Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Re: numbers 1 and 2.

In 1987, I started my research on leaf bugs in the fallout areas from the Chernobyl accident in Sweden and the southern part of Switzerland. The reason to do this work was my worrying about the welfare of the insects in these areas as well as the observation, that no biologist had started any investigation into this question - yes at the time it was considered that low level radiation from Chernobyl was not able to damage insect or plant life in any way - thus no study was necessary in the eyes of scientists. The publication of my findings, documented with painted pictures, were therefore highly reproached by the scientific world.

In 1988 I started my research in areas near nuclear power plants in Switzerland. My findings consternated me such, that I had to publish my results again documented with painted pictures. The reproaches of the scientific world became even louder and more aggressive. I thought that by showing the malformations on insects, I could convince not only the public but also scientists, to at least reconsider their own research or to study these facts themselves. In the meantime I have continued with my work in the environs of the reprocessing plant Sellafield UK, the Chernobyl plant, as well as areas affected by the Three Mile Island accident plant in the USA and Krummel nuclear power plant in Germany. Although it seems that while some people are becoming more aware of the dangers of nuclear power like the recent atomic bomb tests in the South Pacific as well as Nevada, USA there are other new dangers like the HAARP Project in Alaska, USA which is equally frightening. Albeit we believe to have everything under control, we don't take enough consideration that with our way of polluting we are not only causing daily the extinction of plants and animals, but are also changing the genetic structures with artificial radiation created by nuclear testing and power plants and also with mutagenic chemical substances.

We have the habit of only looking at what we perceive to be progress in our society, and refuse to investigate the shadow-side of this same progress. In my work, I took on the task of showing what we do not want to see. What is not studied is considered not to be. I deliberately banned my own fantasy from my paintings. What I find in mutated flies, created in research laboratories - or in fallout areas of Chernobyl or on leaf bugs near nuclear power plants outstrips anything that might come from our imagination. In our laboratories we are producing the raw models of what we are doing on a vast scale in vivo. But what we do to animals and plants, we finally do to ourselves and the human beings who will follow us for generations.

It is utterly urgent that we stop giving all the power to the experts. Everyone must start again to become knowing ones, and to make decisions for a wholesome life. We cannot leave it to others to decide our future. I hope that my paintings can help to look at and perceive what is going on before our very eyes.


...for the record, I agree with Jerome in re:

First, conservation
Then, smart energy use
Then, renewables
Then, nuclear
Then, gas, coal, oil

...with investment in that order.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sat Mar 10th, 2007 at 04:33:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How do you assert that the "genetic malformations" in question have resulted from Sellafield, Swedish contamination zones etc, and then say that the scientific world has failed to appreciate your findings.

Mutations are found all throughout the world and apparently have been found for all time, since all species evolve.

I would be the first to acknowledge that good science is often not published, but often bad science is not published as well, often for reason.

by NNadir on Sat Mar 10th, 2007 at 05:56:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
[Cornelia] Hesse-Honegger, 49, paints insects that she believes have been deformed by radioactivity. As an illustrator at Zurich University's Zoological Institute, she grew increasingly concerned about the mutations she observed in routine genetic studies in the lab. Then, in April 1986, came Chernobyl.

"I worried about the effect on insects," says Hesse-Honegger. "The scientists pooh-poohed any danger. I decided to see for myself." Near Chernobyl's restricted zone, and in high-fallout areas in Sweden and Switzerland, she found bugs with deformities on their bodies, wings, feelers, limbs, and eyes.

She has since gathered misshapen insects from around England's Sellafield nuclear plant and Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania. "Normally," says Hesse-Honegger, "about 1 percent [of insects] may be born damaged." But at Three Mile Island, for instance, she found that the number was as high as 15 percent to 20 percent.

Scientists, meanwhile, remain skeptical--with some exceptions. Says Joan Davis, a water protection specialist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, "Maybe low-level radiation is playing havoc with life. Numbers alone don't seem to move us, [but] pictures leave behind a loud and clear signal that something is desperately wrong."


