Tonight I attended a presentation by Richard Broinowski, who was promoting his book to be released this year on the Fukushima nuclear power incident and its implications for Japan. It is as yet untitled. He is looking for suggestions. I have one or two…

Come question time, I did not know where to begin. People like this know as well as climate deniers that when they have the floor, they will always be able to propagate more FUD than fact, and no Q and A effort will ever catch them up.

That’s probably where I went wrong. This tale begins with an apology to my absent supporters, but I did not perform as well as I would have liked. I made errors that did not serve the important purpose of a real strategy for decarbonisation. Firstly the grave error of misunderstanding where I was and what was happening. The event was attended mostly by staunch anti-nuclear folk, and this was pretty apparent throughout. I was never going to get a positive hearing whatever the delivery, and I misjudged significantly. 

There were probably only two correct approaches:

  • Very succinct question
  • No question at all

I made the mistake of trying to build to a question and failed in the delivery. Emotion got the better of me on this occasion, no doubt.

In my defence I was subject to abuse and pressure almost upon opening my mouth.  Upon realising that I was not with his argument Broinowski became highly defensive, spoke over the top of me and saw fit to belittle me. I was almost instantly subject to abuse from members of the audience. I was (correctly) told to get to the point and ask my question. Upon doing so and not relinquishing the microphone, another audience member walked from the front of the room and (seriously) physically ripped it from my hands. This person was not censured by the moderator, which I think is pretty poor form. It was, you could say, unfriendly.

I have received messages of both attack and really strong support for my efforts, both of which I think have merit.

On balance though, I probably got it wrong. No point carrying on about others. I will make sure I learn from it and put a better face forward next time (or just take my notes and leave!!!).

I must thank those who vocally rose to my defence and suggested I should be heard; I hope I can take that to mean that I had some grounds to tackle the speaker as forcefully as I did and to object to the treatment I received in return. One gentleman later asked a question himself on the radiation hazard. He introduced himself as a doctor, and stated that the session was full of misinformation about radiation hazard. Broinowski asked (in what I found to be a very pompus tone) “Are you a physician sir?”.

Turns out the questioner was one Madhava Baht, Chief Physicist of the Adelaide Radiotherapy Centre. Good enough I presume? It did not stop Broinowski from responding to the charge of misinformation with “You are wrong” and that’s all (just a reminder, Broinowski’s is an academic at the Department of Media and Communication at the University of Sydney. I know who of these two men I would listen to about radiation and health).  I have received Madhava’s his recent editorial from the Australasian Physical Scientists and Engineers in Medicine Journal, which I will reproduce at DSA.

Richard was deeply, deeply uncomfortable with being challenged and seemed very surprised that anyone would. In a well moderated debate and discussion he would fall very hard.

With distance from a very hostile room (and my own sabotage), I will repeat my unanswered question, and pose nine more.  I should imagine a credible voice would have little concern in responding.

Q1: You quoted fatality estimates from Chernobyl as ranging from a low of 8,000 to a high of 1 million. Are you:

a)  Ignorant of the finding of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, the peak body for investigating this accident, of 28 direct fatalities, 15 latent fatalities, and “no other significant radiological impact”?

b) Aware of this, but preferring to ignore it when presenting to groups?

Q2 You quote a high of 1 million fatalities from Chernobyl. Are you:

a) Completely ignorant of just how shoddy this work is, including attributing deaths such as cirrhosis of the liver, which has no radiological cause, to the death toll?

b) Aware, but prefer to ignore this?

Q3 Your quote of the low estimate of 8,000 was from World Health Organisation. Are you:

a) Ignorant of  how cautious WHO is in making even this estimate, stating in detail the inherent uncertainties (apologies, long quote to follow, but there is no other way to do this justice)

b) Aware, but choosing not to present WHO’s position accurately when in a position to influence an audience of those less informed?

