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Comment: Re:headed in the wrong direction (Score 1) 230

by Uecker (#47495391) Attached to: EPA Mulling Relaxed Radiation Protections For Nuclear Power

I get the impression you're trying to score points here by playing semantic games. I wish you would not do so.

What Chas was saying was that there is no such concept as absolute safety, and thus there is always a concept of 'acceptable risk', or 'minimum risk'. This is usually synonymous with safety -- most people are willing to recognize that we do not live in an ideal world.

Back on topic, you seem to be fixated on the idea that any increase in risk is unacceptable. Please explain why.

No you are misrepresenting what I said. My original point is exactly that there is a risk even from very small doses. I was attacked merely for pointing this out.

I never said that the risk in unacceptable, but merely stated that the risk has to be weighted against its potential benefits.

Comment: Re:headed in the wrong direction (Score 1) 230

by Uecker (#47492617) Attached to: EPA Mulling Relaxed Radiation Protections For Nuclear Power

If something causes an additional very low statisitical risk of death to a high enough number of people, then some of them will die because of this.

Unless, of course, that doesn't actually happen to be the case.

In other replies in this thread I pointed out the basic argument why most scientists believe that even very low doses of radiation cause a small risk of cancer and also gave a link to recent review which summarized the discussion and a study which shows an effect for patients which had CT scans. Giving you the right pointers to learn the facts is all I can do. Discussing this further is a waste of time.

Comment: Re:headed in the wrong direction (Score 3, Informative) 230

by Uecker (#47492589) Attached to: EPA Mulling Relaxed Radiation Protections For Nuclear Power

I see your point, but I do not agree to the idea that society, by tolerating fatalities from traffic accidents, has accepted a universal trade-off between risk of death and cost. (There are many problems with this idea: how would you quantify the total value of mobility? Also society is not one single entity but consits of many different people with different interests. Cost and risks are also not equally distributed, e.g.. why should society trade a cost to GM with a risk of death to others?). But this is also irrelevant to the original question: The natural background radiation is nothing society has voluntarily accepted.

Comment: Re:headed in the wrong direction (Score 1) 230

by Uecker (#47492477) Attached to: EPA Mulling Relaxed Radiation Protections For Nuclear Power

You are equating "very low risk" with "safe". This is OK in personal life but not if you talking about a large number of affected people. If something causes an additional very low statisitical risk of death to a high enough number of people, then some of them will die because of this. And this needs to be considered. That there are other risks which are higher is irrelevant and no justification to simply ignore this.

And yes, nuclear proliferation is also a concern, although I do not really understand why you brought that up here.

Comment: Re:headed in the wrong direction (Score 3, Informative) 230

by Uecker (#47492449) Attached to: EPA Mulling Relaxed Radiation Protections For Nuclear Power

The other deaths are simply irrelevant to this consideration.

No, they indicate that society accepts a certain level of harm from automobiles. The "minor cost savings" is capped from above before it is just not worth doing.

The overall harm society accepts for mobility is unrelated to the question whether a couple of lifes are worth the cost of an improved ignitation key.

Comment: Re:headed in the wrong direction (Score 2) 230

by Uecker (#47492435) Attached to: EPA Mulling Relaxed Radiation Protections For Nuclear Power

Pearce et al., Radiation exposure from CT scans in childhood and subsequent risk of leukaemia and brain tumours: a retrospective cohort study, The Lancet 2012;380:499-505

First sentence of the discussion section: "In this retrospective cohort study, we show significant associations between the estimated radiation doses provided by CT scans to red bone marrow and brain and subsequent incidence of leukaemia and brain tumours."

Comment: Re:headed in the wrong direction (Score 2, Informative) 230

by Uecker (#47492297) Attached to: EPA Mulling Relaxed Radiation Protections For Nuclear Power

It is the common view of the scientific community that no amount of ionizing radiation is safe.

That is incorrect. It is one of several common views. Argument from consensus is not scientific, especially when the consensus doesn't actually exist.

Here is a relative new review: http://dx.doi.org/10.1259/bjr/...

This is a fallacy. The threshold should be set on the estimated benefits of a higher threshold vs the estimated harm from the additional radiation. The background radiation has nothing to with it.

I agree. But a high natural background radiation indicates that the estimated harm is likely very overstated.

No, you didn't get it. I will try with a car analogy: There are about 30000 fatal accidents with motor cycles per year in the US. This does not mean that the harm (16 deaths total or so) from GM's ignition key issue was overstated. The harm was huge relative to the minor cost savings. The other deaths are simply irrelevant to this consideration.

Comment: Re:headed in the wrong direction (Score 3, Informative) 230

by Uecker (#47491963) Attached to: EPA Mulling Relaxed Radiation Protections For Nuclear Power

I have no opinion about the threshold, but there are two things to correct in your post:

it is the common view of medical and general science during the century-odd that we have discovered and been able to document radiation and its effects... that no amount is "generally recognized as safe" and standards need to be tightened.

What makes your "common view" any more valid than any other "common view"? Especially given that "generally recognized as safe" is a completely non-scientific quantity. In the end, you need evidence to back up such assertions not alleged consensus of vague groups of people.

He is absolutely right though. It is the common view of the scientific community that no amount of ionizing radiation is safe. This is also the basis of all radiation protection regulation everywhere (ALARA principle). The reason is simple: Ionizing radiation creates DNA damage with a small probability which then causes cancer with a small probability (which has then a certain probability of killing you). So even a single particle has a very small probability of causing cancer. There is a minority of people that believe that there are other effects (e.g. radiation at low doses activates the immune system) which dominate at low doses, but this is a minority view point and the data we have does not support this. From atomic bomb survivors see a linear correspondence between dose and risk down to about 50 mSv. For example, from this it was predictated that CT scans cause cancer with a very low probability and this has recently been confirmed.

so a comprehensive review based on science would move the decimal point to the left, at least to .025 mS/year, and perhaps .0025 mS.

Background levels are around 1 mS/year. So why advocate thresholds more than two orders of magnitude lower than what people normally get in a year? I just don't think science has much to do with your choice of thresholds.

This is a fallacy. The threshold should be set on the estimated benefits of a higher threshold vs the estimated harm from the additional radiation. The background radiation has nothing to with it.

Comment: Re:it is the wrong way... (Score 1) 291

by Uecker (#47484391) Attached to: Australia Repeals Carbon Tax

It is usually expected that highly-developed countries will use less power in the future, because of more efficient technology.

O rly. I'll just leave this here: Jevons paradox.

Good point. This is an effect which can happen in certain circumstances. But Germany grew its economy with stable energy consumption for decades. So obviously this did not happen in the past. It also depends on energy policy, so it can be actively avoided.

Comment: Re:it is the wrong way... (Score 1) 291

by Uecker (#47484309) Attached to: Australia Repeals Carbon Tax

A carbon tax does not affect every business equally.

But it will generally affect competitors equally. Two different taxi companies, or two different electricity generating companies that use coal. Or two different hotels of the same class and size in the same city.

And since competing businesses tend to have to lower prices in order to remain competitive in the same market as they pursue the same prospective customer, the tax burden is going to raise costs (and lower margins) more or less the same for both (or several) parties.

An electricity generating company investing in renewables might have a competitive advantage relative to its competitor. Ofcourse, if both invest in renewables there is no relative advantage anymore. But this does not mean that the tax had no effect in this case - quite the opposite!

We warn the reader in advance that the proof presented here depends on a clever but highly unmotivated trick. -- Howard Anton, "Elementary Linear Algebra"

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