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RADIATION AND RISK
Translation of a Russian Journal
by Scientists at Obninsk
Edited by Richard Wilson
(photo of Richard Wilson on his first visit to Chernobyl February 1987)
Physics Department
Harvard University
(last modified February 20th 2013)
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            Several important issues of this Russian journal, issued by the medical Radiological Research Center at Obninsk have been translated.  The _translation has been made possible by generous grants from the Richard _Lounsbery_Founation and donations from a number of private individuals. In addition specific grants have been available for individual issues as_noted.

*    The following book and report discuss the same subject.     Ivanov V., Tsyb A., Ivanov S., Pokrovsky V. (2004) "Medical Radiological Consequences of the Chernobyl Catastrophe in Russia.  Estimation of Radiation Risks." St. Petersburg, Nauka, 388 p. (in English).
*     "Mean Thyroid Doses for Inhabitants of Different Age Living in1986 in Settlements of the Bryansk, Tula, Orel and Kaluga Regions Contaminated by Radionuclides as a Result of the Chernobyl accident"     (2002) Radiation and Risk, Special Issue, Ed. by M.I. Balonov and I.A.  Zvonova, Obninsk-Moscow, 94 p. (in Russian).

Detail of Radiological Research Center (National Radiation and Epidemiological Registry), Obninsk

 

 


Hard Copies of all the above are available from:


Richard Wilson
Department of Physics
Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138
wilson5@fas.harvard.edu
Since the gifts and grants do not cover even the cost of the translation, we ask for a contribution of $15 for each issue to cover postage and a contribution toward translation costs.

 


 

Radiation at Low Doses
When considering the effects on Health of exposures to radiation, or other carcinogens,  it is important to distinguish:
(1)  Victims for whom it is highly probable that radiation was the cause (Risk Ratio greater than two -RR>2; more likely than not; Porbability of Causation -POC >50%)
(2)    Victims with an exposure such that one can find a group with similar exposures where the increase in rate is statistically significant although POC<50% and individual causation is less likely than not.  Often called attributable cancers or an attributable risk
(3)    Victims with lower exposures - comparable to background - where only statistical calculation is possible.  In this category are about 7,000 cancer cases per year in the USA from natural radiation,  30,000 lung ailments in USA from particulate air pollution, or 10,000 cancers per year in Bangalesh from arsenic.    These numbers are often misunderstood.  Two crucial references are: 

"Fundamental Carcinogenic Processes and their Implications for Low Dose Risk Assessment," K.S Crump, D.G. Hoel, C.H. Langley and R.Peto, Cancer Research 36, 2973-2979 (1976). (E)"Low-Dose Linearity: the Rule or the Exception?," M. Crawford and R. Wilson, Human and Ecological Risk Assessment, 2(2), 305-330 (1996).

 
In the first of these papers, Crump et al. point out that whatever the basic biological process relating a dose to cancer, a differential linearity results provided that the radiation dose and the background act on the biological system in the same way. Since the cancers produced by radiation and those produced by background are indistinguishable, this is an assumption that has not been refuted - although of course it is an assumption whose validity must constantly be questioned. Crawford and Wilson went further and pointed out that the argument is a general one and can apply to other outcomes than cancer, such as respiratory problems caused by air pollution or cigarette smoking. This in our view makes it mandatory for any discussion of low dose behavior (meaning as is usual these days doses lower than background) to include a discussion of what causes the natural background of cancers. Unfortunately this is rarely done.

 

Richard Wilson and Radiation


    Richard Wilson has used radiation and ionizing particles all of his professional life.  Most of the time he has carried  out  research into the structure of nuclei and of elementary particles.   But he is very interested in beneficial uses of nuclear technology.  In addition to the work with the Harvard Cyclotron, he is also  interested in  wise and appropriate uses of nuclear energy for electricity  production.  One of his interests and specialties is understanding the risks  of misuse  of radiation and technologies involving   radiation.    This is exemplified by a recent Resource  Letter   on health effects of radiation that he has written  for the American Association of Physics Teachers. and an article for the Encyclopedia of Energy.

