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Radiation Not As Hazardous As Once Believed

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the since-my-fallout-with-you dept.

Science 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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In Soviet Russia... (1, Funny)

kcbanner (929309) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487629)

In Soviet Russian, radiation...wait.

Re:In Soviet Russia... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21487761)

The internet should have been IPX/SPX and not TCPIP and you fucking know it.

Re:In Soviet Russia... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21488057)

ah yes, the infamous slashdot "I can't think of a fricking joke so I'll just put something ambigious and ..." non-joke joke.

Well apparently it's working for someone, already modded funny.

New material never killed anyone you know.

astroturfing at its worst (5, Funny)

MrAndrews (456547) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487637)

Apparently this is just an attempt by a Utah company to increase holiday sales [pttbt.ca] . Sigh.

Re:astroturfing at its worst (0, Flamebait)

BigBur (1194559) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487665)

"I don't care how nice their atomic toasters are, they can't just make up science. That's the President's job." Wow... I guess this is a good thing though. Without fear of radiation poisoning from reckless bombing, the U.S. would have been taken over a long time ago. It's only logical, of course.

Mod parent up (0, Offtopic)

SoapBox17 (1020345) | more than 6 years ago | (#21488045)

Seriously, why did that get modded "Troll"?

Re:Mod parent up (2, Informative)

eightball (88525) | more than 6 years ago | (#21488281)

Could be fake news from a site owned by the same person as the OPs home page, with some suggestion the owner is the OP.

I would have gone with "Funny" myself, though.

This article brought to you .... (5, Funny)

IgnoramusMaximus (692000) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487653)

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

Smithers, pay the good Scientists for their efforts!

Re:This article brought to you .... (0)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487995)

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

Smithers, pay the good Scientists for their efforts!

I don't get it.. Are you saying you know of links between the GSF Research Center for Health and the Environment and the nuclear power lobby?

Or are you saying you get your data from a cartoon?

Let's wait for a bit (3, Interesting)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#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:This article brought to you .... (4, Insightful)

BlueParrot (965239) | more than 6 years ago | (#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 ).

Ehhhh... (3, Funny)

TOI_0x00 (1088153) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487657)

and the offspring of the survivors just happend to be looking a little bit funky....

Re:Ehhhh... (3, Insightful)

SnoopJeDi (859765) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487685)

While your point is valid enough, it looks like the focus of these efforts is the effects of radiation on grown humans, who have a lot more cells. When the entire organism is derived from just 150 cells, a single messed-up cell could spawn millions down the line.

Still, not sure I buy this.

Re:Ehhhh... (5, Informative)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487983)

Well, the adult human manages to go a lifetime while losing 50 carbon atoms per second from DNA due to radioactive decay of carbon-14 atoms, and the decay of 4,000 atoms of potassium-40 per second.

Things worse than death (5, Insightful)

Bombula (670389) | more than 6 years ago | (#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:Things worse than death (2, Interesting)

garcia (6573) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487711)

Nah, the aftereffects of radiation poisoning from Chernobyl [blainekendall.com] weren't all that bad -- not nearly as bad as being dead.

I love skew.

Re:Things worse than death (3, Interesting)

Caity (140482) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487981)

The photoessay that that picture comes from is interesting, but really it says nothing in particular about the effects radiation.

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

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

I do agree that TFA is highly skewed though.

Re:Things worse than death (1)

Reverend528 (585549) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487735)

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.

Re:Things worse than death (1)

croddy (659025) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487757)

Radio-activity.
Discovered by Madame Curie.
Radio-activity.
Not as harmful as believed.

Famous Last Words (1)

Reverend528 (585549) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487999)

"...As if radiation has ever killed anybody"
-Marie Curie

Cue the Internet Anagram Server (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21488123)

Madam Curie = Radium came

Re:Things worse than death (4, Insightful)

explosivejared (1186049) | more than 6 years ago | (#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:Things worse than death (2, Insightful)

Cassius Corodes (1084513) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487903)

Try reading the article instead of picking holes in research based on a 5 line summary.

