The Nuclear Industry’s urgent need for the concept of Radiation Hormesis

Draft, in progress.

Australian authorities have been deliberately exposing the Australian population to widespread radioacive plumes since 1952.

Since that time, with each detection of enviornmental contamination from these deliberate releases, government authorities have declared them to safe.

I am not aware of any goverment or agency statement to the general public in relation to deliberate, intentional, planned, “unavoidable” release of radioactive plume, which resulted in health advisories, warnings, prohibitions, evacuations or medical interventions.

It’s all perfectly safe according to the government and it’s agencies. Nothing the public need be aware of.

The trouble with that approach in the year 2012 is that some people dispute the government position on the safety of the individual deliberate radiological emissions. Some people dispute government assurances of safety on the basis of the cumulative effect of the combined exposures.

Government advocacy of the position that it’s deliberate emissions are safe is very strong. And so too is that same advocacy expressed by nuclear industry.

The Howard government Health Survey of Australian Nuclear Veterans, which reported in 2006, found that the veterans suffered clearly evidenced increases in cancer rates. As a result the veterans were awarded free cancer treatment as an act of grace. The government could not find any link between the experience of being a participant in the nuclear weapons tests and the elevated risk of cancer this cohort suffers. The government paid scientists were perplexed, and in the draft report, Adelaide scientists proposed the tentative theory that exposure to petrol fumes in the desert suffered by the veterans during their nuclear service caused the observed increase.

Within about a very few weeks of the release of the results of the Health Survey, the then Prime Minister was floating the idea of the construction of a fleet of nuclear power plants for Australia.

The “Australian” newspaper this nuclear scheme of the government as follows: “Proposal for 25 nuclear power stations by 2050”, Joseph Kerr, From: The Australian November 22, 2006 12:00AM. “TWENTY-FIVE nuclear power stations could be built on the doorsteps of the nation’s major towns and cities by 2050 as an essential part of any serious and economically practical attack on carbon emissions. Your Say: Would you be prepared to have a nuclear power plant sited near you?

As John Howard yesterday signalled efforts to fight climate change made some form of price on coal pollution inevitable, his nuclear review found 25 nuclear power stations located within kilometres of major centres of population on the east coast could supply a third of Australia’s electricity needs…..he Prime Minister said…I have no doubt that if we have a proper examination of this issue, and we don’t approach it in a prejudiced fashion, nuclear power does come into the equation.”

But there will be no bipartisan support for nuclear power, with Labor immediately rejecting the proposal, and coming out against uranium enrichment.” end quote. (Source: The Ausralian, 22 Nov 2006.) By January 2007, the Australia Institute had selected 19 sites suitable for the placement of this proposed nuclear power station fleet. However, the report stated that : “In Australia, half of the population opposes nuclear energy and two thirds say they would oppose a nuclear power plant in their local area.” (Source: Australia Institute, “Siting Nuclear Power Plants in Australia Where would they go?” Research Paper No. 40 January 2007, Andrew Macintosh.)

Some insight into the reality of suffering of nuclear veterans can be gained by looking at the government’s own findings regarding cancer rates the nuclear veterans veterans suffer. The following is a quote from one volume of the Repor:

Mortality and Cancer Incidence Main Findings” document of the Australian Participants in British
Nuclear Tests in Australia Study, June 2006
, states the following:

“The cancer incidence study showed an overall increase in the number of
cancers in test participants, similar to that found in the mortality study. The
number of cancer cases found among participants was 2456, which was 23%
higher than expected.
A significant increase in both the number of deaths and
the number of cases was found for (figures in brackets show increase in
mortality and incidence):

• all cancers (18% and 23%)
• cancers of the lip, oral cavity and pharynx (50% and 41%)
• lung cancer (20% and 28%)
• colorectal cancer (24% and 16%)
prostate • cancer (26% and 22%).
The number of cancer cases (but not the number of deaths) was also
significantly greater in test participants for the following cancers (figures in
brackets show increase in incidence):
• oesophageal cancer (48%)
• melanoma (40%)
• all leukaemias (43%)
all leukaemias except chronic lymphatic leukaemia (61%).
Other findings included:
• of the 26 mesothelioma cases in test participants, 16 occurred in RAN
personnel, which was nearly three times the number expected
in RAAF personnel, there was nearly double the expected number of deaths
from melanoma, and cases of melanoma were increased by two–thirds.
The increases in cancer rates do not appear to have been caused by
exposure to radiation.” [27]
Full texts available at:

The history of nuclear weapons technology is a history of the isolation and
denial of the claims of personnel ordered into hazardous environments. The
denial of harms to civilians and those in harm’s way continues.

