Government gags experts over nuclear plant risks

The Sunday Times (UK) today (August 01, 2004) reports "Government gags experts over nuclear plant risks" (Story by Mark Gould and Jonathan Leake)
See http://www.timesonline.co.uk/newspaper/0,,2761-1198060,00.html

Additional background:

This is about the Committee Examining Radiation Risks of Internal Emitters (CERRIE) and the use of legal threats to prevent publication of a Dissenting Statement. Two Committee meetings had voted to include it in the final report. The second of these votes took place after Members had seen a draft of the Statement. The next meeting in June reversed the decision. According to the Sunday Times story, some Committee members think our banned Statement is "riddled with inaccuracies". They have complained repeatedly about "potential libels" but they have never said what might be libellous, despite our requests. They have also talked of "inaccuracies", again without being specific although we have asked repeatedly.

The legal opinions provided to the Chairman by Departmental lawyers speak of "negligent misstatements of factual matters" without being specific. Eventually, at the final meeting in June 2004, just before the gagging vote, Committee Members referred to six matters which were supposed to be factually inaccurate. On five of them they were wrong. The other was a minor point which might be a mistake but which we could and would have altered if anyone had pointed it out.

Here (if you have nothing better to do) is what they at last said was "factually inaccurate":

1) a section on the Second Event theory in which Dr. Busby answers scientific points made by his critics in their part of the report. In other words it's not a matter of "fact" but of scientific debate which the Committee has not been able to resolve. Reporting fully on such disagreements is the Committee's remit.

2) the cancellation of a Committee study of cancer near the Bradwell NPP. We wrote that detailed protocols had been agreed early last year but the secretariat had failed to obtain the data with no adequate explanation, leading to cancellation of the study. Discussions during the meeting confirmed our account.

3) We referred to the Secretariat's role in biased drafting of the main report. This was unpopular with the Committee but is essentially true.

4) We said that an external reviewer thought Hugh Richards' work on Tritium and birth anomalies in Cardiff was "cause for concern". In the meeting this was said to be untrue. We said it was true, and we see that our version is now in the final report.

5) Someone said (without being specific) that there was something wrong with our "Table one". This is a table of doses from single particles of Uranium Oxide of various diameters and it has been in the public domain for years without criticism, as far as we know. We have not been told what's wrong with it.

6) We noted that data had not been obtained from Wales Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit. The precise way we wrote this might be open to challenge, but we would have changed it long ago if anyone had pointed out an error.

Not an impressive attack on us, but nonetheless five members voted for a motion to ban the Statement, two against, two abstentions, and two absent members.

ON THE OTHER HAND the main report is prone to misstatements (we say "prone to " because it isn't published yet, so we can't be categorical). The outstanding example concerns infant leukaemia after Chernobyl. Published papers from research groups in several countries all show a sharp increase. We say this unequivocally demonstrates that ICRP's risk model is in error by a factor of several hundred for internal exposure. The chances that these increases in so many countries at the same time could happen randomly are vanishingly small.

Recent drafts of the main report reveal a desperation to dismiss it, partly by minimising statistical significance, partly by plain denial. Some of the studies are ignored, wrong doses are used for Germany, and the reliability of Greek cancer registration data has been questioned without substantiation. A risk coefficient and regression analyses have been used that we never agreed were valid. On the basis of all this fudging the main report says leukaemia was indeed increased but only at the level predicted by current risk models. Since according to the risk model a foetal dose of 10,000 microSieverts caused a 40% increase it is hard to see how the 70 microSievert foetal dose in Germany caused a 48% excess, or 80 microSieverts in Scotland and Wales caused 260%. Etcetera. If dose and response are in a linear relationship (a keystone of ICRP) then 70 microSieverts should have caused an increase of just 0.28%. Discrepancies on this scale are big enough to account for all the nuclear site clusters.

Richard Bramhall
Low Level Radiation Campaign
The Knoll
Montpellier Park
Powys LD1 5LW U.K.
+44 (0)1597 824771


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August 2004

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