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Marie Curie’s illness and death caused by ionising radiation

John Wayne squares off against Jim Hansen, Medium,  Albert Bates, 11 Jan 2020     “…….. In 1896, Henri Becquerel discovered that uranium emitted rays that resembled X-rays. Marie Curie suspected that the radiation was not the outcome of some interaction but came from the atom itself. Her work with uranium disproved the conventional wisdom going back to ancient Greece that atoms were indivisible and set up the later discovery of subatomic particles. Curie discovered that thorium, radium, polonium and radioactive bismuth occurred naturally with uranium. Radium was known to glow in the dark, which made it useful for painting the hour and minute hands on watches and clocks. It was later discovered that radium “radiated” more than just neutrons, but also protons and electrons, becoming another unstable element, radon, and that element radiated its subatomic particles to become others, polonium and bismuth, until those eventually became a  stable element, lead. Indeed, the radium Curie discovered was the progeny of another unstable element, thorium, which was the progeny of yet another unstable element, uranium.

Madame Curie was a physicist, not a medical doctor, so she did not recognize the health effects of handling uranium, thorium, radium and the other radionuclides. Indeed, she suspected the effects would be beneficial. One of the papers she and her husband published in the late 19th century announced that, when exposed to radium, diseased, tumor-forming cells were destroyed faster than healthy cells (the basis for today’s radio-chemotherapy). She carried test tubes containing radioactive isotopes in her pockets and stored them in her desk drawer. Although her many decades of exposure to radiation caused chronic illnesses (including near-blindness due to cataracts) and ultimately her death, she never acknowledged the inherent health risks. She likely did not recognize the symptoms when she began to feel weak and lose her hair. She died in 1934 from aplastic anemia without ever knowing that she fought the same mortal enemy as those who had painted the hands on watches and clocks, or those who had mined and processed the uranium on which she worked. After her death, and to this day, her papers and effects are too radioactive to be handled and her laboratory is unsafe to enter.also……..https://medium.com/@albertbates/john-wayne-squares-off-against-jim-hansen-42a258b2260d

January 21, 2020 Posted by | PERSONAL STORIES, radiation, Reference | Leave a comment

Low dose radiation causes cell mutations – new research

Low doses of radiation used in medical imaging lead to mutations in cell cultures, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/01/200116141731.htm–

Discovery that radiation creates breaks that allow in foreign DNA must be confirmed in animal studies  January 16, 2020 Source: PLOS

Summary:
Common medical imaging procedures use low doses of radiation that are believed to be safe. A new study, however, finds that in human cell cultures, these doses create breaks that allow extra bits of DNA to integrate into the chromosome.

Common medical imaging procedures use low doses of radiation that are believed to be safe. A new study, however, finds that in human cell cultures, these doses create breaks that allow extra bits of DNA to integrate into the chromosome. Roland Kanaar and Alex Zelensky of Erasmus University Medical Center and Oncode Institute and colleagues report these new findings in a study published 16th January in PLOS Genetics.

Scientists have long known that exposing cells to high doses of ionizing radiation generates mutations by creating double-strand breaks that let in external segments of DNA. These extraneous fragments of DNA can occur in the nucleus, left over from natural processes, such as genomic DNA repair and viral infections. In the new study, researchers investigated whether low doses of ionizing radiation have damaging side effects by irradiating human and mouse cells grown in the lab. When they counted the cells that had taken up foreign DNA, they found that low doses of radiation, in the upper range of common diagnostic procedures, create mutations through inserted DNA even more efficiently than the much larger doses studied previously.

While the new results in cell cultures are potentially concerning, the study’s authors stress that translating radiation’s effects on lab-grown cell cultures to effects in the body is premature. Future experiments using animal models will be necessary to determine the full effects of low-dose radiation, and whether its use in medical imaging has an impact on patient health. If the same phenomenon does occur inside the body, then doctors may need to take into account levels of extraneous DNA, such those resulting from a long-term viral infection, when assessing a patient’s risk from a procedure that requires radiation.

