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Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Dalgety Bay - Scotsman Letter

 Yesterday the Scotsman published a letter disputing mine of Monday.
Radiation is naturally occurring and only dangerous in very large doses. I wore a film badge for a decade to protect me from high-accumulated doses of radiation. It has even been suggested in The Scotsman that a little radiation, like a peck of dirt, does you good.
But radioactive particles are a different matter. Plutonium is the most poisonous substance known to man

To answer it I found myself doing a bit of useful research and found that the evidence is quite clear that "particles" are not inherently more dangerous than general radiation, indeed that since "particles" can pass through the body quickly they are actually safer. I also found out about Cohen's challenge to Nader. Which resulted in this letter published today.
In reply to my letter criticising politically useful anti-nuclear scare stories, particularly the Dalgety Bay one, Dr George Shering asserts (letter 3rd April) - not entirely relevantly since nobody claims it is present at Dalgety - that "Plutonium is the most poisonous substance known to man".
In fact that honour lies with Botulinum toxin, plutonium is far down the list. This claim was originally made by Ralph Nader. It was disputed by, among others, Professor Bernard Cohen who offered to eat as much plutonium as Mr Nader would of caffeine. Nader refused.
Despite this the claim has been widely promoted by the "environmentally aware" and remains a mainstay of the anti-nuclear movement. Dr Shering's remark about the added toxicity of particles over widespread radiation is also wrong.

The theory in which a particle of plutonium dust radiates a localised spot of lung tissue has been tested and found false—such particles are more mobile than originally thought and toxicity is not measurably increased due to particulate form.

There were about 25 workers from Los Alamos National Laboratory who inhaled a considerable amount of plutonium dust during 1940s; according to the hot-particle theory, each of them has a 99.5% chance of being dead from lung cancer by now, but there has not been a single lung cancer among them.
Also the difference between a particle and a clump is, to some extent, merely a matter of definition. SEPA's experts have told them that, at least in some instances, sizeable "particles" could not be further desegregated, proving that there was no specific point source with the "particle".

With the manmade (well mined from natural pitchblende) radium being no more than 0.26 of a gram when natural radium in the area is 1 gram and other radioactives 9 tons it is virtually inevitable that the large majority of "particles" will be natural concentrations and the fact, when I asked under the FoI Act, SEPA have refused to say exactly where and when their alleged chemical testing of particles, proving them to be paint, took place does not inspire confidence.
He also mentions Fukushima. Though the tsunami killed 21,000 not a single person was killed, or even injured by radiation. Anybody may confirm that the number of news stories about the non-lethal "radiation catastrophe" is considerably more than of the catastrophe that killed so many.
Nonetheless I thank Dr Shering for being more willing to openly debate the subject than SEPA. Readers may judge for themselves whether he has made my assertion that the anti-nuclear movement is based on hysteria rather than evidence less or more credible.
Reference - Plutonium toxicity and the eat it challenge

Hot particle theory
  The Scotsman ran it without editing out which is remarkable for the longest letter of the day. They did change the paragraphs slightly. I have kept my 2nd last para (about Fukushima) as I wrote it but kept their other changes,
   Their online comments have been entirely favourable and I think the letter worked.
  On checking for another source on the Cohen - Nader challenge I found this
When Ralph Nader described plutonium as "the most toxic substance known to mankind", Cohen, then a tenured professor, offered to consume on camera as much plutonium oxide as Nader could consume of caffeine, the stimulant found in coffee and other beverages, which in its pure form has an oral (LD50) of 192 milligrams per kilogram in rats.

  I also found that he died on 17th March We have lost a valuable fighter in the cause of human progress

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