Nuclear Veterans groups continue to fight government, especially in the underestimation of the health consequences
resultant from the internalisation of plutonium. Test involving plutonium and which released powdered plutonium continuned
at the Maralinga test site into the 1960s, though in Australia the bombs had stopped by 1958.

Major(rtd) Alan Batchelor has informed me of the following:

“Approximately 88% of the plutonium in an exploding weapon does not take part in the fission process and will be distributed as an oxide in a near aerosol format around the bomb and in the fallout. Plutonium-239 is an alpha emitter,
not measured by film badges or dosimeters. This was the major constituent by bulk and escapes consideration in dosage estimates to this day.

* One of the places where plutonium is deposited is the hard bony surface adjacent to bone marrow where the alpha emissions can degrade the body’s immune system; and
* Plutonium has a biological half life in the vicinity of 90 years (as opposed to its actual half-life of 24,000 years). This information supplied to me by the by Alan Batchelor. Alan continues to lobby government in a decades long attempt
at having the government appreciate the above facts. The Australian Nuclear Veterans Association, the Atomic ExServicemens’ Association and others back and support these tireless efforts.

So far, the government has not listened. The finding that some mysterious agent other than exposure to ionising radiation recorded externally to the body is the major contributor the cancer risk suffered by the veterans included in the study.

I think Major Batchelor has made some headway in identifying what that causative agent is. Ionising radiation emitted from within fission fuel and fission product particles embedded in the body. This reality has never been accepted by any Australian government as a reality. There is no acceptable level of deliberately inflicted internalised radionuclide. Plutonium 239 is the example here, there are others. Many others.

Flying in the face of this, the government maintains its stance that external readings provide adequate information from which to estimate risk. This is clearly not the case with nuclear veterans.

The 2007 report authored by Macintosh notes that half the Australian population opposed the construction of nuclear power plants within Australia at that time.

I read that as saying half of Australia does not accept the constant safety assurances issued by the Australian authorities and its agencies.

It is one thing to say “All is well, all perfectly safe” (producing false fallout cloud maps in the process (Cross)). The people might not believe it. Is there a theory, no matter how lame brained, which might allow the government to proclaim: “The deliberate emission of radionuclides by the Australian Government is beneficial to the Australian Public” ?

There is, it is called Radiation Hormesis, and a variant called “Adaptive Response” also exists. Both are being heavily promoted internationally, the US DOE funds this promotion and the concepts are gaining acceptance within the community and in government. I have in a recent post shown how DOE contractor Bobby Scott, Lovelace Respiratory Research, New Mexico has claimed that a beneficial dose range does exist and I have quoted from the publication in which he claims a cancer cure.

I would submit that there is no evidence for a beneficial amount of plutonium (or any other radionuclide) in the lung or other tissue.

The Hormesis fans introduce a broad brush, and thick paint. Evolution and radiation. The resultant Mona Lisa held up to the populance does not possess an enigmatic smile. Before we look at the version of the advance of the mammals portrayed by Radiation Hormesis, let’s look a different point of view.

The was no oxygen in the early atmosphere of the earth. The first life forms arose in the absence of free oxygen. The descended anerobic species today are among the most radio-resistent species on the planet.

Humans only arose at the point where oxygen in the atmosphere had formed the Ozone layer, and concentration of atmospheric oxygen and nitrogen had commenced it’s attenuation of cosmic radiation (NASA, which states: Very few gamma-rays make it through the atmosphere. The atmosphere is as thick to gamma-rays as a twelve-foot thick plate of aluminum. Gamma-rays are very very unlikely to go through that much material. However, they can strike the material and produce ‘secondary’ particles which are more penetrating, and can go through the material.

Most of the cosmic rays which reach the Earth’s surface are ‘secondary cosmic rays’, produced by gamma-rays or (much more commonly) ‘primary cosmic rays’ hitting the top of Earth’s atmosphere. These primary cosmic rays are high energy particles (such are protons and the nuclei from iron atoms) moving at very close to the speed of light. These primary cosmic rays have a hard time even getting to the top of our atmosphere–the Earth’s magnetic field deflects most of them away. If Earth didn’t have a magnetic field, there would be many more primary cosmic rays hitting the atmosphere, and many more secondary cosmic rays hitting us.)