“Most molecular radiobiological research is focused on high doses of ionizing radiation relevant to cancer treatment, while effects of physiologically relevant doses of radiation on the cell are notoriously difficult to study at the molecular level,” said author Roland Kanaar. “Our discovery that mutagenic insertion of foreign DNA into cell’s genome is remarkably responsive to doses encountered during diagnostic, rather than therapeutic, procedures provides a new simple and sensitive tool to study their consequences and revealed surprising molecular genetic details of how cells cope with natural amounts of DNA damage.”

January 20, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, radiation | 3 Comments

Ionising radiation damages brain connections

December 28, 2019 Posted by | radiation, Reference | Leave a comment

Radiation- high levels near start of Japan’s 2020 Olympic Torch Relay

Nuclear Radiation Hot Spots Found At Starting Point Of Japan’s 2020 Olympic Torch Relay https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2019/12/nuclear-radiation-hot-spots-found-at-starting-point-of-japans-2020-olympic-torch-relay/, George Dvorsky, Dec 5, 2019, High levels of radiation have been detected near Japan’s J-Village, a sports facility and the starting point of the upcoming Olympic torch relay, according to Greenpeace. The discovery was made by surveyors with Greenpeace Japan, which warns that monitoring and decontamination efforts in Fukushima are inadequate.

Radiation levels as high as 71 microsieverts per hour were found on the surface near J-Village in northeastern Japan, according to a Greenpeace press release issued Wednesday. This level of radiation is hundreds of times greater than what’s stipulated in Japan’s decontamination guidelines, prompting Greenpeace Japan to demand that the Japanese government conduct regular radiation monitoring and decontamination of regions affected by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

J-Village National Training Centre is in Fukushima prefecture, which is located 20 kilometres from the damaged nuclear power plant. This sports facility will be the starting point of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay, which is scheduled to begin on March 26, 2020. That J-Village was chosen as the starting point for the relay is by design, as the Japanese government is promoting the games as the “reconstruction Olympics.” The Olympics will begin on July 24, 2020 in Tokyo, some 239 kilometres from the damaged reactors.

December 5, 2019 Posted by | Japan, radiation | Leave a comment

On nuclear radiation – past and future – extract from article on Chernobyl

DOES CHERNOBYL STILL MATTER? Public Books, BY GABRIELLE HECHT , 25 Nov 19, “……. The question is not whether an accident of Chernobyl’s gravity can happen elsewhere, but how to prepare for the consequences when it does.

That’s one of the questions Kate Brown considers in Manual for Survival. Offering a wealth of new information and analysis, Brown speeds past the reactor explosion. Instead, she focuses on dozens of previously untold stories about how people coped with their newly radioactive lives.

Brown’s protagonists include women who worked at a wool factory fed by contaminated sheep and butchers ordered to grade meat according to radioactivity. Ukraine, we learn, kept serving as the Soviet breadbasket, despite food radiation levels that exceeded norms. The concentrations of radionuclides were biomagnified by receptive organisms and ecologies, such as mushrooms, wild boar, and the Pripyat Marshes. Defying expectations, some foods, over time, have even become more contaminated.

Brown’s descriptions add historical flesh to arguments first developed by Olga Kuchinskaya, in her 2014 book on Belarus’s Chernobyl experience, The Politics of Invisibility: Public Knowledge about Radiation Health Effects after Chernobyl.

Since the first studies of bomb survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, science on the biological effects of radiation exposure has been subject to controversy. Like all scientific work, these early survivor studies had limitations. Exposure estimates were unreliable.

The largest study began data collection five years after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki blasts, so it didn’t include people who died or moved between 1945 and 1950. Another problem lies in the applicability of these studies. Bomb exposures, such as those in Japan, mostly consist of high, external doses from one big blast. Yet postwar exposures have mainly consisted of low doses, delivered steadily over a long period. They often involve internal exposures—such as inhalation of radioactive particles or consumption of irradiated food—which can be deadlier.

Irrespective of their limitations, however, the findings of these survivor studies have served as the basis for establishing regulatory limits for all types of radiation exposures. Critics argue that extrapolating from the Japan data underestimates low-dose effects: If you’ve already decided that the only possible health effects are the ones you’ve already found, surely you’re missing something? Among other limitations, studies of external gamma radiation exposures cannot illuminate the long-term health effects of inhaling radioactive alpha particles.

