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Reply #124: Before you brought all this up I'd never heard of ECRR, Busby, CERRIE, etc. [View All]

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caraher Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-06-09 10:14 AM
Response to Reply #121
124. Before you brought all this up I'd never heard of ECRR, Busby, CERRIE, etc.
I will admit to one "bias:" faith in the scientific process. That is what leads me to largely dismiss the reports you favor - their failure to hew to the same standards of scholarship that allowed us to strongly suspect, then know, that we were harming the ozone layer and ("Climategate" notwithstanding) change the climate. You are attributing to me a pro-nuclear bias based on exactly one fact: that I disagree with you.

You claim to have "shown" me that CERRIE was "biased toward the industry." Let's look at CERRIE membership. Here's the member list along with their affiliations, straight from the CERRIE web site:

CERRIE Chairman:
Professor Dudley Goodhead
MRC Radiation and Genome Stability Unit
(Professor Goodhead retired from the MRC unit in 2003)

CERRIE Members:
* Mr Richard Bramhall
Low Level Radiation Campaign
* Dr Chris Busby
Green Audit
* Dr Roger Cox
National Radialogical Protection Board
* Professor Sarah Darby
Clinical Trial Service Unit, University of Oxford
* Dr Philip Day
Department of Chemistry, University of Manchester
* Dr John D Harrison
National Radialogical Protection Board
* Dr Colin Muirhead
National Radialogical Protection Board
* Mr Peter Roche
Greenpeace UK (until March 2004)
* Professor Jack Simmons
Formerly University of Westminster
* Dr Richard Wakeford
British Nuclear Fuels plc
* Professor Eric Wright
Department of Molecular & Cellular Pathology
University of Dundee

The tally I see is 1 from the nuclear industry (Wakefield), 4 government scientists (Goodhead, Cox, Harrison, Muirhead), 4 academics (Darby, Day, Simmons, Wright), Peter Roche of Greenpeace, Chris Busby, and Richard Bramhall. I appreciate that the government scientists have an arguable vested interest in continuing to have an industry to regulate, and that the academics may have similar indirect career-related conflicts of interest.

But explain this to me: what conceivable motive would the representative from Greenpeace have for failing to join in the dissenting report? This is a guy who's bio on Wikipedia reads:

Pete Roche helped set up the Scottish Campaign to Resist the Atomic Menace (Scram) in 1976, which opposed the construction of Torness nuclear power station in East Lothian. Roche helped organise 10,000-strong rallies at the site in the late 1970s and 1980s. Buildings were occupied at the site and the group used non-violent direct action.

Does this sound like a pro-nuke hack to you? Does this sound like someone easily intimidated into silence? Who would be easily bought off?

Moreover, according to Bramhall's organization and sources sympathetic to Busby and Bramhall (the dissenting members), Dr. Day was in fact nominated to CERRIE by Friends of the Earth. A revealing notice from activists against use of depleted uranium reads,

CERRIE Fails to Find Agreement

The Committee Examining Radiation Risks from Internal Emitters (CERRIE), which was set up by former environment minister Michael Meacher to review models used to estimate health risks from radioactive materials, has failed to include the minority report of dissenting scientists from 'The Low Level Radiation Campaign' (LLRC). Scientists representing Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth were among those who agreed not to include the opinion of LLRC and the exact reasons their opinion was not included are not clear at this point.

Michael Meacher has reacted angrily to the news, accusing the final report of giving a one-sided establishment opinion. What is clear is that the failure of CERRIE to reach a position on the dangers of low level radiation is a grave disappointment for all those who campaign on the issue and were hoping it represented a unique opportunity for an authoritative new understanding of the issue. The minority report is being released by LLRC and copies can be obtained by emailing

(By the way, I can download CERRIE's report and other materials for free, while the dissenting report seems to be available only for cash. From Green Audit: "The Minority Report is available at 25 + 2 / 30 Euro + 5 / $30 US dollars + $8.00. Students and campaigners can apply for copies at a concessionary price of 15.00." How costly is creating a downloadable .pdf? The minority report sounds more like a fundraiser than anything else...)

So by my tally, there were at least 4 CERRIE members with impeccable anti-nuke credentials, of whom only two joined in the dissent. The two people who had no motive to be anything other than receptive to the alternative theory apparently walked away from years of study unconvinced.

This lends great credence to the "Reflections on CERRIE" editorial in the Journal of Radiation Protection by the one clear representative of the nuclear industry on the committee, Richard Wakefield. Wakefield claims there are at least two excellent reasons only CERRIE replied in depth to the ECRR report: it's not good science, and CERRIE was a body created specifically to try to gain mainstream acceptance for ECRR's ideas. The effort failed; hence Meacher's reported anger. Wakefield says,

When, in September 2001, I was invited to become a member of (what was at that time referred to as) the Working Group of the Consultative Exercise on Radiation Risks of Internal Emitters it was not without some apprehension that I accepted. Earlier, in July 2001, the then UK Environment Minister, Michael Meacher, announced that a review of the risks to health of radionuclides deposited within the body was to take place. The LLRC web-site had made no secret of the discussions between Michael Meacher and the anti-nuclear activists Chris Busby and Richard Bramhall that had preceded this announcement. My view of these discussions was inevitably influenced by the strong opinions on this subject that had previously been expressed by Michael Meacherfor example, in February 1987, he (as the then chief spokesman on health for the Opposition) had issued a press release concerning the role of radiation in the raised levels of childhood leukaemia reported in some areas near nuclear installations in Britain, claiming that children living in these areas have literally grown up in killing fields....

