July 2005 (vol. 21, #5)
1601 N Tucson Blvd #9, Tucson AZ 85716
c 2005 Physicians for Civil Defense

Radiation Protection: Too Much and Too Little

With the National Academy of Sciences reaffirming its faith in the linear no-threshold dogma of radiation harm, the U.S. government is continuing its policy of “protecting” Americans with extremely costly measures against non-threats–while leaving them totally vulnerable to the really big threats.

The LNT: in Peace and in War
After 5 years of study, an NAS panel rejected evidence of radiation hormesis and proclaimed that an extra 100 mSv (10 rems) over a lifetime would produce a 1% excess risk of cancer (see AAPS News of the Day). The conclusions appear to rely heavily upon one study of nuclear workers to the exclusion of others (see p. 2).

Current U.S. EPA standards permit maximum public exposure of 15 mrem/yr, and 5 rem/yr for nuclear reactor workers. After Chernobyl, Soviet authorities decreed a safe lifetime dose to be 35 rem over 70 years, with forced resettlement of people living in more heavily contaminated areas. Byelorussian scientists argued for 7 rem in 70 years (0.1 rem/yr). At its 1985 meeting, the ICRP recommended a lifetime average annual dose of 0.1 rem/yr (Belbeoch B).

Radiation monitoring instruments, calibrated in microrads/ hr, reflect concerns about very low levels of radiation. The highest dosage measurable by many instruments carried by first responders is 15 mrem/hr. These would be off-scale and worse than useless in a nuclear attack.

Because of LNT-based standards, it would cost trillions of dollars to clean up a mid-sized city in the event of a nuclear weapons explosion (Sydney Freedberg, “Surviving a Nuclear Attack on Washington, D.C.,” National Journal 6/24/05).

“The nation may well develop a new tolerance for radiation hazards,” Freedberg remarked.

The Nuclear Threat in 2005
Pictures of the zones of destruction of a nuclear weapon superimposed on a map of your city, so frequently seen in the 1980s, vanished at the end of the Cold War. Now the Nuclear Threat Initiative (, founded by Ted Turner and former Sen. Sam Nunn in 2001, is reviving the graphic descriptions of weapons effects–as in Freedberg's scenario of a 15-kiloton terrorist bomb in front of the National Archives. Some 15,000 people would be killed immediately, and 200,000 threatened with lethal fallout.

A New York City scenario can be downloaded at

Some intelligence analysts claim that there may be dozens of nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists inside the U.S., possibly smuggled in through Mexico, in anticipation of al-Qaida's “American Hiroshima” (WorldNetDaily 7/11/05).

The NTI is concerned about the fate of nuclear warheads after the breakup of the Soviet empire. In a Meet the Press program on May 29, 2005, Nunn pleaded for a couple more billions of dollars to inventory warheads that are still left in the former Soviet arsenal. As of the end of FY 2004, U.S.-funded efforts to control nuclear warheads, material, and expertise were judged complete for 26% of former Soviet nuclear material and 10% of Russian sites containing warheads. The Russian plutonium stockpile had been reduced by 0%, and the highly enriched uranium stockpile by 8%. Only 8% of the Russian nuclear weapons infrastructure had been eliminated, and 30% of excess weapons scientists and workers had been provided with sustainable civilian work. None of the Russian nuclear weapons subject to declarations or international or U.S. monitoring had been monitored (Bunn M, Weir A, Securing the Bomb 2005: The New Global Imperative, May 2005).

Some 40 nations have enough material to make a nuclear weapon, Nunn says (WND 7/28/05). North Korea is thought to possess as many as 10 nuclear weapons already, and to be the possible future site of a “weapons-of-mass destruction yard sale for smugglers” (Atlantic Jul/Aug 2005). Without modification, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty will, according to Mohamed ElBaradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, “fade into irrelevance and leave us vulnerable and unprotected” (Nature 2005:435:132-133).

To interdict nuclear smuggling, 25% of key border posts are said to be trained and equipped, after the investment of about $800 million (Bunn and Weir, op. cit.). The monitors cost about $250,000 each. But highly enriched uranium can be shielded with 0.25 inches of lead. Because monitors sound so many false alarms, as from ceramic tile, the sensitivity has been turned down (NY Times 6/22/05).

Then there's China. Maj. Gen. Zhu Chenghu told reporters China was prepared to use nuclear weapons against “hundreds” of U.S. cities in the event of a conflict over Taiwan (Gertz B, Wash Times 7/29/05). China's military build-up includes maneuverable reentry vehicles (MARVs) designed to evade missile defenses. According to Richard Fisher, vice president of the International Assessment and Strategy Center, China has shifted from a defensive military to an advanced force that soon will be capable of operations ranging from space warfare to global nonnuclear cruise-missile strikes.

“The post-Cold War peace is over,” Fisher said. “We are now in an arms race with a new superpower whose goal is to contain and overtake the United States” (Wash Times 7/26/05).

China recently opened 24 massive underground bomb shelters to the public, ostensibly for respite from the summer heat. The shelters cover 17 acres and could accommodate tens of thousands of people. Such actions could familiarize people with the shelters–and confuse Western intelligence analysts monitoring population movements (WND 6/28/05).

U.S. Civil Non-Defense
A dangerous July 19 “Fact Sheet” by the U.S. Dept of State on nuclear incidents advises: (1) Take KI only after a power plant release, not a nuclear bomb. (2) Shelter in place, “preferably inside a sealed room,” for at least 48 hours after a nuclear detonation. No mention of ventilation or protection factors and how to augment them. Lara Shane of DHS said “we need people to be able to take care of themselves for 72 hours” (Freedberg). Plan to be completely on your own.