An increased number of cancer deaths can be expected during the lifetime of persons exposed to radiation from the accident. Since it is currently impossible to determine which individual cancers were caused by radiation, the number of such deaths can only be estimated statistically using information and projections from the studies of atomic bomb survivors and other highly exposed populations. It should be noted that the atomic bomb survivors received high radiation doses in a short time period, while Chernobyl caused low doses over a long time. This and other factors, such as trying to estimate doses people received some time after the accident, as well as differences in lifestyle and nutrition, cause very large uncertainties when making projections about future cancer deaths. In addition, a significant non-radiation related reduction in the average lifespan in the three countries over the past 15 years caused by overuse of alcohol and tobacco, and reduced health care, have significantly increased the difficulties in detecting any effect of radiation on cancer mortality.

Although there is controversy about the magnitude of the cancer risk from exposure to low doses of radiation, the US National Academy of Sciences BEIR VII Committee, published in 2006, a comprehensive review of the scientific evidence, and concluded that the risk seems to continue in a linear fashion at lower doses without a threshold (this is called the “linear no-threshold” or LNT model). However, there are uncertainties concerning the magnitude of the effect, particularly at doses much lower than about 100 mSv. (Author’s note: you will find in the WHO link that the exposure for residents of the most contaminated areas is listed as “>50mSv”, over 20 years, with natural background being 48 mSv over 20 years)

The Expert Group concluded that there may be up to 4 000 additional cancer deaths among the three highest exposed groups over their lifetime (240 000 liquidators; 116 000 evacuees and the 270 000 residents of the SCZs). Since more than 120 000 people in these three groups may eventually die of cancer, the additional cancer deaths from radiation exposure correspond to 3-4% above the normal incidence of cancers from all causes.Projections concerning cancer deaths among the five million residents of areas with radioactive caesium deposition of 37 kBq/m2 in Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine are much less certain because they are exposed to doses slightly above natural background radiation levels. Predictions, generally based on the LNT model, suggest that up to 5 000 additional cancer deaths may occur in this population from radiation exposure, or about 0.6% of the cancer deaths expected in this population due to other causes. Again, these numbers only provide an indication of the likely impact of the accident because of the important uncertainties listed above.

Q4 You claimed that

The nuclear power industry points to Daiichi reactor and says “That’s a very old reactor. We don’t build them like this anymore”. This is nonsense.

You supported this remark by stating that most of the US fleet are Boiling Water Reactors and hence, the same.

Are you:

c) Aware of just how early Fukushima Daiichi was in nuclear power development?

b) Aware that Daini, just slightly more modern, withstood the same event precisely because of better design?

Q5 The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has just approved the Westinghouse AP 1000 for construction in the United States, stating:

The design provides enhanced safety margins through use of simplified, inherent, passive, or other innovative safety and security functions, and also has been assessed to ensure it could withstand damage from an aircraft impact without significant release of radioactive materials.

Are you:

a) Ignorant of this development and the technology underpinning these designs?

b) Aware of it, but choosing to ignore it since it seems inconvenient to a message based on fear of Fukushima to limit support for further nuclear power?

Q6 When queried by an audience member on your statement that new reactors are no safer, using pebble bed reactors as an example of how this is demonstrably not so, you failed to contest the point and fell back on the notion that “all reactors have the same problem of be unable to isolate the waste material from the biosphere”.

Do you still stand behind your original statement that suggesting reactors are no longer built like Daiichi is “nonesense”?

Q7 On the basis of Q4-Q7 would you agree with the following statement?:

By virtue of over 40 years of design and technological improvement, the design of the Fukushima Daiichi plant is largely irrelevant to any decision making process for new nuclear build today.

Q8 To support your assertion of a large radiological hazard from Fukushima compared to the A-bombs of the Second World War, you stated that the explosions of hydrogen gas “blew the top off the reactors”.

The Special Report on the Nuclear Accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station states the following:

Hydrogen generated from the damaged fuel in the reactors accumulated in the reactor buildings either during venting operations or from other leaks and ignited, producing explosions in the Unit 1 and Unit 3 reactor buildings and significantly complicating the response.

Are you:

a) Ignorant of the difference between the reactor building (an outer shell with no containment function to speak of) and the reactor itself (a reactor within containment which is housed in the reactor building)? or;

b) Well aware of the difference, but happy to tell a room full of people that “the tops blew off the reactor”, a far, far more serious proposition, to support your assertions of large radiological hazard?

