The remarkable thing about this exchange is that it reveals Professor Thomas's belief in the existence of stable Uranium which she also refers to as normal Uranium. At the bottom of page 25 she accompanies the Judge up the garden path, agreeing with his ignorant idea that stable Uranium might be referred to as natural Uranium.
Uranium has played a central role in the development of nuclear weapons and nuclear power, and for the last several years Professor Thomas has played a central and allegedly expert role in reassuring the public about their health effects. For how much longer? we ask.
DR BUSBY: This paper called "Depleted uranium catalyzed oxidative DNA damage:
absence of significant alpha particle decay".
MR JUSTICE BLAKE: Just remind me of the tab.
DR BUSBY: It was SB7/101.
MR JUSTICE BLAKE: 101, thank you.
DR BUSBY: Previously it was just an abstract.
MR JUSTICE BLAKE: Yes, right, so we can slip this in there.
DR BUSBY: So I think it might be easier, Professor Thomas, if we just looked at the abstract.
PROFESSOR THOMAS: I want to make some comments about the methodology as
DR BUSBY: Of course, of course.
MR JUSTICE BLAKE: We have the abstract at the head of the
paper. If we turn to the actual thing you put in last
night, Dr Busby, the abstract at the head of the paper
is the same as the document that was formerly in the
DR BUSBY: It's the document that was presented last night
and has now been printed and put in with the abstract.
MR JUSTICE BLAKE: Right. If you want to draw the attention
of this witness to a statement in the abstract, now that
she's seen the paper she can give you an answer.
DR BUSBY: It's a very simple question. Do you agree that
this paper shows that uranium seems to have
an anomalously high genotoxicity in this study?
PROFESSOR THOMAS: I don't think it's anomalously high. I think it's more
or less what we would have expected from a high --
a heavy metal like this. It's interesting they used
depleted uranium. I would have liked to see a control
where they used stable uranium and then you could have
a handle on whether it was related to the radiation or
whether it was related to --
MR JUSTICE BLAKE: Slow down.
PROFESSOR THOMAS: Sorry. This, to me, is straight metal ion toxicity,
which you would predict, which we know heavy metals are
genotoxic. It has a relationship with dose, which we
would also predict. I think if I was looking for an
effect that separated alpha from the effects of the
general genotoxicity of uranium I would have liked to
see a controlled platform that used stable uranium in
the same doses. Then you could say whether depleted
uranium, which is the subject of this, has a different
toxicity from that you observe from stable uranium.
MR JUSTICE BLAKE: Right. Just for my benefit, at least,
I am getting the following summary answers; tell me if
this is an over-crude simplification.
(1) the results recorded in this article you do not
consider to be anomalously high?
PROFESSOR THOMAS: No.
MR JUSTICE BLAKE: (2) you consider it to be a study of
PROFESSOR THOMAS: Yes.
MR JUSTICE BLAKE: And (3) you would have preferred to have
seen a comparison between depleted and stable uranium?
PROFESSOR THOMAS: Yes, because that would given you the answer as to
whether the depleted uranium was worse than normal
MR JUSTICE BLAKE: Is there any other part of your answer
that I missed out?
PROFESSOR THOMAS: No, that's absolutely fine, my Lord.
DR BUSBY: We'll stay with this now but I want to take you
to -- because I'm a bit confused about this concept of
stable uranium, Professor Thomas, so could we see SB --
let's see, what is it? -- SB6/73.
PROFESSOR THOMAS: Could you tell me the ...?
DR BUSBY: SB6/73.
PROFESSOR THOMAS: So not one of the new papers last night.
MR JUSTICE BLAKE: No, we are going back --
PROFESSOR THOMAS: SB6/73.
DR BUSBY: We need to look at that as well whilst we have
this one open as well.
PROFESSOR THOMAS: This is just a list of decay tables; correct?
DR BUSBY: Correct. Correct.
Now, I thought it might be useful for the Tribunal
to have a list of the uranium isotopes that exist in
nature, natural uranium isotopes. I wondered if you
would tell us which of these isotopes you consider to be
PROFESSOR THOMAS: You don't have a decay table where there is a stable
isotope because it does not decay.
DR BUSBY: I see. But actually may I put it to you that there is
no such thing as stable uranium?
PROFESSOR THOMAS: I think you probably need to check that because I think
that is untrue.
DR BUSBY: Right.
PROFESSOR THOMAS: So every single chemical element has a stable isotope.
DR CECILIA BUSBY: All uranium is radioactive, Professor --
MR JUSTICE BLAKE: You can't give evidence.
PROFESSOR THOMAS: It doesn't state that in any of the papers I read.
MR JUSTICE BLAKE: Put a question and we'll get an answer.
