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X10 Reactor Face
Workers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory load uranium slugs into the X-10 Graphite Reactor’s concrete face.  By Ed Westcott, ca 1943.

Once upon a time, this author had the audacity to ask a nice southern gentleman, formerly at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, to respond to questions based on an anti-nuclear brochure. His responses only confirmed the veracity of this brochure and the dangers of nuclear energy. A US governmental Oak Ridge document (2012), which we cite at length below, clearly explains that there is no safe, risk-free threshold or lower limit for ionizing radiation, and that risk increases linearly with dose. Nothing in my own studies of nuclear chemistry, genetics, physiology, or biochemistry indicated that ionizing radiation is safe. On the contrary, it gave a deeper understanding of the dangers. Furthermore, more recent genetic research appears to imply that the risks are higher than previously thought[1]. It is worth noting that both chemistry professors, who taught me about nuclear chemistry, had an affection for nuclear power. However, even for them the holy grail was nuclear fusion.  They didn’t bother to mention the waste problem, however! Our technical advisor who has studied nuclear physics at a top research university also concurs that it is unsafe.  And, even if a nuclear power plant were perfectly safe – and we know that they are not – the mining of uranium and waste disposal constitute unacceptable risk.  Anyone who claims to be a scientist and says otherwise can go fly a kite in a thunderstorm with a key attached.

Why does this information from those affiliated with Oak Ridge warrant special attention?  Oak Ridge was ground zero for nuclear energy.  It “produced the first electricity from nuclear energy“.  It had “the first reactor used to study the nature of matter and the health hazards of radioactivity.”

History of the Graphite Reactor

In the early, desperate days of World War II, the United States launched the top-secret, top-priority Manhattan Project…’

In the early, desperate days of U.S. involvement in World War II, American scientists began to fear that the German discovery of uranium fission in 1939 might enable the Nazis to develop a super bomb.  Afraid of losing this crucial race, the United States launched the top-secret, top-priority Manhattan Project.

The plan was to create two atomic weapons—one fueled by plutonium, the other by enriched uranium. Hanford, Washington, was selected as the site for plutonium production, but before large reactors could be built there, a pilot plant was necessary to prove the feasibility of scaling up from laboratory experiments. A secluded, rural area near Clinton, Tennessee, was chosen both for the full-scale production of enriched uranium and for the pilot-scale production of plutonium.

The Graphite Reactor, designed for this second purpose, was built in only 11 months.  Its job was to show that plutonium could be extracted from irradiated uranium slugs, and its first major challenge was to produce a self-sustaining chain reaction.

Workers began loading uranium into the reactor during the afternoon of Nov. 3, 1943, and progress was swift.  Before dawn on Nov. 4, Enrico Fermi was summoned from a nearby guest house.  The reactor ‘went critical’ at 5 a.m.; less than two months later, it was producing a third of a ton of irradiated uranium a day.  Two months after that, Oak Ridge chemists produced the world’s first few grams of plutonium.

During the 20 years the Graphite Reactor operated—from 1943 to 1963—it continued its pioneering role. It produced the first electricity from nuclear energy. It was the first reactor used to study the nature of matter and the health hazards of radioactivity.  And for years after the war, it was the world’s foremost source of radioisotopes for medicine, agriculture, industry, and other purposes“. http://www.ornl.gov/ornl/news/communications/graphite-reactor
More information is here, as well as at the above link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X-10_Graphite_Reactor

Dangers of Ionizing Radiation

There are two chronic health problems that almost everyone agrees can be caused by even very low level exposure to ionizing radiation, and these are cancers of all kinds, and genetic mutations, both for the individual and for offspring.  These can be caused by even the lowest levels of radiation exposure, as there is no safe dose, rather risk for cancers-mutations is related to chance, i.e. statistical probability.  The risk generally increases linearly with exposure.  From the perspective of mining:  Dr. Gordon Edwards explains that even outside the area of the uranium mine there are impacts.  Each uranium mine spreads deadly radioactive poisons around the globe, as surely as the Chernobyl disaster did, as surely as atmospheric tests of nuclear weapons have done, but at a slower rate:  ”Radon gas can travel a thousand miles in just a few days, with a light breeze.  As it travels low to the ground (it is much heavier than air) it deposits its ‘daughters’ – solid radioactive fallout – on the vegetation, soil and water below; the resulting radioactive materials enter the food chain, ending up in fruits and berries, the flesh of fish and animals, and ultimately, in the bodies of human beings.” http://www.ccnr.org/uranium_deadliest.html http://www.ccnr.org/salzburg.html
See this and much more on the topic in our May post: https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2013/05/16/thorium-and-uranium-mining-in-haiti/

