[ RadSafe ] Re: Radiation Hormesis

Dan McCarn hotgreenchile at gmail.com
Wed Jan 2 18:11:35 CST 2008

Hi Mike:

My favorite hydrologist has a phrase that he constantly uses to
explain his findings: "It depends…"

I've been involved on the giving and receiving end of EISs as well as
giving written testimony on administrative hearings and preparing
affidavits and giving depositions & oral testimony in court as an
expert witness.  It's a noisy and seemingly chaotic, upside-down
process sometimes, but ultimately, the organizations are really only
required to make statements on the "reasonable" comments.  So "It
depends…" on the nature of the comment, if it is "on target" or simply

In administrative hearings, "it depends…" on the quality of training
and balance that the Administrative Officer brings to the hearings as
well as the general balance of the administrative law and regulations.
 I find it a pleasure to prepare affidavits on geological issues when
I know that the administrative officer has the training to fully
understand what I'm saying.  I also provide complete text of all the
references that I use so that they can see that I'm not "Cherry
Picking" or pulling references out of context.

In court, the most challenging issue is to cogently communicate to the
jury and the judge (always with no training) the important points
without confusing them too much.  But it's really hard to "dumb things
down" and keep to the essence of the argument when the individuals
deciding the issue have no training in your area of expertise.

So, "It depends…"

In New Mexico, the opposition was unsuccessful in stopping a license
for uranium mining despite repeated litigation in Administrative
Courts, so they took their money to the State Legislature and changed
the basis in law for groundwater standards.  I believe that they will
also ultimately fail here as well because of the concept of Aquifer
Exemption (basically, uranium deposits do not have to follow state law
or regulations).

So, "It depends..."

Dan ii

Dan W McCarn, Geologist
Albuquerque & Houston

On 1/2/08, Brennan, Mike  (DOH) <Mike.Brennan at doh.wa.gov> wrote:
> Hi, Steve.
> Having been involved with the public comment process from both sides, I
> believe that there is relevance in the words of that great American
> philosopher, Robert Heinlein; "You win a track meet by having one guy
> who can high-jump seven feet, not seven guys who can each high-jump one
> foot."  A few comments from people who can add to the process it is way
> better than a lot of comments from people who are adding noise, not
> signal.
> I've commented on a number of reports, EISs, etc. over the years.  The
> three that come to mind as showing definite signs of my comments
> changing the final produce were at the national level and specific to
> one DOE site.  In each case I believe that the authors were honestly
> addressing the issue they were dealing with (which were all pretty
> technical and multi-facetted), but had become so focused as to have lost
> sight of fairly important points.  I believe that it is likely that if
> they had not written the reports, but were reviewing them instead, they
> probably would have spotted the problems.
> I can sympathize with the people who deal with public comments, as so
> often they have to deal with input with somewhat more emotional content
> than is useful.  I remember one public meeting about plans to ship spent
> fuel by rail at which one commenter (representing a rather large
> environmentalist group) objected to the plan because of the "thousands
> of cases of random murder" that would be caused by the public being
> exposed to radiation while the cars were waiting on a siding.  His
> scenario not only required the entire population of the state to spend
> 24 hrs. standing about 10 ft. away from each car, but to do so for the
> dozen or so cars in each train simultaneously.  Another commenter seemed
> to labor under the impression that since the shipping containers had
> been evaluated for survivability if hit by a crashing jet, the
> containers caused jets to crash, and having a number of them in one
> place made such a crash almost a certainty.  With input like that I am
> afraid that sometimes the people who should be using public comments to
> improve their product can loose interest.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl [mailto:radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl] On
> Behalf Of Steven Dapra
> Sent: Monday, December 31, 2007 6:50 PM
> To: radsafe at radlab.nl
> Subject: RE: [ RadSafe ] Re: Radiation Hormesis
> Dec. 31
>         I may have been a little hasty when I said public comment was a
> fraud and a hoax.  You have obviously had some successes, Mike, and I am
> glad to hear of them.  At which level of government were your comments
> made?
>         I have made public comments concerning local level events, and
> have seen other people make comments at them, and our comments were
> treated as if they (and we) did not exist.  It's going to take a lot
> more than public comments to straighten out the mess in regulation.
> Congress is going to have to start exercising rigorous oversight over
> the agencies it has loosed upon America.  That's a good stopping point,
> lest I commence making a speech.
> Steven Dapra
> At 09:03 AM 12/31/07 -0800, Brennan, Mike  (DOH) wrote:
> >I do not agree with the idea that public comment is useless. I
> >certainly agree that only a tiny portion of the public comments, but as
> >long as at least some of that public is knowledgeable about the topic,
> >and as long as the people seeking the comments are willing to listen
> >(both points that I grant are not always true), comments can have an
> >effect.  I can think of three cases in which I submitted comments on
> >drafts or proposals in which I pointed out flaws or logical fallacies,
> >and the final version was changed.  In one case the changes probably
> >prevented millions of dollars of testing and regulation for something
> >that, when you stepped back and looked at it, was not a viable pathway
> >(I pointed out that for radioactive material in sewage sludge there was
> >no worker ingestion pathway, as the workers take great care to never
> >get it in their mouths, and if they do not to swallow, and certainly
> >not to have it happen on an ongoing basis, and if they did the rad
> >wouldn't be in the top ten of problems that needed to be addressed).
> >
> >I am not claiming that these changes were made on my input alone
> >(though in one case the wording in the final was closer to my comment
> >than it was to the wording in the draft), but I do believe that in many
> >cases comments are taken seriously and can make a difference.
> >
> >-----Original Message-----
> >From: radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl [mailto:radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl] On
> >Behalf Of Steven Dapra
> >Sent: Friday, December 28, 2007 5:52 PM
> >To: radsafe at radlab.nl
> >Subject: Re: [ RadSafe ] Re: Radiation Hormesis
> >
> >Dec. 28
> >
> >          Public comment is a de facto fraud and hoax.  It's an
> >opportunity for a minute portion of the public to blow off steam, or to
> >think it may have some salutary influence, while the regulators, etc.,
> >go right ahead and do what they planned to do all along.  Besides, who
> >has the time to read that dry-as-dust legalese (in what --- six point
> >type?) and decipher what the writers are trying to say, let alone
> >compose a response or a suggestion.
> >
> >Steven Dapra
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Dan W. McCarn

Tel: +1-713-241-5726; Fax: +1-713-241-1012; Cell: +1-505-710-3600;
Home: +1-281-903-7667; Austria: +43-676-725-6622
Email: Dan.McCarn at shell.com; HotGreenChile at gmail.com

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