Brown injects the work of Dr. Angelina Gus’kova into this story. Gus’kova started treating radiation-induced illnesses in the 1950s, while working at the top-secret Mayak plutonium plant (where the radioactive spills from a 1957 accident continue to contaminate people, land, and water). A neurologist, Gus’kova made observations that extended beyond the narrow cancer focus of most Western practitioners who studied the health effects of radiation exposure. Her patients displayed a wide range of symptoms, which Gus’kova and her colleagues dubbed “chronic radiation syndrome.” Not that they neglected cancer: a 40-year study of 1.5 million people who lived near Mayak found significantly higher cancer and death rates than those reported in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The Soviet rubric of “chronic radiation syndrome” did not exist in the West. Yet Gus’kova’s findings did align with those of dissident scientists in the US and the UK. Thomas Mancuso, for example, was pushed out of the US Atomic Energy Commission because he refused to give the Hanford plutonium plant a clean bill of health after finding that workers there sustained high rates of cardiovascular disease, immune system damage, and other illnesses.

Alice Stewart, meanwhile, was shunned by the British establishment after her 1956 research showed that x-raying pregnant women increased the risk of cancer and leukemia in their children by 50 percent. Over the years, these and other scientists whose data challenged the findings of American and European nuclear establishments found themselves sidelined and defunded.

In tandem with perestroika, Chernobyl opened communication between Soviet and Western nuclear experts, engendering what Brown calls an “unholy alliance.” In 1990, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) sent a mission to Belarus and Ukraine to assess radiation damage. Belarusian scientists reported rising rates of many diseases in contaminated areas. Nevertheless, the IAEA team rejected radiation as a possible cause. Such correlations didn’t appear in Western data.

Instead, the IAEA teams used dose estimates provided by distant Moscow colleagues and ignored local Belarusian and Ukrainian descriptions of people’s actual consumption habits, which included significant amounts of contaminated food and milk. The IAEA assessments neglected the internal exposures resulting from this consumption. Yet these assessments now serve as international reference points. “Underestimating Chernobyl damage,” Brown warns, “has left humans unprepared for the next disaster.” …….

Brown is on the right track. Many modes of scientific inquiry aren’t equipped to address our most urgent questions. Clear causal chains are a laboratory ideal. The real world brims with confounding variables. Some scientists studying Chernobyl’s “exclusion zone”—the region officially declared uninhabitable due to contamination—are trying new techniques to grapple with this reality. Tim Mousseau and Anders Møller, for example, collect data on the zone in its ecological entirety, rather than focusing on single organisms. Their findings belie romantic tales of wildlife resurgence (such as the one offered up by a 2011 PBS special on the radioactive wolves of Chernobyl). They too have met resistance. …..

we can refuse to see Chernobyl and its kin as discrete events of limited duration. Brown, for example, treats Chernobyl as an acceleration of planetary-scale contamination that began with the atomic arms race.

Let’s be clear: the contamination continues. After the triple meltdown at Fukushima, scientists found highly radioactive, cesium-rich microparticles in Tokyo, 150 miles south of the accident site. When inhaled, such particles remain in human lungs, where their decay continues to release radioactivity for decades. Contaminants from future accidents will, in turn, accrete on the radioactive residues of their predecessors.   https://www.publicbooks.org/does-chernobyl-still-matter/

November 26, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, radiation, Reference | Leave a comment

20% drop in patient’s radiation dose achieved by U.S. radiologists

November 18, 2019 Posted by | radiation, USA | Leave a comment

Tritium and other radionuclides are hazardous,even in transport and storage

Zac Eagle Nuclear Fuel Cycle Watch Australia, 11 Nov 19, 
This is from the International Atomic Energy Agency admitting some radionuclides will be released into the environment even in Storage!

“The specific aims of disposal are:

(c) To inhibit, reduce and delay the migration of radionuclides at any time from
the waste to the accessible biosphere;

(d) To ensure that the amounts of radionuclides reaching the accessible
biosphere due to any migration from the disposal facility are such that
possible radiological consequences are acceptably low at all times.”

Some radionuclides can NOT be contained as they will diffuse in transport and storage, eg tritium.

