Low-dose radiation: April report release for public comment


The National Academies hosted what was most likely the last of seven virtual public meetings examining how to move forward on low-dose radiation research. Video of the two-day meeting is available. At the meeting, public members pointed out conflicts of interest of the chairman, Joe W. Gray, PhD, who failed to state publicly that he worked for a DOE-funded laboratory for 20 years before moving to the Knight Cancer Institute, and that he may still be employed by this lab at Berkeley.

The public also pointed to a White House report issued by the Subcommittee on Physical Sciences, Committee on Science, of the National Science and Technology Council, that clearly states a priority of any low-dose research should be establishment of a threshold for radiation exposure because it could save a lot of money on cleaning up radioactive legacy sites, like those that manufactured the atomic bomb. There is no threshold for damage from radiation exposure, especially for the lifestages of pregnancy and childhood.

The NAS committee will be releasing a report for public review this April. The public will have 15 days to submit comments. Beyond Nuclear and others will be carefully watching for the report’s release.

To NAS’s credit, the October public meeting featured powerful and important presentations by downwinder and other communities affected by nuclear technologies including atomic veterans, Native Americans, and independent scientists working with these groups.

These groups have now submitted two sets of recommendations (also signed by Beyond Nuclear) to NAS. The first letter stresses that NAS’s final report include, among other items, acknowledgment of the significant harm and persisting risks to nuclear workers and the public caused by government and industry support and use of nuclear technologies; acknowledgement of the larger ethical question of people’s right to a safe environment; and acceptance that future research on low-dose issues should be community-driven and -overseen.

The second letter gave examples of best practices for community driven research, which will be important to follow for any future research on low-dose radiation impact.

The meetings began in late July 2021. You can see videos of past public meetings. This study is sponsored by the Department of Energy, which has previously funded such research, despite past official decisions that limited its research into human radiation exposures due to its lack of transparency, inadequate record-keeping, and willful exposure of humans to radioactivity without their knowledge or consent — for research purposes.

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