (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | about a year and a half ago | (#43789385)

41K is stable, and it's 6.7% of Earth's potassium

Re:Bad News, Everyone! (1)

FirstOne (193462) | about a year and a half ago | (#43790707)

41K is stable, and it's 6.7% of Earth's potassium.

Potassium 39 is also stable, it makes up 93.3%. Only Potassium 40 is radioactive, (half life of 1.25 billion years), and it makes up just 0.012% of the Earth's Potassium.

We don't consider ingestion of K to be a health hazard, quite the opposite, it's essential.. A 60Kg adult typically retains 120 grams of potassium in their body at any one time. If you consume more potassium, the body excretes the excess.

Yum. (1)

superlime (454738) | about a year and a half ago | (#43788527)

Mmmmm. Picocurries.

Re:Yum. (4, Funny)

Deadstick (535032) | about a year and a half ago | (#43788627)

Well, it's not smart to eat a lot of curry, if it's your first time.

Wow. Sanity. From Washington DC. (0)

Mike Van Pelt (32582) | about a year and a half ago | (#43788585)

That's almost unheard of in any matters that contain the word "radiation".

This article is (2)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | about a year and a half ago | (#43788629)

Rad, dude!

A rad decision? (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year and a half ago | (#43788641)

That's totally tubular, dudes!

We're safe. (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year and a half ago | (#43788767)

Of course, a bag of potato chips has 3,500 picocuries, so go figure.'"

So slashdotters are safe then, since we only eat cheetoes... which I expect have been so thoroughly processed to remove any and all traces of this "potato" thing you speak of to render it both nutritionally and radiologically inert.

Re:We're safe. (1)

Kal Zekdor (826142) | about a year and a half ago | (#43788973)

Aren't Cheetoes made from corn?

Re:We're safe. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43789111)

You forgot to consider the keyboard buildup of cheetoes which is much more deadly...

Re:We're safe. (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year and a half ago | (#43789199)

You forgot to consider the keyboard buildup of cheetoes which is much more deadly...

Wanna see an optical illusion? Hold your keyboard over your head, look up at it, and then shake it back and forth vigorously. (trollface)

The alternative, of course (0)

EdZ (755139) | about a year and a half ago | (#43788865)

Is to make rules more stringent, and ban Bananas [forbes.com]

Re:The alternative, of course (3, Insightful)

nojayuk (567177) | about a year and a half ago | (#43789297)

Actually Japan didn't ban bananas. The Forbes writer got it wrong.

The new tighter limits on food, water etc. set by Japan were for contamination due to cesium-134 and -137, byproducts of fission usually only found in the wild after a reactor goes wrong or from nuclear explosions. The "natural" levels of radiation from potassium, rubidium etc. are already factored in to the safety regs.

I'm in Japan at the moment, I bought bananas a couple of days ago -- they're a cheap source of energy (and potassium too) since I'm doing a lot of walking around and sightseeing while I'm here.

Re:The alternative, of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43790077)

Bananas in Japan [youtube.com] Warning: anime content.

Sound science-based decision (2)

dragonard (261270) | about a year and a half ago | (#43788925)

Ever read Physics for Future Presidents [youtube.com] ? It's a good source of scientific information that should influence public policy more than it currently does.

How do you know that? (0, Flamebait)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about a year and a half ago | (#43789029)

No one has ever been harmed by 5 rem/year,
Yes I quoted a bit out of context.
Nevertheless: how do you know that?

Point is: you don't.

After Chernobyl and especially after Fukushima /. (and I guess other media as well) are full of bullshit how harmless radiation is, or how harmless fallout is or how harmless pollution by a certain radioactive element is.

Sorry ... hundred thousands of dead people in the decades AFTER the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and AFTER Chernobyl say something different.

I really don't get what the agenda is behind those more and more upcoming stories about "radiation is overrated, it is harmless" is.

You sit in a radioactive environment: you die. You die awful horrible painful.

So, why would one spread stories, blog comments, /. stories and other news to claim different?

Re:How do you know that? (3, Informative)

iggymanz (596061) | about a year and a half ago | (#43789275)

silly, the people with the higher incidence of cancer in the hiroshima study had exposures of a good fraction of a gray (100 rem), e.g. half a gray at 1500 meters distance. that's way out of the league of what we're talking about here.

Re:How do you know that? (0)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about a year and a half ago | (#43790049)

Oh, I was not talking about what we are talkng here.

I simply stated the fact: since the Fukushima incident the web, especially the american Blogosphere and News is full with articles that basically say: "radiation is not that evil/bad as we thought before".

That makes me wonder.

Re:How do you know that? (4, Informative)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | about a year and a half ago | (#43789341)

Because "radioactive environment" actually has to be quantified before it's meaningful. You're sitting in a radioactive environment right now. This is what you and the vast majority of Americans who grew up with the X-Men don't understand. So you have to talk about exactly how much radiation you're sitting in.

