There’s a special type of radioactivity you see, much more dangerous than the type that everyone’s talking about.
No, really, there is.
In his article on “the confusing world of radiation exposure”, readers’ editor Chris Elliott was right to point out that getting a whole year’s sunshine in an hour would fry him to a crisp (Open door, 4 April). Radiation dose rate is important. What he didn’t say is that “dose density” is important too.
The “sievert”, as Elliott says, is a dose unit for quantifying radiation risk. He did not add that it assumes dose density is uniform. “There are many kinds of radiation”, he says, but he does not mention how they differ. In fact, external sources like cosmic rays and x-rays distribute their energy evenly, like the sun; others, notably alpha-emitters like uranium, are extremely uneven in the way they irradiate body tissue once they have been inhaled or swallowed.
Now it is true that having a piece of uranium lodged in your lungs is different from having a piece sticking to your skin. It’s also true that having a piece of uranium in your lungs presents you with other problems than radiation: it is a heavy metal, after all.
But how different is it?
ICRP has admitted that its model cannot be applied to post-accident situations. Fortunately the European Committee on Radiation Risk employs weighting factors to modify sievert-based doses for internal exposures. This won’t cure the mess in Fukushima but it will mean better public protection.
Hmm, the ECRR eh?
The European Committee on Radiation Risk (ECRR) is an informal committee formed in 1997 following a meeting by the European Green Party at the European Parliament to review the Council of Europe‘s directive 96/29Euratom, issued in May of the previous year.
Ahhh….so we’re supposed to be taking our measurements of how much worse it is from a self appointed group of greens (even Greens) who have already decided that nuclear’s bad, M’Kay?
Y’know, while that actually is how much public policy is made I rather think that’s not how we would like public policy to be made. Better to get the science from scientists rather than ideologues, yes? The latter being all to prone to policy based evidence making.