Radiation Exposure and Risk

Ionizing radiation damages living things and contaminates the environment, sometimes permanently. Studies have shown increases in cancer around nuclear facilities and uranium mines. Radiation mutates genes which can cause genetic damage across generations.



“Radiation is Good for You!” and Other Tall Tales of the Nuclear Industry

"The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is considering a move to eliminate the “Linear No-Threshold” (LNT) basis of radiation protection that the U.S. has used for decades and replace it with the “radiation hormesis” theory—which holds that low doses of radioactivity are good for people. 

"In the wake of the Manhattan Project, the U.S. crash program during World War II to build atomic bombs and the spin-offs of that program—led by nuclear power plants, there was a belief, for a time, that there was a certain “threshold” below which radioactivity wasn’t dangerous.

"But as the years went by it became clear there was no threshold—that any amount of radiation could injure and kill, that there was no “safe” dose." Karl Grossman, Beyond Nuclear board member and contributor to  Counterpunch


"36 Years of Three Mile Island’s Lethal Lies…and Still Counting"

Photo by Robert Del Tredichi, from his 1980 book "The People of Three Mile Island."Harvey Wasserman has written in commeration of the meltdown at Three Mile Island (TMI) Unit 2 on March 28, 1979. He writes:

"The lies that killed people at Three Mile Island 36 years ago tomorrow are still being told at Chernobyl, Fukushima, Diablo Canyon, Davis-Besse … and at TMI itself.

As the first major reactor accident that was made known to the public is sadly commemorated, and as the global nuclear industry collapses, let’s count just 36 tip-of-the iceberg ways the nuclear industry’s radioactive legacy continues to fester:

For the full article, go to:"

Wasserman reported directly on TMI’s death toll from central Pennsylvania. He co-wrote KILLING OUR OWN:  THE DISASTER OF AMERICA’S EXPERIENCE WITH ATOMIC RADIATION. Wasserman has invited Beyond Nuclear to Columbus, Ohio on April 11 and 12 to speak out at events in opposition to the crumbling Davis-Besse atomic reactor's proposed multi-billion dollar ratepayer bailout.

A year ago, Beyond Nuclear published a newsletter and website section devoted to telling the truth about TMI. And a quarter century ago, Beyond Nuclear board member, and investigative journalist, Karl Grossman narrated EnviroVideo's first documentary, "Three Mile Island Revisited."


Around 185 Entergy Palisades workers exposed to 2.8 R in month-long job

Workers pictured at Palisades last spring doing repair work on top of the reactor vessel head. Entergy provided this and other photos of the work to the NRC.As reported by Lindsey Smith at Michigan Radio, around 185 workers at Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor in Michigan were exposed to 2.8 Rem of radioactivity exposure on a single project last year. From Feb. to March, 2014, the Control Rod Drive Mechanisms at Palisades were replaced, due to chronic seal and through-wall leakage that dates back to 1972.

2.8 Rem of exposure violates Entergy's self-imposed ALARA (As Low As Reasonably Achievable) limits of 2 Rem/year for workers. 2 Rem/year for nuclear workers is the national standard in Germany, which will completely phase out reactor operations by 2022 as a direct response to the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe.

However, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission allows, or permits, up to 5 Rem/year of exposure to nuclear workers. Members of the general public, by comparison, are only allowed to receive 100 milliRem, or 0.1 Rem, per year of exposure to artificial radioactivity from the nuclear power industry. Thus, in a single month, 185 workers at Palisades were exposed to 28 times the amount of harmful radioactivity allowed for members of the general public in an entire year.


NRC to hold regulatory conference with Entergy re: worker overexposures at Palisades

As reported by the Kalamazoo Gazette/MLive, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will hold a regulatory conference with Entergy Nuclear Palisades to discuss the radiological overexposure of around 185 workers during Control Rod Drive Mechanisms replacement in Feb. to March, 2014. The problem-plagued Palisades atomic reactor is located on the Lake Michigan shore in Covert, MI (photo, left).


Theo Colborn’s gifts to us

Theo Colborn (1927-2014) changed the way we think about the damage coming from chemical contamination. Her legacy is not only proving this shift in thinking for chemicals, but in providing a road map for how we should assess radiation damage, especially during child development. She continued her work until she past away on Sunday, December 14.

Her ground-breaking investigations on chemical contamination recognized that looking only at the cancers that resulted from exposure was masking a large part of the problem because, in the case of toxic chemicals, cancers were often the result of higher exposures. Once she started to include non-cancer disease, a pattern formed and she found, to her surprise, that low doses given over a longer time were responsible for more subtle, non-fatal, but still very damaging health impacts. These non-cancer effects included reproductive and neurological abnormalities, low-birth weight and premature birth.

Dr. Colborn recognized that damage also depended on when these tiny doses were delivered, overturning the concept that the dose always makes the poison. The question of timing has particular significance for in-utero cycle since the embryo starts as only a few cells that then divide and grow rapidly into a whole functioning human being. A chemical exposure delivered at any sensitive time during this process can have negative impacts on the developing child. Often chemical doses at this level were allowed by federal agencies and considered safe. This is changing in large part due to work by Dr. Colborn and her colleagues and the term “endocrine disrupting chemical” is now widely known.

Colborn’s realization that low doses of endocrine disrupters, delivered at just the wrong time, can cause non-fatal, non-cancer disease, mirrors an uncomfortable truth in radiation protection: there is a lack of focus on the impact of small, long-term doses on the developing child and other sensitive populations. Studies that have been conducted showing disruption of the birth gender ratio, thyroid abnormalities, and cardiovascular disease, have been minimized or ignored and remain unincorporated fully into protection regulations. This remains true even for some types of cancers like childhood leukemia. Dr. Colborn has expanded the way science and society examines the impact of endocrine disrupting chemicals, and public health will be better for it. In demonstrating that fresh methods were needed to assess chemical damage, she has shown us that, likewise, different methods of assessment for radiation damage are needed for much the same reasons. This is just one of the many gifts she has left us. And we are eternally grateful.

Special thanks to Rachel Carson and her Sisters: Extraordinary Women Who Have Shaped America’s Environment by Robert Musil, which explores the lives of American women activists who are linked to Rachel Carson’s work protecting humans, animals and the environment. He provides a chapter on the work of Dr. Colborn from which some of the information above was extracted.

Our Stolen Future, a chemical contamination detective story written by Dr. Theo Colborn, “brought world-wide attention to scientific discoveries about endocrine disruption and the fact that common contaminants can interfere with the natural signals controlling development of the fetus.”

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