Thursday, October 13, 2005

Time for a Reality Check

In the fast-moving world of blogs, eleven days is a long time. But even though all that time has passed, I still feel compelled to comment on an article in the Las Vegas Sun, published on October 2. The article, "Long spans for radiation standards leave many cold", discussed objections to radiation protection standards for Yucca Mountain.

According to the arguments of antinuclear activist Kristin Schrader-Frechette, standards based on average doses are inadequate. Her example is a release of radiation to a town of 715 people in which one person receives a dose of 10,000 millirems while the remaining 714 people receive doses of 1 millirem each. She points out that such a release would not violate the average individual dose rate limit of 15 millirems per year, but it would impose a dose that she considers unacceptable on one individual.

Ms. Schrader-Frechette has done her math correctly, but she seems out of touch with reality. The absurdity of her example becomes plain if we consider something a bit more familiar. Imagine a town with 715 houses, in which the average annual precipitation is 15 inches; one house receives 10,000 inches per year, and the remaining 714 houses receive 1 inch per year. Who would give serious consideration to a scenario like that?

Ms. Schrader-Frechette also betrays her ignorance of health physics by characterizing a 10,000 millirem dose as "fatal". Lethal doses are typically 40 to 50 times larger.

It seems to me that the Sun's reporters and editors need to exercise their critical thinking skills a bit more vigorously when evaluating what is worth printing. For more information on radiation and its health effects, click here.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I ran into Schrader Freshette in about 1996 debating Yucca Mountain. She is an educated idiot. She claims future generations are also stakeholders in current decisions, which taken to its logical conclusion would lead to paralysis in the present. A big Rawlsian, she is AS SMART as a Post.