Q9 In response to the notion that nuclear power is a climate change solution you stated that electricity accounts for 18% of global emissions, so even if all fossil fuels were replaced this would “not make much of a dent” and that the real challenges lay in transport and deforestation.

Please refer to the figure below taken from the IPCC 4th Assessment Synthesis Report. You will note that globally, carbon dioxide from fossil fuel use accounts for 56.6% of emissions, divided among energy supply, transport, residential and commercial buildings and some industrial attribution. Please consider the following:

  1. The generally accepted way forward to decarbonisation is removal of fossil from electricity generation, and increased electrification overall to displace fossil fuel wherever possible, including transport
  2. Nuclear power is, along with run-of-river hydro, is easily the major contributor to zero carbon electricity globally
  3. Global energy demand is expected to double to 2050

Do you truly consider it justifiable to dismiss the role of nuclear power in responding to this incredible challenge?

Q10 You dismissed the importance of Australia’s $1bn uranium export industry, pointing to “$400 bn in coal exports from Queensland” alone.

The 10,000 tons of uranium that make up the $1bn in exports:

  • directly displaces approximately 400 million tons of carbon dioxide every year according to the recent Draft Energy White Paper.
  •  That is equivalent to 74% of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors for 2009 as reported in our National Greenhouse Accounts. 

The 115.3 million tons of black coal Australian exported to Japan (39.3% of the total black coal export) would have produced 276 million tCO2-e (based on the NGA Factors). The total black coal export is responsible for more emissions than Australia’s whole domestic total.

Are you:

a) Ignorant of the important contribution of uranium to meeting the challenge of climate change by displacing coal and gas?

b) Ignorant of how damaging our coal exports are the global efforts to control climate change?

b) Aware of these points, but prefer not to disclose them when opining on the merits of the uranium industry to a group of people?

With any luck, a few of those who attended will take the time to read this post and think these issues through when making a determination of Broinowski’s credibility… and when deciding whether to part with cash for his book.

Title suggestions anyone?


  1. Very brave and honest of you, Ben. I feel for you, having been in a similar situation of a near-lone voice in a largely hostile crowd, but didn’t put myself forward to the same degree ( I toyed with the idea of gatecrashing Matthew Wright’s launch of the ZCA2020 plan in Hobart, but decided against it in fear of just the sort of experience that you’ve just had. When I say ‘fear’, I’m not just talking about personal discomfort, but also of being counterproductive.

    I also feel for your difficulty in coming up with the right question. In this sort of situation you’re always aware that the main speaker holds all the cards. You only get one shot at a question, and (as was rather violently demonstrated to you) it’s unlikely you’ll get any opportunity to rebut any untruths stated in response, so the temptation is to pre-emptively put rebuttal points into your question – but you then run the risk of bloating it excessively. It’s a fine line.

    As to a title for Broinowski’s book, it strikes me that “Compounding Catastrophe: The Disaster of March 2011 and Japan’s Response” actually works well for all points of view, including ours 🙂

    1. “Compounding Catastrophe”? Priceless!!! Solid gold, I issue the challenge for anyone to better that.

      You have articulated the conundrum of last night just perfectly. On the bright side, I may have alienated one or two fence sitters, but I definitely earned a couple of supporters too. Looks like it may not have been quite as bad as I first thought, but I can still do better. Experience in the best teacher, I will be a better advocate as a result. I’ve been doing so many presentations myself lately, I’ve probably forgotten how to make it work from the floor.

  2. Thanks for the report Ben.

    As we’ve noted elsewhere, we all must learn from personal errors, which are more powerful than unexperienced warnings – it is a path to wisdom (just as long as you don’t repeat them!).

  3. Hi Ben,
    Last night I attended the presentation by Richard Broinowski “Fukushima and the Future of Nuclear Power”. Before attending the lectures, I did not know about Richards views on nuclear energy or his knowledge in nuclear energy and radiation. As a radiation expert, after listening to him I am utterly disappointed that he used this forum to spread misinformation. It is unfortunate that people like Richard Broinowski who has little or no knowledge in radiation physics gives public talk to create and propagate fear of radiation. Our country needs people like you who work selflessly for common good who can challenge the blatant lies from people like Broinowski.

