Friday, November 05, 2010

Chernobyl deaths estimated at somewhere between 56 and 1,000,000.

I spent yesterday evening watching Channel 4 "What the Green Movement Got Wrong". As an experience, it was less unpleasant than scratching my eyeballs with a Brillo pad, but only slightly so, mainly because I am not used to doing the Brillo pad thing, whereas I am only too familiar with seeing the green movement misrepresented on telly.

The programme was a reprise of Ch4s "Great Global Warming Swindle", only this time they stuck a studio debate onto the back end to try to forestall complaints. There was no attempt at balance in the film itself : it was an all-out attack on the green movement by a handful of alienated ex-activists like Mark Lynas.

Luckily the debate had FoE, Greenpeace and George Monbiot on to rebalance the outrageous bias of the programme. They did very well.

The programme was basically a paean of uncritical praise for nuclear power and GM food, both of which are necessary to save the world.

As part of the case, they claimed that the damage from Chernobyl was over-hyped. They quoted a UN report, led by the International Atomic Energy Agency, concluding that only a 64 deaths are attributable to Chernobyl.

So that's all right then. Or is it?

John Vidal has a useful survey of estimates of Chernobyl related cancer and deaths. Here we go:

Agency                                              Deaths so far    Cancers predicted           Deaths predicted

UN/IAEA/WHO Report                               56                                                  4,000

UN International Agency for
Research on Cancer                                                                                         16,000

Russian Academy of Sciences              200,000

Belarus National Academy of Sciences   93,000                 270,000

Ukrainian National Commission
for Radiation Protection                       500,000

Assuming there is no double-counting, that brings the number of deaths in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine up to 793,000. This figure is reinforced by a book  "Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment," by Alexey Yablokov of the Center for Russian Environmental Policy in Moscow, and Vassily Nesterenko and Alexey Nesterenko of the Institute of Radiation Safety, in Minsk, Belarus, who examined over 5,000 scientific papers.

They challenge the UN/WHO figures on the 56 deaths among "liquidators" who went in physically extinguish the fire and clean up the Chernobyl reactor.

"The book finds that by 2005, between 112,000 and 125,000 liquidators had died."

Yablokov was a contributor to the Greenpeace review on this link.

In summary, we have a bit of a discrepancy here.

Chernobyl related deaths lie somewhere between 64 and 1,000,000.  

What is the explanation?

Part of the explanation is that the UN studies only included papers in written in English in peer-reviewed literature. Peer-review is OK, can't argue with that since we require it for climate science, but in English? Since when has it been that knowledge is only valid if it is written in English? This is an outrageous, blatantly political attempt to exclude unwanted data.

I am aware that I am beginning to sound like a climate change denier here. This is an interesting role reversal: in the case of climate science, the sceptics are in denial; in the case of radiation science, the deniers have got their hands on the levers of power.

The fact is that radiation medicine is very highly politicised, which is affecting how people view the facts.

There are doubts throughout the science, beginning with the estimation of the effects of radiation arising from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki experiments. Prof Chris Busby shows that there are two distinct modalities, one from external radiation like gamma, and another from internal irradiation, where a particle is lodged in the tissues and irradiates its environs with repeated doses of alpha. This means that the orthodox view of dose is unfounded. He likens it to the difference between warming yourself at a fire and eating a piece of coal. Chris Busby also posits a Second Event theory to explain the how the biological effects of internal radiation are underestimated by the orthodox paradigm.

There has been no methodical data collection over Chernobyl. The IAEA/UN report suggests that we will never know. Basically, it is not in the interests of the IAEA that we should. The truth is not in them. Their sole raison d'etre is that nuclear power should forge ahead, come what may. To this end, it seems very likely that they have co-opted and corrupted the WHO and other UN agencies.

Mark Lynas may say that in taking this view, I am being unrealistic.

If accepting IAEA lies and distortion, and starring in propaganda films is the way ahead for the NewGreens, then I prefer to remain an old Green, thanks Mark.


Anonymous said...

I have to say that I found it quite reasonable with some good points made and some missing the mark.

