[ RadSafe ] RE: Mangano: US Beta Levels Up 40% Since 1980

farbersa at optonline.net farbersa at optonline.net
Tue Dec 27 12:54:41 CST 2005

Hi Peter,
Your suggestion is a good one. However,  just debunking exaggerated or erroneous claims after the fact while vitally important is not enough.  It's also important that nuclear endeavors find  creative, impactful ways using radiation issues to reach the public, gain their interest, and get across the points that are vital to the public and regulators not fearing every Bq or stray photo bouncing around.

On the first point about debunking critics, unfortunately, this objective is made all the more difficult by the fact that corporations that have the most to gain by highlighting the errors and even lies of critics often try to keep a low profile and avoid the public debate.

I've sadly witnessed the latter issue, time and again. In one case, I was invited by one company to debate Dr. Najarian who had authored a "study" published by the Boston Globe "Spotlight Investigation Team" claiming a 10 fold excess of leukemia among the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard workers.  I put in a request to my then employer to engage in this activity which would have involved an on-air debate on a Boston radio station with the VA physician Najarian who authored the study.  I carefully noted in my request I would do it on my own time, would mention I was speaking as a private citizen, and would do it at a time approved by my supervisor so as not to interfere with any priority work.

Shortly after making the request to participate in this on-air debate, I was summoned to the Chairman's office of my  "public benefit corporation" employer and found myself in a room with a dozen lawyers positioned down the length of a 40 foot table with the Chairman on one end of the table and me on the other. I was told point blank by the Chairman of this multiple nuclear plant operator [and the largest non-Federal power generating company in the US]: 

"I want you to understand one thing regarding your request. If it ever comes to my attention that you have a made a statement in favor of nuclear energy, you will no longer be an employee of the XY Power Authority."

I asked if I might ask one question and was told yes. My question was: "Why?"

The answer was: "The Governor of this State does not approve of nuclear energy."  Case closed.

Subsequently, it took 10 years  after a study was dragged out by NIOSH, for it to put out a study where the claims of Najerian were found lacking, and the results criticizing the original claims of a 10 fold excess of leukemia, were buried in the literature with essentially no public outreach.

This tendency of many corporations to think that if they avoid getting into the fray and engaging their critics and at the extreme their enemies intent on destroying them, is a large part of why nuclear endeavors have withered.  Most companies will not provide any time or support to technical people to get involved in debunking critics and as I have seen will often interfere with a staffperson who is willing to do it on their own time and initiative.

Many years later, after I authored a satire during the 1988 election campaign on the "health hazards of Strepdukakis antinucleosis", I was invited to give a talk to the New England Chapter of the ANS on any subject I wished. Put together a talk about my personal experiences in trying to do various things in nuclear public information -some which turned out to be positive, some negative in terms of my corporate employers. The title of this talk was: 

"Nuclear Power and Public Information -- Suicide on the Installment Plan."

The title says a lot about what the nuclear industry has and has not done in promoting its own,  and the publics interest regarding the incentives for nuclear technologies.

Regarding the Cs-137 in wood ash study I mentioned in a prior post. This study ended up being criticized by my then employer whose PR manager told reporters who inquired after I gave a paper about the results to an annual meeting of the HPS in Washington in 1991 [after going thru the paper approval process of my employer, having it peer reviewed by other staff, etc.]  that it was not supported by the company, and that the company was "distancing itself" from the study. Nonetheless, I arranged to speak with dozens of reporters who wanted information about the subject from my home and was able to get dozens of articles in the popular press [newspapers, periodicals including Organic Gardening Magazine with a monthly paid subscriber base of 1,000,000 at the time] highlighting that despite wood ash having been found to have up to 20,000 picoCuries per kg of ash, it presented a trivial dose and a trivial risk. However, wastes of this concentration from nuclear plants and hospitals
 were having to be disposed of as radwaste at great cost.

These results proved irresistable to the public and companies like the pulp and paper industry which generates tens of  millions of tons of wood ash per year approached me and wanted the environmental lab with which I was affiliated to perform gamma spectroscopy analyses of the ash so this Wisconson based paper company had some data on the Cs-137 in their wood ash.  My employer refused to do these radiological analyses. The paper company involved in making this request then asked me what kind of scam was I running where I raise a potential problem and then would not help them get some analyses done? Good question.

