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Friday, December 02, 2011

Dalgety Bay - Parliament's Adjournment Debate

  On Wednesday Gordon Brown had his adjournment debate on the Dalgety Bay "radium". He spoke, a couple of backbench Labour MPs asked supportive questions and Andrew Robathan, Parlaimentary Under Secretary for defence gave an emollient response confirming that the MoD have already paid £750,000 on this nonsense and are prepared to pay more but not unlimitedly more. He made no specific suggestion that it is natural radioactivity nor that most of it wasn't though he did appear to admit radium had been found..

This is the first time we have had any official statement of the cost spent on this bureaucratic lie. My guess would be that SEPA, being the active party in this must have spent several times more so we will be talking about a minimum of £4 million blown in propping up various people's bank balances.

Here is some stuff from Brown's speech, much of which was clearly a SEPA handout:
"in the past six weeks, materials that were dumped there by the Ministry of Defence in the 1950s—aircraft dials, aircraft paint and other materials—have been discovered, with radioactive levels that are 10 times anything witnessed before." not true - no radioactive dials nor radioactive paint particles have ever been found in the past and the current claims are just about "particles" and "a piece of metal"

"aircraft dials, materials used for painting dials and other instruments, were broken up and dumped at Dalgety Bay. On that land houses were built " so the main site of any putative radium would not be on the beach at all but on the land built on. Reinforces the assumption that this is either natural rock concentrated by lighter soil being washed away from the beach or alternately material being swept onto the beach from the sea bottom*.

"the ambient radiation dose rate values were within normal levels and calculated that the highest ambient dose rate found at Dalgety Bay was only two thirds of that found naturally in the granite in Aberdeen" actually the report said "less than 2/3rds" - I suspect this damaging point would not have appeared in his speech had I not previously dug it out.

"radium contamination was present not as a layer in the sediment, but randomly distributed as particles" the difference between a layer and a random distribution is clearly a matter of the word you choose to use

"the maximum fatal risk per year from inhaling or swallowing a radioactive particle to any user of the area surveyed was negligible; it was calculated as clearly “less than one in a million” I assume "clearly less" means "far less" so zero to by any real world use of the term

"The chances of ingestion…is highly unlikely, around one in half a million per year” so considerably less than the chance of being attacked by a sabre tooth tiger their, though the tiger attack would likely be fatal while eating one particle almost certainly wouldn't

"“recontamination of the beach continued, indicating that either the ash horizon was not the only potential host material, or that”—other—“sources continued to be present…and continued to re-contaminate the beach.” ie in either case it is not primarily, if at all, dial radium but naturally occurring background, probably including stuff from the sea bottom routinely deposited by the sea*

"128 particles, 48 were recovered from investigations of the ash bed, 28 from clearance surveys of the beach and coastal path, and 51 from regular visits" so 37.5% from the only area where dial radiation, if it existed, would be likely to be (also the area where they were looking hardest, and 62.5% where natural radiation only would be expected

"SEPA again wrote to the MOD asking for a commitment to undertake appropriate remediation and

“the delivery of a plan” with“sufficient resources and funds to enable work to be undertaken”." which is basically SEPA putting the onus on the MoD to make an unlimited commitment to pay for unspecified action in response to an undetectably small alleged threat for which there is no evidence they are responsible

The second part of his speech seems to be less taken from a SEPA handout and makes a number of statements that ain't so or are meaningless "is a radioactivity level higher than anything that has been seen before" no we have 3 particles, but the background level is unchanged and much lower than elsewhere

"the MOD contractor removed 33 sources, SEPA has removed 442 separate particles" if that were comparable level of effort we would expect SEPA to have spent 13 times more - £10 million - on this nonsense but I am willing to assume they have merely been removing less radioactive particles

The Undersecretary's response is memorable only for this "SEPA has recently found higher activity sourced at some depth—about 75cm, or 2 feet for those who deal in old-fashioned measurements" actually 2 1/2 feet  - perhaps a nitpick but both the exposure to the public and the likelihood of them having been put there less than geological ages ago are sharply reduced by increased depth.

Brown ends with this telling point "The Ministry of defence has been told by the Scottish environmental Protection agency that a remedial action plan is needed. It has the power to designate the land and require the Ministry of Defence to do this. It will not change its mind about whether a remedial action plan is needed" - ie the issue does not come down to whether there is any actual danger or even any actual radioactivity beyond what God laid down but simply that SEPA has the power to designate any land anywhere "radioactive" and permanently sealed off, irrespective of whether they actually have found the non-existent "daughter elements" of radium or anything else of scientific validity.

This simply comes down to SEPA holding the community hostage to extort money from the MoD.

Brown is doing his constituents no good by supporting the use of them this way.
  There is also a rather good letter from a radioactivity expert on the subject in the Scotsman today and remarkably 3 of the 4 comments  entirely agree with him that
There are amoebae on Mars with a greater knowledge of physics than Gordon Brown and he should return to his self- imposed purdah and not ramp up silly scare stories

the effect of hormesis on the feline population of Aberdeen??

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Sorry Neil - you don't help your argument by ludicrous exaggeration. The risks from small amounts of radiation may well be very small, but comparing them to the risks of being attacked by an animal known to be extinct for thousands of years is absurd, and shows no respect for probabilities, or serious attempts to assess risk.
I was comparing, admitedly facetiously, the half million years one would have to stay there to have a cahnce of ingesting a particle with the 25,000 odd years since one might face a sabre tooth. I don't know how long it would take for a variant of the breed to re-evolve.
"The half million years one would have to stay there to have a chance of ingesting a particle" is I think a poor way to think about low probability events. A more mathematically correct way would be on any given visit to the beach, comparing the odds of ingesting a particle with winning the lottery that week. I don't know how the figures stack up but both are possible, but unlikely. For a sabre tooth tiger to re evolve is extremely unlikely,even without humanity around, as it did not make it as a successful species for very long in geological terms, and would need specific ecosystems to thrive, and the odds of both at the same time are extremely low.- Sandy
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