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Self styled “Pro Nuclear Environmentalists (PNEs) are just not credible on Chernobyl radiation

radiation-warningEvidence of PNE ignorance abounds. For the most part, PNEs had a shaky understanding of the radiation/health debates (and other nuclear issues) before they joined the pro-nuclear club, and they have a shaky understanding now.

the WHO, IAEA and other UN agencies estimated 9,000 deaths in ex-Soviet states in their 2005/06 reports, and more recently UNSCEAR has adopted the position that the long-term death toll is uncertain.

Radiation harm deniers? Pro-nuclear environmentalists and the Chernobyl death toll, Ecologist, Dr Jim Green 7th April 2016 “……….the self-styled pro-nuclear environmentalists (PNEs). We should note in passing that some PNE’s have genuine environmental credentials while others – such as Patrick Moore and Australian Ben Heard – are in the pay of the nuclear industry.

James Hansen and George Monbiot cite UNSCEAR to justify a Chernobyl death toll of 43, without noting that the UNSCEAR report did not attempt to calculate long-term deaths. James Lovelock asserts that “in fact, only 42 people died” from the Chernobyl disaster.

Patrick Moore, citing the UN Chernobyl Forum (which included UN agencies such as the IAEA, UNSCEAR, and WHO), states that Chernobyl resulted in 56 deaths. In fact, the Chernobyl Forum’s 2005 report (p.16) estimated up to 4,000 long-term cancer deaths among the higher-exposed Chernobyl populations, and a follow-up study by the World Health Organisation in 2006 estimated an additional 5,000 deaths among people exposed to lower doses in Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine.

Australian ‘ecomodernist‘ academic Barry Brook says the Chernobyl death toll is less than 60. Ben Heard, another Australian ‘ecomodernist’ (in fact a uranium and nuclear industry consultant), claims that the death toll was 43.

In 2010, Mark Lynas said the Chernobyl death toll “has likely been only around 65.” Two years earlier, Lynas said that the WHO estimates “a few thousand deaths” (actually 9,000 deaths) but downplays the death toll by saying it was “indiscernible” in the context of overall deaths. Yes, the Chernobyl death toll is indiscernible … and the 9/11 terrorist attacks accounted for an indiscernible 0.1% of all deaths in the US in 2001.

There doesn’t appear to be a single example of a PNE – or a comparable organisation – providing a credible account of the Chernobyl death toll. They’re perfectly entitled to follow UNSCEAR’s lead and argue that the long-term death toll is uncertain. But conflating or confusing that uncertainty with a long-term death toll of zero clearly isn’t a defensible approach.

The Breakthrough Institute comes closest to a credible account of the Chernobyl death toll (which isn’t saying much), stating that “UN officials say that the death toll could be as high as 4,000”. However the Breakthrough Institute ignores:

  • the follow-up UN/WHO study that estimated an additional 5,000 deaths in ex-Soviet states;
  • scientific estimates of the death toll beyond ex-Soviet states (more than half of the Chernobyl fallout was deposited beyond the three most contaminated Soviet states);
  • scientific literature regarding diseases other than cancer linked to radiation exposure;
  • and indirect deaths associated with the permanent relocation of over 350,000 people after the Chernobyl disaster.

Cherry-picking

Cherry-picking is abundantly evident in PNE accounts of the Chernobyl death toll. In a review of Robert Stone’s ‘Pandora’s Promise’ propaganda film, physicist Dr Ed Lyman from the Union of Concerned Scientists writes:

“One after another, the film’s interviewees talk about how shocked they were to read the 2005 report of the Chernobyl Forum – a group under of UN agencies under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the governments of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine – and discover that ‘the health effects of Chernobyl were nothing like what was expected.’ The film shows pages from that report with certain reassuring sentences underlined.

“But there is no mention of the fact that the Chernobyl Forum only estimated the number of cancer deaths expected among the most highly exposed populations in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia and not the many thousands more predicted by published studies to occur in other parts of Europe that received high levels of fallout.