The US governmental Oak Ridge document (2012), which we cite at length below, clearly explains that there is no safe, risk-free threshold or lower limit.  In a European Commission document (2001) “Radiation protection 125, Low dose ionizing radiation and cancer risk“:  “Cancer Risks after Exposure to Low Doses of Ionizing Radiation – Contribution and Lessons Learnt from Epidemiology” by Per Hall[2] we are told that:
The linear no-threshold model has gradually developed during the approximately 100 years that has passed since the first discovery of the carcinogenic effect of ionizing radiation in 1902.  Before the Second World War radiation protection was based on the assumption of a ‘tolerance dose’ below which no demonstrable harm could be measured.  However, in light of the emerging effects seen in the atomic bomb survivors, the concept of a threshold was abandoned and the current belief is that exposure to ionizing radiation, no matter how small, carries a risk of detriment with the risk being proportional to the dose accumulated.“(p. 22) The reference given for this 1902 date is “Frieben A  (1902) Demonstration eines Cancroides des rechten Handruckens, das sich nach langdauernder Einwirkung von Roentgenstrahlen enwickelt hat. Forthschr Röntgenstr 6: 106-111″[Demonstration of a squamous cell carcinoma on the back of the right-hand that has developed after long-term exposure to X-rays]. See: http://ec.europa.eu/energy/nuclear/radiation_protection/doc/publication/125.pdf
According to the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS)Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation: BEIR VII – Phase 2, Committee to Assess Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation, National Research Council, Executive Summary” (2006):  “At doses less than 40 times the average yearly background exposure (100 mSv), statistical limitations make it difficult to evaluate cancer risk in humans.  A comprehensive review of the biology data led the committee to conclude that the risk would continue in a linear fashion at lower doses with-out a threshold and that the smallest dose has the potential to cause a small increase in risk to humans.  This assumption is termed the ‘linear no-threshold modelhttp://web.archive.org/web/20070703191939/http://www.nap.edu/execsumm_pdf/11340.pdf

The following is from a November 2012 document by Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), associated with Oak Ridge National Lab: “The Medical Aspects of Radiation Incidents’ Revised: 11/14/2012, The Radiation Emergency Assistance Center/Training Site
Impacts Of Ionizing Radiation, from p. 44:  ”Within minutes to hours after exposure to ionizing radiation, proteins are modified and activated, and large-scale changes occur in the gene expression profiles involving a broad variety of cell-process pathways.  There are presently approximately 90 known proteins that show changes in expression or undergo post-translational modifications after exposure to ionizing radiation.  Some of these change in a dose-dependent fashion. Use of biochemical markers in a multi-parameter assay represents an exciting new development in radiation dosimetry./
Section 8 – Delayed Effects
Delayed effects of radiation exposure include radiation-induced carcinogenesis, genetic issues in offspring, late organ effects (typically vascular changes, fibrosis, atrophy and thyroid dysfunction), cataracts, and infertility.
Lung Complications:  Radiation injury to the lung due to acute exposures is an important, medically difficult aspect of high-dose radiation incidents that may not occur until several months post-exposure.  The most radiosensitive subunit of the lung is the alveolar/capillary complex, and early radiation-induced lung injury is often described as diffuse alveolar damage.  These complications may arise due to acute doses to the lungs in excess of 800 to 1,000 rads (8-10 Gy).  Reactive oxygen species (ROS) generated by radiation damage are directly toxic to lung cells and initiate a cascade of molecular events that alter the cytokine milieu of the microenvironment, creating a self-sustaining cycle of inflammation and chronic oxidative stress.  A variety of cytokines have been implicated as indicators/mediators of lung injury./Replacement of normal lung parenchyma by fibrosis is generally the culminating event. Depending on the dose/dose rate and volume of lung irradiated, acute radiation pneumonitis may develop, characterized by dry cough and dyspnea. Fibrosis of the lung, which causes further dyspnea, is a possible late complication.

pp. 44-45.  ”Studies on Long-Term Effects of Radiation:  The Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR) Committee 7 of the National Academy of Sciences, in its recent report (BEIR VII, 2006), extensively considered the mathematical risk-dose models currently in use.  The BEIR VII committee concluded that the best model for the risk of delayed effects is still the linear non-threshold model (LNT).  The LNT model implies that the risk of a given delayed effect goes through zero at zero dose and increases linearly with increasing dose.” http://orise.orau.gov/files/reacts/medical-aspects-of-radiation-incidents.pdf

