In an article posted at Reason.com, Jon Basil Utley says that the forced evacuation of some 130,000 persons from their homes in Fukushima, Japan, was unnecessary, and a “great warning to us.”
“EPA limits have been based on the ‘linear no threshold theory,’ that the tiniest amounts of radiation can cause cancer. An article in Forbes explains how the theory is fallacious.”
A new General Accounting Office (GAO) report, Nuclear Terrorism Response Plans: Major Cities Could Benefit from Federal Guidance on Responding to Nuclear and Radiological Attacks, states that U.S. cities are unprepared and lack needed resources to respond to a terrorist attack. In his article, GAO Wants Radiation Guidelines to Prepare for Terrorism in U.S. Cities, Utley reports on a GAO survey of city emergency managers, which finds that many are woefully ignorant about radiation and what’s needed in case of a terrorist nuclear attack.
The GAO report recommends that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) give specific radiation guidelines as to what the cities need vis-à-vis RDD (radiological dispersal device) and IND (improvised nuclear device) attacks. FEMA objected to the request. Utley explains that there is “strong resistance from environmentalists who oppose any modification of old rules about what radiation levels are actually dangerous.” EPA is working on new guidelinesfor exposure risk from terrorist attacks.
Panicked Japanese authorities apparently followed old American guidelines under ALARA (As Low as Reasonably Achievable).” In Japan not a single person died and hardly any got ill, even among the emergency nuclear workers at the reactor, but over 1,600 died from the forced evacuation.
Actual exposure to Japanese residents was less than 2 REM. The real threat to a person’s health starts at 100 REM. But EPA sets a 15 millirem limit as the danger exposure level for nearly everything from civil defense to reactors and nuclear waste disposal sites. The EPA is now considering a realistic 50 REM threat level, 3,500 times its current 15 millirem original limits. Indeed at 10 REM there is a large body of evidence called hormesis, that low radiation builds resistance to many illnesses and even increases life spans. People living in high altitude cities such as Denver are exposed to nearly 1 REM per year. The same goes for airline pilots and others who are exposed to much higher limits.
“The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) contributed to the panic in Japan by urging Americans to flee the whole area up to 50 miles away,” Utley writes. “EPA limits have been based on the ‘linear no threshold theory,‘ that the tiniest amounts of radiation can cause cancer. An article in Forbes explains how the theory is fallacious.”
Much of the resistance to modifying EPA radiation limits is because it can lead to challenging “other far-out EPA limits on dust, mercury, lead, and all sorts of other chemicals and minerals all based on the same theory. Their cost to the American economy in lost jobs, shut down factories and mines is stupendous,” Utley explains in his article.
“Think of the panic a wrong response could bring — mass highway congestion blocked by abandoned cars, first responder police and firemen abandoning their posts, looting of abandoned shops, offices and homes,” Utley warns. (Utley wrote a previous article on this issue titled, Terrorism and Radiation, Understanding the Real Threat to Our Cities. )
Read the entire Utley article,“GAO Wants Radiation Guidelines to Prepare for Terrorism in U.S. Cities,” at Reason.com,http://reason.com/archives/2013/11/23/gao-urges-better-radiation-guidelines-fo