Friday, December 16, 2011

Note to Reporters: Be Sure to Fact Check Joseph Mangano, Janette Sherman and Robert Alvarez

Late this afternoon, it came to our attention that Joseph Mangano, Janette Sherman and Robert Alvarez will be holding a news conference on Monday morning (December 19) concerning a new study they've done about how Americans might be affected by radiation released into the atmosphere from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility in Japan.

While we haven't seen the article as of yet and can't comment on it, our readers should know that reliable third parties have reviewed the work of all three authors in the past and found it to be fatally flawed.

Here's what the New Jersey Commission on Radiation Protection had to say about Mangano's "Tooth Fairy" project:

The Commission is of the opinion that "Radioactive Strontium-90 in Baby Teeth of New Jersey Children and the Link with Cancer: A Special Report," is a flawed report, with substantial errors in methodology and invalid statistics. As a result, any information gathered through this project would not stand up to the scrutiny of the scientific community. There is also no evidence to support the allegation that the State of New Jersey has a problem with the release of Sr-90 into the environment from nuclear generating plants: more than 30 years of environmental monitoring data refute this.
In June, Michael Moyer of Scientific American had this to say about a study by Mangano and Sherman on radiation and Fukushima:
[A] check reveals that the authors’ statistical claims are critically flawed—if not deliberate mistruths.


Only by explicitly excluding data from January and February were Sherman and Mangano able to froth up their specious statistical scaremongering.

This is not to say that the radiation from Fukushima is not dangerous, nor that we shouldn’t closely monitor its potential to spread (we should). But picking only the data that suits your analysis isn’t science—it’s politics. Beware those who would confuse the latter with the former.
As for Mr. Alvarez, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had this to say about one of his papers on the safety of spent fuel pools:
The NRC staff has reviewed the paper, "Reducing the Hazards from Stored Spent Power- Reactor Fuel in the United States," April 21, 2003, Robert Alvarez, et al., (published in Science and Global Security, spring 2003) and concludes that it fails to make the case for its central recommendation.


Our review of the paper indicates that it is a deficient study of the hazards associated with the storage of spent fuel. Many of the 114 cited references are NRC studies or NRC contracted studies conducted for a variety of purposes, and most are not applicable to terrorist attacks.
Members of the press should take care to challenge the findings announced on Monday, and to be sure to contact NEI or other third party experts to review the validity of the study, rather than simply rebroadcast its findings.


Brian Mays said...

So the frauds Mangano and Sherman have teamed up with Robert Alvarez, the pot farmer. This ought to be good for a laugh.

Since we're debunking these clowns, we should also link to the review of the horrible book, loosely edited by Mrs. Sherman, on the Chernobyl accident, which has been such an embarrassment to the New York Academy of Sciences (which in a fit of insanity, decided to publish the rubbish) that they have disowned the work and have published the review above instead.

Will Davis said...

As for Mangano, I was personally involved in an exchange on the Facebook page of a noted (and anti-nuclear) celebrity in which Mangano claimed that the fuel damage incident at SRE (Santa Susana, California, 1959) was the worst nuclear accident in US history and that it had been completely suppressed. I countered with three publications including the old-time standard reference "The Atomic Energy Deskbook" that were published in three different decades and which had description or mention of the SRE incident. I also pointed out that the reactor was refueled and operated after cleanup. Mangano left the discussion at that point. His entire modus operandi is based on the assumption that people will not fact check what he says or writes, or at least this is how he strikes me.

Mauibrad said...

Well, it's in a peer reviewed scientific journal.

Brian Mays said...

Mauibrad - So it has met the very minimal standard for publication.

That's not much.

Being in a "peer reviewed scientific journal" does not guarantee that the "study" (and I'm being generous by using the term) is correct. Given the record of the authors, I am highly skeptical of the "estimates" that they have published.

The first step in evaluating the worth of a paper is to examine the journal that was willing to publish it. This paper was published in the International Journal of Health Services, which has an impact factor of only 0.98. For comparison, Environmental Health Perspectives, a well-respected journal in the field of public health, has an impact factor of 6.09. The most prestigious journals have even higher impact factors. For example, The Lancet's impact factor is 33.63.

The ultimate test for any paper, however, is the test of time, and I seriously doubt that this junk paper, authored by a dishonest group of anti-nuclear charlatans, will ever be independently substantiated.

Don't be dazzled by the mystique of "peer review." It's worth almost nothing.

smaiken said...

Alvarez the pot farmer,you say. You sound like a PR hack. Substantiate your claims as a pro-nuke tool by considering the fact that the American taxpayer pays the majority of insurance, which could run into the hundreds of billions of dollars, in case of catastroghic meltdown, tens of billions of government handouts for R&D, mining on public lands (killing many Native Ameicans in the process), tax breaks/subsidies, since WW 2,and still, private investors will not touch Nuclear Power without more billions in handouts that Obama/Congress want to give it. As Forbes said a few years back, Nuclear Power has effectively been a managerial disaster...etc. You need to educate yourself about how expensive Nuclear Power is and stop wanting corporate welfare or other people's money to pay your way for documented and dangerous disasters still in the works. Follow the money, it probably also leads to your doorstep.