Tritium is a carcinogen (causes cancer), teratogen (causes deformations of the embryo during pregnancy) and mutagen (causes mutations to DNA). Even very low rates of tritium exposure can lead to cancer, leukemia, and birth defects. https://www.facebook.com/groups/1021186047913052/

November 12, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, radiation, Reference | Leave a comment

Radiation map of Fukushima now launched in English, in lead-up to Olympic Games

Citizens’ group in Fukushima puts out radiation map in English, Asahi Shimbun, By SHINICHI SEKIN E/ Staff Writer, November 3, 2019    FUKUSHIMA—A citizens’ group here has released an English radiation-level map for eastern Japan created with input from 4,000 volunteers in response to requests from abroad ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.

“We want people outside Japan to understand the reality of radioactive contamination following the nuclear accident,” said Nahoko Nakamura, a representative of Minna-No Data Site (Everyone’s Data Site), which published the map……

Titled “Citizens’ Radiation Data Map of Japan,” the 16-page booklet summarizes the content of the original Japanese map, released in November last year. It also shows projected declines in radiation levels by 2041.

The Japanese version was based on results of land contamination surveys conducted over three years at the request of Everyone’s Data Site.

About 4,000 volunteers took soil samples at 3,400 locations in 17 prefectures in eastern Japan, including Fukushima and Tokyo, and measured radiation levels. The map was compiled with advice from experts…… http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201911030001.html

November 4, 2019 Posted by | Japan, radiation | Leave a comment

Dispute between Japan and South Korea, over radiation levels in Fukushima food exports

September 30, 2019 Posted by | Japan, radiation, South Korea | Leave a comment

The radiation poisoning of Iraq lingers on

“The destruction of a society”: First the U.S. invaded Iraq — then we left it poisoned      Scientist: Bombs, bullets and military hardware abandoned by U.S. forces have left Iraq “toxic for millennia”, Salon.com  DAVID MASCIOTRA  7 Sept 19

The political and moral culture of the United States allows for bipartisan cooperation to destroy an entire country, killing hundreds of thousands of people in the process, without even the flimsiest of justification. Then, only a few years later, everyone can act as if it never happened.

In 2011, the U.S. withdrew most of its military personnel from Iraq, leaving the country in ruins. Estimates of the number of civilians who died during the war in Iraq range from 151,000 to 655,000. An additional 4,491 American military personnel perished in the war. Because the bombs have stopped falling from the sky and the invasion and occupation of Iraq no longer makes headlines, Americans likely devote no thought to the devastation that occurred in their name.

With the exception of Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who is currently polling at or below 2 percent, no candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination has consistently addressed the criminality, cruelty and cavalier wastefulness of American foreign policy. Joe Biden, the frontrunner in the race, not only supported the war in Iraq — despite his recent incoherent claims to the contrary — but as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee acted as its most effective and influential salesman in the Democratic Party.

The blasé attitude of America toward the death and destruction it creates, all while boasting of its benevolence, cannot withstand the scrutiny of science. Dr. Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, an environmental toxicologist at the University of Michigan and recipient of the Rachel Carson Prize, has led several investigative expeditions in Iraq to determine how the pollutants and toxic chemicals from the U.S.-led war are poisoning Iraq’s people and environment. The health effects are catastrophic, and will remain so long after the war reached its official end.

previously interviewed Savabieasfahani about her initial research, and recently acquired an update regarding her team’s latest discovery that there is a close correlation between proximity to a U.S. military base and birth defects in Iraqi children.

Average Americans, even many who opposed the war in Iraq, seem to believe that once the military campaign is over the casualties of war stop accumulating. What is the purpose of your general research regarding the toxicity of the Iraqi environment resulting from American bombs, munitions and other materials? How does the American invasion and occupation continue to adversely affect the health of Iraqis?

Bombs and bullets have been used on an extreme scale in Iraq. Dropping tons of bombs and releasing millions of bullets leaves toxic residues the in air, water and soil of the targeted population. These pollutants continue to poison those populations years after the bombing stops

What’s more, the United States imported thousands of tons of military equipment into Iraq to use in their occupation. They include, tanks, trucks, bombers, armored vehicles, infantry weapons, antiaircraft systems, artillery and mortars — some of which are coated with depleted uranium, and much more. These eventually find their way into U.S. military junkyards which remain across Iraq.