Nuclear Workers

The NAS report on health risks from exposure to low levels of ionizing radiation (available at refers in Appendix E to the 15-country study of almost 600,000 individually monitored workers (BMJ 2005:331:77). This is an update of a 1995 study of nuclear industry workers in the U.S., UK, and Canada (Radiat Res 1995:142:117-132).

The 15-country study concludes that there is a statistically significant excess relative risk of cancer excluding leukemia of 0.97 per Sv (100 rad) (95% CI 0.14-1.97). In the BMJ Rapid Responses, I. Shigematsu notes that statistical significance is lost if Canadian data are excluded, and that the authors' conclusions cannot be validated without additional information.

In the earlier study, the authors resorted to using one-sided P-values, justifying it by the statement that “there was no reason to suspect that exposure to radiation would be associated with a decrease in risk of any specific type of cancer.” To get a P-value of 0.046, notes John Cameron, the authors divided the workers into 7 dose groups and excluded 4 groups with 86 of 119 deaths on the basis that there were fewer deaths than expected! A trend analysis of the 3 groups with 33 deaths was done using a computer simulation based on 5,000 samples.

Evidence contradicting the LNT includes the study of nuclear shipyard workers, which showed that radiation-exposed workers had cancer mortality 4 standard deviations below that of age-matched and job-matched controls (Cameron J, Health Physics Soc Newsletter, February 1992; Mananoski G. Radiat Res 1993;133:126-127, [abstract]). “This provides evidence with extremely high statistical power that low levels of ionizing radiation are associated with risk decrements,” writes Myron Pollycove, M.D., of UCSF and the U.S. NRC.

Accidental exposure of Taiwanese apartment dwellers to an adjusted dose of 400 mSv over 20 years was associated with a 97% reduction in cancer (J Am Phys Surg 2004;9:6-10).


Tourists in Chernobyl's “Dead Zone”

While a website describing a tour by “Elena” (CDP, May 2004) duped uncountable visitors before being exposed as a hoax, packaged tours are available to areas with radiation ranging from 15 to several hundred microroentgens/hr. The “radioactive wilderness” is an accidental wildlife sanctuary, whose “beauty cannot be overstated” (NY Times 6/15/05).


Potassium Iodide

Contrary to the U.S. State Dept assertion, a thyroid-blocking dose of KI is essential in the event of a nuclear weapons detonation, or even of trans-Pacific fallout from a nuclear war in Asia, to prevent destruction of the thyroid gland from ingestion of fallout-contaminated food or water. The FDA approved a 130-mg tablet for this prophylactic use. It is likely, wrote Cresson Kearny, that such a tablet was included in the Soviet “individual, standard first-aid packet.” The NRCP estimated an adverse reaction rate of 1 in a million to 1 in 10 million doses. Mr. Kearny bought a pound of analytic reagent grade KI from a chemical supply firm to store for his family.

It is important to warn people not to drink solutions of iodine, or take water purification tablets, which are poisonous. Povidone iodine or tincture of iodine might be somewhat effective if applied to the skin.

Detailed information about storage, preparation, and use of saturated solutions of KI is given in Kearny's indispensable book Nuclear War Survival Skills. Or information can be downloaded from, which also provides a source for purchasing nonprescription KI tablets.

Iodide does not protect against radiation sickness, contrary to a popular misconception.


“Negative Monitoring” on Martha's Vineyard

In the first program of its kind nationwide, police officers on Martha's Vineyard will be carrying NukAlerts supplied by Physicians for Civil Defense. When the NukAlert is not alarming, the officer is assured that the radiation dose rate is less than 0.1 rad/hr, the level that would cause a cumulative exposure of 100 rads in about 41 days. Thus, the officer can carry out essential public duties without imminent personal danger from radiation. With 60 instruments dispersed around the island, relatively safe and hazardous areas could be located in the event of a nuclear incident. Protection against panic is one key life-saving feature of the NukAlert, states civil defense activist Steve Jones. For a demonstration of NukAlert function, visit


Nationwide Radiologic Monitoring

While instruments like the NukAlert should be as common as smoke detectors, the fact is that they are in short supply and at present cannot be rapidly produced in large numbers. Thus, it is vitally important that as many as possible be placed in the hands of first responders and officials who can use them most effectively to protect the largest number of citizens. Most agencies do not have discretionary funds, even to purchase such low-cost essential items to protect their personnel and the public. Physicians for Civil Defense uses donations to our NukAlert project to buy as many devices as we can and distribute them in the most effective manner. Rural/Metro Fire Department in Tucson, for example, will now carry 17 NukAlerts on its vehicles. It could use 160.

PCD needs your help–not just money but also contacts with officials who will use these instruments.

In the U.S. today, the only instrument that can be made available in sufficient quantity on short notice is the Kearny Fallout Meter. If you don't have a KFM, make one (or assign a middle-school child to do it). Instructions are in NWSS, which can be downloaded from If you don't have time to make one, order a kit from or other suppliers (try a Google search).


Shelter Misconceptions

Both government publications and popular consumer products, for example the “Sheltering-in-Place” DVD, fail to distinguish between the “sealed room” concept for chemical and biological weapons and a fallout shelter. In the 1950s, a government-designated fallout shelter was supposed to have a minimum protective factor (PF) of 40–not very good but the best achievable at the time. Current recommendations for “best available” shelter, such as a basement, fall far short. A PF of 10 requires 12 inches of concrete or 18 inches of earth. An average home basement has a PF of only about 10. Much superior to any current government publication, the 1979 Office of Technology Assessment book, The Effects of Nuclear War, can be downloaded (search on Google), but there is no substitute for the step-by-step, field-tested instructions in NWSS, demonstrated on DVDs available from