ISEU
He was  asked (by the Chairman  of the Supreme Soviet of Belarus, Dr Stanislaw Suskevich) to help found the International Sakharov  College of Radioecology,  in Minsk, Belarus  and be the Chairman  of its International Advisory Committee (which position he held until 2001). This has now become the International Sakharov Environmental University (website in English) on the tenth anniversary of the opening  (in May  2002) of this  university, Dr. Frantisek Janouch, from the Czech Republic and Sweden, gave an admonition to students (in Russian   and in English ) to think carefully whether they deserved to use the Sakharov name.    At the ninth anniversary (Sakharov's 80th birthday),   Richard Wilson told  the students his memories about Sakharov.  

USSR Accidents
Richard Wilson has followed closely the Russian and Ukrainian  radiation accidents at Chernobyl in the Ukraine, and the accidents at the  Techa River    and the Mayak production complex in  the Ural mountains.  In  1987 he visited Chernobyl  with a Chicago  TV crew and the resulting  film ( Back to Chernobyl)  was on public television in late 1988.  Some photographs of this period are 9unordered) in the site:    http://users.physics.harvard.edu/~wilson/Photographs/Chernobyl/

Using the classification noted above, the persons in group 1 which can be identified as individual deaths caused by Cherobly are the 31 deaths due to Acute Radiation Sickness, plus possibly a few more not recorded. Also in group 1 are the 1200 or so Childhood Leukemias, of which only 12 at this time are fatal.  
In group 2 one would include all the 300 who had Acute Radiation exposure of 100 rems or more who have an additional 10% chance of developing cancer.  Also in group 2 are some cleanup workers;  in this group the above papers suggest that there is an attributable increase of leukemia. 
Group 3 would inluce much of the world:  an initial expert estimate of 20,000 persons deveoping a fatal cancer in the world in the next 70 years has been reduced because of better exposure estimates to 5,000 persons.  The estimate of 2 million people who were adversely affected which was claimed by a representative of the Ukrainian Minsitry of Health is almost certainly wrong - or at least an estimate of thois psychologically affected by the panic and misinformation
Richard Wilson was among the first in the  USA to emphasize the importance of the Russian  radiation accidents in the  1950 - 60 period.  In that period,  for example,  2 million Curies of radioactive material were  dumped  into  the upper reaches of the Techa river.  The effects  have been  studied  for  40 yearsby a dedicated  group of  physicians  and scientists  in the Urals Center for  Radiation Medicine (URCRM ) in Chelyabinsk.


EPA Proposals on Radiation
Richard Wilson made  public comments on EPA proposals to regulate DOE facilities, and tighten standards for uranium  in drinking water .  

Scientists for Secure Waste Storage
Richard Wilson is also spokesman  for  a group  "Scientists  for Secure Waste Storage" who are supporting the Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians   who would  like to store nuclear waste  (temporarily) on their reservation.   Although after 7 years the  Nuclear Regulatory Commission is ready to grant a license,  the politicians  in Utah,  both the Governor and the Senators, have vowed to oppose it.    The Commission explicitly stated that the danger of release of radioactivity if  jet fighters from nearby Dugway airbase inadvertently hit the proposed facility is remote.   Nonetheless the politicians in Utah got a addendum to the Defense authorization bill in Decmber 2005 making the region just north of Skull Valley a wilderness area making it difficult for the Goshutes to bring waste in
  

Some links to other information about doses and effects from Chernobyl


The August 2005 report of EGE forum IAEA this summarises the present expert opinion.
A site with a number of links about Chernobyl is here.   

UNSCEAR 2001 report on possible heriditary effects of radiation exposure and Chernobyl in particular

Report on Cancer after Chernobyl Accident from the US National Cancer Institute
 The 1988 report of the UN Subcommittee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) on exposures due to Chernobyl and Effects of Victims of Chernobyl
There is a very fine French Website on radiation including these accidents.
A recent Australian website about nuclear energy
  A brief report on a BBC website
UNSCEAR 2001 report on possible heriditary effects of radiation exposure and Chernobyl in particular
 Idado State University's website on the subject of radiation and Chernobyl in particular 
An earlier (1956) USSR Radiation Accident:  Techa River in the  Urals

Two laypeople's accounts are intersting:

A  very fine website called GHOST TOWN.   It is unusually accurate about radiation for a layperson's account.
A new book "Wormwood Forest: A Natural History of Chernobyl" has just been written by Mary Mycio an American Jounalist living in Kiev.  Details are on her website:   www.chernobyl.in.ua 

Richard Wilson's general articles on radiation:
    for American Association of Physics Teachers
    for Encyclopedia of Energy