Re:Things worse than death (1)

explosivejared (1186049) | more than 6 years ago | (#21488047)

I've read the article and the only thing they've put forward as a reduction in hazard is a lower than expected death toll. It offers nothing in depth about possible reasons for this. Just that radiation is somehow less harmful.

Re:Things worse than death (1)

Cassius Corodes (1084513) | more than 6 years ago | (#21488077)

Well if less people died then was previously thought then its not as harmful as previously thought. What sort of thing were you looking for?

Re:Things worse than death (1)

king-manic (409855) | more than 6 years ago | (#21488059)

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.
It really ought to have been 4 million Japaneses soldiers instead.

Re:Things worse than death (2)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 6 years ago | (#21488121)

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. However, if you don't have a life-threatening tumor, I would say that yes, radiation is pretty harmful. I was getting a very controlled "therapeutic" dosage, and it almost killed me.

If these guys at GSF don't think radiation is so harmful, I'd like to see how they react if they were told that there had been dirty bomb attack in their town. How fast you think they'd move their families out of there? I

If you think about the political implications of a "scientific study" which showed that nuclear radiation is "not as harmful as thought" you really have to wonder just what is on these peoples' minds. Don't you think there might be something more useful for them to do besides make a nuclear attack seem less threatening?

Maybe next they can do a study on how getting your legs blown off in Iraq isn't nearly as painful as originally thought. Or maybe a study showing that having your kid get poisoned by lead paint on a Thomas the Tank Engine toy isn't nearly as bad as it might seem.

RTFA (2, Insightful)

Agarax (864558) | more than 6 years ago | (#21488299)

Just because the article says radiation is considered less harmful than before, doesn't mean they are saying it is not harmful *at all*.

less harmful != harmless

Your emotional response coupled with arguments not related to the subject at hand are detrimental to a logical debate on the subject.

Re:Things worse than death (1)

Kingrames (858416) | more than 6 years ago | (#21488207)

"If you're using death as the only symptom of something dangerous..."

Also watch out for the reverse.

In world war 2, helmets were issued to all soldiers serving.

As a direct result, the number of head injuries reported in combat increased stratospherically.

if you're a critical thinker, you can easily understand why, but many might be duped by those statistics into believing that helmets cause head injuries.

Re:Things worse than death (1)

hobo sapiens (893427) | more than 6 years ago | (#21488301)

I think you are talking about risk compensation [damninteresting.com] .

I don't see how that applies here. Radiation, in relatively small doses, may not cause death. But radiation [bbc.co.uk] sickness [cdc.gov] is some pretty nasty stuff.

I call bullshit on TFA (1)

iRegister (1173203) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487869)

"Only" 800 deaths from the after-effects of Hiroshima bombing, because 140,000 already died by the end of 1945, half of them on the day of the bombing. Oh, and thousands more died from the after-effects according to Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomic_bombings_of_Hiroshima_and_Nagasaki [wikipedia.org]

Plus, even if one doesn't die from the after-effects, they might have become vegetables, etc. People who think radiation is safe should go live in Chernobyl.

Complete Disregard for Life and Suffering. (2, Insightful)

Erris (531066) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487993)

The whole tone of the article can be summed up here:

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

See there, not so bad! "Only" nine people died. The 3991 others did not mind having their thyroid glands removed at all. All is well that ends in useless pain and suffering.

This article makes me sick.

Re:Things worse than death (1)

NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) | more than 6 years ago | (#21488307)

Clearly more dangerous than abortion, global warming or gay marriage, these posts seem to be written by similarly affected individuals. Be sure not to go to outer space! There is more of it out there than even the most paranoid Star Trek fan could imagine.

I, for one, welcome our glowing mutant overlords (-1, Redundant)

Biff Stu (654099) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487691)

Somebody had to say it.