I felt that the first meeting of the Working Group had confirmed my suspicions that we had been brought together largely to consider (and, presumably, endorse) the views of Chris Busby. For some while, Chris Busby had been loudly proclaiming that the models underlying the risk estimates associated with exposure to radiation from internally-deposited radionuclides were seriously in error and that risks to health were being grossly underestimated by authoritative bodies such as the ICRP.... It is somewhat ironic, given the circumstances leading up to the consultative exercise, that the CERRIE process permitted the Committee members to conduct a detailed and critical review of the work of Chris Busby, much to its detriment....

During our third meeting it was announced that the Working Group of the Consultative Exercise on Radiation Risks of Internal Emitters had transmuted into the Committee Examining Radiation Risks of Internal Emitters (which, conveniently, allowed the acronym to remain unaltered). This seemingly innocuous name-change could be interpreted as an attempt to create an alternative to the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (COMARE), a group of independent experts mandated to advise the UK Government on matters concerned with radiation and health. Discontent with COMARE had already been expressed on the LLRC web-site because of that Committees serious criticism of an earlier study by Chris Busby of childhood leukaemia in Wales, which led to the remarkable suggestion by the LLRC that COMARE showed a bias towards the nuclear industry. It appeared to some of us involved with CERRIE that this transformation from consultative working group to committee might be intended as a means of circumventing COMARE, which was displaying an awkward inclination to examine the scientific evidence rather than applauding the political correctness of a studys conclusions. Indeed, Chris Busby, in a letter to the editor of Essex County Standard in March 2003, bluntly stated, I feel that you should know that the question of risk from these kinds of exposures was taken away from COMARE by the government in July 2001 and passed to a new Committee Examining Radiation Risks from Internal Emitters, CERRIE, of which I am a member. This description of the role of CERRIE vis `a vis COMARE was patently incorrect. Attacks on COMARE continued at the LLRC web-site, culminating in a call on the Government to disband the Committee. Interestingly, this call was echoed by Michael Meacher (who had left Government in June 2003) in a House of Commons Early Day Motion in July 2004....

In the Foreword of the minority report produced by Chris Busby and Richard Bramhall, Michael Meacher states: Science can be only trusted if it is pursued with the most rigorous procedures that guarantee freedom from bias. One can only wholeheartedly agree with this. However, Michael Meacher goes on to criticise CERRIE for producing an unsatisfactory and partial report, which led to the need for a separate minority report. I believe that the majority of the members of CERRIE worked hard and in good faith to write an informed and balanced, but where necessary critical, report based upon the available scientific evidence, and that we intended the report to be inclusive of all views. The Committee should not be criticised for exposing the serious failings of studies supposedly supporting one particular extreme position, or for what I perceive to be the intransigence of two members of the Committee that underlaid their requirement of a separate minority report. One can only hope that important lessons have been learned from the experience of CERRIE as to the optimum process of obtaining an appropriately knowledgeable and comprehensive review of scientific evidence to inform policy. Then the trials of CERRIE will have been worthwhile.

I agree with the statement that "...the no nukes folks are clear on what they want: no more nuclear pollution..." But this is the problem - the policy goal obscures deliberation over just what constitutes "pollution." I'm neither a "no nukes" nor "pro-nukes" person -- I want safe, science-based policies that protect health and the environment. There are many excellent reasons to be anti-nuke -- unresolved waste storage issues, weapons proliferation concerns, questions about how sustainable the nuclear fuel supply is, environmental and worker safety impacts of uranium mining. Busby has an interesting, plausible-sounding theory about radiation damage to cells that CERRIE found is inconsistent with other scientific data. Should he continue to pursue research into his theory? Absolutely. But he must, if he is to be taken seriously by people who do not come to the table convinced that artificial sources of radiation are evil incarnate, subject his work to the scrutiny of knowledgeable people in the relevant fields as a first resort. Evidently his work was unable to sway even the Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth reps on CERRIE, whom he and Bramhall evidently expected to rubber-stamp as in agreement with their policy preferences. That speaks volumes.

Concerning my challenge regarding burning wood... my reductio ad absurdum addresses not on the (assuredly different!) relative radiological hazards of C-14 and any particular artificial isotope, but on the principle advanced by ECRR that there exists no morally acceptable level of emission of radioactive material. If you are maintaining that exposure to radiation C-14 poses literally zero risk of cancer you can maintain logical consistency, but at the cost of all scientific credibility. My point is that the standard ECRR suggests for moral hazard is impossible to maintain with any consistency. It is intended to be used as a club against only those activities they wish to stop, and not applied to myriad other situations involving release of radioactivity.
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