I made a transcript of Dr. David Brenner’s remarks to study them in more detail.
Dr Brenner seems to have contradictory views, or at least he isn’t careful to distinguish between the “good” science he refers us to and his own personal beliefs.
Eg: When answering Chris Mooney’s question about the World Health Organization “low end estimate” of the number of deaths Chernobyl has caused or ultimately will cause, i.e. was it “valid”, Dr. Brenner gave a long answer that at one point included this: “the bottom line is we don’t have enough science to really come down on one side or the other”. Chris had said he’s heard 6,000 dead from Chernobyl and up to 1,000,000, and again, Dr. Brenner pronounced himself “agnostic” on the question as to which was number was correct, which is in line with the “we don’t have enough science to… [take] ...one side or the other”.
But read the first thing he said in the interview: “I do believe that in fact there is no level of exposure to radiation that we can say is absolutely safe, in that the risk is zero”. He is taking a side. “I think the more likely scenario is that the lower the dose the lower the risk, the higher the dose the higher the risk. But the risk never becomes zero…”. And again, not much further into the interview he says “its not good science to say no risk”.
Now it may be that its not good science to say no risk, but given what he’s told us about what good science is, i.e. we don’t have enough of it to say one way or the other, it can’t be good science to take the position that there is a tiny risk even with the tiniest exposure. If we don’t have enough science, it can’t be good science to say that we do.
I think Dr. Brenner should have started out the interview saying something more precise, like “we don’t know what happens, but because our best assessment of all the evidence we have indicates we can’t rule out harm at very low levels of exposure, we assume, for regulatory purposes, that there is harm.
When asked about TMI, Chernobyl, and Fukushima, he could say the same thing, instead of subtly varying what he said.
Eg TMI had him saying “I suspect there probably was [implying: harm to someone], but I don’t think it was in any way detectable”. Chernobyl had him say [implying: in comparison to TMI] “so there we know there were health consequences [implying: as opposed to none at TMI]. Over Chernobyl he noted “the epidemiological studies have not been done so… ...we have to rely on estimates”, but he followed that a bit later with “you can’t answer it with population studies”, so why complain the studies weren’t done when trying to come up with a figure for dead people that is a calculation based on an assumption rather than on studies? Chernobyl again, “I don’t think its been resolved yet”. Because he started with the “agnostic” line as to 6,000 or 1,000,000 he seem to have left his answer hanging there, but its clear he would agree that we can’t rule out millions will die or have died because of the first statement he made at the top of the show, i.e. any level of radiation causes harm. He’s in the 1,000,000 dead camp, although he avoided spelling it out for you. And he isn’t in the 1,000,000 dead camp, but he sure was crystal clear about low risk causing low levels of harm at the top of the show.
I call that a contradiction.
And for Fukushima he seemed clear “we don’t have enough science” to say what will happen. Yet whatever tiny release came out of TMI, applied to the entire world population, its hard to see why no one died. But he really didn’t want to say that, preferring to say studies would not show harm, but we know that. It seems he’s just trying to make his position sound better. We know studies don’t show the 1,000,000 dead people - only the LNT hypothesis Dr. Brenner says he believes allows us to calculate those 1,000,000 dead people. No one can find them.
I’m researching this topic.
So far, I’d say the very good simple way to describe what the situation is, is found in the Government Accountability Office report entitled “Radiation Standards: Scientific Basis Inconclusive EPA and NRC disagree” done in 2000. Although the title almost says it all, here are some bits of sentences: “US regulatory standards to protect the public… lack a conclusively verified scientific basis, according to a consensus of recognized scientists. In the absence of more conclusive data, scientists have assumed that even the smallest radiation exposure carries a risk. This assumption (called the ‘linear, no threshold hypothesis, or model’) extrapolates better verified high-level radiation effects to lower, less well-verified levels and is the preferred theoretical basis for the current US radiation standards. However this assumption is controversial among many scientists…. The research evidence is especially lacking at regulated public exposure levels - levels of 100 millirem a year and below from human generated sources.” - GAO/RCED-00-152 Radiation Standards.
The situation doesn’t seem to have materially changed.
I posted the transcript of Dr. Brenner’s remarks on this show here http://blowhardwindbag.blogspot.com/2011/04/transcript-of-point-of-inquiry.html