Obama admin fans flames of radiation fear

The Obama administration is not wasting the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis either.

Despite lip service to the effect that it still supports nuclear power, the Obama administration has rushed to publication a study fueling fears of cancer caused by nuclear accidents.

The study, I-131 Dose-Response for Incident Thyroid Cancers in Ukraine Related to the Chornobyl Accident, reports that,

I-131-related thyroid cancer risks [from the Chernobyl nuclear accident] persisted for two decades following exposure with no evidence of decrease during the observation period.

The National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), today issued a media release spotlighting the study titled, “HIGHER CANCER RISK CONTINUES AFTER CHERNOBYL: NIH study finds that thyroid cancer risk for those who were children and adolescents when they were exposed to fallout has not yet begun to decline.”

First, the study is unduly alarmist. Yes, there is an ongoing increase in thyroid cancer risk among those who lived near the Chernobyl plant, but there are more facts to the story than the Obama administration and the researchers mention.

Although there have been about 4,000 thyroid “extra” cancers believed to be associated with the Chernobyl accident, there have been only nine (9) deaths since thyroid cancer is treatable. All these cancers have occurred among people living near Chernobyl; none of occurred in the rest of the world.

Next, the timing of the study is curious. Although it was submitted for publication back on July 2, 2010, the NIH-run journal Environmental Health Perspectives didn’t see fit to “accept” the study for publication until March 14 — three days after the nuclear accident began. It was then rushed to online publication three days later on March 17.

As the study provides no new information of any value, there is little wonder that it had been ignored until the Fukushima Daiichi disaster when it could be used to help foment panic.

Keeping in mind the remarks by the brainless Surgeon General Regina Benjamin about the reasonableness of buying precautionary potassium iodide tablets, it is hard to get past the notion that the Obama administration plans to subtly use the crisis to kill the prospects for more nuke power in the U.S.

Add in the fact that President Obama was quick to cut the funding for the Yucca Mountain spent fuel storage project in early 2009, and Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s tepid endorsement of nuclear power this week begins to look like mere temporizing while unreasoned public fear can be spread.

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9 responses to “Obama admin fans flames of radiation fear

  1. Actually, the biggest problems in Japan right now are all the used fuel rods sitting in the holding ponds. That’s where the majority of the radiation is coming from; those ponds don’t have thick containment walls around them like the reactor. We have tons of used fuel rods sitting in similar ponds all over the US because there’s no permanent place to store them. So as far as I’m concerned, this should increase the urgency to reopen Yucca and start shipping material there. The law requires the federal government to provide permanent storage, and they collected the fees already from the utilities. It’s time the lived up to their legal requirements!

  2. Looks like “rushed to publication” is correct. I went to the website of “Environmental Health Perspectives” to read the actual study, and the artcile does not appear in the table of contents of the March issue.

  3. I-131 half life is a smidgen over 8 days. It’s approximately 3% of fission products (look it up on wikipedia).

    The reactors were shut down when the shaking started. That means that of the I-131 in the cores at the time of the quake, about a bit under a 1/2 if it has already decayed as of today (~1 week after the quake).

    For the spent fuel in the pools, by definition, can’t be much. If those rods were out of the reactors more than say….32 days (half of a half is a quarter, half of that is an eighth, half of that is a sixteenth of the rods in the reactors), the amount of I-131 in them is dropping down to not too much left.

    Now, the Sr89 and Sr90, and cesium 137 – those are a bit longer lived. And iodine doesn’t do squat against those. Hmmm…I wonder if those iodine pills are going into the medicine cabinet right next to the cipro (Remember Dan Rather – In cipro we trust).

  4. The second point in this article about the “curious timing” of the study is irrelevant and a non-issue. The lag time between submission and acceptance for this article is well within the variation found for all articles in the journal. Some have an even longer lag time. And as for being “rushed” to online publication, that’s actually the whole point of the journal’s Ahead of Print service. **All** articles are made available online 1 – 3 days after acceptance. Go to http://ehp03.niehs.nih.gov/article/aop.action?startPage=0&field=&pageSize=10&catName=Ahead+of+Print and click on any one to verify.

    Quoted from their website: “EHP Ahead of Print articles are published online in manuscript form and citation/abstract data are submitted to PubMed within 24 hours of acceptance. Each EHP Ahead of Print article has gone through the normal process of peer review, revision, and acceptance. The date the article is posted on ehponline is considered the publication date of record, and thus establishes publication priority. Once copyedited and formatted, the final article will replace the manuscript online and be published in a print issue of EHP.”

    If you wanted to drum up controversy, sorry. Try again.

    • RIght… I’m sure the Chernobyl study that had languished in someone’s mailbox since July was just coincidentally published in the middle of the nuke plant scare. Now I know why the commenter is anonymous — accountability would be too embarrassing.

      • If you have actual evidence that the study “languished in someone’s mailbox” I’d be happy to consider it. Otherwise your assertion is mere speculation in order to drum up controversy. Personal insults are amusing but irrelevant.

        It is more likely that this article was accepted upon condition of revisions which take additional time to write (as does a defense when authors disagree with reviewers). The only thing suspiciously rushed to publication was your blog entry.

  5. More needs to be said about nuclear “waste,” which is worth perhaps its weight in precious metals. The rods mostly contain energetic uranium, made inefficient by daughters, which inefficiency screams for reprocessing to separate the energetic remainder from the daughters, the large remainder to be made into new rods.
    The notion that present fuel rods are merely waste should be exposed.

  6. Paul Penrose wrote “Actually, the biggest problems in Japan right now are all the used fuel rods sitting in the holding ponds. ”

    I beg to differ: the biggest problem in Japan is the two million without running water, the 300 000 without a roof over their heads and the 10s of thousands dead or missing.

    Next to this, the situation at Fukushima pales into insignificance.

  7. Given the short half life of I-131, the continued persistence of elevated thyroid cancer diagnosis would suggest that they may be an artifact of increased screenings, at least in part. Occult thyroid cancer is quite common. It is found in about 10% of post postmortems and is often found during the treatment of benign thyroid disease. In the majority of these cases people have been walking around with it until they died of something else. If you search under “occult thyroid cancer” you will find quite a few articles. Most of them in respectable journals.
    This problem may be addressed in the body of the article, of course. However there is little in the abstract to suggest this.

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