Thursday, September 8, 2011

Fukushima: Quantifying Risk

I just read a very well developed effort to quantify the risks we are encountering from airborne radiation at Modern Survival Blog.
The author of this blog has put considerable effort into defining and operationalizing different measurements of radiation’s impact on biological bodies.

Having looked for sources on this subject myself, I know that he had to spend considerable time tracking down his sources.
I’ve tried to use the risk models he describes to assess our risks from Fukushima radiation. Indeed, I’ve posted some of my efforts on my blog.

The problem is that the risk model for predicting cancers is fundamentally flawed.
As Chris Busby explains, the ICRP model that predicts so many cancers per 1000 people given a quantifiable exposure (e.g., 100CPM beta) failed miserably to accurately predict actual cancers in Chernobyl.

[In this post, I explain why the model doesn’t work based on Busby’s comments and the work of other researchers studying radiation’s effects.]
So many factors impact our vulnerability to ionizing radiation, ranging from age to our general health. No simple formula can ever begin to represent these contingencies.

Keep in mind also that the people who developed these models were primarily the same people who developed nuclear weapons and nuclear “energy” and thus they had a vested interest in understating effects.

Numbers games are the domain of technocrats who designed the games and their rules.
Consider this fact that alone compromises the risk model: Contrary to the model’s predictions of few effects from low-level exposure, a miniscule amount of strontium or plutonium lodged in our body could cause cancer and, ultimately, death.

We (me included) persist in relying on models such as the ICRP because we want to know how much risk radiation from Fukushima actually poses.
We worry about fretting over tiny risks and we also worry about ignoring or trivializing major risks.

Yet all our efforts to quantify risk so that we can feel safe (or more worried) detract perhaps from the central issues here and play into the hand of those "authorities" who say risks are not "significant" or "barely detectable."
Fukushima is still producing radiation and no one seems to know how to stop it!
Tepco is still in control of Fukushima despite a demonstrated incapacity/unwillingness to act on behalf of public welfare.

Nuclear power plants all over the world are still equally vulnerable to massive meltdowns in the event of power disruptions and we are on the verge of a new solar cycle that has already produced Electro-Magnetic Pulses (EMPs) that, thankfully, haven’t broadsided earth and taken down electrical grids.

The truth is I really don’t know how bad Fukushima is or can get. I sense that even the experts such as Helen Caldicott and Arnie Gunderson don’t know because we are all receiving distorted data from Tepco.
I do not know whether Fukushima could pose an extinction level event for humanity over several generations of accumulating DNA damage.

Perhaps Fukushima poses only (and I don’t mean at all to diminish this) an extinction event for the nation-state of Japan (which I find highly likely because a people cannot continue living and reproducing--surviving--in highly contaminated lands).

What I am confident about is that our survival as a species requires us to focus on the bigger problem of demanding a coordinated response to the greatest disaster of our time and preventing our extinction (now or in some not-so-distant future) by eliminating dependence upon and succor to an industry of death and destruction.

Here is a new reading I found (not a new text but new to me) on the effects of low-level radiation

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