Monday, September 21, 2009

Barry Brook (and Co.) on Dr. Caldicott's Latest Claims on Radiation From Nuclear Plants

The debate on the effects of radiation from nuclear plants is alive and kicking at Barry Brook's blog Brave New Climate. In his latest post, he takes on Dr. Caldicott's latest junk piece that surfaced in Online Opinion:

The focal claim from Caldicott in this piece is that it is dangerous to live near to nuclear power plants (NPP), because they supposedly increase rates of leukemia.

My basic response to such a claim is quite simple, and I think useful, because it cuts through the somewhat arcane and context-laden epidemiological arguments. It’s this: The additional radiation exposure of those living in the vicinity of NPP is ~0.0002 millisieverts (mSv), versus a background level of 2 to 4 mSv (depending on where you live) — the latter due to everything from cosmic rays, to ground-derived radon emissions, to eating bananas (this last one gives you more radiation than the NPP). So that’s 1/15,000 of your total yearly dosage coming from the ambient levels produced by nuclear power (in the US). Living near a coal-fired power station would give you 100 to 300 times more radiation exposure, and even that is trivial and not the reason coal burning is damaging to your health.

So, here is an apparently straightforward intellectual challenge. Can proponents of such an argument as Caldicott’s explain how something which adds 0.007% to an existing effect (background radiation) is somehow critically important, when adding 100 to 300% (or more) to an effect by simply moving from a house built on sedimentary rocks to one built atop granite, or moving from the state of New York to Colorado, is irrelevant?
And so the debate took off in the comments. Be sure to stop by because on top of Barry's piece, there is also some valuable info from many of our frequent bloggers (DV82XL, Finrod, David Walters and G.R.L. Cowan).

It's been quite a while since we posted anything on Dr. Caldicott's bogus radiation claims, funny enough I thought she disappeared after she received a mediocre reception in the US when she came out with her latest book. Low and behold, she's still around, but I guess we shouldn't be worried, her claims are in an opinion piece.

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