Anonymous said...

This is just the olde pro-nuke CYA smear of two honest researchers doing their duty by warning us of honest dangers. How about checking the facts on NEI lies through the years? That might yield an even juicier story - how the NEI wants to hide the fact that nuclear energy is DANGEROUS, that radiation KILLS INDISCRIMINATELY, that the most vulnerable are children, infants and fetuses. If that doesn't work, just think: who do you know who has struggled with or died of cancer? Had trouble conceiving a baby, or carrying it to term, or birthed a child with mutations that impacted its health? That's your invisible population of death and destruction created by radiation... and it's only going to get worse while these "dirty bombs on our doorstep" continue to operate. And BTW, all the pro-nuke flunkies posting here to jam the lines? Not gonna work.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and let's see if you have the guts to allow a contrary opinion to show up on your precious blog!

Brian Mays said...

"Alvarez the pot farmer,you say. You sound like a PR hack."

smaiken - And you sound like a broken record or a robot that has been programmed by Greenpeace. I seriously doubt that there is an original thought in your entire anonymous head.

"Substantiate your claims ..."

Sure. This was a story that was carried by the Washington Post. According to them, the guy's own daughter turned him in for illegally growing pot in his basement. At the time, he was a political appointee in the DOE during the Clinton Administration. He was subsequently fired by the same administration.

Why should anyone trust this guy after that? As a civil servant he chose to violate the public's trust by breaking the law and was fired because of it. This all goes to character, and this guy has none. He is simply not to be trusted.

smaiken - Now please return the favor by substantiating your claims.

Dave said...

Referring to your own citation, Robert was not growing it, but his wife was, for medical purposes. This article indirectly casts quite an illumination upon who you are, but you probably do not understand that.

Rod Adams said...


It is difficult to respond to someone who has diarea of the keyboard and cannot even bother to spell check, capitalize or use the return key to separate ideas into logical paragraphs. However, I'll try.

You wrote the following:

As Forbes said a few years back, Nuclear Power has effectively been a managerial disaster...etc.

That statement has been a talking point in the antinuclear litany for about 25 years now since the article to which you are referring was published in the February 11, 1985 issue of the magazine.

There was some justification for that assertion then - there was a long history of cost overruns, the average plant capacity factors were low, the annual generation total for the entire fleet was about 400 billion kilowatt hours, and virtually all construction activity had stopped.

In the intervening years, however, the nuclear power plant operating industry learned a lot of lessons about reliable operations, refueling outage planning and execution, and maintenance of its valuable assets. Now, without building any new units our power plants generate about 800 billion kilowatt hours of electricity each year (just about double the total in 1985) and have sustained fleet wide average capacity factors of about 90% for the past dozen years.

A CF of 90% means that out of 8760 hours per year, the plants are at full power for about 7900 of them.

Poorly managed equipment could not sustain that kind of performance for that long a period of time. It took a little while for us to get the hang of operating nuclear power plants. After all, there are still people who are alive today that were already adults working in the field at the time that the first self sustaining chain reaction was initiated under the stands at Stagg Field in Chicago.

BTW - the total operating and maintenance cost - including fuel and fuel disposal - for a commercial nuclear plant in the United States averages about 2 cents per kilowatt hour. That does not include the capital cost, but nearly every one of our operating plants is already paid off, even though people like you told us they were too expensive at the time that they were built.

Rod Adams
Publisher, Atomic Insights

Unknown said...

how can so many negative comments be published even before reading the genuine article? Science by scientists seeking truth is sincerely better than any of this bizarre smear campaign against these publications.

Unknown said...

Brian Mays and Will Davis throw dirt onto the publication that they have never read. Neither have a PhD to do proper research themselves.

Their complaints smell as rotten fish

JD said...


You're right that they haven't read this publication. But they've looked at previous publications by the same people and have read the thorough debunking of the "scientific" methods used by the authors.

Have you?

What's your response to the fact that Mangano's earlier work (the child mortality thing) was a clear case of cherry picked data? Why exclude certain cities on the West Coast where data are available, but it just so happens the post-Fukushima child mortality rate is lower? Why compare 4 weeks before the event with 10 weeks after the event, when it just so happens that the "statistically significant" child mortality increase disappears if you use 10 weeks and 10 weeks?

Is it your position that Mangano and Sherman have published nonsense before, leading to their rebuke by other scientists, but when it comes to the latest study there's a really good chance they've got it right this time?