    1. Thank you Madhava. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the encouragement and look forward to reading and running your editorial. Our country also needs people like you with the actual qualifications and expertise to help combat the misinformation.

      I enjoyed watching Broinowski shrink back into his box when you expounded on just how relevant your knowledge was to the issue!

    1. I couldn’t help myself, I really should have resisted, but oh well. I posted over on that link, I said:

      “neatly pulled it away from from his weak grip – with little or no resistance from this young punk Nuke Gangsta”

      Wow, what a man you must be, you actually wanted a physical punch up.

      If there was a pool going I would have been betting heavily on the “gangsta” Ben to hand you your arse on a plate, except that he’s one of the more peaceful blokes I know and doesn’t hit neo-hippies.

      I’m in moderation of course, I don’t expect to be published, and I don’t want to start a blog fight (well secretly I do a bit).

  4. I assume this was the event:

    Mr Broinowski’s area of professional expertise is in diplomacy, though in ’03 he wrote this book:

    I’m not sure what his expertise is here. In other words, he doesn’t have the legitimate standing to answer your questions.

    Also, I bet you weren’t as bad as you thought that you were.

    1. Well, quite possibly not, and thanks. Based on some of the encouragement I have received privately and the comment above from Madhava Bhat it would appear to be far from a dead loss. However, check the comment on the About The Founder page, posted there before I had made this post. Clearly someone was not impressed and they’ve probably got a point. So on balance, perhaps not as bad as I thought but not perfect. I’m shooting for perfect at all times.

      Broinowski is indeed screamingly unqualified in the formal sense. It really showed in his presentation, it was simple and emotive stuff; his technical knowledge is obviously poor.

      Thing is, I am unqualified too, except on the climate change and sustainability front where I think I lay a fair claim. It’s only a sin when you then pass yourself off as an expert and fail to present correct information. I carefully check my work and presentations, always provide references, provide context at all times, and have the benefit of the likes of Barry Brook and Tom Blees to review and edit for me from time to time. I am not allowed to call myself expert either. I would settle for “responsible opinion leader” or something like that.

      1. “Broinowski is indeed screamingly unqualified in the formal sense. It really showed in his presentation, it was simple and emotive stuff; his technical knowledge is obviously poor.”

        Neither you, Barry Brook or Tom Blees are radiation specialists in any field yet we are constantly bombarded with “presentations,” books, blogs, obfuscations, arrogant superiority and allegations of “FUD.” Pot/kettle?

        1. “Pot/kettle?”. No, not at all. Permit me to explain why.

          The reference to Tom and Barry was for review of matters nuclear generally rather than the specific matter of radiation issues. They are each adequately experienced and qualified to serve in that role at the level at which I engage in the issues. They have their respective go-to people as well like Charles Till for the more technical matters.

          Scour the blog and you will find that I have not engaged deeply and in detail on radiological matters passing myself of as any kind of authority. The closest was my rebuttal of Jim Green. Thing is, this did not require qualifications. It merely required reading a document properly and having the moral fibre to present the contents accurately, rather than bastardising it to support a position. Were I to delve into the radiological issues, I now have the likes of Madhava Baht to call on, and I would do so.

          Beyond this, your comment is what’s known as “playing the man, not the ball”. Your perception of arrogant superiority is your own, thanks for pointing it out, I will try to work on it. Otherwise, you now have to point out where I have obfuscated, where an allegation of FUD was not warranted, or generally correct me on a point of fact, with supporting references, in something I have written or presented. If, in the discussion that will not doubt ensue, you are correct, I will change the material and issue a comment of correction. Otherwise, I suggest you get off the pot. I am in the position I am in because I have done what I have done responsibly, diligently, honestly and well. You may not really care, but I resent the suggestion of otherwise being made without examples or evidence.

          You will see in this article that I have issued ten such challenges to the speaker, with references. Like nearly every other staunch anti-nuclear advocate I know of, he will not come within a bulls roar of admitting he got something wrong, he will just go on misrepresenting the truth. That’s the difference between the like of me, Barry and Tom on the one hand and Broinowski and Jim Green on the other. We respect other people too much to deliberately bullshit them using our passion for the issue as justification for doing so.