Are you still awake?  Do you have that?  In November 2012, Oak Ridge Institute which is ground zero for the first nuclear reactor to produce electricity and for research into the health hazards of radiation stated that it is still accepted that the best model for delayed effect risk associated with ionizing radiation is a linear, non-threshold model, meaning that the risk is only zero if there is zero dose of exposure and that it increases linearly with increasing dose.  So, the greater the exposure the greater the risk. Pretty basic common sense or shall we say good sense; logical, as good sense is sometimes uncommon sense of late. It is even more logical when you understand the basics of genetic damage and repair.  We continue to underline this point because there is stuff out on the internet claiming otherwise, which is why we decided to do lengthy quotations from a serious researchers. It is totally mind-bending to those of a certain age, like myself, that we are STILL discussing nuclear anything. The dangers have been too long known. We need to be looking at things like fracking where dangers are less known and not where danger is clear. It has long been clear that nuclear is bad whether during mining, during operation, and dealing with wastes. For those who think nuclear energy is fine we volunteer you to build a nuclear waste storage facility in your backyard and to write the Japanese government asking for Fukushima rice, at full price. For more on the Oak Ridge document, dangers of uranium, etc., see our April post. Actually it also gives us the names of at least two people who have tried to impose uranium mines on others. We volunteer them for a waste dump and Fukushima rice. Considering that they are trying to make uranium mines amongst poor indigenous peoples we also volunteer them to eat the uranium if it’s so safe: https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2013/04/21/margaret-thatcher-buscores-dale-schultz-macusani-yellowcake-and-the-uranium-poisoning-of-alpacas/

Furthermore, the Dangers of Ionizing Radiation were Proven Scientifically over 100 years ago and Known Epidemiologically for about 600 Years.

Contrary to what we are often led to believe, the dangers of ionizing radiation, in relation to mining, are real and have been long known – firstly by observation-epidemiologically.  One does not have to know why something kills to know that it does.  One can know that it is dangerous to jump off a cliff, without knowing the theory of gravity. As far back as the 15th century, there were reports that miners in the Erzgebirge (Ore mountains) (German-Czech border area) had high mortality rates from some unknown lung diseases (Schneeberger disease). Note that the Schneeberg mines, for which the disease is named, were not uranium mines, but were first silver mines and after the silver ran out they became cobalt, tungsten, arsenic, bismuth and nickel mines. In other words, uranium and thorium, in the form of pitchblende, were byproducts of other mining. Paracelsus first studied the disease in the 1530s, and first printed a book about it in 1567.  Starting in the mid 19th Century, two doctors (Haerting and Hesse) studied this disease in the Schneeberger mine for over 20 years and found that 75% of miners died from Schneeberger disease. Hesse wrote in 1878 that near Schneeberg it is a well known fact that the miners get the so-called mountain sickness in the prime of life, and that ordinary people refer to this kind of death as lung cancer.  By autopsies of more than 20 miners, and of their lungs, they confirmed the popular opinion that it was lung cancer.  Initially arsenic or rock dust was suspected as the cause. With the discovery of radioactivity [xrays, uranium, thorium] and radium it was understood that these were the first known carcinogenic effects of ionizing radiation. Research carried out from 1908 to 1912 found extremely high levels of radium in the waters and in the air of the Schneeberg mines. One hundred years ago, HE Müller wrote, in 1913, that through radium research the dangerous effects of radiation and radium emanations, if it is of too long duration, became known.  He considered the Schneeberger lung cancer to be a specific occupational disease of the mines, whose rocks contained radium and whose air was laden with strong emanations.  All radium is generated naturally in the decay of either uranium (U) or thorium (Th).  Radon is the decay product of radium.  Contrary to what people want us to believe, this research would have been widely known early on.  Until not so very long ago, many educated academics, who did not have German as a mother tongue, read German. In the US, in particular, to receive a university degree in physics, chemistry, or protestant theology, German was often required.  Many German academics came to the US to teach and study both after the First World War and after the Second World War.  Paracelsus’ research in the 1567 would have also been widely known because educated people read Latin, historically. http://www.ccnr.org/salzburg.html http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schneeberger_Krankheit See Marie Curie, 1898 on Uranium and Thorium http://web.lemoyne.edu/~giunta/curie98.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Skłodowska-Curie  Uranium isolated and named in 1789 in Berlin; Radioactivity of Uranium discovered in 1896 in Paris by Becquerel http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uranium

So, anyone who says that nuclear energy (or other ionizing radiation)is safe, whether at the stage of mining, energy production, or waste is flying against approximately 600 years of epidemiological and scientific evidence in the matter. It is simply a matter of calculated risk. A risk which increases with dosage and a risk which those who have had cancer, seen people treated for or die of cancer; who have suffered miscarriages or seen deformed children and animals, generally do not wish to take.  The amount of the stuff already loose in our environment and the inability of dealing with waste – which no one wants in their backyards- is already frightening without adding more. A Thiarna Dean Trocaire.