I think we have a disagreement with the proposition that
there is no such thing as stable uranium.
DR BUSBY: That's as far as I need to go; there's no such
thing as stable uranium.
So you are saying that this table from the federal
agency is actually -- it omits stable uranium because
it's not radioactive?
PROFESSOR THOMAS: I would probably need to check that. If you are adamant
I can quite happily check that but I don't have the
DR BUSBY: It might be wise.
PROFESSOR THOMAS: In any case it has an extremely long half life.
DR BUSBY: Well, that's a different point.
MR JUSTICE BLAKE: Please can we have questions rather than
DR BUSBY: Yes, my Lord.
So may we go back to the depleted uranium catalysed
oxidated paper we were just looking at?
PROFESSOR THOMAS: Just a second. I am going to have to get that back out
DR BUSBY: Sorry.
MR JUSTICE BLAKE: I know we may have to jump around, but --
DR BUSBY: I thought --
PROFESSOR THOMAS: Which bundle was that?
MR JUSTICE BLAKE: We are back to 7, I think, tab 101.
I think our visit to 6 was simply to examine whether you
are right when you say that there is such a thing as
DR BUSBY: We can put that to another expert.
MR JUSTICE BLAKE: I happen to have read part of this paper
this morning, although I don't pretend to understand it,
but the phrase used here is "natural uranium". Is that
different from stable uranium?
PROFESSOR THOMAS: That's what I understood to be stable uranium, but, my
Lord, I will happily check and if I am wrong I will
MR JUSTICE BLAKE: For the purposes of myself following the
answers -- I know others will be much better informed --
would you agree that what you refer to as "stable
uranium" might be referred to as "natural uranium"?
PROFESSOR THOMAS: Yes.
MR JUSTICE BLAKE: So at least we have that is the issue.
PROFESSOR THOMAS: The natural uranium will be a different isotope, that is
for sure. I would need to check whether it would be
stable in terms of it does not admit irradiation of any
type over any half life.
DR BUSBY: Right, good.
Well, all I want you to go to here is that you have
said that you believe that what Professor Miller has
found here is a heavy metal effect?
PROFESSOR THOMAS: Yes.
DR BUSBY: Right. So if people were exposed to uranium at
Christmas Island you think that it's possible that they
might have received the same sort of genetic damage as
Professor Miller is finding here, but from a heavy metal
PROFESSOR THOMAS: No, because it depends on the concentration again. You
keep forgetting that there are differences in
concentration and different concentrations, i.e. doses
in this case, have different effects. I can quote you
the actual human daily intake of uranium in the
United States. It's 1.5 micrograms per day. So
everybody is exposed to uranium and you cannot avoid
that. There's some areas of the world will have
slightly higher depending on their geology.
DR BUSBY: Quite, but that wasn't my question. My question is: if
they were exposed to stable uranium -- what you call
stable uranium -- from the bomb that Professor Sawada
was talking about, the particles that were coming down
from the bomb, if all of that was so, and I agree maybe
you may not think that's possible, but if it happened
would it be possible that this heavy metal effect that
you're talking about that has been found by
Professor Miller might have caused genetic damage to the
PROFESSOR THOMAS: I would think it was vanishingly unlikely and I'll
explain why. These are in vitro studies, where you have
dissolved something in water and you have done the
experiment in vitro. As we discussed at length
yesterday, many forms of uranium are insoluble. If you
take in a particular dose of uranium most of it is
excreted, so the amount that gets to your cells in vivo
as opposed to an in vitro assay is markedly different
and if you don't take that into account then you don't
understand the difference between in vitro and in vivo
experiments, which is critical.
DR BUSBY: Of course, but I think we agreed or you agreed that it
was possible that some uranium could get to the DNA --
PROFESSOR THOMAS: In very small quantities.
DR BUSBY: In very small quantities, yes. Let's say that that
uranium, the very small quantity as you put it that gets
to the DNA might have -- if it were stable uranium as
you say she is using here it might have a genetic effect
that is mediated through chemical genotoxicity?
PROFESSOR THOMAS: I would think at the doses that it is likely to reach
the cells it would be vanishingly small.
DR BUSBY: But finite?
PROFESSOR THOMAS: I don't know what you mean by "finite".
DR BUSBY: Well, it would be more than zero?
MR JUSTICE BLAKE: Measurable?
PROFESSOR THOMAS: Well, in that case we're all suffering from that because
we all intake uranium, so we must have mechanisms that
surely protect our bodies from things like that,
otherwise we'd all be suffering the consequences.
DR BUSBY: Well, we all die, don't we, Professor?
PROFESSOR THOMAS: Sadly.
DR BUSBY: Yes.
PROFESSOR THOMAS: But that doesn't mean it was due to uranium.