Re:I, for one, welcome our glowing mutant overlord (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21488003)

Did they really? I mean... really?

But what about sterility? (5, Interesting)

LM741N (258038) | more than 6 years ago | (#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:But what about sterility? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21487781)

Nuclear radiation will produce sterility in men. I know this as it happened to my uncle.

I originally thought this read: Nuclear radiation will produce sterility in men. I know this as it happened to my dad.

My bad.

Re:But what about sterility? (1, Informative)

Johnno74 (252399) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487843)

No offense, but do you know that for a fact? Plenty of things can cause sterility, including common diseases like mumps.

Re:But what about sterility? (1)

LM741N (258038) | more than 6 years ago | (#21488083)

Its highly likely. He was one of the forward troops (read guinea pigs) in the H Bomb tests in the Pacific. Also, he died of cancer.

Re:But what about sterility? (2, Funny)

hobo sapiens (893427) | more than 6 years ago | (#21488243)

He's right. It happened to my father when he was a boy.

I am SO telling the truth.

What?!

Re:But what about sterility? (2, Insightful)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487871)

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 encourage cancers. Still, the current assumption of a linear harm equation hasn't borne out under scientific examination. It's ended up being like many other substances. Dosage is the key - minor dosages don't cause detectable amounts of harm, while a massive dose kills. Doses in between cause varying amounts of harm/sickness.

At least for Chernobyl, despite exposing thousands and careful tracking, with one exception cancer rates of those exposed are not statistically higher. The one exception is thyroid cancer due to the radioactive iodine which attacked a number of children. Fortunately the cancers turned out to be very treatable, so there were very few deaths from it.

Ironically enough, the major treatment for thyroid cancer is radioactive iodine [endocrineweb.com] .

Re:But what about sterility? (5, Informative)

john57 (988099) | more than 6 years ago | (#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?

Re:But what about sterility? (5, Funny)

scottv67 (731709) | more than 6 years ago | (#21488027)

I am also bold since I was around 25.

Just thinking out-loud here: Have you tried </b>?

Re:But what about sterility? (1)

GoodbyeBlueSky1 (176887) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487989)

Nobody's refuting that. Where does sterility factor into "not nearly as deadly?"

No Practical Value (2, Insightful)

explosivejared (1186049) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487701)

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.

Whatever doesn't kill you... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21487703)

Can still mess you up pretty bad. Radiation sickness, cancer, etc, still don't sound like a great time to me, so I'm going to continue to stay away from excess radiation.

MUTANTS! (1)

Prysorra (1040518) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487723)

Mutant fauna and flora damaged by the Colour of Outer Space are actually quite cuddly.

Re:MUTANTS! (1)

PresidentEnder (849024) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487841)

Colour out of Space, man. Out of space.

Radiation has new PR Rep (2, Interesting)

tucara (812321) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487727)

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

Sources? (2, Funny)

7-Vodka (195504) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487733)

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.

Yayy! (1)

Bananatree3 (872975) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487739)

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??

Re:Yayy! (1)

Alexx K (1167919) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487835)

You might still be able to get radium-enriched toothpaste [wikipedia.org] somewhere.

Let's try it! (4, Funny)

Alexx K (1167919) | more than 6 years ago | (#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

Re:Let's try it! (4, Funny)

RuBLed (995686) | more than 6 years ago | (#21488055)

Well it looks like radiation is bad for keyboards...

Old news (2, Funny)

stuntpope (19736) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:Old news (1)

l79327 (174203) | more than 6 years ago | (#21488013)

It happens sometimes. People just explode. Natural causes.

Re:Old news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21488023)

+5 Repo Man reference

Hiroshima (3, Insightful)

wonkavader (605434) | more than 6 years ago | (#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 (2, Funny)

isa-kuruption (317695) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487909)

Sounds exactly like the global warming theory... wipe away the data that questions the theory, discredit scientists who bring up the data, and claim your Nobel prize!