We'll see. You can bet that people with actual analytical skills will read this new study when it's available, and if it's nonsense -- as Mangano has already admitted ("there are probably a variety of factors that could be linked to excess deaths")-- then you'll be sure people will figure that out.

See you then!

Brian Mays said...

"Brian Mays and Will Davis throw dirt onto the publication that they have never read. Neither have a PhD to do proper research themselves."

Actually, I do have a PhD. Thanks for playing.

Rod Adams said...


I admit it. I do not have a PhD. I do have an Master of Science and spent nine years as a professional analyst for the US Navy but I guess that training and experience pales in comparison to the academic qualifications of a part time professor and thoroughly discredited technical editor like Janette Sherman.

One of the very first gates through which published scientific studies have to pass is through the gate of being a credible source whose data and research techniques can be trusted. All it takes to lose that trust is one documented case of malfeasance; both Mangano and Sherman have lost all trust of those who matter in the scientific and technical community.

There is a reason why they choose to publish in a "peer refereed" journal that achieves an impact factor of just 0.98. Their methods are unreliable and aimed at achieving a predetermined result; I can guarantee that any work with their name on it will be aimed at scaring people about the health effects of radiation.

Rod Adams said...

By the way, the most recent Mangano/Sherman study has been published.

Here is the abstract.

"The multiple nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima plants beginning on March 11, 2011, are releasing large amounts of airborne radioactivity that has
spread throughout Japan and to other nations; thus, studies of contamination and health hazards are merited. In the United States, Fukushima fallout
arrived just six days after the earthquake, tsunami, and meltdowns. Some samples of radioactivity in precipitation, air, water, and milk, taken by the
U.S. government, showed levels hundreds of times above normal; however, the small number of samples prohibits any credible analysis of temporal
trends and spatial comparisons. U.S. health officials report weekly deaths by age in 122 cities, about 25 to 35 percent of the national total. Deaths rose
4.46 percent from 2010 to 2011 in the 14 weeks after the arrival of Japanese fallout, compared with a 2.34 percent increase in the prior 14 weeks. The
number of infant deaths after Fukushima rose 1.80 percent, compared with a previous 8.37 percent decrease. Projecting these figures for the entire
United States yields 13,983 total deaths and 822 infant deaths in excess of the expected. These preliminary data need to be followed up, especially in the light of similar preliminary U.S. mortality findings for the four months after Chernobyl fallout arrived in 1986, which approximated final figures."

Any competent researcher or analyst can point out at least three fallacies in the described methods of data collection.

Lewis E. Patrie, M. D., M. P. H. said...

Ad homonym arguments do not lead to truth. If the nuclear experts had openly pursued and publicly provided careful and comprehensive epidemiological studies, displaying adequate monitoring of radiation findings following following the 1979 Three Mile Island event, the 1986 Chernobyl event and currently the 2011 Fukushima event and made and currently be making careful observations on the health status of those populations potentially exposed, scientific truth and reality would have been and would be better served. There should be no denial that such has not been the practice by such experts over the decades of the nuclear era.

Brian Mays said...

Dr. Patrie - I don't care how many letters you string out after your name, you're clearly not familiar with the relevant scientific literature.

"Ad homonym arguments do not lead to truth."

I agree. Neither do academic degrees (e.g., M.D., M.P.H., etc.), and neither do affiliations with such bogus organizations as the "Physicians for Social Responsibility" (PSR).

"If the nuclear experts had openly pursued and publicly provided careful and comprehensive epidemiological studies, ..."

Why is this the responsibility of "nuclear experts"? Shouldn't this be the job of professional epidemiologists?

"... displaying adequate monitoring of radiation findings following following the 1979 Three Mile Island event, ..."

A team of researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have conducted followup studies to the TMI accident for decades now. Their published papers, in respectable scientific journals, have failed to find any adverse health effects to the surrounding population using the best data available from the state of Pennsylvania's Department of Health.

"... the 1986 Chernobyl event ..."

The aftermath of the Chernobyl accident has been examined in numerous studies. The results of these studies have been collected and compiled by the World Health Organization (in particular, in papers published by the International Agency for Research on Cancer). All of this research was summarized in the UN's Chernobyl Forum reports, which were compiled by the World Health Organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and others.

This "event" has been studied about as well as it could ever be, given the circumstances.

"... and currently the 2011 Fukushima event ..."

The epidemiological studies will be forthcoming, once relevant data can be reliably gathered. Studies filled with junk science, such as the recent paper by Mangano and Sherman, do nothing to advance our knowledge or understanding of the aftermath of the March earthquake/tsunami natural disaster.

The only person who is in denial is you, Dr. Patrie. You are in denial of the realization that you must actually read the extensive amount of literature that reports the rigorous health-studies work that has been performed during the so-called "nuclear era" before you should be allowed to criticize it.

Your nonsense might play well to the PSR (which is an activist group, not a scientific organization, after all), but not everyone has such low standards for "truth."