extracts from The Dangers of Low Level Radiation
Charles Sutcliffe: Avebury Press 1987
ISBN 0 566 05482 5
The references in the text are not reproduced here.
During discussion of a paper presented by Professor Sternglass, J.R. Totter of the AEC said:"I have never before commented on Dr. Sternglass' presentation because I felt that he had so obviously and flagrantly misused data that his work should not be dignified by serious scientific comment. As statisticians or experimental biologists you know that, even in very well controlled experiments, the data never fit the hypothesis being tested so beautifully as the data Dr. Sternglass has presented. I believe, therefore, that he has convicted himself of selection of data to fit his hypothesis". Sternglass (1972).In other words Sternglass had so clearly demonstrated his case that low level radiation is dangerous that Totter did not believe it!
In the view of an American investigative reporter there has been widespread suppression of unpleasant information on nuclear power. "For many years I've been doing investigative journalism, working for a large New York area daily newspaper and on radio and television. I also teach investigative reporting at the state university level. I've never come across an issue subjected to as extensive a cover up as nuclear power." Grossman (1980, page xvi).
Page56 et seq.
3.6 National Radiological Protection Board
The NRPB was established in 1970 by the Radiological Protection Act. It was set up to provide a national point of authoritative reference on radiological protection. The NRPB is authorised to advance knowledge about protection flow radiation hazards and to provide advice to those with responsibilities for protecting people from radiation.
The Flowers' Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (6th Report: Nuclear Power and the Environment HMSO 1976 Cmnd. 6618) called for "expert open and independent" agencies in radiological protection and for independent assessment of the ICRP recommendations on safety standards. This task has been assigned to the NRPB, yet the NRPB was criticised for its lack of independence even by the diplomatic RCEP, according to Wynne (B. Wynne, The Politics of Nuclear Safety, New Scientist Vol. 77 no 1087 26 January 1978 pp. 208 - 211). For example, the NRPB has strong connections with the UK. Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and Wynne (1978) reports that four of the NRPB's five top scientists were ex-UKAEA scientists, i.e. poachers turned game-keepers.
In 1975, the Guardian newspaper drew public attention to the fact that several workers at Windscale (Sellafield) and other plants where plutonium was extracted or fabricated, had developed leukaemia. The NRPB and BNFL, denied that any deaths attributable to plutonium had occurred. However, the RCEP felt the facts needed to be clearly established and they asked the NRPB to investigate and produce a public report, RCEP (1976, page 26.) In September 1975, the NRPB produced a study of deaths from leukaemia at Windscale (Sellafield) and they concluded that their initial reaction was correct; there was no connection between leukaemia and working at Windscale (Sellafield). The RCEP reported that the NRPB appeared to regard the matter as closed. However, the data used by the NRPB was limited to observations on men only whilst they were employed at Windscale and so omitted at least half of the deaths from cancer. This introduced a basic epidemiological error into the study since cancer takes many years to develop. It is estimated by the RCEP that by omitting to include cancers in workers after they left Windscale, half of the cancers were missed. The RCEP found it difficult to understand why it was not possible to carry out a proper study of all radiation workers, whether or not they had ceased employment, as has been commonplace in other industries. The RCEP (1976, page 95) go onto state that `we do not think that the NRPB followed up this matter initially with the necessary thoroughness".
Stott et al (1980, pp.139-140) stated that an NRPB statistician, Goss, felt that the findings of the Windscale study were significant enough to justify further work. This led to a disagreement within the NRPB and Goss resigned. At the Windscale Inquiry in 1977 the NRPB study was presented as written evidence. It was stated by Stott et al (1980, pp.l53-154) that in evidence to the Windscale Inquiry, Alesbury showed the NRPB report contained methodological and arithmetical errors which led to a significant understatement of the correlation between cancers and radiation exposure in the Windscale workforce. Dolphin, the author of the NRPB study, admitted the arithmetical errors. In her evidence Dr. Alice Stewart criticised the NRPB report as containing grave defects and inappropriate statistical tests. Some of these errors had been pointed out by Goss in a letter to the Observer newspaper in March 1977, but the NRPB had not withdrawn or corrected their report before submitting it as evidence to the Windscale Inquiry.
Goss (1977) has written that whilst working for the NRPB he formed the view that "the management were biased towards underestimating radiation risks", were not independent of the UKAEA and that "to make any overt criticism of the management was generally recognised as providing a clear invitation for further intimidation".
During the Windscale Inquiry it was revealed that the Reverend Postlethwaite, vicar of Seascale for 9 years, had become concerned about the considerable strain on the workforce because of the anxieties over health risks felt by those who did not work at Windscale. He made known his concern over the resulting low morale of the workforce and safety to the NRPB. The NRPB wrote to BNFL (operators of Windscale) stating that they "do not think (Postlethwaite) will cause you any difficulty. This destroyed the Reverend Postlethwaite's confidence in the NRPB as a source of independent advice, (Stott et al. 1980, page 123).
The NRPB has been criticised for its partiality on behalf of the UKAEA in the Windscale Inquiry and for its remarkable zeal in attacking any scientific research which concludes that risks are higher than the ICRP currently maintains. The NRPB's allegedly servile reflection of ICRP attitudes has been criticised. In Wynne's view, the NRPB's assertion that radiation doses below a certain low level, and doses beyond a certain period in the future should be ignored, is an attitude to be expected from the nuclear industry, not from a body which is supposed to be expert, open and independent. It appears that rather than protecting the public from the nuclear industry, the NRPB is protecting the nuclear industry from the public.
This chapter has pointed out that rather than being a consensus of informed opinion on the risks from radiation exposure, there is heated controversy. The existence of this controversy is suppressed in government documents, where international standards are relied upon as being universally accepted. The dispute within BEIR shows that the controversy has now spread to those organisations which pronounce upon radiation exposure risks. This has occurred in spite of official opposition to research which contradicts the existing estimates, and the possible detrimental effect that conducting such work can have on a researchers career. Later chapters of this book summarise the work which researchers have managed to conduct and publicise, questioning the existing estimates of the risks of exposure to radiation. Doubts have been expressed about the freedom of nuclear workers to criticise safety procedures and about a lack of enforcement of existing radiation exposure standards. Finally the NRPB, which is meant to be an impartial official body providing advice on the risks of exposure to radiation, was found to devote its energies to defending the status quo against those who wish to see more stringent levels of radiological protection.
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