  5. I’m sorry to hear you had such a terrible night Ben. As Mark and others have said above there’s nothing more frustrating than having to listen to someone who presents themself as an educated expert but who refuses to draw on the conclusions of the most respected scientific bodies in the field.

    Here’s one question I would have liked to ask (had I been there):

    You are presenting information tonight that runs counter to the scientific consensus on the effects of atomic radiation as documented by the UNSCEAR and WHO.

    Studies in the field of psychology and sociology have found that people are more likely to reject the scientific consensus when they mistakenly believe the conclusions necessarily challenge their cultural or political beliefs.

    Could it be that your rejection of the scientific consensus on radiation means that you are falling into the same psychological trap that prevent climate denialist like Ian Plimar from acknowledging the scientific consensus on climate change?

    …Or would I have had the microphone ripped from hands before I’d gotten past the first sentence?

    1. Thank Marion, t’was not fun but it was valuable all the same.

      Mmmm, no you probably would have kept the mike, but you would have been booed and heckled.

      Your question stands here for Richard to respond to if he feels up to the task.

  6. Thanks for trying to speak on our behalf. It is good for the audience to at least know that not everyone swallows the anti-nuclear line without question.

    The aim of this sort of public gathering should be to come to a point of agreement. Some just want to fight and to gain support for a fight. Any discussion that does not value the opportunity for dialogue with those who disagree is disqualified as irrelevant.

    1. You are welcome Robert. I hope the demonstration of dissent from the speaker was of some value.

      As for the rest of your comment, for something held in the Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre, this was a really poor effort. It was a book promotion by a very poorly qualified speaker, with an MC who I was informed is a staunch anti-nuclear herself who refused to censure decidedly undemocractic conduct (but correctly told me to get to my question), recorded by folks who appear to be first name mates with the guy who ripped the microphone from my hands (you will note this in the alternate review that I posted the link to above). There was absolutely no expectation in the room that anything other than praise should be coming the speaker’s way. Were it badged a Friends of the Earth event, well, fine, I would not have even bothered to go. But this is the purpose of the Centre:

      “Politically non-partisan and strongly endorsed by current and past public leaders for its role in promoting understanding of democratic processes and civic obligations, the Centre challenges Australians to consider ideas and develop solutions for a sustainable society.”

      I think they really failed in this mission last night.

    1. Looks like there is a new, heavily amended version with an apology from the publisher (not yet the author, sadly). Good move on his part I think, it was a horrible piece… at least, that was the case earlier this morning. Now I cannot access it either. Interesting.

  7. I sincerely expressed my regret at publishing an account of the meeting which was abusive. I regret that very much. I express my regret again here. I made a serious error in publishing Brett’s piece on my blog in an unedited form. I was not at the meeting. I further stated my blog last night that I was removing the blog in order to go through it and to ensure that none of the thousand or so posts would cause offense. On the evening of 14 Feb 2012 there were many comments coming in and initially they were all approved. Following my apology and retraction, I deleted all comments. I was going to let the apology and amended post stand for a week before taking it down. However, due to the constant stream of comments coming in relating to the original post I decided to remove the entire blog from the public domain.

    I repeat : I made a serious error in publishing the report without editing it. That was my error, I regret it, I have learned from it. Everyone is entitled to their own viewpoint without abuse. Abuse to totally counter productive and has no place in debate. I was wrong to publish it in the form that I originally did.
    Paul Langley
    Atomic ExServicemen’s Association

    1. Paul, from my POV, apology accepted. It sounds like you have had a difficult 24 hours.

      Hopefully after some downtime and review you will be confident to reopen your site for debate and discussion.

      Thanks for taking the responsible action that you did and for posting an explanatory comment here.

      Best wishses


  8. Good work, Ben. An event like Broinowski’s is never intended as a either debate or as a forum for information exchange. Its just a rally.

    Publishing your questions and answers is the best way – and the middle of the road way – to address the nonsense that comes out of a rally.