Humans arose after conditions arose which had, in evolutionary terms, resulted in a completely changed situation regarding radiation and life. The Oxygenated atmosphere, the reduction of UV exposure and the reduction in both terrestrial background (decay time) and the cosmic radiaiton which reached the surface of the earth. The rise of homo sapiens owes more to the anerobic fungii etc than it does to radiation. It owes nothing to the “enhanced” background exposure Hormesis fans advocate. In fact, of all species, mammals are the most vulnerable to the effects of radiation. (Alexander, 1957).

For a discussion on the changes in the ancient earth atmosphere see “PHANEROZOIC ATMOSPHERIC OXYGEN”, Robert A. Berner
Department of Geology and Geophysics, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06520-8109; email:
David J. Beerling Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN, United Kingdom; email: Robert Dudley Section of Integrative Biology, University of Texas, Austin, Texas 78712;
email: r Jennifer M. Robinson Environmental Science, Murdoch University, Murdoch, 6150 Western Australia; nnu. Rev. email: , Richard A. Wildman, Jr. Department of Geology and Geophysics, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06520-8109; email: Earth Planet. Sci. 2003. 31:105–34 2003 by Annual Reviews. All rights reserved First published online as a Review in Advance on February 10, 2003.

Knowing all this, the Hormesis school persists and increases it efforts to convince government and the public that radiation within a band of dose is not only safe but beneficial. They maintain that because background has dropped, (their claim) since the time homo sapiens first evolved that it had better be bumped “back up”. I maintain the opposite.

What does the Radiation Hormesis model do with the concept of total dose = cumulative dose? What would they suggest to the Nuclear Veterans as a health benefit? a weekly CT Scan? In fact contrary advise has been strongly given by a treating doctor to a nuclear veteran I know. This, as always, is specific medical information. CT scans are not given lightly, without a cost/benefit consideration without the setting of medical need. The answer for my friend was magnetic resonance imaging in his particular case, given his (inadequate) accumulated dose from occupational and other exposues.

Deliberately released radioactivity is not within a medical setting. The medical benefits and costs are not weighed, there is no benefit. Therefore, it is morally wrong for hormesis fans to equate CT scans with deliberate and industrial/military release of radioactivity and radionuclides.

In his paper “An Introduction to Radiation Hormesis”, S. M. Javad Mortazavi (Biology Division, Kyoto University of Education, Kyoto 612-8522, Japan E-mail: writes “Hormesis at a Glance – All living organisms evolved and exist in a sea of ionizing radiation, much of which is internal. It is a general belief that low doses of ionizing radiation produce detrimental effects proportional to the effects produced by high-level radiation. Over the past decades, however, some pioneer scientists reported that low-dose ionizing radiation is not only a harmless agent but often has a beneficial or hormetic effect. That is, low-level ionizing radiation may be an essential trace energy for life, analogous to essential trace elements. It has been even suggested that about one third of all cancer deaths are preventable by increasing our low dose radiation.”

The biography page at gives S. M. Javad Mortazavi’s qualifications as follows: Assistant Professor, Rafsanjan University of Medical Sciences, Rafsanjan, Iran. employed in the Medical Physics Department at the Rafsanjan University of Medical Sciences (RUMS) where he has been teaching as an assistant professor since 1995. He is also affilated with the National Radiation Protection Department (NRPD) of the Iranian Nuclear Regulatory Authority. He earned his B.Sc. degree from Shiraz University of Medical Sciences , and M.Sc. and Ph.D degrees from Tarbiat Modares University. Since 1996 he has been studying the health effects of low doses of ionizing radiation and phenomena such as radiation hormesis and radioadaptive response. This work has led to numerous lectures around the world. In 1998, Dr. Mortazavi moved to Kyoto University of Education to continue his research on the induction of radioadaptive response….” Prof. Mortazavi is an accomplished member of the world nuclear community.

His perceptions regarding what he considers to be the benefits of “low dose” radiation are very similar to those held by a cadre of Western researchers who are funded by the US Department of Energy’s Low Dose Research project. One such person in Australia is Pam Sykes of Flinders University, South Australia. She has be quoted by Flinders University as saying: ““We need radiation in our environment, just as we need vitamins and minerals. Too much is a problem, too little is a problem,” she said.” (
, “Radiation Response a Meltdown in Reason, web published on July 14th, 2011 by Finders University Marketing and Communications, South Australia.

There is a very great similarity between the statements of Sykes and Mortazavi : “We need radiation in our environment, just as we need vitamins and minerals. Too much is a problem, too little is a problem,” (Sykes) “low-level ionizing radiation may be an essential trace energy for life, analogous to essential trace elements.” (Mortazavi).

