A real scientific fraud

A scientific fraud, emanating in the 1940s is hamstringing global attempts to reduce carbon emissions.

Honest greens have always said nuclear power is indispensable for achieving big carbon reduction. James Hansen, the former NASA scientist who has been chaining himself to fences since the first Bush administration, was in Illinois last week lobbying against closure of a nuclear plant. Ditto activist Michael Shellenberger. We might also include Bill McKibben, the Bernie Sanders of the climate movement and shouter of Exxon accusations, who told journalist William Tucker four years ago, “If I came out in favor of nuclear, it would split this movement in half.”

Nuclear (unlike solar) is one low-carbon energy technology that has zero chance without strong government support, yet is left out of renewables mandates. It’s the one non-carbon energy source that has actually been shrinking, losing ground to coal and natural gas.

What keeps nuclear costs high? Why do so many opponents misread the Fukushima meltdown, where 18,000 deaths were due to the earthquake and tsunami, none to radiation exposure, and none are expected from radiation exposure? Why has the U.S. experience of spiraling nuclear construction costs not been matched in South Korea, where normal learning has reduced the cost of construction?  

The answer increasingly appears to be a real scientific fraud. In a series of peer-reviewed articles, toxicologist Edward Calabrese of the University of Massachusetts Amherst shows how a cabal of radiation geneticists in the 1940s doctored their results, and even a Nobel Prize acceptance speech, to exaggerate the health risk from low-level radiation exposure. At the time, Hermann Muller, their leader, was militating against above-ground atomic-bomb testing. “I think he got his beliefs and his science confused, and he couldn’t admit that the science was unresolved,” Mr. Calabrese told a UMass publication.

Data developed to show high-dose effect on fruit flies, Muller claimed, showed a proportional low-dose effect. Thus was born LNT—the “linear no-threshold” model of radiation risk that has become the world’s go-to standard for nuclear safety, source of repeated (and unfulfilled) forecasts of thousands of cancer deaths from Chernobyl or Fukushima. LNT is why nuclear plants shoulder artificially huge costs not to protect against accidents, but to protect against trivial emissions. Coal-plants, which don’t have to meet U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission rules, actually put out thorium and uranium far in excess of what nuclear plants are allowed to emit.

We detailed some of the health evidence in a December piece about efforts to wake up the NRC. The New York Times wrote a similar piece last September looking at Japan’s foolish evacuation of thousands of Fukushima residents against a nonexistent radiation threat.

Dr. Carol Marcus, of the UCLA medical school, and two other nuclear-medicine specialists last year petitioned the NRC to re-evaluate its standards. Now the Environmental Protection Agency and several green groups have filed defenses of LNT, which since the 1950s has been adopted not only as Washington’s unscientific model of radiation risk, but as the EPA’s unscientific model of chemical risk. It shouldn’t be overlooked that, for these green groups and the EPA, nuclear is also anathema because it competes with solar and wind.

Nuclear is more efficient, can handle base loads better and works 24/7. Solar and wind do none of those things.

I think one of the main problems has been the lack of intellectual and investigative rigour shown by media who have seen a scientist, a paper and a whole lot of letters and thought, wrongly it turns out, that scientists are ethical and honest.

The whole climate change debate has shown that to be false. And now more and more evidence is making its way public into the misfeasance of science….especially where an agenda has been pushed.


– Wall Street Journal


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  • A good article which makes a lot of valid points. Few industries have been as demonised as the nuclear industry with so many false and exaggerated claims abounding.

    Everyone has heard of Chernobyl, which involved a foolhardy experiment at a plant which featured a reactor design using water cooling in conjunction with graphite moderation, which combination was rejected in Great Britain in 1947 as unsafe. The proven number of deaths related to Chernobyl is 31. I acknowledge that there may be additional late life cancer deaths related to the additional radiation exposure resulting from the radioisotopes which were dispersed into the nearby environment, but the reality is that the death toll is orders of magnitude lower than the alarmist claims that were made at the time and in the years immediately following.

    Few have heard of Sayano-Shushenskaya, and perhaps this is not surprising as this was a hydro disaster rather than a nuclear one, Never mind that 75 people were killed when a turbine disintegrated and the control room flooded.

    Perhaps the worst industrial industrial disaster from a single event was the Bhopal Union Carbide disaster where a tank containing 60 tons of methylisocyanate overheated after water was added to it, venting large quantities of hydrogen cyanide, phosgene, carbon monoxide and other toxic gases into the air. The official death toll was 2,259, although various authorities believe the figure was significantly higher. Have we stopped using isocyanates industrially as a consequence? Er, no, actually… polyurethanes are manufactured from toluene diisocyanate and methyl isocyanate continues to be used to manufacture Carbaryl insecticide, which was what was being manufactured at Bhopal.