    1. Thanks Michael, I am certainly glad to have turned the experience into something useful.

      George Monbiot’s management of Ian Plimer served as a bit of a template. Written word is the only way to pin this stuff down. Cheers again.

      1. I would like to have asked about whether he would have considered a comparison between Onagawa NP and Fukushima Daini NP, and Fukushima Daichi NP. Seeing as they all are BRWs (although the first two are of later designs), Onagawa was closer by a factor of 2 to the epicentre (I assume a higher ground acceleration?) and Daini also experienced flooding with a 14m surge.
        Both are in safe total cold shut-down compared to Daichi, and Onagawa NP even opened it’s gates to local refugees after the Tohku quake and tsunami.

        1. According to someone I spoke with from Lucas Heights, following the event they were asked to do some risk assessment on a quake of that size. The outcome is that the whole city would have been flattened… except the reactor. It would be the safest place in Sydney.

  9. Ben can I say this please: In the aftermath of the Japanese disaster I waited and looked for any sign of excessive skin dose in the civil population. That is, any sign of local radiation injury off site.

    There some reports of skin injury.

    There are reports of fatigue.

    Whether these things are beta burn and radiation related fatigue I do not know.

    I am not an optimist and I do not personally have faith in nuclear authorities in these matters. That is not to say that I do not respect people such as Peter Burns, who would be capable of vapourising my opinions at a distance of 5km. However, it is my belief that radiological hazards do exist in areas of Japan. Finally, before I leave you in peace, I wish to say this: If the worst case were true, none of us would live passed the age of 5 in the normal course of events. However, I have conversed with too many people who believe – and who I believe – that their illnesses are radiogenic to hold what might be considered to be a moderate position on the matter. These are some of my opinions and no force of this earth will change them.

    1. “These are some of my opinions and no force of this earth will change them.”

      I appreciate your candour on that point, which I shall respect by not trying.

      Once again, best wishes Paul.

  10. Ben I attended the lecture as neither pro or con nuclear energy. Whilst the lecturer’s insights were interesting I took them as just part of the broader questions on this subject. The people around me were similarly disposed. Unfortunately your lack of skill and diplomacy in such a forum became the talking point detracting from the real issue. You set your cause back badly.

    1. Definitely a learning experience for me John. Thanks for taking the time to comment. As for setting my cause back badly, on the balance of outcomes and feedback I happen to disagree, but I still appreciate your perspective.

      As for the speaker’s insights, I can only hope you take a highly critical approach to them, as this post demonstrates that he has little respect for fact, context or those who are actually experts in the very topic he pretends to be. It would truly be a shame if you gave him a free run because of my admitted mistakes.

      You’ll see some other opportunities to hear me speak in the top right of the blog page. Feel free to come along, hear from me, grill me, test me out on the issue. You could even set up a small event yourself with your friends, I happily do such things. Or by all means, quietly subscribe here and follow the issue. Or, write me off. If you do the latter, I’ll understand, but it would be a pity. Not for me but for taking charge of the climate again.

      Thanks again

    1. nuclearhistory, I just checked out your link. Don’t you think the first piece is a blatant misrepresentation of Professor Skyes position? In particular the following:

      If strontium 89 is a vitamin Pam Sykes, who much do you propose should be put in a loaf of bread or in a litre of milk before your vaunted beneficial dose is attained in my body?

      Firstly, Professor Pam Sykes did not say anything of the sort. This is what she said:

      “We have to ensure that radiation is respected and we have to understand what damage radiation can cause – but radiation is not the poison, the dose is,” Professor Sykes said.
      “We need radiation in our environment, just as we need vitamins and minerals. Too much is a problem, too little is a problem,”

      Secondly, whether you agree with her or not it’s quite clear that she’s simply drawing an analogy. At low doses vitiamins are necessary to our health. If the dose is too high, vitamins can be toxic enough to cause some of the most serious aliments listed against your chosen radionuclide, including birth defects and death. .

      She’s explaining that radiation is similar to vitiamins in this one respect not that the radiopharmaceutical Sr-89 is a vitamin.

  11. Would you agree that Sr89 is a Beta emitter Marion?
    There is no way for Sr89 Beta to provide the proposed beneficial dose to invoke P.A.M. unless the substance was within the body.