Re:Hiroshima (4, Interesting)

Fnordulicious (85996) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487919)

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.

Re:Hiroshima (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487957)

It'd be interesting to look at the study more closely, rather than a reporter created extract.

Still, we have populations that weren't exposed to the radiation, yet have similar genetics and lifestyles. While levels of exposure can only be estimated at this point, I figure the easiest way to figure out the amount of cancer caused by the bombings(or other exposures) would be to figure out how many cancers you would expect in a population the size of your sample, then subtract them out to get the excess.

IE if you have 100k 'exposed' people, you separate look at similar age groups and come up with 'We'd expect 48 cases of leukemia, but got 135, so we're going to blame ~87 on the bomb'.

Of course, these sorts of studies have some problems - they've studies areas with high background radiation like Colorado and found that they have lower cancer rates than areas with low background radiation.

Colorado and cancer rates (1)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 6 years ago | (#21488205)

...they've studied areas with high background radiation like Colorado and found that they have lower cancer rates than areas with low background radiation.
Was this study adjusted for age-related migration? The likelyhood of cancer slowly increases with age. But old people tend to prefer warmer climes like Florida or Arizona. And they don't ski as much as younger people. So the aveage age of Coloradians is probably lower than many other states, and thus the likelyhood of cancer is therefore probably lower.

The people (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21487785)

The people of Belarus would likely disagree with this...

OK (2, Interesting)

travdaddy (527149) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487797)

But we still get just as many superpowers right?

Re:OK (1)

greenguy (162630) | more than 6 years ago | (#21488111)

Did you mean the geopolitical kind, or the comic book kind?

Yeah! The extra arms (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21487809)

will come in ...handy!

Having a Chernobyl vet in my family says otherwise (5, Informative)

$criptah (467422) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487823)

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.

Re:Having a Chernobyl vet in my family says otherw (2, Informative)

isa-kuruption (317695) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487967)

Of similar interest, living in New Jersey, there have been much debate about the high childhood cancer rate amongst children born in and around Toms River, NJ. There was even a settlement from the case, and some dye company who was dumping chemicals paid a settlement (without admitting liability). However, the study done by the State of New Jersey concluded that there is no single factor that caused the higher than usual cancer rates, so like radiation, we don't really know all the reasons that people get affected by various things.

I believe our bodies, based on our genetics, and even environmental factors, are more or less able to deal with different types of "pollutions". Some people may be able to handle higher levels of radiation than others, some may be able to deal with higher level of chemicals than others, etc. Just as some of us can stand colder weather, hotter water, or those who have higher pain thresholds.

Re:Having a Chernobyl vet in my family says otherw (4, Interesting)

$criptah (467422) | more than 6 years ago | (#21488105)

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

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

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

Statistics don't bear this out (2, Insightful)

Goonie (8651) | more than 6 years ago | (#21488007)

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 effect has been the increase in thyroid cancer. If the Soviet government had have distributed and used the iodine tablets available to it, or stopped the distribution of contaminated milk, even that may have been avoided.

Re:Statistics don't bear this out (3, Funny)

MarsDefenseMinister (738128) | more than 6 years ago | (#21488151)

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.

Re:Statistics don't bear this out (1)

$criptah (467422) | more than 6 years ago | (#21488273)

Yeah... Disability papers are not enough? Milk? Tablets? I hope you are joking... If you could choose life with thyroid cancer as opposed to one without, what would you choose?

Re:Having a Chernobyl vet in my family says otherw (1)

MadMorf (118601) | more than 6 years ago | (#21488041)

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.

Probably John Stossel at ABC in the US...

Re:Having a Chernobyl vet in my family says otherw (1)

$criptah (467422) | more than 6 years ago | (#21488131)

Yep! That's the mo-fo. His special that day made laugh... I stopped watching ABC since then :)

Re:Having a Chernobyl vet in my family says otherw (2, Insightful)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#21488113)

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 exposure.