Several members of the Green Movement did come across as ultra dogmatic people who would rather be right than see the world improve and would never conceive of any merit in an alternative point of view.

DocRichard said...


Could you be more specific than "several members"? I thought that Monbiot and the FoE/Greenpeace speakers were excellent. Remember that you had just watched an hour or so of film specifically designed to induce you to feel that "the Green Movement [is] ultra dogmatic people who would rather be right than see the world improve"

Thanks for commenting. Please sign off with some kind of moniker or initials so I can distinguish between anonymouses.


Anonymous said...

Hey Doc

I can watch a documentary and be just as objective as you believe it or not, despite the premise of the programme.

I am in general agreement with the thrust of Green policies but as I read in a review, environmentalists need to replace their didacticism with open-minded humility.

anonymous 37.1

weggis said...

"open minded humility" is rare amongst academics.

DocRichard said...

Thanks Weggis. Everyone, believe it or not, tends to favour the ideas in their own heads. Otherwise they would eject them.

Anon 37.1 (nice moniker) We shall have to see the effect of this film. I have asked Krishnan Guru-Murthy for a transcript, and the viewing figs for the film and the debate. Anyone viewing the film without staying for the debate would have taken in many distorted views. There is a brisk critique of the film going on on Twitter, and the possibility of legal action by one of the participants.

I think the film is useful because it is a collection of a number of anti-green memes that we see on the comment slots. I only saw Jenny jones commenting on the film on Twitter, but I think the film, if it gets to YouTube, will cost the Green Party a significant number of votes.

I may be wrong - maybe it will sink into obscurity. We shall see.

I am very open-minded (and a bit of a "green heretic" as far as reforestation and even ocean fertilisation is concerned) but I have settled into the view that it was a pernicious bit of anti-green propaganda which needs to be rebutted in detail. FoE and Greenpeace and GM watch are on the case.

Anon37.1 I would urge you to look at the rebuttals. And also watch the film again - listen to the background music. One commentator noticed that "Psycho" style music comes up when real greens are speaking.

weggis said...

"Everyone, believe it or not, tends to favour the ideas in their own heads. Otherwise they would eject them."

That's not the point, and you know it.

Have you not seen, or experienced, the physical shock when someone realises they are wrong?

When the likes of Dawkins and Hawking [checks spelling] publish their books under a pseudonym and still best sell, I might take them more seriously.

DocRichard said...

Yes, I have experienced the shock of realising I was wrong. As you say, it is physical.

But we cling to our cherished ideas. Two pharmacologists had a lifelong dingdong over muscarinic receptors. The defeated one made a deathbed confession "I could not believe that a mushroom could affect human cells so specifically." Ego interactions enter into it. Our ego becomes identified with an idea.

This pattern is repeated over and over. We oldies are worst. I just saw that opposition to windfarms is strongest in the elderly.

We are living through a slow paradigm shift, from free market economics to ecological economics. No wonder the free market fundamentalists (FMFs) are squealing. The Ch4 WtGGW film was one of the squeals.

I think it deserves more attention, in case it has the same influence as the Great Global Warming Swindle.

weggis said...

"I just saw that opposition to windfarms is strongest in the elderly."

Well, us youngsters will just have to convince them!?!

DocRichard said...

I hope everyone here knows the story of the 100th monkey? Japanese primatologists at the island of Koshima observed that one monkey learned to wash sweet potatoes. The new behaviour spread among younger monkeys, but not so much among older monkeys.
Kawamura, S. (1959). The process of sub-culture propagation among Japanese macaques. Primates, 2(1), 43-60

It was claimed by some that when a critical mass was achieved, the behaviour spread to other islands without physical contact, suggesting that Sheldrakes Morphic Field was involved.

This claim is disputed, and it is suggested that one monkey swam to other islands to spread the new way of dealing with unwanted grit on sweet potatoes.

However, the basic observation that new behaviours were spread more quickly among the young still stands. Indeed, it is pretty obvious.

Anonymous said...

The green movement are nothing more than closet communists.

DocRichard said...

Hello Anonymous

"Greens are Closet communists"?
If your definition were true, I am not a green, and I am a Green, so your statement is wrong.

Would you like to try modifying it?