Radioactive Irony

Been involved in a number of conversations recently about radiation safety …. nuclear power is on an upswing throughout the world.  Fact is at low medical-and-industrial-radiology / nuclear-power-industry public exposure levels very little is really known (proven or even provable) about the risks, so standard health and safety practices are generally recognised as being conservative. Real high-level risks have been simply extrapolated down to lower levels.

Often permitted levels are below commonly occurring background radiation levels, eg in areas with massive granite geologies, and in some such areas of high natural levels, pockets of reduced health risks / better health have been reasonably well demonstrated (example, Iran reference ?). Of course there are different types (different spectra & particles) of radiation as well as energy levels, and there are other high “natural” exposure risks, like flying at commercial cruising altitudes, and so on.

The general received wisdom is that relatively low levels of radiation can still risk causing genetic mutations, and that comes with a “risk” of cancerous mutations. Risk upon risk and we’re into a matter of probabilities. Interesting to hear Steve Jones talking on “In Our Time” yesterday on genetics, as a very young science, and the fact that many common chemical exposures are far more prone to cause more / harmful mutations than common radiation risks. And in either case whatever the cause of mutations, the fault-tolerance / self-repairing properties of DNA / RNA means that “lower” levels of mutation may be either totally insignificant or even beneficial.

The irony is today’s story about a nuclear reactor in Canada, one of whose products is producing radioactive sources and tags for medical procedures. With the reactor down, the source of these positive medical supplies is cut.

Never mind carbon offsets. what about radiation offsets ?

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