4k deaths isn't exactly small, but to put it into perspective, Bhopal [wikipedia.org] , a chemical disaster, killed just as many in a far shorter period of time, and the land involved is still contaminated, much like Chernobyl.

Yes, there were many other illnesses. You can get the same stuff with chemical contamination as well. The trick is to be sane about dangers - IE don't let dangerous substances out into the environment.

*Heck, the reactor was used for plutonium breeding purposes for weapons processing, so you could technically put it into the weapons category - responsible for the vast majority of radioactive pollution in the world today.

Re:Having a Chernobyl vet in my family says otherw (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21488239)

Ah yes, the "this study is wrong because it contradicts my personal experience" argument. That one never gets old. Yeah it sucks that your family has health problems, but do you really not understand statistics at all? Wtf.

Sensors Detect Bullshit, Captain... (0)

ewhac (5844) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487829)

Is this some kind of oblique FUD to attempt to build a stronger case for a nuclear power build-out in the US?

I'm all for re-examining scientific data to glean new meanings from it but, golly-gee willikers, what a stunning coincidence that this oh-so-new interpretation of the data should come out right about the time the country is considering shifting to nuclear (away from greenhouse gas-emitting coal).

See, "Denmark, Something Rotten In."

Schwab

Re:Sensors Detect Bullshit, Captain... (5, Insightful)

JBMcB (73720) | more than 6 years ago | (#21488051)

"Is this some kind of oblique FUD to attempt to build a stronger case for a nuclear power build-out in the US?"

FUD towards what? Saying coal or oil powered plants are dangerous would be FUD. Saying nuclear disasters are somewhat less fatal than previously thought is not.

"what a stunning coincidence that this oh-so-new interpretation of the data should come out right about the time the country is considering shifting to nuclear"

This article is from a German magazine, and the research was done by the GSF under the Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft foundation, Germany's version of the NSF. Are you referring to Germany as "the country?"

The article ends with "Still, there is no doubt that radiation poisoning remains ominous and highly dangerous."

Wow, that's some powerful FUD being thrown around right there. (Ominous is an odd translation of a German word, which means something close to ominous/foreboding/nasty/etc...)

Do you have any data or analysis countering their claims, or are you just making spurious arguments against their research?

Re:Sensors Detect Bullshit, Captain... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21488197)

Saying coal or oil powered plants are dangerous would be FUD.

That's right. If there is anything the last couple years has demonstrated, it's the unquestionable safety of coal.

If the Shoe Fits... (2, Interesting)

jomama717 (779243) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487837)

Does this mean we can bring back the Shoe-Fitting Fluoroscope [orau.org] ? 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...

I'll believe this... (1)

Duke Machesne (453316) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487883)

When me shit turns purple and smells like rainbow sherbet.

Crazy Article! (1)

twitter (104583) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487887)

Good grief, that's a foolish and dangerous article. I was expecting an attack on the linear no dose threshold model or similar. Instead I find a statisticless review of a "study" of Soviet era records that implies exposure to plutonium gas, nuclear fallout and 0.45 Gy doses are no big deal. There is little debate about the harm done by larger doses [wikipedia.org] , contamination and heavy metal poisoning. These things will shorten your life if they don't kill you outright.

The "evil incarnate" is that people were exposed without choice and unnecessarily. People were used as robots so that money could be spent on the pleasures of those in power. Great swaths of land were polluted in a way that makes the most awefull US transgressions look miniscule. The result of their hard work and sacrifice was bomb material. The regime that did this has been repudiated, even by it's successors who committed similar atrocities. It's records should not be trusted witout extensive verification by survivors and even then they are dangerous because memories fade.