I'm not making an argument here.  I remembered a programme about an artist who painted deformed insects.  The programme was The Truth About Art, presented by Waldemar Januszczak.


In it he met the artist Cornelia Hesse-Honegger in a field near Sellafield (Windscale.)  Cornelia Hesse-Honegger was staring intently at the grass...looking for bugs.  Your description of Mary Mycio hunting intently around Chernobyl reminded me of this and what with the six metre catfish and the wolves I was...reminded of...Cornelia...also hunting, but for smaller animals.

I don't know any of the facts of the case, and you have a mission to argue for as much nuclear power as possible as soon as possible.  Okay.  But...well...you reminded me of a counter-story regarding animals and the results of nuclear leakage...so I thought I'd add it, what with the six metre catfish...bizarre animals came to mind...

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sat Mar 10th, 2007 at 06:39:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Go out into any specified plot in nature and start looking for deformities and you will find them.

You will find them thousands of miles from any nuclear facility and you will find them next door to one.

Spontaneous mutations are always arising.  They do not arise at a faster rate in parts of the world that are higher in natural background radiation, like parts of Brazil, India, Iran, and China.

The artist you describe set out with an agenda, not an open mind.

If she had also examined insects, etc. around a coal-fired plant and a chemical plant and then in wilderness preserves far from industry and done a comparison study, her results might be considered more scientific.

In the Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors that have been studied since the 1940s and followed up and reported on periodically by the Radiation Effects Research Foundation, the cancer rate is about 3% higher than in the control population.  The rate of birth defects among the children and grandchildren of this population is the same as the control population.

by Plan9 on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 12:48:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Do you have some links from scientists who have done such research?  No snark, I don't have an agenda (beyond thinking that the more renewable--from the sun [wind, solar, wave]--energy the better.)  Maybe she did have an agenda.  Well, yes, of course.

As an illustrator at Zurich University's Zoological Institute, she grew increasingly concerned about the mutations she observed in routine genetic studies in the lab.

So let's say this clouded her judgement.  Maybe she should have visited more sites, not just nuclear.  (Though your point about chemical etc. plants would, I think, only add to her case--as far as I understand, it's genetic damage caused by industrial waste that bothers her, not just nuclear.)  

The thing is, one of her points was that other scientists weren't/aren't studying this, and she wanted to highlight the issue, so any links to where scientists have done the kind of comparative research you describe, would be much appreciated.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 01:26:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
(On insect populations, I mean.)

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 01:27:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The effects of radiation on organisms of all kinds are very well documented.  There is a large body of peer-reviewed literature on the subject.

Perhaps this link will help you get started:

It's from the Health Physics Society.  Health physicists are usually radiobiologists who specialize in measuring radiation health effects.

Usually laypeople do not distinguish between low-dose and high dose exposure.

Everyone in the field of radiobiology agrees that the effects of low-dose radiation are extremely hard to detect.  I don't know about Swiss nuclear plants, but the estimated exposure from an American nuclear plant is .0009 millirem.  The average global exposure from natural background radiation is around 240 millirem.  So it is extremely hard to identify a single case of cancer or a mutation as being definitely caused by radiation exposure.  The only way you can tell is epidemiologically. You need a large population, like the atomic bomb survivors, and you compare their rates of ailments known to be caused by radiation exposure with those of a control population.

A lot of studies have been done of the Chernobyl area on humans and other species.  See the report of the Chernobyl Forum--a group of 11 different international agencies (WHO, etc.).  The humans who were exposed to radioactive material from the reactor accident do not exhibit higher rates of leukemia than the rest of the population, although this had been expected.  The 2,000-plus cases of thyroid cancer are attributed to radio-iodine uptake from the reactor emissions.  This could have been avoided if the Soviets had distributed potassium iodide.  In Poland, where that was done, there is no increase in thyroid cancer.  Fortunately it is a very treatable cancer.  In fact, it is treated by irradiating the thyroid.  Today the Exclusion Zone around Chernobyl has an average background radiation lower than that of parts of Spain, France, Finland, Brazil, Iran, China, and the US.  This is because the land is naturally low in uranium, radium, and thorium ore.