Related to this same issue, the Nuclear Safety Advisor to the State of Maine called me to discuss my survey. He told me that the public was bombarding his office with questions about radioactivity in wood ash after about 3 or 4 Maine papers ran lengthy stories on the issue highlighting the inconsistent regulation of hospital and nuclear plant wastes vs. other radioactive waste streams.  He said he had gotten multiple calls from upset Maine residents who had called my employer, asked to get some information, or talk to someone about the results and had their calls routed to the PR Manager. The callers were told the company, my employer,  would not discuss the issue with any callers.  Hmmmm, curioser and curioser. There was an underlying reason why the nuclear company involved would not talk about radioactivity in wood ash as I later found out which related to the use of biomass in power generation by certain utilities who did not want the issue to get any attention.  A 50 MW[
e] biomass plant generates on the order of 1,000 cubic meters of woodash per year.   The disposal of this ash  can be made a lot more complicated if it is viewed as a waste, rather than mixed with manure and spread on the fields of large organic farming coops for soil amendment to replenish depleted potassium

So once again, rather than a nuclear company establishing an optimal relationship with interested members of the public, other companies, and regulators on a radiation related risk perception issue, where they would have been able to develop a good working relationship based on their expertise, the nuclear endeavor ended up looking like it  had something to hide by refusing to talk with the various publics involved.  Another perfect example of "natching defeat from the jaws of victory" as is said. Too bad.

Regards and Best Wishes for getting it right in the New Year,

Stewart Farber, MS Public Health
Consulting Scientist
The Prometheus Group, LLC
[203] 367-0791

----- Original Message -----
From: "Sandgren, Peter" <Peter.Sandgren at po.state.ct.us>
Date: Tuesday, December 27, 2005 9:17 am
Subject: RE: [ RadSafe ] RE: Mangano:  US Beta Levels Up 40% Since 1980