    The specifications for the type of radiation used by Sykes et al are clearly defined in her joint 2004 paper. In her public statement I quoted, she does not give the specifications of the beneficial dose. X and gamma have different characteristics to alpha and beta. The last two are incapable of invoking much as external skin doses, though beta skin dose of sufficient duration produces local radiation injury. As internal emitters though, the question is, given that the energy level of Sr89 is high for a beta emitter, how much, in frations of a gram, would be needed to invoke adaptive response? Do you know the answer Marion? Why is the focus in the lab purely on external soft x when in the public statements the focus is in response to concerns regarding particulate fission products ? I refer you to the statement made by the late Patricia Durbin which is also in that blog. I will, for clarity, attempt to find a particular paper written by Peter Burns on the matter. External X is not the only source to be considered. If Flinders University wishes to portray people who disagree with it as persons who have suffered “a meltdown in reason”, then I think it needs to understand that, regardless of my lackings as a human being, it is not setting a very good example for me to follow. I do not believe for a moment that Peter Burns has molten reasoning because he considered at least one stage that plutonium at the Taranaki feathers presented a severe health hazard which precluded human habitation. X ray machines as not the only vectors of dose delivery.

    So no, I am not misrepresenting what Pam said. How many grams of Sr89 is required to invoke adaptive response Marion?

    1. I think you may be confused about the term “adaptive response”. It simply cannot apply to a single dose taken by a single individual. Arguing that because it is possible to harm or kill an individual with stressor-X says nothing about our ability to evolve, over generations, a resistance to X. In order to explain I offer a brief overview of some of the environmental stressors modern humans have encountered and examples of the kinds of “adaptive responses” that followed.

      As modern humans proceeded to radiate across the globe our ancestors encountered and settled in countless novel environments. Even where we were at a natural disadvantage in terms of our physiology, human ingenuity enabled us to exploit some of the most extreme of these new environments. Nevertheless, if we decided to remain in these physiologically stressful environments, then, as generations passed, people began to physically, that is, genetically, adapt, to the novel aspects (in terms of human evolutionary history) of their new environments. Thus peoples who are exposed, over generations, to previously abnormal environmental extremes – year round severe cold, high altitudes, dense terrain or new diseases – exhibit a range of physiological ‘adaptive responses’. Just consider humans adaptive response to cold; these may include a higher metabolic rate, paler skin and shorter limb and digit length than people who live in warmer areas. As you can see some adaptive responses can only be uncovered through close medical assessments e.g. metabolic rate, others, however, are immediately obvious e.g. limb length. These kinds of adaptations cannot be denied, to do so would be to deny evolution.

      Now, given that humans can adapt to the above extremes, I do not think it is unreasonable to assume that people who have settled for generations and generations in areas with extremely high levels of background radiation may also have developed a resistance to it’s effects.

      Since an the kind of adaptive response underdiscussion here is a mechanism of evolution it make no sense to ask how an individual will ‘adapt’ to an overdose.

      Since this is off topic (and seems to induce a flood of spam) I will refrain from answering again.

      1. Still, thinking it over, I suppose one could have an adaptive response at the cellular level. In this case the cells would be the adaptive population; it would then be plausible that an individual could, essentially, be inoculated from the dangers of higher level radiation through exposure to low levels of radiation. Hmm, not sure. I can see I’ll have to read some Skye and see what she means by ‘adaptive response’.

      2. Oh, O.K. My bad.

        I was approaching the idea of an adaptive response from the wrong perspective. Of course one can induce an adaptive response within an individual, otherwise vaccinations wouldn’t stimulate an (adaptive) immune response. Now I just feel silly.

        I’d not heard the term used to describe hormesis before. But then, I’ve never done much reading on hormesis either.

  12. Why is it that it took until this century for areas of the Maralinga lands to be fit for human habitation Marion? How many grams of plutonium rendered those areas unsafe Marion?

    Plutonium is a weak emitter Marion. What does Peter Burns say about the issue of the specific areas of the Maralinga Lands Marion?

    What did Peter Burns discovered when he visited the areas with John Bannon Marion?