“Nor is there mention of the actual health consequences from Chernobyl, including the more than 6,000 thyroid cancers that had occurred by 2005 in individuals who were children or adolescents at the time of the accident. And the film is silent on the results of more recent published studies that report evidence of excesses in other cancers, as well as cardiovascular diseases, are beginning to emerge.

“Insult is then added to injury when Lynas then accuses the anti-nuclear movement of “cherry-picking of scientific data” to support their claims. Yet the film had just engaged in some pretty deceptive cherry-picking of its own. Lynas then goes on to assert that the Fukushima accident will probably never kill anyone from radiation, also ignoring studies estimating cancer death tolls ranging from several hundred to several thousand.”

Shaky understanding

Evidence of PNE ignorance abounds. For the most part, PNEs had a shaky understanding of the radiation/health debates (and other nuclear issues) before they joined the pro-nuclear club, and they have a shaky understanding now.

Ed Lyman writes“When Lynas says that in his previous life as an anti-nuclear environmentalist he didn’t know that there was such a thing as natural background radiation, or Michael Shellenberger [Breakthrough Institute] admitted to once taking on faith the claim that Chernobyl caused a million casualties, the audience may reasonably wonder why it should accept what they believe now that they are pro-nuclear.”

James Hansen’s understanding of the radiation/health debates is shaky, to say the least. He falsely claims there is a “generally accepted 100 millisievert threshold for fatal disease development.” But the accepted scientific position is that there is no threshold. Thus a 2010 UNSCEAR report states that “the current balance of available evidence tends to favour a non-threshold response for the mutational component of radiation-associated cancer induction at low doses and low dose rates.”

Barry Brook is another example of someone whose understanding was shaky before and after he joined the PNE club. Brook says that before 2009 he hadn’t given much thought to nuclear power because of the ‘peak uranium’ argument. By 2010, Brook was in full flight, asserting that the LNT model is “discredited” and has “no relevance to the real world”.

In fact, LNT enjoys heavy-hitting scientific support. For example the US National Academy of Sciences’ BEIR report states that “the risk of cancer proceeds in a linear fashion at lower doses without a threshold and … the smallest dose has the potential to cause a small increase in risk to humans.”

Likewise, a report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences states: “Given that it is supported by experimentally grounded, quantifiable, biophysical arguments, a linear extrapolation of cancer risks from intermediate to very low doses currently appears to be the most appropriate methodology.”

Conspiracy theories

On Chernobyl, Brook said“The credible literature (WHO, IAEA) puts the total Chernobyl death toll at less than 60. The ‘conspiracy theories’ drummed up against these authoritative organisations rings a disturbingly similar bell in my mind to the crank attacks on the IPCC, NASA and WMO in climate science.”

But the WHO, IAEA and other UN agencies estimated 9,000 deaths in ex-Soviet states in their 2005/06 reports, and more recently UNSCEAR has adopted the position that the long-term death toll is uncertain.

Brook repeatedly promotes the work of Ted Rockwell from ‘Radiation, Science, and Health’, an organisation that peddles dangerous conspiracy theories such as this:“Government agencies suppress data, including radiation hormesis, and foster radiation fear. They support extreme, costly, radiation protection policies; and preclude using low-dose radiation for health and medical benefits that apply hormesis, in favor of using (more profitable) drug therapies.”

Brook promotes the discredited ‘hormesis’ theory that low doses of radiation are beneficial to human health (for a scientific assessment see Appendix D in the BEIR report). Lynaslends support to the hormesis theory and uncritically quotes a contrarian scientist who argues that the annual public radiation dose limit should be increased from 1 millisievert to 1,200 millisieverts!

And for comic relief Brook promotes his citation as one of the ‘Outstanding Scientists of the 21st Century’. But in fact the citation comes from the International Biographical Centre, an organisation whose raison d’etre is to separate the gullible and the narcissistic from their money. One of Brook’s academic colleagues nominated a squeaky toy lobster and Prof. Lobster was accepted for inclusion in the list of Outstanding Scientists…………http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2987515/radiation_harm_deniers_pronuclear_environmentalists_and_the_chernobyl_death_toll.html

 

April 8, 2016 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, radiation, Reference, spinbuster

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