> I hope some of you learned folks have also sent your highly 
> informativeletters to the publications that have seen fit to print 
> Mangano'sunscientific claims.  For my 2 cents, I believe that 
> anybody who
> announces he/she has scientific and controversial "information" to 
> sharewill always find a reporter or newspaper to put their claims 
> in print.  
> The best defense and the strongest safeguard we have is the knowledge
> and experience of you folks on radsafe.  For every distorted claim 
> thatmakes it into print, if two or three letters (with supporting 
> scientificreferences) come to contradict those claims, at least 
> one of those
> letters will be printed, and rad-fearful minds will be calmed.  These
> email rebuttals that come into radsafe could, with a little polishing,
> go far to hold back the tide of fear that threatens to close nuclear
> plants around the country.  So, thanks to all of you who take the time
> to write!  Please keep it up, and send them on to the newspapers.  
> Mostpapers will accept email letters as long as the name and 
> address (and
> credentials!) of the writer are included. 
> Happy New Year to all,
> Peter Sandgren
> -----Original Message-----
> From: radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl [mailto:radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl] On
> Behalf Of farbersa at optonline.net
> Sent: Friday, December 23, 2005 4:26 PM
> To: goldinem at songs.sce.com
> Cc: radsafe at radlab.nl
> Subject: Re: [ RadSafe ] RE: Mangano: US Beta Levels Up 40% Since 1980
> Happy Holidays to all:
> If it were not for the fact that Mangano is so effective in fooling
> gullible members of the media and the public with his unscientific
> claims related to his being a 2nd generation Sternglass wannabe,  his
> "claims" would be laughable. 
> However,  in relation to his claims, the EPA has not even had a
> consistent network of rainwater monitoring over the past 20 years
> because there has been nothing worth monitoring outside of a brief
> period in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident.
> As an example of the absurdity of Mangano's environmental 
> radioactivityclaims in relation to Vermont Yankee, back in 1989-
> 90,  I carried out a
> small study of Cs-137 in woodash derived from home fireplace 
> burning of
> mature hardwoods all over the US. Several samples were collected from
> Vermont. One came from my own fireplace at a vacation home I had in
> Warren, VT over 100 miles from Vermont Yankee. The Cs-137 measured was
> approx. 15,000 picoCuries per kg of ash after hardwoods grown from the
> area around Warren, VT were burned and analyzed by quantitative gamma
> spec analysis.
> Another sample of wood ash collected from the burning of mature
> hardwoods growing around Vermont Yankee, was found to have only 1,500
> picoCuries of Cs-137 per kg of woodash --or 1/10 the concentration of
> Cs-137 100 miles to the north, no where near a nuclear plant. Hmmmm.
> All the Cs-137 being measured in woodash in my study was derived from
> the deposition of fallout from open air testing of nuclear weapons 
> whichended [except for a few small open air tests by the Chinese] 
> and the
> Chernobyl fallout in 1986 [which added about 1% to the pre-existing
> Cs-137 deposition in New England based on my extensive review of
> environmental rad data gathered around all the nuclear plants in New
> England].  Actual areal deposition of Cs-137 around New England is
> fairly constant and cannot account for the 10 fold variability of 
> Cs-137
> measured in woodash from samples only 100 miles apart. The factors 
> thatappear to make a difference in the Cs-137 level in biomass are the
> potassium levels in soil [low K, high Cs-137 uptake] and the 
> stable Cs
> variability  [high stable Cs in soil, high uptake of Cs-137 from 
> soil to
> plant -too complex to explain this counterintuitive behavior here] in
> soil from one location to another.
> Any Sr-90 deposition in the environment would be in proportion to the
> Cs-137 given the relatively constant ratio of Sr-90/Cs-137 in fresh
> fallout. So given the 10 fold lower concentration of Cs-137 in biomass
> near Vermont Yankee measured in woodash, are we to conclude that being
> in the proximity to a nuclear plant operating almost 20 years 
> since 1972
> to 1990, reduced Cs-137 [and perhaps Sr-90]  in the environment?? 
> :-)
> Perhaps the intake of air into the Vermont Yankee plant, and its
> filtration before discharge up the stack cleans up the local
> environment?  Offered for your amusement only. But we could make an
> argument of this sort that has absolutely no significance if we wanted
> to have some fun and mislead gullible readers.
> If we wanted to play the games Mangano enjoys playing, we could argue
> based on real environmental data that running a nuclear plant  for 
> 20 or
> so years reduces Cs-137 in the nearby environment dramatically vs. a
> background area 100 miles away.  Is this true. Of course not. It 
> is just
> an indication of how variable environmental radioactivity including
> Cs-137 and Sr-90 in biomass and other biota can be from one 
> location to
> another. If you pick your data points selectively, or look at narrow
> windows of time for one set of measurements vs. another, you can make
> "conclusions" that appear credible on a first glance,  but which are
> only supported by that one set of data.
> Going back to 1972, the National Academy of Science harshly 
> criticicizedDr. Ernest Sternglass and his inflammatory claims 
> because his claims
> were based on choosing only data which supported his hypothesis and
> ignoring data which did not. Mangano has learned a lot from his mentor
> Dr. Sternglass and is doing the same intellectually dishonest, and
> unscientific manipulations that led to Dr. Sternglass being 
> chastised in
> an Appendix to the National Academy of Sciences 1972 Biological 
> Effectsof Ionizing Radiation [BEIR] report.
> Stewart Farber, MS Public Health
> Consulting Scientist
> radproject at optonline.net
> [203] 367-0791
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: goldinem at songs.sce.com
> Date: Friday, December 23, 2005 1:09 pm
> Subject: [ RadSafe ] RE: Mangano:  US Beta Levels Up 40% Since 1980
> > 
> > Regarding the Mangano claim that Vermont rainwater gross beta 
> > levels have
> > increased over the years (due presumably to the operation of Vermont
> > Yankee), Health Physics just published a paper on the analysis 
> of 
> > 22 years
> > of air samples in New York State (Health Phys. 90 (1): 31-37; 
> > 2006.  Kitto,
> > et al, Long-Term Monitoring of Radioactivity in Surface Air and 
> > Depositionin  New York State).  Great stuff, all kinds of 
> > conclusions about how
> > weather patterns affect gross beta and airborne cosmogenic 
> > radioactivity.Note the sample locations were selected in part 
> > because of proximity to
> > three New York nuclear power plant sites.  However, the only 
> > anthropogenic(wow, what a word) radionuclides were correlated 
> with 
> > sewage sludge
> > incineration and a tritium-processing facility.  Also 
> noteworthy, some
> > analyses were conducted specifically for Sr-90 and/or Sr-89.  
> > Nothing was
> > ever detected in any samples so "they will not be discussed 
> > further."  So
> > much for increasing trends in environmental strontium and baby 
> teeth.> 
> > By the way, the final argument by Mangano about "increased 
> > generation" by
> > these "aging" power plants is actually quite wrong.  When plants 
> > run well,
> > as indicated by a 95% capacity factor, airborne releases are 
> typically> reduced.  Startups and shutdowns are usually 
> responsible for greater
> > effluent releases.  So the "increased" Sr-90 in rainwater (if 
> > true, which I
> > doubt) is negatively correlated with Vermont Yankee's operation. 
> > Plus I'm
> > quite sure that VY's Radiological Environmental Monitoring 
> Program 
> > confirmsno radiological impact from plant operation on the local 
> > environs.
> > Eric M. Goldin, CHP
> > <goldinem at songs.sce.com>
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