Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
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 ]


Occasional Series