It must be of comfort for the population of Iran to know that international authorities from seemingly diverse groups agree on the health benefits of the emissions nuclear facilities as Iran races toward it’s first nuclear reactor. Australia already has one. And the Australian authorities want more apparently.

However, this global agreement between advocates of Radiation Hormesis when one looks at the reports of the US Environmental Protection Agency. This agency has looked at radon gas, part of the natural background. In surveys across the states of the USA, surveys conducted by the EPA have measured radon levels in homes and found that the risk of lung cancer increases as the level of household radon increases. The lower the level of radon measured, the lower the risk of lung cancer. The US EPA do not confirm the opinions of Sykes and Mortazavi. Radiation from the normal uranium > radium > radon background is NOT a trace element, vitamins or minerals.

The US EPA has found that radon gas exposure is the leading cause of lung cancer among non smoking Americans. They state that it is the second leading cause of all lung cancers and that radon exposure causes 21,000 lung cancer deaths in the USA per year. See

So not only is there global agreement between Radiation Hormesis advocates, there is also a profound disagreement between the agencies of the US government. The DOE funds people to advocate actions which the findings of the US EPA contradict.

And not only that, the US DOE and its funded researchers stand in contradiction to the findings and recommendations of the US Presidential Cancer Panel, which is part of the National Cancer Institute of the USA.

The 2008-2009 Annual Report of the Presidential Cancer Panel, entitled ” REDUCING ENVIRONMENTAL CANCER RISK –
What We Can Do Now”, the US Presidential Cancer Panel found that: “However, when radon enters residential and other tightly enclosed structures, its concentration can rise to levels that increase cancer risk, particularly when
inhabitants of homes with higher radon levels are exposed over a period of years. Inhaled
radioactive alpha particles produced by radon’s two short-lived decay products can directly or indirectly damage DNA in lung cells”. Further the Panel continues: “Although some recent studies suggest there could be a hormetic (potentially
beneficial stimulant) effect from low-dose residential radon exposures, numerous human cohort and case-control studies
have concluded that radon causes lung cancer. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States
and the leading cause of lung cancer among people who have never smoked.” end quote.

The Presidential Cancer Panel cannot ignore the US DOE designed and funded research, however, the Panel clearly states it’s finding from cohort studies in the real world. It would be very difficult in the real world to modify the radon concentration of a home so as to enable it to stay within the allegedly “beneficial zone”. In the case of my friend the nuclear, who has already used up his “ALLOWABLE LIFETIME DOSE”, his doctor’s recommendation to him stands. “Minimise your exposure, Terry.” So, what if he wanted to live with is son and daughter in law, who were pumping in a “beneficial” dose of radon into the house, on the advice of the US DOE? (Not that the family are so thick as to actually do it.)

A significant fact is that the US DOE Low Dose research program appears to me, and I could be wrong, focuses exclusively upon externally delivered low dose low LET x rays. Pam Sykes has written to me and stated this in relation to her work at that time. Her work involved the use of genetically modified identical mice.

Radiation Hormesis stands in contradiction to the findings of the US EPA and the recommendations of the US National Cancer Institute’s Presidential Advisory Panel. EPA has human exposure and risk data. DOE has external dose results with GM mice exposed to low dose, low LET external soft x ray. Radon does not emit this form of radiation.

Prof S. M. Javad Mortazavi does give a concrete, real world example to which he applies his Radiation Hormesis views. This is worthy of note as the Professor gives us human data, and observations about humans in a naturally high background area of Iran. What does Prof Mortazavi report and can we confirm or refute his findings?

In the paper entitled “High Background Radiation Areas of Ramsar, Iran” ( Prof Mortazavi states that: “Inhabitants who live in some houses in this area receive annual doses as high as 132 mSv from external terrestrial sources. The radioactivity of the high background radiation areas (HBRAs) of Ramsar is due to Ra-226 and its decay products, which have been brought to the surface by the waters of hot springs. There are more than 9 hot springs with different concentrations of radium in Ramsar that are used as spas by both tourists and residents.” Note that the radium arises from the uranium decay series and that radium gives rise to radon. Apart from the dose, the radionuclides reported to be present in this area include radium all the decay products, including radon, which result. A reasonably direct comparison can therefore be made between the US EPA and Prof. Mortazavi’s findings.