There are unknown numbers of military junkyards scattered across the Iraqi landscape.

Fluctuations in temperature facilitates the rusting and weathering of military junk, releasing toxic pollutants [including radioactive uranium compounds, neurotoxic lead and mercury, etc.] into the Iraqi environment.

Uranium and its related compounds remain toxic for millennia and poison local populations through food, air and water contamination.

The exposure of pregnant mothers to the pollutions of war, including uranium and thorium, irreversibly damages their unborn children. We found thorium, a product of depleted uranium decay, in the hair of Iraqi children with birth defects who lived in Nasiriyah and Ur City, near a U.S. military base. 

The destruction of a society does not stop after U.S. bombs stop falling. Environmental contamination which the U.S. leaves behind continues to destroy our environment and poison our people decades after the bombs have stopped falling. The U.S. has a long history of irreversibly destroying human habitats. That must end…….

Forty-four years after U.S. forces left Vietnam, there are still Vietnamese babies born with birth defects from the American military’s use of Agent Orange. How long do you believe Iraqis will continue to suffer from the American-led war?

If left unmitigated, the population will be permanently exposed to elevated toxic exposures which can impact the Iraqi gene pool.

Through the use of the scientific method, you are gaining the ability to identify a severe problem in Iraq. Considering that the problem is a result of the U.S. invasion, what could the U.S. do to solve or at least mitigate the problem?

The U.S. must be held responsible and forced to clean up all the sites which it has polluted. Technology exists for the cleanup of radiation contamination. The removal and disposal of U.S.-created military junkyards would go a long way towards cleaning toxic releases out of the Iraqi environment.

You are a scientist, not a political analyst, but you must have some thoughts regarding the political implications of your work. How do you react to the lack of substantive conversation about the consequences of war in American politics and the press, and the American establishment’s evasion of responsibility on this issue?

I expect nothing from the American political establishment or their propaganda machines which masquerade as “news media” and feed uncritically off State Department press briefings.

Fortunately, there is a movement to criminalize environmental contamination caused by war. Damage to nature and the human environment must be considered a war crime.

Scientists are currently asking international lawmakers to adopt a fifth Geneva Convention which would recognize damage to nature as a war crime, alongside other war crimes. I hope that will make a difference in our ability to protect human lives and our environment. ……  https://www.salon.com/2019/09/07/the-destruction-of-a-society-first-the-u-s-invaded-iraq-then-we-left-it-poisoned/

September 9, 2019 Posted by | environment, Iraq, radiation, social effects, USA | Leave a comment

Harm to astronauts’ brains from space radiation

Space Radiation Will Damage Mars Astronauts’ Brains, Space.com By Mike Wall 9 Aug 19, Space radiation will take a toll on astronauts’ brains during the long journey to Mars, a new study suggests.

August 10, 2019 Posted by | deaths by radiation, radiation, space travel | Leave a comment

Radiation research facility opens to public on anniversary of Hiroshima bombing to raise awareness of effects

Radiation research facility opens to public on anniversary of Hiroshima bombing to raise awareness of effects, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/08/05/national/radiation-research-facility-opens-public-anniversary-hiroshima-bombing/#.XUiq5m8zbIU  

KYODOm A Japan-U.S. joint research organization opened one of its radiation research facilities in Hiroshima to the public Monday to raise awareness of the effects of radiation on human health, ahead of the anniversary on Tuesday of the atomic bombing of the city.Although the Hiroshima facility will only be open to the public for two days, the Radiation Effects Research Foundation will open another research facility in the city of Nagasaki on Thursday and Friday to coincide with the city’s Aug. 9 A-bomb anniversary.

This marks the 25th annual public opening of the facility in Minami Ward, Hiroshima. It aims to share research content and help the public better understand the health effects of radiation. The research facility has been collecting data from hibakusha since the institute was established in 1975, when it succeeded the research efforts of its predecessor, the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission.

Some of the exhibition booths explain the risks of radiation, as well as the role of blood. Visitors can also experiment with freezing cells in liquid nitrogen for preservation, which tends to be popular with children when the experiment is successful.

