Article Review (1): Radiation exposure and the LNT model

Summary written by Jenna Alsaleh for discussion on 8/30/16:

“Is a Little Dose of Radiation So Bad?” – John Emshwiller and Gary Fields

This article discusses the controversy over the linear no-threshold (LNT) model, which states that any amount of radiation increases someone’s cancer risk. Some scientists, such as Dr. Carol Marcus, believe that the LNT model is a huge scandal and should be abandoned by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Dr. Marcus and her colleagues are begging that the NRC go back to the thinking before the 60’s which constituted that below a certain level, radiation wasn’t at all harmful to humans. Many other scientists, such as those at the Environmental Protection Agency suggest that there isn’t enough evidence to assert that a certain level of radiation will not be harmful to the public. The public’s fear of radiation because of the LNT model is also another point of debate that both sides use in order to defend their ideals. Despite arguments from both sides, however, those in opposition of the LNT model are currently going up against what appears to be an uphill battle in trying to persuade the NRC of changing legislation.

One thought on “Article Review (1): Radiation exposure and the LNT model

  1. In today’s class discussion we discussed the logistics of the LNT model, why eliminating the LNT model would save money, the theories regarding the effects of radiation as well as why more research done on radiation effects hasn’t already been done or why it is an issue to do radiation studies. The discussion started with a simple question on whether or not the LNT model should be tossed. One student suggested that more research needed to be done in order to determine a definitive answer while another student posed a question on why eliminating the LNT model would help save money. The general consensus from this discussion was that the removal of the LNT model would require less clean-ups as a result of ‘radiation spills’. This in the long-term would save money. the class then delved into more questions regarding the kind of radiation that requires cleaning up, with decaying radioactivity being the major problem here. The result of this conversation showed students that the real question is “how much radiation is too much?”. Thus stemmed the overarching questions: Why remove the LNT model and why isn’t more research conducted on the matter? Possible benefits of radiation could be seen in hormesis, but even this benefit requires….wait for it….more research! So why, the students pondered, aren’t we researching it more? Public fear! We are a society of the public and our history with the cold war, Fukushima, and nuclear warfare has struck terror in the people, proposed one student, which makes it extremely difficult for congress to pass bills allowing more funding to go into radiation research. Another student said that the people who really deal with radiation levels that are at higher levels are aware of the dangers and have protocols to prevent its damage, so it doesn’t strike as too much of a problem for them. All in all, the students had an in-depth look at one of the biggest debates within the Nuclear Radiation Commission currently and discovered there’s just too much unknown to make an accurate suggestion on whether the NRC should abandon the LNT model quite yet. Even if the LNT model is wrong, maybe it should be abolished based on new discoveries rather than current speculation and little research. Perhaps that would be the best way to persuade the NRC.

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