De Minimus: RE: [ RadSafe ] Nuclear Power/ Greenhouse Effect/ -

farbersa at farbersa at
Mon Oct 31 10:19:01 CST 2005

It all comes down to "whose ox is getting gored" as to how some vested interest responds to the facts of an issue. For decades Rodale press/Organic Gardening magazine [again 1,000,000 paid subscribers per month!!] had been recommending that their readers use woodash as a "natural" fertilizer vs. commercial "chemical"  potash and phosphate fertilizers. So, when it became evident that domestic woodash analyzed in the early 1990s had significantly elevated levels of Cs-137 and Sr-90 [very roughly 20,000 to 30,000 pCi/kg ash at max] Organic Gardening Mag tried to minimize the significance of this finding by saying the resultant dose from Cs-137 and Sr-90 from using woodash as a ferlilizer in a home garden [from all pathways including growing vegetables, feeding vegetables to animals for meat production, etc.] year after year was of little concern [de minimus in my wording] vs. the then accepted WBDE of roughly 360 mrem/year accepted by the NCRP.

It is worth noting that Rodale originally was going to put in a caveat to their article about my paper that readers should be suspicious of my putting out the survey data in my HPS paper,  since I worked [at the time] for a nuclear power sponsored environmental radiation monitoring lab {the Yankee Atomic Electric Company Environmental Lab]. Rodale's first draft of the feature article they wrote noted that my employer operated the Yankee Atomic Electric Company [Rowe] nuclear plant which had an embrittled reactor vessel that was developing cracks and my study was nothing more than an attempt to divert attention from the embrittled vessel problems of my [then] employer!!

The Rodale article author had an initial  statement that if the vessel ruptured and spilled its radioactivity into the environment it could contaminate "an area the size of Pennsylvania" [in their FIRST DRAFT!! which they asked me to review]. I was able to argue that this claim was a complete cheap shot unrelated to the woodash story given that  I was a Public Health specialist, that I worked running an environmental lab having nothing to do with nuclear plant operations, and that my survey of Cs-137 in ash preceded any knowledge of the vessel embrittlement issue. Rodale accepted my argument and asked what I would suggest as an insert in its place to put the issue in "perspective". 

That's when I suggested the comparison of woodash radioactivity  related fertilizer dose vs. the 360 mrem/year WBDE  as a way to put the ash max dose in perspective.  The editor and Rodale Press article author agreed with me since I had been dealing honestly with them, and included my wording in place of the "contaminating an area the sixe of Pennsylvania in the event of an accident" boogeyman!! Felt like this was a neat example of working openly with environmental interests on an issue of interest and importance to THEM. 

Unfortunately, my utility  employer was against my talking to newspapers and magazines on this issue despite this issues very positive benefit as far as public perception of radiation risk. Readers of the many dozens of news and magazine articles written became aware how trivial radiation levels from the same fission products Cs-137 and Sr-90  were regulated to the last pCi in hospital or nuclear industry cases, but were ignored at even higher levels in the pulp and paper industry or from wood fired power plants being built all over the country.  Because of my then employer's desire not to discuss this issue with environmental groups or the media, it was necessary for me to talk to the media after work on my own time, and to clearly preface my remarks as being made not as a spokesperson for my employer but as a private scientist.

As is said, no good deed ever goes unpunished.

Of course many anti-nukes still thought my raising the Cs-137/Sr-90 issue in woodash issue,  was some sort of nuclear industry conspiracy to make wood burning look bad and discourage wood burning power plants!! Quite droll actually.

Stewart Farber, MSPH
[203] 367-0791

----- Original Message -----
From: "Johansen, Kjell" <Kjell.Johansen at>
Date: Monday, October 31, 2005 10:23 am
Subject: RE: De Minimus:  RE: [ RadSafe ] Nuclear Power/ Greenhouse Effect/ -

> Stewart,
> Glad to see that the woodash got such a good press by Rodale 
> Press.  I
> remember that a number of years, say 25 years or so,  ago their
> Prevention Magazine ran an article by someone saying that Sr-90 from
> fallout could be counteracted by herbs and wearing something like a
> poltice around the neck....................  

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