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Reply #128: And the reason the Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth folks went along was? [View All]

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caraher Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-06-09 03:32 PM
Response to Reply #125
128. And the reason the Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth folks went along was?
This really devastates your thesis that CERRIE did not give Busby's ideas a fair trial, in my opinion. What is their motive?

The new articles you link say things like

"The main report of the expert committee is believed to say that the risks from radiation for leukaemia could be up to 10 times the current estimate. But it failed to mention the theories of the committee members Richard Bramhall and Chris Busby, who examined cancer clusters and concluded that radiation from Sellafield and other nuclear plants could be responsible."

Far from it - these theories receive substantial attention in the CERRIE report. From p. 25:

The two Committee members who had been involved in formulating the alternative methodology given in the 2003 Recommendations of the European Committee on Radiation Risk (ECRR, 2003) outlined their approach. The intention was to remedy perceived deficiencies in the ICRP methodology in a simple and pragmatic manner by introducing additional weighting factors, w_J as a biophysical hazard factor, and w_K as an isotope biochemical hazard factor. An example given in the ECRR report is that 90-Sr binds to chromosomes and also has sequential beta emissions, from 90Sr and subsequent decay of 90Y (see Chapter 3), attracting a w_J of 10 and w_K of 30, a total enhancement of 300. However, other members pointed to a lack of evidence for risks from 90Sr that were orders of magnitude greater than expected. They also noted that w_J and w_K values given in the ECRR report (ECRR, 2003) for a range of radionuclides were not accompanied by any evidence or references. The majority of members were not persuaded of the scientific merit or validity of the ECRR (2003) approach on this matter.

Pages 50-58 are a discussion of Busby's "Second Event Theory," and there are many discussions of the epidemiological findings Busby points out.

The problem is that whether I or anyone else think it's OK to irradiate children and their families with anything that will cause leukemia or other cancers. It's that the evidence that this is happening is poor. Evidently representatives from such pro-nuke groups as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth are either unpersuaded or "think it's OK" to spew radioactive carcinogens. I'm betting it's the former.

And from what I've seen of Busby's other writing, he does seem to consistently favor sensationlism over facts. For instance, immediately after the war in Iraq Busby asserted that a spike in uranium detected at monitoring stations in a small area of the UK

"... shows that rather than remaining near the target as claimed by the military, depleted uranium weapons contaminate both locals and whole populations hundreds to thousands of miles away...

Busbys report shows that within nine days of the start of the Iraq war on March 19, 2003, higher levels of uranium were picked up on five sites in Berkshire. On two occasions, levels exceeded the threshold at which the Environment Agency must be informed, though within safety limits. The report says weather conditions over the war period showed a consistent flow of air from Iraq northwards.

Trouble is, there's no evidence at all that these monitoring stations detected depleted uranium. After all, those monitoring stations exist because of their proximity to the UK's nuclear weapons complex - isn't it far more plausible that the source was nearby? Especially given that otherwise we are asked to believe that uranium from the war in Iraq floated across Europe and deposited itself in a localized area without elevated levels being observed all across Europe.

His second-event theory is not an absurd theory as far as I can tell (since I'm not a biologist I don't know enough to evaluate some of the cellular biology details) - it simply doesn't happen to correctly explain the data. Cancer clusters are a statistical inevitability - they should be investigated, but with the understanding that for any rare disease pure chance indicates that a certain number of clusters can occur without implying any causation. I think Busby is probably well-meaning, but his public claims too often defy common sense, and he is excessively reluctant to expose his work to the scrutiny of scientists. I've read enough to conclude that while he could be right, his public positions seem driven rather transparently by the policy recommendations he hopes to make (close nuke plants, end use of DU munitions). The sad part is that these may well be the wisest policies even if he is dead wrong; but this sniping from the fringes does more to erode his credibility than anything else.
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