    The difficulty for the nuclear industry lies in encouraging sensible comparisons as other means of generating energy also have risks as do industrial processes generally, and it is an understanding of comparable risks that is important, together with the sheer misinformation that exists in the public realm.

    • MaryLou

      Whilst you may be correct in what you say re deaths and the authors of the article likewise correct in identifying the fallacy of LNT I wouldn’t want to imply “no harm” in any way. A 5% of the population registered as disabled in Belarus as an example, is somewhat above normal. I imagine there are other example:


      • MaryLou please do not imagine I am saying “no harm”. Obviously Chernobyl was harmful and unacceptable on any level. What I am saying is that any rational debate on this topic must make valid risk assessments and comparisons. No human activity is entirely without risk.

        A significant danger in assessing the impact of Chernobyl is to assume that observed incidences of cancer, birth deformities and other health problems in nearby areas, such as Belarus, are causally linked to Chernobyl. It is extremely difficult to make valid comparisons when many other potential causes of these types of problems, such as heavy industrial pollution also existed and continue to exist in these areas.

        The “linear no threshold” assumption relating radiation exposure to risk of cancer and birth defects is used for planning purposes but it is unlikely to hold to very low additional doses of radiation distributed over vast populations. Indeed, the natural background dose of radiation varies enormously from one place to another, due to such variations as altitude, building materials used in constructing houses, and geological factors.

        • MaryLou

          I certainly agree that baselines like LNT are a poor substitute for actual, provable knowledge, and that there must always be an acknowledged and accepted level of risk. It would be good for us all to know what that is! This and the Climate Change debacle show just how hard it is, to actually trust the “experts”.

    • Tom

      A friend of mine was the chief British scientist on the Bohpal disaster. He also wrote avery interesting book on the safety of the Nuclear industry. Called How safe is safe. He was an adviser to Friends of the Earth so no right wing stooge but he is strong on the safety of Nuclear.

  • rua kenana

    According to the New Scientist:
    “The only deaths that have been firmly established (from Chernobyl), either individually or statistically, are the 28 victims of acute radiation syndrome and 15 cases of fatal child thyroid cancer.”
    How many the total really was, and still may be, depends on who one listens to. Wikipedia notes:
    “A latent period of decades may elapse between radiation exposure and the detection of cancer.”

    A proposal by the then NZ Electricity Department (NZED) in the late 1970’s to establish nuclear power stations in NZ was rejected by the 1978 Royal Commission on Nuclear Power Generation in New Zealand which concluded that there was no immediate need but (nuclear power) may be economically possible in the 21st century.

    The NZED didn’t help its case by greatly underestimating the likely economic costs to NZ of its nuclear project and considerably overestimating the future electricity demand, particularly demand for the baseload power which provided its main justification. Unlike hydro stations, nuclear can’t cheaply and easily be turned on and off, or up and down.

    The NZED was also vague about other known problems such as the considerable difficulties of finding cheap and safe disposal of nuclear wastes. Experience since that Royal Commission suggests quite a bit of nuclear waste has finished up in the world’s oceans, from whence steadily rising, very long-lasting radiation may not do our future generations much good good.

    The nuclear expert on that Royal Commission was Professor Bruce Liley of Waikato, who died not that long after from a type of cancer sometimes associated with radiation exposure.

    In the end, I would hope a well-informed NZ public will be able to decide whether or not they want nuclear power stations here. And that “experts” with financial interests in the area won’t be permitted to have inordinate influence.
    And I suppose pigs might fly …

  • Disinfectant

    Now here’s an idea.
    Build a Nuclear power station on the Chatham Islands and run an Ocean floor cable back to New Zealand.
    The locals would welcome the work, and if things went a bit pear shaped it is so far away not to matter much. Furthermore moving the locals to N.Z. would be no big deal.

    • WeaselKiss

      Alternatively we could get all the teenagers in the country to turn off unused lights, have showers that are shorter than 25 minutes and stop leaving the oven on highish all night, with nothing in it.
      Problem solved right there.

      • Keyser Soze

        As a nation we’ve been trying that for years… It does seem to be working so let’s keep trying the same old thing eh?

      • Uncle Bully

        Or, how about mandating low-flow shower heads and LED light bulbs. That should do the trick. Actually, come to think of it, that sounds vaguely familiar….