So let's talk about it. Let's say you weigh 70kg. That means you are made of approximately 7.0 x 10^26 carbon atoms (among other things). Carbon 14, a naturally occurring unstable radioactive isotope of carbon, makes up about 1 in every trillion carbon atoms. That's 1 in 1 x 10^11. Which means there are somewhere around 7 x 10^15 carbon 14 atoms inside you right now. Carbon 14 has a half life of 5730 years, give or take 40 years. That means that several thousand atoms of carbon 14 undergo radioactive decay inside you every second. I'll spare you the math, since there are already too many scary numbers in this post. That means there are thousands of beta particles running around loose inside you, every second of the day. In short, you are radioactive.

And... so what. Those thousands of decay events per second add up to a millirem per year, so tiny it's not even measurable by a normal Geiger counter. You are unavoidably exposed to radiation simply by existing. And here's what matters to you: that radiation you expose yourself to by being made of carbon has no measurable affect on your lifespan, or anyone else's. Something else will kill you first, long before the radiation of yourself induces a cancer inside yourself. Most cancers are chemically induced, not radioactively induced.

Yes, there ARE safe levels of radiation. The numbers matter.

Re:How do you know that? (0)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about a year and a half ago | (#43790005)

Oh, don't be scared.

I understand perfectly.

The difference is: C14 as a beta decay isotope in my body, has nearly no effect on my body. The water in my cells will capture it already.

  Yes, there ARE safe levels of radiation. The numbers matter.
Yes and no. The same level of sieverts caused by alpha radiation would be completely different from beta radiation.

Re:How do you know that? (5, Informative)

Nemyst (1383049) | about a year and a half ago | (#43790155)

Incorrect. Sieverts are specifically designed to account for the differences between radiation types with regards to biological effects. 1 Sv has the same biological impact regardless of whether it was caused by alpha, beta or gamma radiation. If the radiation is given in Grays, then you need to apply correction factors depending on radiation type.

Re:How do you know that? (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about a year and a half ago | (#43790467)

Oops, you are right here.

Dangerously wrong (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43790419)

C14 as a beta decay isotope in my body, has nearly no effect on my body. The water in my cells will capture it already.

Holy shit, I hope you never are put in charge of anything related to radiation safety, as this is so wrong to the point of being dangerous if someone had to make a decision based on that. And I was the radiation safety officer for a previous project I worked on...

Re:How do you know that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43790405)

Good post, but just wanted to point out that apparently most cancers are NOT induced by environmental chemicals; NIH-posted article at http://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cpdb/pdfs/Paustenbach.pdf

Re:How do you know that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43790519)

hundred thousands of dead people in the decades AFTER the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and AFTER Chernobyl say something different.

Actually, in the case of Chernobyl, they do say something different. The only times hundreds of thousands of deaths have been attributed to Chernobyl was when someone mistakenly reported the total death rate for the entire Ukraine as the deaths due to Chernobyl, or another horrible study that labeled all cancer deaths in Ukraine as being due to Chernobyl. Considering a lot of people die every year (and the mortality rate in Ukraine was already pretty bad), it is obvious that those were not all due to Chernobyl. Serious attempts at estimates that errored on the side of over-estimating give an estimate of 25k, although other estimates are in the couple thousand range.

Even estimates of long term cancer incidents after the two atomic bombs has numbered only in the couple thousand.

Those were of course very horrible incidents and zero such deaths would be much, much better than any other number. But trying to get things done and preventing such things from happening again isn't helped by exaggerating and not dealing with things as they actually are.

Ain't No New Thaing ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43789051)

Just blocked by a bunch of political hack blockheads for over 17 years.

1996 March 26
Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards
Advisory Committee on Nuclear Waste
US Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Joint Meeting

Dr. Paperiello : [Director of the office of Nuclear Material and Safeguards]
"I do not believe the linear, non-threshold model, but I use it as the basis of all health effects evaluations that are my official NRC duties. I want to make something clear. We use it in the agency. I use it. I don't as scientist believe it."

Mr. Muckerhide:
"And Walinder in his communication on this whole issue as a member of the ICRP and UNSCEAR essentially pointing out that when he goes through the biology and establishes that the underlying biology cannot support such a premise says, "It is difficult for me to understand how people can believe that such an enormously complex phenomenon as dose-response of radiogenic cancer can be identified with an equation of the first degree, I don't hesitate to say that this is one of the great scientific scandals of our century."

Mr. Willis:
"I'm on the board of Directors of the Health Physics Society" ... "As was suggested a month ago locally, we're killing something like 10'000 people a year by failing to use radiation as a means of pasteurizing food. That many people are dying. The impacts of what we are doing in radiation protection, if you will, on research in medicine - there are a number of other areas - are very devastating. So as a responsible professional organization, we felt that it was incument upon us to try to say something."
- - - -
I hit my quarterly dose limit at least six times in my ten years as a staff Engineer at a commercial nuke and later at a US DoE facility - I most assuredly DO 'have a dog' in this fight. I worked with maintenance people who did it every quarter for years in a row. WOOF! WOOF!

Hmm... (1)

Greyfox (87712) | about a year and a half ago | (#43789961)

Maybe we should go have a talk to the FDA about "Radioactive materials Americans eat each year."

gn"Aa (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43790479)

GNNA ()GAY NIGGER Prima donnas, and and committees uncover a story of of playing your FreeBSD at about 80 already aware, *BSD move any equipment percent of the *BSD
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