A Nuclear Paradigm Shift?
Wade Allison, emeritus professor of physics at Oxford, has a more realistic idea for fighting global warming than any being promoted at this week’s climate summit in Paris: Increase by 1,000-fold the allowable limits for radiation exposure to the public and workers from nuclear power plants.
Politicians in Paris might notice their host country ranks 20th in per capita income but 50th in greenhouse emissions. You know why: France gets 75% of its electricity from nuclear. France has waded forward even while, for reasons having to do with horror of nuclear war and atmospheric testing, the world has surrendered since the 1950s to an unfounded dogma that radiation exposure is always dangerous in direct proportion to dose.
This is roughly the equivalent of saying a bullet fired at one foot per second has 1/900th the chance of killing you as a bullet fired at 900 f.p.s. (the actual muzzle velocity of a .45 automatic). Known as the linear no-threshold model (LNT), it underlies predictions of thousands of cancer deaths from Chernobyl or Fukushima that have consistently failed to be borne out.
Sweden a few years ago finally acknowledged nearly a year’s supply of reindeer meat was needlessly destroyed after Chernobyl. A Japanese survey in 2013 found 1,600 premature deaths from “evacuation stress” (including suicides and loss of access to critical health care) among those forcibly protected from exposures that posed little or no threat and were less than residents of, say, Finland experience on a normal basis.
In 2001, America’s then-chief nuclear regulator cautiously admitted that “excess cases of leukemia that can be attributed to Chernobyl have not been detected.”
In the 1980s, 1,700 apartments in Taiwan were built from recycled steel contaminated with radioactive cobalt. In a 2006 study that found residents suffered unusually low cancer rates, the authors suggested that, by correcting our risk estimates, “many billions of dollars in nuclear reactor operation could be saved and expansion of nuclear electricity generation could be facilitated.”