LLRC Journal Radioactive Times. Vol.5 No 1

Radioactive Times. Vol.5 No 1

Committee Examining Radiation Risk from Internal Emitters (CERRIE)
- a new model of scientific advice gathering for Government.
The progress and the problems

During arguments about the Euratom Directive and the LLRC campaign to oppose transposition of the nuclear waste charter into UK law, LLRC developed a dialogue with the UK Environment Minister, Michael Meacher. Following meetings with Chris Busby, Richard Bramhall and Molly Scott Cato, the Minister agreed to set up, jointly with the Department of Health, a new government committee whose remit would be to examine disagreements about the safety of the health risk models which presently underpin the regulation of discharges of man-made radiation to the environment. With the failure of the government science advice committee on Mad Cow Disease very much in mind, the Minister agreed to set up the new committee, CERRIE, with an oppositional or dialogical structure, as suggested in Molly’s book I don’t know much about Science (Aberystwyth: Green Audit, 2000). This meant having four members from the radical side, four from NRPB or the nuclear industry and four ‘neutrals’. The Chair of this committee was Prof. Dudley Goodhead and the secretariat was presumed neutral. The final report was defined at the outset as containing all sides of any argument together with clear statements about any disagreements and recommendations for research which would help clear up these points.

Derailment attempts at the start

The reason for CERRIE was the clear failure of all previous ‘independent’ advisory bodies. In 1983, Sir Douglas Black, clearly unable to believe the ridiculous assertions by NRPB that the doses at Sellafield were too low to be the cause of the child leukemias, asked for a new independent committee to re-examine the models. He got COMARE, the Committee On Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment. This committee was rapidly colonised by nuclear industry supporters like Bryn Bridges and civil servants like Roy Hamlet. While assuming the image of a neutral science advice committee they consistently denied causality on the basis of ICRP type analyses of risk. Together with their sister ship, the Small Area Health Statistics Unit, they have kept the nuclear project afloat. But reports about populations suffering the health effects of exposure to Chernobyl radiation have now sunk their credibility and the argument has passed to CERRIE. However, COMARE were initially responsible for setting up the CERRIE machine and they chose Ian Fairlie, Marion Hill and Katherine Mondon as the secretariat. LLRC were deeply worried, since Ms Mondon is the wife of Dr Barrie Lambert who has consistently dismissed LLRC’s concerns. She resigned, however, at an early stage. Ian Fairlie is not someone we trust either, as it turns out, with good reason. We also felt uneasy about Marion Hill, in view of her background in NRPB and W S Atkins. We asked for a place on the secretariat for someone we did trust and Paul Dorfman was appointed.

The Dramatis Personae

In the Red Corner:

In the Blue Corner:
  • Dr Roger Cox (NRPB),
  • Dr Colin Muirhead (NRPB),
  • Dr John D Harrison (NRPB),
  • Dr Richard Wakeford (BNFL)
The ‘Neutrals’:
  • Prof. Sarah Darby (Oxford University, ex COMARE),
  • Prof Jack Simmons (retd.),
  • Prof. Eric Wright (ex Medical Research Council, ex-COMARE, Dundee University),
  • Prof Dudley Goodhead (MRC, ex-COMARE).
The Secretariat:
  • Dr Ian Fairlie,
  • Marion Hill,
  • Paul Dorfman (University of the West of England)
The appointment of Sarah Darby as a neutral raised a few eyebrows but the most extraordinary development was the control exercised by Ian Fairlie over the direction of the committee and its deliberations. Fairlie, who admitted to being a great friend of Richard Wakeford, BNFL’s Health Effects Rottweiler, even withheld papers which had been submitted for the Committee’s consideration. The deliberations became so altered by the time the minutes of the early meetings appeared that LLRC had to bring a DAT tape recorder to each session to ensure accuracy. Paul Dorfman was routinely excluded from decisions, paperwork and access to meeting transcripts. Finally, when Marion Hill (about whom we were at first the most concerned in terms of possible bias) began to be excluded from the secretariat loop, she resigned in a letter that accused Fairlie and Goodhead of collusion resulting in a bias to the intention of the committee. She further complained that Fairlie’s invoices would soon amount to £100,000 - four times as much as other Secretariat members - when unsalaried members of the committee like Richard Bramhall (who spent days transcribing the tape recordings) and Chris Busby (writing copious papers for the committee) received nothing. This bombshell letter has been followed by a major re-allocation of work in the secretariat. More in the next issue. For some further information check out www.cerrie.org

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