Date of Publication: October 2009
For more than half a century, the view that radiation represents an extreme hazard has been accepted. This book challenges that view facing a scientific question: How dangerous is ionising radiation? As well as a historical and sociological one: Why are we so worried about radiation?
The answers use modern scientific evidence and common sense understanding. Briefly, radiation is about a thousand times safer than suggested by official standards. Four facts illustrate the need for a new understanding:
1. The radiation levels in the nuclear waste storage hall at Sellafield, UK are so low thatin a million hours the dose there would equal the one used on the health tissue of any patient on radiotherapy treatment in a single day.
2. The radiation dose experienced by the survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs caused 0.6% to die of radiation-induced cancer between 1950 and 2000, about 1/20 of the chance of dying of cancer anyway and less than the chance of being killed on US highways in 50 years.
3. The wildlife at Chernobyl today is reported to be thriving, despite being radioactive.
4. The mortality of UK radiation workers before age 85 from all cancers is 15-20% lower than comparable groups.
The case is made for a complete change in attitude towards radiation safety. The realisation that radiation and nuclear energy are much safer than usually supposed is of extreme importance in discussion of alternatives to fossil fuels and their relative costs.