“The preliminary results of cytogenetical, immunological and hematological studies on the residents of high background radiation areas of Ramsar have been previously reported (Mortazavi et al. 2001, Ghiassi-Nejad et al. 2002 and Mortazavi et al. in press), suggesting that exposure to high levels of natural background radiation can induce radioadaptive response in human cells. Lymphocytes of Ramsar residents when subjected to 1.5 Gy of gamma rays showed fewer induced chromosome aberrations compared to residents in a nearby control area whose lymphocytes were subjected to the same radiation dose. Despite the fact that in in vitro experiments lymphocytes of some individuals show a synergistic effect after pretreatment with a low dose(Mortazavi et al. 2000), none of the residents of high background radiation areas showed such a response. ” Mortazavi.

“Based on results obtained in studies on high background radiation areas of Ramsar, high levels of natural radiation may have some bio-positive effects such as enhancing radiation-resistance. More research is needed to assess if these bio-positive effects have any implication in radiation protection (Mortazavi et al. 2001). The risk from exposure to low-dose radiation has been highly politicized for a variety of reasons. This has led to a frequently exaggerated perception of the potential health effects, and to lasting public controversies.” Mortazavi.

“Our preliminary results suggest that prolonged exposure to very high levels of natural radiation could lead to the induction of radiation resistance among exposed individuals, which has interesting implications for many aspects of radiation protection policy.” Mortazavi.

Led me break here to show the positions held by Pam Sykes of Flinders University:

“Prof Pamela Sykes has a PhD in Genetics and has worked in the area of molecular genetics in Australia and the US over the last 25 years. Prof Sykes is a Strategic Professor in the area of Preventive Cancer Biology and heads her own research group of staff and post-graduate students studying the biologiical effects of low doses of ionising radiation. Her current research is focussed on studying the protective role of low dose radiation. She is currently funded by the United States Department of Energy Low dose Radiation Program, Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australian and the Flinders Medical Centre Foundation. Some of her current appointments include membership on state and national committees for radiation protection and she is an Associate Editor for the journal Radiation Research.”

I submit that when we hear the Senior Environmental Safety Officer of ARPANSA beginning to sound like Prof. Mortazavi (with all respect to the Professor), we should be very concerned.

The results of studies by Iranian and international medical, geological and radiological surveys of the northern high radiation areas of Iran. Do the statements of Prof. Mortazavi stack up?
See next post.

5 Responses to “The Nuclear Industry’s urgent need for the concept of Radiation Hormesis”

  1. residentsorganizedforasafeenvironment Says:

    Residents Organized for Safe Environment (ROSE) Statement of Concern:
    ROSE believes that the NRC’s stated alternative to Change the Waste Confidence away from the small step approach to the long-term Waste Confidence program for 200 years to make nuclear power plant sites into nuclear waste dumps for 200 years is shortsighted and completely without regard for the safety of the millions of citizens who populate the areas around these power plants.
    This type of decision by the NRC, demands that the public take action to secure its own safety from the hazards of such a nuclear waste dump in their vicinity wherever it is located. It calls into question the very mandate itself of the NRC “Protecting People and the Environment” and leads us to the conclusion that the NRC is no longer capable of Protecting the People and the Environment. This may mean it is time to consider disbanding the NRC and forming a new protective agency led by the citizens themselves who have no vested interest in protecting the nuclear industry.

    NRC Draft Report for Comment Dec 2011 Waste storage policy. Background and Preliminary Assumptions For an Environmental Impact Statement.—Long-Term Waste Confidence Update. States
    6. Alternatives Under the National Environmental Policy Act
    “The proposed action is a change to the Commission.’s current Waste Confidence decision and rule, which requires the Commission to revisit the issue of Waste Confidence every five to ten years. As part of this process, the Commission has revised Waste Confidence twice since 1984, and each time has expanded the temporal scope of its analysis by a few decades. This long-term Waste Confidence update would move away from this small-step approach, and would extend the temporal scope of Waste Confidence by as many as 200 years. The EIS will include an analysis of the impacts of four storage scenarios in order to assess the magnitude and range of impacts and the safety of extended storage. Section 8 of this report discusses these scenarios. As with the current Waste Confidence rule and decision, the Waste Confidence EIS will generically describe the potential impacts of extended storage and will assume that the storage of spent nuclear fuel will continue to be a regulated activity in the future. Unlike the current Waste Confidence rule and decision, this long-term Waste Confidence EIS will not require reconsideration of a possible update to the rule and decision every five to ten years.

    The no-action alternative is to continue to review the Waste Confidence decision and rule for updates every 5 to 10 years.”

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