Yet more Guardian numptiness on radiation

There\’s a special type of radioactivity you see, much more dangerous than the type that everyone\’s talking about.

No, really, there is.

In his article on \”the confusing world of radiation exposure\”, readers\’ editor Chris Elliott was right to point out that getting a whole year\’s sunshine in an hour would fry him to a crisp (Open door, 4 April). Radiation dose rate is important. What he didn\’t say is that \”dose density\” is important too.

The \”sievert\”, as Elliott says, is a dose unit for quantifying radiation risk. He did not add that it assumes dose density is uniform. \”There are many kinds of radiation\”, he says, but he does not mention how they differ. In fact, external sources like cosmic rays and x-rays distribute their energy evenly, like the sun; others, notably alpha-emitters like uranium, are extremely uneven in the way they irradiate body tissue once they have been inhaled or swallowed.

Now it is true that having a piece of uranium lodged in your lungs is different from having a piece sticking to your skin. It\’s also true that having a piece of uranium in your lungs presents you with other problems than radiation: it is a heavy metal, after all.

But how different is it?

ICRP has admitted that its model cannot be applied to post-accident situations. Fortunately the European Committee on Radiation Risk employs weighting factors to modify sievert-based doses for internal exposures. This won\’t cure the mess in Fukushima but it will mean better public protection.

Hmm, the ECRR eh?

The European Committee on Radiation Risk (ECRR) is an informal[1] committee formed in 1997 following a meeting by the European Green Party at the European Parliament to review the Council of Europe\’s directive 96/29Euratom, issued in May of the previous year.[2]

Ahhh….so we\’re supposed to be taking our measurements of how much worse it is from a self appointed group of greens (even Greens) who have already decided that nuclear\’s bad, M\’Kay?

Y\’know, while that actually is how much public policy is made I rather think that\’s not how we would like public policy to be made. Better to get the science from scientists rather than ideologues, yes? The latter being all to prone to policy based evidence making.

15 thoughts on “Yet more Guardian numptiness on radiation”

  1. Better to get the science from scientists rather than ideologues, yes? The latter being all to prone to policy based evidence making.

    True, so long as they retain open minds. The problem gets worse when the scientists sign up unthinkingly to a consensus.

  2. The Sievert already applies a risk factor based on type of radiation and different effects on different tissues. Cosmic rays, gamma rays, high kV industrial X rays will go straight through you and won’t ionise your tissue; alpha rays will get stopped and will ionise. If you want to just measure vanilla radiation regardless of type or effect you use the SI unit “Gray”. I could be wrong here but it looks to me like these guys are wanting to add a risk factor to what’s already a weighted risk factor. So why not add a factor to the factor to the factor…?

  3. “Cosmic rays, gamma rays, high kV industrial X rays will go straight through you and won’t ionise your tissue; alpha rays will get stopped and will ionise”: unless you have taken the precaution of wearing clothes, in which case the alpha rays won’t reach your clothed skin. Best not to breathe in dusts that contain alpha emitters, though: it’s hard to clothe the inside of your lungs.

  4. Surreptitious Evil

    “European Committee on Radiation Risk” certainly sounds more authoritative

    Indeed. And that is precisely the point. Give something a fancy enough name, like, just as an example: “Tax Research UK”, and it doesn’t matter what bullshit you spout, some lazy journo will pick it up and run with it.

  5. When Greens quote some body or report as verification oftheirpost it is usually a Green organisation. This is rather likedeclarung unanimous agreement between John Snith, Mr Smith, my pal John and Mr J Smith

  6. Surreptitious Evil

    I’m struggling with the concept of a “Chernobyl Denier”. What exactly are they denying?

    That Soviet nuclear safety was crap? That Chernobyl went T/U? That far too many people died and too many got cancer?

    Or are we (because clearly us vicious right-wing loons are the “Chernobyl deniers”) denying that Fukushima is worse than Chernobyl. Or, indeed, uncaringly insisting that the neither laws of physics nor the vague suggestions of biology are moved one iota by all the watermelon handwringing in the world.

    “X denier” seems to be the decades version of “X Nazi”, anyway. At last, I can stop polishing those boots!

  7. Surreptitious Evil

    Sorry to be a pest, but I googled the author and found his impressive and extensive list of scientific and medical credentials:

    Originally trained at the Royal College of Music from 1966 – 1969 he went on to be sub-principal double bass player in the orchestra of the Royal Opera House and then in the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra before abandoning contract work in favour of freelance employment with the London Symphony Orchestra, the English Chamber Orchestra and many others.

    No wonder his ignorance is quite so obvious.

  8. Yep, bloke, sievert is to gray as rem is to rad, except with a conversion factor of 100. The utter cluelessness exhibited by the mainstream media in this affair has exceeded their usual doleful record, if such were possible.

  9. Forgot to add, guess who the CERRIE report is referring to here:

    This Report was drafted by all members with assistance from the Secretariat to describe the full range of views expressed by all members of the Committee. Nevertheless, two members argued that the dissonance between the Committee’s views and their own was so great that attempting to express all views within a unified narrative would misrepresent their views. These members accordingly drew up a number of drafts of a dissenting statement for possible inclusion in this Report. The Committee was initially disposed towards including a dissenting statement, following the precedent of the BEIR III report (National Research Council (NRC), 1980). Consequently, over a period of three months, protracted negotiations on these drafts took place. Unfortunately, in the view of the Committee, the drafts did not adequately identify the points of dissent from the main Report. Additionally, members were concerned that they contained factually incorrect statements and assertions of a personal nature about third parties. The Committee sought legal advice which indicated that it would be considered the publisher of the dissenting statements regardless of any disclaimer notices on their contents, and would therefore be responsible for any negligent misstatements of fact or potentially libellous statements. Individual members, on a number of occasions, offered their help to the dissenting members to rewrite their dissenting statements in a more appropriate form. These offers of help were refused.

    and here:

    Two members argued that such instances as those quoted above occurred largely with artificial as opposed to naturally occurring radionuclides. Furthermore, they suggested that because living organisms have evolved in the presence of natural radionuclides the organisms would have adapted to their presence, which will clearly not be the case for the range of artificial radionuclides. For these reasons, these members felt that artificial radionuclides, as a class, were likely to present an enhanced risk. However, the other members of the Committee did not concur with this view.

  10. Surreptitious Evil

    SE @9, the really silly thing is that Bramwell was a member of CERRIE.

    Yes, sorry for not putting the link in – that’s exactly where I c’n’p’d it from. The lack of a preview button on this site (you evil man, Tim) discourages me from such experiments with HTML except where utterly vital.

    Your quotes at #12 are wonderful though. Every time we think that the scabrous hard left have found their ultimate example of cretinicity (I know, not a work, but I like it), reality proves us unfoundedly optimistic.

  11. “However, the other members of the Committee did not concur with this view.”

    One of whom was from Greenpeace. Imagine that! Too extreme for the biggest anti-nukes on the planet and the Guardian gives him a platform.

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