Nuclear medicine exposes millions of people annually to diagnostic and therapeutic radiation, sometimes very high doses to kill tumors.  Many studies have been done of the effects of these dosages.  The people I know who have undergone such treatments are happy to have had their lives extended.

by Plan9 on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 02:09:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the link, but that relates only to humans.  I'm assuming that it isn't possible to say "Animal X repsonds in way Y, therefore animal Z will also respond in way Y"...(cockroaches come to mind, as do bactrian camels.)

So, to be specific:

Could you link me to literature which has measured genetic mutations in insects around various sites--including nuclear (and chemical etc...) against a control group of some kind?  Cornelia Hesse-Honegger's interest was in insects, and she was trying to highlight (if I've understood correctly) that such comparative research wasn't being undertaken.  Her pictures were to highlight this, I think, and to show what her (biased, non-scientific, partial...etc...) resarch had discovered, which was (she claims in the mother jones quote above) a raised (from 3% to 15%) incidence of mutations around nuclear sites.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 03:45:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Insects like cockroaches can withstand doses of radiation three times greater than the level that would kill a human. In the 1960s when concerns about an all-out nuclear war ran high, biologists liked to say that insects and grass would survive, but we would not.

The subject is very big, but here are some links that might get you started:


insect radiation resistance


Also, even though you are interested in insect welfare vis-a-vis nuclear plants, you should know that the National Institutes of Health National Cancer Institute did a study of populations living around nuclear facilities and found that they did not have higher rates of cancer than populations who did not live near nuclear facilities.

by Plan9 on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 05:00:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Deinococcus Radiodurans.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 05:05:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, D. Radiodurans takes the cake (or takes the yellowcake).  But rg was interested in the welfare of insects near nuclear plants.
by Plan9 on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 10:16:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the links (and to Migeru for his link)...but...

My question wasn't about whether insects could survive greater levels of radiation than humans.  It was about whether there are any studies out there that you know of that debunk Cornelia Hesse-Honegger's contentions re: genetic mutations (rather than death) in insect populations around nuclear sites (and chemical etc...) against control groups.

The reason I asked is that both you and NNadir replied to my post with the comment that genetic mutation is natural and so there was no news here...Cornelia Hesse-Honegger was saying (if I've understood her) that the rates of mutation were much higher around nuclear sites than one would expect.  As she worked in a lab dealing with genetic mutations...ach...

If her...field notes...have been disproven (by research)...I'd like a link to a page about it...is all.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 05:59:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Usually laypeople do not distinguish between low-dose and high dose exposure.

And well they SHOULD!  

You don't say this, but radiation damage does not fall off as expected with decreasing dosage--and certainly not linearly!    

This has been a medical surprise.  While standards for high level dosage were got in hand early, through the course of the 20th century low levels standards had to be revised upward several times.  

Low level radiation is MORE dangerous than it "ought" to be!  

Also, for many chemical poisons, there is a threshold below which you either recover without lingering effects, or don't take damage.  Below such a threshold you really are safe.  

Radiation is not like that.  You ALWAYS take damage, in the form of a chance of lethal cancer, illness, mutation or the like.  

In the proper sense of the word, there is NO safe dosage.

(Not even Earth background is safe, though at least it  IS several ORDERS of magnitude lower than the exposures you contemplate.)

And that is another thing about the nuke industry--the only valid comparison is with Earth background.  Above that, you are talking excess cancers, illness, &c.  And yes you can ask, well, how many, indeed that is what you should ask, because every single one above background is a death caused by deliberate human action.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 02:04:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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