Nuclear radiation will give your skin a healthy glow!

I don’t know about you guys, but most of the scientists I talk to think that nuclear radiation is generally a “bad thing” that should be avoided as much as possible. Particularly the kind that tends to result from the explosion of a nuclear bomb and most seem to think that it would be pretty important to do everything possible to cleanup an area where such a bomb had been detonated as thoroughly as possible lest the death toll climb due to residual radiation. So why then is the Homeland Security Department planning to recommend weaker cleanup standards in the event of a nuclear “dirty bomb” being set off by bad guys?

The department is preparing to unveil new recommendations that would “dramatically weaken requirements for cleaning up radioactive contamination from a terrorist radiological or nuclear explosive,” the groups said.

[…] At issue is a department “guidance” aimed at federal and state agencies that would be responsible for cleanups. The document also is expected to recommend an increase in the level of radiation considered safe for emergency response workers.

[…] The guidance proposes standards that are up to 2,500 times less protective than the risk levels considered by the EPA as acceptable for cleanup at radioactive sites, the groups said. The guidance would permit ongoing contamination levels after cleanup equal to tens of thousands of chest X-rays over 30 years, increasing latent cancer rates, the groups said.

“By permitting such high radiation levels to remain without cleanup, Homeland Security would actually be increasing the casualty count,” said Diane D’Arrigo, radioactive waste project director at Nuclear Information and Resource Service.

Wow, I’m feeling more secure all the time! Thanks a bunch, Homeland Security! It’s good to know that you’ve only got the highest standards in mind when responding to a major crisis!

This news item was originally posted back at the start of December, but I missed it until I came across it over at Mac’s blog.

11 thoughts on “Nuclear radiation will give your skin a healthy glow!

  1. Your leader is dramatically decreasing the amount of radiation you will be receiving. This is a double-plus-good day!

  2. So it will still be fresh in the public’s mind when dubya lands on the fucking aircraft carrier to announce “Cleanup Accomplished”.

    When Bush said there would be no ceremonies on a battleship, it was b/c you can’t land a jet on one!

  3. Maybe the administration heard about the low dose radiation folks and figured it’d be a health boon.

  4. Department of Homeland Security… beginning to sound more and more like Ministry of Truth.

    Your leader is dramatically decreasing the amount of radiation you will be receiving. This is a double-plus-good day!

  5. I don’t know what the safety limit for radiation is, and I hazard to think that neither Les nor the other commenters do either.

    I do know that people get funny at the idea of radiation beyond what is demonstrably physically harmful.

    People in Japan are much more nonchalant about it, though: you can go to the public bath, for instance, and get in a blue radon bath. Hmmm…Relaxing.

  6. Zak, no one knows what the “safety limit” for radiation is, because there is no such thing.  All that we know is that increasing exposure leads to increased rates of cancer.  What is “demonstrably harmful” is not demonstrable at the present, because we cannot distinguish between “naturally” occuring cancer and radiation-induced cancer.  All we have is statistics.

    But the statistics show that we should probably err on the cautious side of exposure, and 2500 times the EPA recommendation is not very cautious.

    Sure, the Japanese are nonchalant about radiation.  They were nonchalant about mercury poisoning too, until Minimata.  Not a good example to follow.

  7. Aha!  I DO have some radiation numbers to use.  As follows:

    (rem = roentgen equivalent man [or woman – grin]) is a measure of effect

    Normal background radiation is about 300 millirems per year.

    Chest X-ray is about 6 mrem

    Yucca Mountain estimates 15 mrem/year

    Guidelines from the experts:
    EPA for workers in uranium mine inhalation from dust:  10 mrem/y
    (I used this measurement because inhalation of radioactive material from a dirty bomb is a valid means of body entry.)

    Health Physics Society (HPS 100-500) mrem/year

    500 mrem is about 1 cancer for every 80 people exposed

    I hope these numbers will be of use when (or if) the Homeland Security guidelines come up for public comment.


  8. A supplement to SG’s information.

    The gender neutral Sievert (Sv) wasn’t a unit in use when I had to be concerned with radiation monitoring. The conversion is mercifully simple –  1 Sv = 100 rem. There are some other unit conversions in this page from a Radiation Manual maintained by Stanford. This particular page leaves out some information covered in detail elsewhere in the manual. Curies and becquerels are measures of counts (decay rates) while rems and rads are measures of how much energy is deposited in soft tissue. So there is a question of what is the radiation source and what is the distance.

    The US Government has two standards for Maximum Permissable Dose (MPD). One for the general public and another for radiation workers. International standards are the same as ours for the general public and 40% of ours for radiation workers.

    General Public 1 mSv per year

    Radiation Workers
    Annual MPD 50 mSv
    Lifetime 10 mSv x Age
    MPD during pregnancy 5 Msv (No international standards)

    I suspect the Navy still imposes a weekly limit on exposure to control the rate of accumulation. (The limit during pregnancy is new business.)

    On the higher standards for radiation workers, “The rationale is that ‘radiation workers’ presumably accept the increased risk by informed consent as a trade-off in exchange for the benefits of employment.”

    Finally, here is some more information  about exposure from a various x-ray procedures.

  9. This only reinforces the theory that Bush didn’t just want to be the President—he wanted to be the LAST president. You know, before the impending apocalypse and all. If it’s any consolation, we’ll all see him in Hell. (Figure of speech, for all you atheists out there)

  10. Well, perhaps a higher death toll would give more justification for a counter-attack on the ‘suspected’ terrorist group that set off a dirty bomb.

    More dead Americans = more dead ‘terrorists’

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