Remember:  There are two chronic health problems that almost everyone agrees can be caused by even very low level exposure to ionizing radiation, and these are cancers of all kinds, and genetic mutations, both for the individual and for offspring. These can be caused by even the lowest levels of radiation exposure, as there is no safe dose, rather risk is related to chance, i.e. statistical probability.  The risk generally increases linearly with exposure.  Any takers for all sorts of cancers and genetic mutations whether in yourself or your children or your pets?  Any gamblers in this high stake game?  Even if you are willing to gamble with your own life are you God that you have the right to gamble with the life of other people and of the plants and animals of the earth?  The stakes are also too high to nitpick over details.

For much more science about the topic (and videos) look within these posts: https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2013/05/16/thorium-and-uranium-mining-in-haiti/ https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2013/04/21/margaret-thatcher-buscores-dale-schultz-macusani-yellowcake-and-the-uranium-poisoning-of-alpacas/ and at http://www.clarku.edu/mtafund/prodlib/jsi/Leukemia_and_Exposure_to_Ionizing_Radiation.pdf http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiation-induced_cancer

Note 1:  My understanding-recollection of genetics was that in the event of damage that repair took place and whether the repair was good or bad was a matter of chance.  Videos found online now suggest that all genetic repairs are faulty, which is a very worrisome thought indeed, if true. The reader may want to research this.  We don’t want to know!  We hate these topics! No one really has to know anything other than to prudently avoid ionizing radiation.  This is the knowledge which remains when all detail is forgotten. This means closing down all nuclear reactors immediately; certainly not building new ones; and investing in the best encasement of waste possible, in a manner where it can be watched and checked for millions of years.

While we are on the topic of genetics here is the BEIR rationale (pp. 9-10):
Why Has the Committee Not Accepted the View That Low Doses Are Substantially More Harmful Than Estimated by the Linear No-Threshold Model?
“Some of the materials the committee reviewed included arguments that low doses of radiation are more harmful than a LNT model of effects would suggest. The BEIR VII com-mittee has concluded that radiation health effects research, taken as a whole, does not support this view. In essence, the committee concludes that the higher the dose, the greater is the risk; the lower the dose, the lower is the likelihood of harm to human health. There are several intuitive ways to think about the reasons for this conclusion. First, any single track of ionizing radiation has the potential to cause cellular damage. However, if only one ionizing particle passes through a cell’s DNA, the chances of damage to the cell’s DNA are proportionately lower than if there are 10, 100, or 1000 such ionizing particles passing through it. There is no reason to expect a greater effect at lower doses from the physical interaction of the radiation with the cell’s DNA. New evidence from biology suggests that cells do not necessarily have to be hit directly by a radiation track for the cell to be affected. Some speculate that hit cells communicate with nonhit cells by chemical signals or other means. To some, this suggests that at very low radiation doses, where all of the cells in the body are not hit, ‘bystander’ cells may be adversely affected, resulting in a greater health effect at low doses than would be predicted by extrapolating the observed response at high doses. Others believe that increased cell death caused by so-called bystander effects might lower the risk of cancer by eliminating cells at risk for cancer from the irradiated cell population. Although additional research on this subject is needed, it is unclear at this time whether the bystander effect would have a net positive or net negative effect on the health of an irradiated person. In sum, the total body of relevant research for the assessment of radiation health effects provides compelling reasons to believe that the risks associated with low doses of low-LET radiation are no greater than expected on the basis of the LNT model.”

Why Has the Committee Not Accepted the View That Low Doses Are Substantially Less Harmful Than Estimated by the Linear No-Threshold Model?
…..Before coming to this conclusion, the committee reviewed articles arguing that a threshold or decrease in effect does exist at low doses. Those reports claimed that at very low doses, ionizing radiation does not harm human health or may even be beneficial. The reports were found either to be based on ecologic studies or to cite findings not representative of the overall body of data. Ecologic studies assess broad regional associations, and in some cases, such studies have suggested that the incidence of cancer is much higher or lower than the numbers observed with more precise epidemiologic studies. When the complete body of research on this question is considered, a consensus view emerges. This view says that the health risks of ionizing radiation, although small at low doses, are a function of dose. Both the epidemiologic data and the biological data are consistent with a linear model at doses where associations can be measured. The main studies establishing the health effects of ionizing radiation are those analyzing survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings in 1945. Sixty-five percent of these survivors received a low dose of radiation, that is, low according to the definition used in this report (equal to or less than 100 mSv). The arguments for thresholds or beneficial health effects are not supported by these data. Other work in epidemiology also supports the view that the harmfulness of ionizing radiation is a function of dose. Further, studies of cancer in children following exposure in utero or in early life indicate that radiation-induced cancers can occur at low doses….
http://web.archive.org/web/20070703191939/http://www.nap.edu/execsumm_pdf/11340.pdf