I would go as far as to say (1)

markov_chain (202465) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487917)

that not a single death among the 86500 survivors has been caused by radiation ;)

Re:I would go as far as to say (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 6 years ago | (#21488277)

Well, the main goal of a nuclear bomb is for it to be a 'bomb'. Although a lot more explosive can be packed in a smaller package, resulting in a larger damage than conventional explosives, the decay of the particles is so fast after the explosion that slow-death-by-radiation amounts to only a small area outside the blast radius.

ey4?! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21487923)

as fitting77

Whew. What a relief (2, Insightful)

heroine (1220) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487939)

Time to move to Nevada and take a mud bath. Funny how the more expensive oil is, the less dangerous radiation is.

expect more articles on the benefits of nuclear (1)

Chryana (708485) | more than 6 years ago | (#21487963)

Slashdot recently covered [sciam.com] the fact that the first new applications in 30 years for nuclear power plants were recently made in New Jersey. I expect to see more articles written whose purpose is to minimize the risks associated with nuclear power generation and to emphasize its benefits. Anyways, that my little conspiracy theory :>.

Disclaimer: I am in favor of nuclear power.

Re:expect more articles on the benefits of nuclear (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#21488015)

it's because it's true.

over the last 20 years the media have wiped up an absolute frenzy of bullshit about radiation, to the point people forget the vast vast majority of radiation they are exposed to comes from the sun itself.

radiation is all about dosage. there's safe and there's unsafe, the limits are very well understood.

Re:expect more articles on the benefits of nuclear (1)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 6 years ago | (#21488081)

Half a century of cold war propaganda didn't help people develop a balanced view of the risks.

MAD doesn't work as well when people aren't terrified of radiation.

marie curie (1)

nerdyalien (1182659) | more than 6 years ago | (#21488031)

how did marie curie died ??? She didn't explode materials with radiation.. she was doing experiments for so long with radiation materials.

Mixed Feelings on the report... (3, Informative)

teebob21 (947095) | more than 6 years ago | (#21488093)

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) [netdoctor.co.uk] . 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 mile island? How much was the increase above worldwide background levels? How does that statistically compare on a year-by-year basis with national and global rates of birth defects, cancer, and mental retardation? There are so many more questions to be asked before you can simply declare "Radiation Not As Hazardous As We Thought (Students will again be taught to 'Duck and Cover')". Alas, these questions are still unanswered, and some of them are unanswerable. Until more data is transparently shown in the scientific community, and verified by other research, I will continue to have mixed feelings on reports such as this. (As well as putting the lead coat over my naughty bits at the dentist!)

Radiation is still dangerous (1)

solar_blitz (1088029) | more than 6 years ago | (#21488117)

I've seen a slide show of some of the worst Chernobyl cases, and I could barely look at the projector screen. Children had enlarged tumors, craniums, malformed arms, limbs... these children are living fates worse than death.

Miracle Max sez: (5, Funny)

Zarf (5735) | more than 6 years ago | (#21488137)

Miracle Max voice:

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

I could have told you that... (1)

bluntshell (1128749) | more than 6 years ago | (#21488139)

The fish were so much bigger in the pond that the Brownsferry plant used water from... Made for some good eating...

Mr. Burns (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21488157)

Radiation gave Mr. Burns a healthy glow - now you can have one too!

Everybody knows..... (1)

rueger (210566) | more than 6 years ago | (#21488161)

Ah, "nuclear radiation"... everyone is an expert 'cause they heard somewhere, read somewhere, had a friend somewhere...

I swear that the only subject more afflicted with "everyone is an expert-itis" is traffic law. Anyone care to point to the part of the Highways Act that defines a "rolling stop?"

"Pernicious Nonsense" (1)

jpetts (208163) | more than 6 years ago | (#21488269)

J. Frank Parnell: 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.

Low Dose effects of radiation (2, Insightful)

Crypto Gnome (651401) | more than 6 years ago | (#21488287)

As observed from atomic explosions (tests as well as deployment during war) HIGH radion doses are lethal.

But there's extensive research [magma.ca] being done today [marie-curie-prize.org] which seems to be indicating that low-dosage radiation is not only non-lethal but can actually be beneficial [lbl.gov] .

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)
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