Myths about Radiation

Myth: Radiation poisoning as an effect of the atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima caused many immediate deaths, and many more subsequent deaths from induced cancers.

Facts: Survivors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima have not died in droves from radiation-induced cancers, or for any other reason. There were, indeed, many immediate deaths, from the heat of the blast and from flying debris. There were also later induced cancers in those who were close to the epicenter of the blast. But, those who had low-level exposure to radiation are, in fact, living longer those who had no exposure.

Myth: Presence of radon in homes is correlative with cancer, especially lung cancer. Based on this premise, it has been believed that if you have high radon levels in your home, it is imperative that you take steps to remove it.

Fact: High radon levels in homes is predictive of LOWERED lung cancer (and all other cancer) rates. If you have high radon levels measured in your home, you should know that the odds of your being blessed with good health are significantly increased.

Myth: The accident at Chernobyl killed thousands of people and disabled millions.

Facts: Thirty workers and firefighters at the plant were killed. But a 16-year investigation by the UN and WHO concluded that there were no public radiation deaths or injuries. No significant increase in any illness resulted except for 2000 cases of childhood thyroid cancer, a highly treatable disease from which there have been few if any deaths. But fear of radiation led to unnecessary evacuation of large population groups, causing unemployment, depression, alcoholism and suicides. In the year after the accident, there were 100,000 additional abortions downwind of the accident because of unwarranted fear of bearing a “nuclear mutant.” Deformed “Chernobyl victims” used to raise money for relief were later found to be a scam—unrelated to the accident. Some were from sufficiently far away from Chernobyl that they could not have been affected; others were deformed long before the accident.

Myth: Cancer rates go up as altitude goes up because we are exposed to more cosmic radiation as our elevation increases.

Facts: Just the opposite is true. Live high, live longer: Those who live in areas with high background radiation live longer than those who live in low background radiation areas (high altitude Colorado is best; low altitude southeast U.S. is worse).

Myth: The quantity of nuclear waste is so great and its toxic effect so long-lasting that there is no safe method of disposal.

Facts: Nuclear plants produce less than a millionth of the volume of waste from an equivalent coal-fired plant. Waste can be put into sealed drums and controlled, rather than dumped into the environment. The 50,000 tons of radwaste destined for Yucca Mountain was produced by all 103 U.S. nuclear plants over the past 40 years. This is less than 2 pounds per person served for the whole 40 years. This is small compared to wastes produced by most other industries, or even our homes. The waste volumes associated with construction and operation of solar, wind, and other renewables are larger, on a per-kilowatt-hour basis, than nuclear wastes.

Myth: Radioactive waste stays toxic for thousands of years. Humanity has never faced such a long-term hazard.

Facts: Radioactive waste continually decreases in toxicity, whereas other toxic wastes like mercury, lead, arsenic, selenium, cadmium, chromium, etc. retain full toxicity forever. After 500 years, you could safely eat a pound of radioactive waste. Currently, we bury it 2000 feet underground. The top 2000 feet of U.S. soil contain millions of times more lethal doses of natural poisons than all the nuclear power waste together. We make 10,000 times more lethal doses of chlorine each year, and put it in our drinking water to kill germs.

Myth: Nuclear power is an especially unforgiving technology. A momentary slipup, and catastrophe ensues.

Facts: Just the opposite. Nuclear plants are uniquely robust. They can resist earthquakes, hurricanes, power loss, sabotage and operator errors. Even if the core were to melt, even with containment breached, analyses and tests show that few, if any persons would be seriously injured or killed. Hundreds of nuclear plants worldwide, operating for decades, have confirmed this.

Myth: Marie Curie died of radiation poisoning at a young age.

Fact: Dr. Curie was concentrating radioactive ores in a huge caldron that was so potent that she could literally read at night by the radioactive glow. (Think what she was inhaling.) During WW I, she worked on the wounded brought in freshly from the battlefield, holding the film with her bare hands as x-rays were taken. She got lots of radiation—it wasn’t even measured until detection instruments were invented, developed and deployed. Yet, she still out-lived the normal life-span for that period of


Provided by Jane Goldberg