Note 2:  In the European Commission document (2001) “Radiation protection 125, Low dose ionizing radiation and cancer risk”:  “Cancer Risks after Exposure to Low Doses of Ionizing Radiation – Contribution and Lessons Learnt from Epidemiology” by Per Hall, his abstract distinguishes between linear relationship for solid tumours and linear-quadratic for leukaemia.  He gives a threshold as 60 mSv, however as discussed above by the National Academy of  Sciences it is impossible to establish a threshold.  Furthermore, as Muirhead and Preston point out below, the jury was-is still out for cancer among the youngest Japanese survivors.  A US study, below the EC ones, reminds us that Japan is not the only place to study the impacts of ionizing radiation. It shows the impact of Sellafield and Oak Ridge, for instance, in causing leukemia.
Per Hall Abstract:  “Cancer risks associated with low doses of ionizing radiation are generally estimated by extrapolating results from intermediate or high doses, based on human and sometimes experimental data on dose-response relationships. The latest finding from the Japanese atomic bomb survivors reveals a linear and linear-quadratic relationship for solid tumours and leukaemia, respectively.  Increased risks are detected at doses below 100 mSv but a threshold of 60 mSv can not be excluded.  In the present paper problems and sources used in determining cancer risks after exposure to low-levels of ionizing radiation will be discussed.”  (p.20)

In the European Commission document (2001) “Radiation protection 125, Low dose ionizing radiation and cancer risk”:  “UNSCEAR Lifetime Cancer Risk Estimate” by Colin R. Muirhead and Dale L. Preston it is noted:
However, in contrast to leukaemia, a substantial proportion of the radiation-induced solid cancers in the LSS may not yet have occurred” (p.5) They also explain the linear-quadratic model:  “For leukaemia, a linear-quadratic model – such that the risk per unit dose is smaller at low rather than high doses – provides a significantly better fit than a linear model to data on both incidence (Preston et. al. 1994) and mortality (Pierce et. al. 1996) in the LSS.” (p. 7) http://ec.europa.eu/energy/nuclear/radiation_protection/doc/publication/125.pdf

Center for Environmental Health Studies (617) 482-9485
44 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210  http://www.jsi.com has assembled studies:  “Leukemia and Exposure to Ionizing Radiation“:
Summary: Strong evidence has been recorded of a possible connection between forms of leukemia and exposure to ionizing radiation.  This evidence is based upon studies conducted at Los Alamos National Laboratory, studies of nuclear workers at other sites, and others exposed to ionizing radiation.  These findings are consistent with the National Research Council’s determination that radiation can cause acute leukemia and chronic myeloid leukemia. Leukemia (except chronic lymphocytic leukemia) is designated as a ‘specified’ cancer under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act… “, Page 51
Here are a few studies found in this document.  There are many more:  Oak Ridge is here, as well as Sellafield, England which we have discussed lately.
Mound, Ohio: Increase in leukemia deaths (and blood and lymph cancers) was found in a study of 3,229 males who were monitored for external radiation between 1947 and 1949, assuming a 10-year latent period (time after exposure for the disease to develop).56 *+
Oak Ridge: A possible increase in leukemia deaths was observed in a study of 8,375 males employed at least 30 days between 1943 and 1972, and then followed through 1977. Possible increasing rates of death were seen with increasing doses of external radiation, assuming a latent period of 10 years. 50 + For each rem (a measure of radiation dose) of exposure to external radiation, there was a 6-9% increase in the risk of leukemia. When the follow up period was extended through 1984, there was an increase in leukemia deaths in workers monitored for internal contamination.57 * (Page 53)
Sellafield, England: Increasing rates of leukemia deaths were found with increasing doses of external radiation in a study of 10,382 workers who were employed between 1947 and 1975, and then followed through 1992, assuming a latent period (time following exposure for disease to develop) of 2 years.*+ Increasing incidence of leukemia was found with increasing combined dose of plutonium and external radiation in a study of 5,203 workers. 3 *+
* Findings were statistically significant (strong evidence)
+ Evidence of a dose-response relationship (strongest evidence) ”
(Page 54)
http://www.clarku.edu/mtafund/prodlib/jsi/Leukemia_and_Exposure_to_Ionizing_Radiation.pdf