Is radiation good for you? The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission could decide it is via Ecologist

The well-founded idea that nuclear radiation is dangerous even at the lowest levels is under attack, writes Karl Grossman. Three determined nuclear enthusiasts have filed petitions to the NRC calling on it to apply the doctrine of ‘radiation hormesis’ – that low levels of radiation actually stimulate the immune system and promote better health. Disagree? You’d better act fast.

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission is considering a move to eliminate the ‘Linear No-Threshold’ (LNT) basis of radiation protection that the US has used for decades and replace it with the ‘radiation hormesis’ theory – which holds that low doses of radioactivity are good for people.

The change is being pushed by “a group of pro-nuclear fanatics – there is really no other way to describe them”, charges the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) based near Washington DC.

“If implemented, the hormesis model would result in needless death and misery”, says Michael Mariotte, NIRS president. The current US requirement that nuclear plant operators reduce exposures to the public to “as low as reasonably achievable” would be “tossed out the window.

“Emergency planning zones would be significantly reduced or abolished entirely. Instead of being forced to spend money to limit radiation releases, nuclear utilities could pocket greater profits. In addition, adoption of the radiation model by the NRC would throw the entire government’s radiation protection rules into disarray, since other agencies, like the EPA, also rely on the LNT model.”


“The Nuclear Regulatory Commission may decide that exposure to ionizing radiation is beneficial – from nuclear bombs, nuclear power plants, depleted uranium, x-rays and Fukushima”, notes Nuclear-News.

“No protective measures or public safety warnings would be considered necessary. Clean-up measures could be sharply reduced … In a sense, this would legalize what the government is already doing-failing to protect the public and promoting nuclear radiation.”


Thus, starting in the 1950s, the ‘Linear No-Threshold’ standard was adopted by the governments of the US and other countries and international agencies.

It holds that radioactivity causes health damage – in particular cancer – directly proportional to dose, and that there is no ‘threshold’. Moreover, because the effects of radiation are cumulative, the sum of several small exposures are considered to have the same effect as one larger exposure, something called ‘response linearity’.

The LNT standard has presented a major problem for those involved in developing nuclear technology notably at the national nuclear laboratories established for the Manhattan Project – Los Alamos, Oak Ridge and Argonne national laboratories – and those later set up as the Manhattan Project was turned into the US Atomic Energy Commission.


Dr. Fairlie says “the scientific evidence for the LNT is plentiful, powerful and persuasive.” He summarizes many studies done in Europe and the United States including BEIR VII. As to the petitions to the NRC, “my conclusion is that they do not merit serious consideration.” They “appear to be based on preconceptions or even ideology, rather than the scientific evidence which points in the opposite direction.”

An additional issue in the situation involves how fetuses and children “are the most vulnerable” to radiation and women “more vulnerable than men”, states an online petition opposing the change. It was put together by the organization Beyond Nuclear, also based near Washington DC.

Headed “Protect children from radiation exposure”, it advises: “Tell NRC: A little radiation is BAD for you. It can give you cancer and other diseases … NRC should NOT adopt a ‘little radiation is good for you’ model. Instead, they should fully protect the most vulnerable which they are failing to do now.”


A strong public stand – many negative comments – over their deciding that ‘radioactivity is good for you’ could make all the difference.

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