“The (facility was) full of things I didn’t know were there, like health research on second generation hibakusha. Even as a Hiroshima resident, I learned a lot,” said Sanae Yamamoto, a 41-year-old housewife from Asakita Ward in the city who visited the facility with her children.

August 6, 2019 Posted by | Japan, radiation | Leave a comment

Major problem for astronauts – radiation damages mood and memory?

August 6, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, radiation, space travel | 2 Comments

Sunken Soviet Sub leaking high levels of radiation, Norwegian researchers say

August 6, 2019 Posted by | environment, radiation, Russia | Leave a comment

Radiation effects on the “downwinders” and others close to nuclear weapons tests

The fallout of uncertainty in nuclear test communities   https://www.hcn.org/articles/nuclear-energy-the-fallout-of-uncertainty-in-nuclear-test-communities  

For downwinders of bomb testing, plans for compensation to redress past harms makes for tricky politics.   Aria Alamalhodaei Aug. 2, 2019,   The atomic bomb was born in the desert. In the early hours of July 16, 1945, after a spate of bad weather, a 20-kiloton plutonium-based nuke referred to as “the gadget” detonated near Alamogordo, New Mexico. Firsthand testimonies of the test, codenamed Trinity, converge on the uncanny axis of awe and dread. The Manhattan Project’s Chief of Field Operations, General Thomas Farrell, wrote that “the strong, sustained, awesome roar … warned of doomsday and made us feel that we puny things were blasphemous.”

The bomb produced a massive cloud column that drifted in several directions, dusting large swaths of the surrounding region with radioactive snow – fallout that settled on buildings, plants, and animals, and that continued to permeate the air as invisible particulate in the weeks and months that followed. Five years later, the Nevada Test Site was established to continue the work that Trinity set alight.
Although the mushroom cloud became the icon of American nuclear activity in the 20th century, the harms of these bombs did not fade with their dimming fireballs. No group in the U.S. understands this better than the downwinders, communities throughout the American Southwest and beyond who were exposed to the fallout of the military’s domestic nuclear test program.
In 1990, the U.S. government passed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA), which provided financial remuneration to downwinders who had contracted cancer or other illnesses linked to radiation exposure. (The law also provided compensation for certain on-site test participants and uranium miners.) As of April 2018, the program had awarded more than $2.2 billion to some 34,370 claimants.
As the law was written, however, only downwinders in specific counties in Arizona, Utah, and Nevada were eligible for compensation. Even residents of New Mexico, the site of the Trinity test, were excluded. Since the law was passed, studies and fallout reconstructions have suggested that the health impacts of the nuclear tests likely extend to areas as far away as Idaho, Montana and Guam. Residents in those far-flung locales have provided vivid testimonies of glowing duststrange maladies befalling livestock, and cancer clusters ravaging whole families.
For more than a decade, civic groups have lobbied lawmakers, unsuccessfully, to open RECA to a broader population of downwinders. That Congress has so far balked at those proposals is a testament to many factors; legislative decisions are informed not only by science but by moral and political calculus. But lawmakers’ inability to come to terms on who suffered, and on who deserves reparations for that suffering, points to a little discussed weak spot of modern politics: its uneasy relationship with uncertainty.
RECA’S COMPACT DELIMITATION OF “affected areas” was based on dose estimates produced by the Department of Energy’s Off-Site Radiation Exposure Review Project — a complicated calculation that drew from atmospheric transport models, reconstructions of fallout patterns, and reports of dosimeters and other radiation recorders. The bill was amended once, in 2000, to include a larger population of uranium workers and to expand the time frame, eligible diseases, and geographic locations covered. Two years later, in response to a congressional mandate, the Health Resources and Services Administration commissioned the National Research Council (NRC) to review the RECA program and determine if additional populations should be covered. Their final report was published in 2005. Based in part on mortality and disease-incidence data on atomic bomb survivors in Japan, uranium miners in the U.S., and Utah schoolchildren exposed to fallout from the Nevada Test Site, the committee concluded that in most cases involving downwinders who had been excluded from RECA, “it is unlikely that exposure to radiation from fallout was a substantial cause to developing cancer.”
But radiation epidemiology is a science of uncertainty, and tracing a person’s illness to a single exposure event can be challenging even in seemingly clear-cut cases. Although high doses of radiation are known to lead to disease and death, the effects of lower doses are far less predictable. Moreover, an individual’s radiation dose — the amount of radiation that he or she internalizes — depends on the person’s age, sex, diet, and pre-existing risk factors; weather conditions; and the characteristics of the nuclear event itself. Extrapolating results from one nuclear event to another, as the NRC study did, is bound to introduce some error.
Consider the Trinity test, which has been consistently ignored by lawmakers. According to the Los Alamos Historical Document Retrieval and Assessment (LAHDRA), conducted in 2010 for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, previous efforts to determine exposures from Trinity ignored the specific characteristics that distinguished it from all other subsequent tests. Unlike tests conducted at the Nevada Test Site, the Trinity “gadget” detonated only 100 feet from the ground. At this height, more organic material would’ve been swept into the explosion and returned to the earth as fallout. Another compounding factor was the relative inefficiency of the device. Of the 13 pounds of fissile material contained in the device, only about 2.6 pounds exploded; the rest was dispersed into the environment, where it remained radioactive.
The LAHDRA report also faulted previous studies for failing to adequately account for internal exposure, caused by the inhalation or ingestion of radioactive material. Research shows that internal exposure is significantly more harmful to the human body than the external exposure that occurs, say, when X-rays or other high-energy radiation penetrate the skin. Internal dosages are influenced by occupation, diet, local environment, and other sociodemographic factors. Any assessment that does not account for those factors is incomplete. And, according to the LAHDRA report, no assessment has properly accounted for the internal radiation dosages experienced by residents near the Trinity site. 
 