    My question to Pam Sykes stands Marion. Why did the US DOE have a need to contract Flinders University to conduct the DOE designed experiment Marion?

    I wish Pam Sykes and her team all the best in their work aimed at producing an additional treatment for cancer patients battling for life and who have to endure treatment dose radiation therapy. In that setting no one in their right mind would care what technical principle guided the researchers.

    But how does that work lead to a claimed justification of additional exposure to a healthy population? A population who were not in medical need of the services of radiotherapy?

    Does Pam think the Aboriginal people of the Maralinga could have moved back home in 1963?

    On what basis did Australia successfully obtain a portion of the millions of dollars required to cleanup the affected areas of the Maralinga Lands from the British government?

    Does the excess cancer rate found in the 2006 Health Survey of Australian Nuclear Veterans indicate that outside of the lab under the specific conditions of the radiation exposure as defined by Sykes et al that adaptive response is evidence by the health outcomes evidenced in the nuclear veteran cohort? (Regards of the causative agent). How does one achieve the specified exposure characteristics in a population not in the lab but merely going about their business in an environment subject to emitters of radiation which is not low let and which is not equal to or less than 0.1 Grey? I’ll stop.

    1. Nuclear History, rather than stopping, why not do the following: cease posing questions to which it is clear that you believe you know the answer, and rather build your case using the available evidence, for others to make a response if they wish. It is not for Marion or anyone else to scurry around following breadcrumbs you drop just to have a discussion on the topic. It’s a cheap way of arguing and greatly resembles what we get from climate change deniers.

      This is also a very early warning but I prefer to do these things early: We keep a high standard of civility around here and I do not like the aggressive tone that is creeping in. If you spoke to Marion like that in person I expect she would turn her back and walk away. The separation of the internet is too often used to just be rude to other people and I do not like it. Since it is my blog, around here I do not tolerate it for long, either.

      Thanks, please continue the discussion.

  13. One last thing. If I do not need the services of a radiologist or oncologist, and do not need the resultant treatment or diagnostic dose, would it be ethical for those professionals to force me to undergo the treatment or the diagnostic procedure?

    How much skill is required to administer either diagnostic or treatment doses (by either external beam or internal emitter) in a clinical setting? Can anyone do it?

    Is TEPCO qualified to do it? Was Penney?

  14. “. The opposite is true, but this meme has then been taken up by an anti-nuclear blogger” (link to Paul Langley’s blog, implying it was me) who served up some pretty special treatment to me at the same occasion. To ignore his opinion in this area is the height of arrogance (or wilful ignorance?), ”

    As you know very well Ben, I was not at the meeting. Remove the link to my blog or I will destroy my blog.

    1. What would be the point, when your links are hidden behind a private login?

      All the more reason to provide comment and analysis instead of linkspam. Per the very reasonable comment policy.

      1. Good news is that nuclearhistory is now preaching to only the converted “In crowd” or shouting at a blank wall 🙂

        1. The pity is that from what I can gather his deeply held concern is based around victims of nuclear testing etc. which I can only applaud. Just the step of applying to all things nuclear that is the issue.

  15. Well done Ben. I appreciate that you had a tough time. There’s probably more to come but don’t let that deter you. I’m assuming everyone knows that Broinowski is Helen Caldicott’s brother and so he’s just another mouthpiece for her misinformation, half truths and downright lies. Caldicott is not a radiation scientist who has spent countless hours studying the effects of radiation on people. She’s not a member of any society that deals with that subject and she’s never presented any papers on the subject. She’s just someone who has made a name for herself by making outrageous, unsubstantiated claims about nuclear power. We just have to ignore her and when she’s held up as some fount of all nuclear wisdom we need to tell people the truth about her. She’s pretty well lost all credibiltiy in my opinion. Cheers Ben

    1. Thanks Terry. No point denying the mistakes I made, I would act differently given the chance again, but I appreciate the empathy and support you offer and I am glad, in retrospect, that the speaker did not have it all his own way.

      Yes, I have been surprised to have come to a similar conclusion about Caldicott. I had presumed that someone so opinionated must at least be an expert in the formal sense, but she certainly is not.

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