Richard Muller on Fukushima and the Denver Dose

Dr. Muller interviewed at Forum on Energy:

Forum on Energy: You’ve also talked about the Denver Dose and what that means for radiation dangers. Can you explain that idea?

Richard Muller: We are surrounded by natural radioactivity, which is no more or less dangerous than radioactivity from nuclear reactors. Depending on where you live, there may be more or less natural radioactivity. Denver is just a well-known location that happens to have high natural radioactivity. You might think this is a dangerous place to live because of that, but, in fact, the cancer rate in Denver is lower than the average in the rest of the country. It doesn’t mean that radioactivity is curing or stopping cancer. What it does mean is that at the level of natural radioactivity—the Denver Dose, as I call it—people simply shouldn’t be worrying about radioactivity.

Now, the fact is the Denver Dose is comparable to what most of the Fukushima region is now experiencing. We shouldn’t be evacuating that region if we’re not evacuating Denver. There’s really no difference. Likewise, much of the Chernobyl region is well below the Denver Dose. In fact, a study just a few years ago on the health effects of Chernobyl concluded that the major health effect came about from the panic and worry caused by the evacuation. There were places that should have been evacuated, but there were places that shouldn’t have been. It is conceivable that there were more deaths caused by excessive smoking and drinking caused by anxiety over what had happened.

This is what happens when there is meaningless exaggerated fear and overreaction. Meanwhile, there are so many things in our lives that are far more dangerous that we accept.

6 thoughts on “Richard Muller on Fukushima and the Denver Dose

  1. Janick

    Do people in DENVER get their radioactivity through radionucleids like Cesium, Iodine, Plutonium, Strontium and so on, like in Fukushima and elsewhere in Japan ? Do they get radioactive Cesium into their lungs from breathing in contaminated air ? Or into their stomachs from eating contaminated food ??? Do they have to check the becquerels in food and water before giving it (or not) to their children ???
    Because this is what we get here in Japan, and I’m afraid it makes a really, really big difference with what people experience in DENVER. Internal contamination has little to do with naturally occurring radioactivity from rocks. By the way, you don’t get only cancer from radioactive Cesium ingestion, please check your facts and try to better understand the tragedy in Japan. Thank you.

    1. Joffan

      Janick, much as it pains me to say it, the depth of your ignorance on this subject is matched only by the height of your hysteria. Getting your information from Christopher Busby, as you appear to do from your cesium remark and obsession with “internal dose”, will lead you a very long way astray.

      On the off-chance that you will read an information-based response, there is no plutonium or strontium in the environment due to Fukushima, certainly not in amounts that are distinguishable above the pre-existing trace background from nuclear weapons tests. The radioiodine that did come from Fukushima has all decayed away. Cesium is the remaining detectable contaminant of the reactor accident – Cs-134 and Cs-137. These are not strongly accumulative in the body, so living in an environment with traces of these will not result in ever-higher body rate of cesium. The cesium will reach a rather low level and stay there and diminish. The amount will be less than the radioactivity that your body normally and naturally carries. Your DNA repair proesses – which cope with millions of oxidative breaks every day – will continue to cope without issue. Whether these effects are due to radiation from cosmic rays, radon (breathed in), potassium-40 (ingested), carbon-14 (incorporated into every cell of your body), or cesium, is irrelevant.

      As I say, the cesium is in minute trace amounts – far too low to have any effect other than triggering a radiation counter. Certainly way, way too low to have any effect through their chemistry, as I have heard Busby claim.

      The tragedy in Japan was that thousands and thousands of people were killed by a tsunami. The auxiliary idiocy of closing down safe working power stations to further stress the economy and the people remains beyond belief.

  2. Steve Darden Post author

    Joffan, I am in your debt for taking the time to write an accurate, very educational reply to Janick’s confusion. We have guests aboard, so I would not have a chance to reply for a couple of weeks.

    Thank you.

    Do you have a preferred book or article that you recommend to people to initiate their learning about radiation and nuclear fission?

    Our current favorite introduction to both climate change and energy policy is Stanford University nuclear physicist and Nobel laureate Burton Richter’s 2010 book: Beyond Smoke and Mirrors: Climate Change and Energy in the 21st Century. It is very accessible to the non-technical reader, and balanced in the presentation of energy policy options. Dr. Richter calls energy-policy winners and losers as he sees them, and has a real talent for making the complex understandable.

    1. Joffan

      Thanks for the book recommend. I guess that Gwyneth Cravens’ book “Power to Save the World” is probably the most approachable. I also like “Radiation and Reason” by Wade Allison, among a whole suite of possibilities.


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