In the case of the Trinity test, there’s reason to believe that sociodemographic factors would have been significant. During the 1940s, New Mexican communities were largely agrarian; most people were farmers or ranchers who grew their food, hunted and fished, and drank water collected from cisterns or holding ponds. If those sources were contaminated, residents would likely have been at an increased risk for radiation-linked illnesses.
LAST SUMMER, MEMBERS OF THE NEW MEXICO community organization Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium (TBDC), along with representatives from the Navajo Nation, argued in a Senate Judiciary hearing for amending RECA. Stated TBDC co-founder Tina Cordova, “The New Mexico downwinders are the collateral damage that resulted from the development and testing of the first atomic bomb.” 
Their appeals appear to have fallen on receptive ears. This March, a bipartisan coalition of U.S. Senators, including New Mexico Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, reintroduced Senate Bill 947 (S. 947), “Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments of 2019.” It is the most recent in a long line of bills that attempt to expand the RECA’s coverage. Among other changes, it seeks coverage for downwinders in New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, Idaho, and Guam. A companion was introduced in the House in July.

Meanwhile, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) is currently conducting a three-phase study on the diet and lifestyles of mid-century New Mexicans. The models generated in this study may help scientists draw firmer links between present day cancer cases and the Trinity test. In an email, NCI spokesperson Michael Levin confirmed that the results of the study are anticipated to be published in late 2019.

Like other epidemiological studies of its size, the NCI’s study has been expensive to run and frustratingly time-intensive. And time is precisely what many downwinders feel they don’t have. More than 70 years has passed since the Trinity test. Many downwinders have passed away or are battling cancers and other diseases. Over time, it becomes increasingly difficult to demonstrate that a disease was caused by nuclear fallout rather than, say, cigarettes or bad luck.

The government, meanwhile, plods along at its own pace, unconstrained by the length of a single lifetime or the distressing span between a diagnosis and its terminal conclusion. In response to a news article about S.947 posted to the Idaho Downwinders public Facebook page, one commenter wrote, “The government are just waiting for all of us to die off so they won’t have to be bothered with it.”
In its 2005 review of the RECA law, the National Research Council stated that, although scientific recommendations were meant to inform policy, the “attendant policy decisions must come from the larger body of citizenry” and “applying this new scientific knowledge may require additional societal value-based decisions.” This is particularly true of probability-based information on cancer epidemiology. When there is simply not enough data available to definitively estimate risk, the question of compensating the citizens who live in the long shadow of the nuclear testing era becomes a moral one: How much uncertainty can we stand?

August 3, 2019 Posted by | radiation, Reference, USA | Leave a comment