What is the greatest challenge humanity faces in this nuclear age?
How do we define security now, in the age of climate change, nuclear energy, and terrorism?
How, as scientists, do we think about time and responsibility in a world with rapidly evolving nuclear technology?
These are some of the questions raised in an article in Newsweek ME that also looks at medical consequences of exposure to low does of radiation. "The truth is," writes Muhammad Riaz Pasha, a nuclear scientist and former advisor to Pakistan's Atomic Energy Commission, "most politicians, businessmen, engineers and nuclear physicists have no innate understanding of radiobiology and the way radiations induce cancer, congenital malformations and genetic diseases which are passed generation to generation."
The effect of low-dose radiation on health is hotly debated among scientists around the globe, though few dwell on the argument proffered by Pasha. "In the nuclear arms race, government doctors and scientists brainwashed the public into believing low dose radiation is not harmful," Pasha states -- an argument that somehow seems unbefitting of a nuclear scientist who presumably has access to the wealth of peer reviewed studies on the health effects of radiation exposure.
While there are some highly dubious and sensationalist claims that greatly hinder the credibility of this article -- "There was no nuclear bomb let of by the Russians it is a hoax!! The Iodine 131 is coming from Fukushima UNIMAGINABLE Nuclear Meltdown Being Covered Up!" being a less extreme example -- it will, no doubt, provide some talking points for future debates on this hotly debated issue.
As discussed in Yoshida's Dilemma, opinions on the health effects of radiation exposure are varied. Imperial College, University of London cancer expert Gerry Thomas says there is no way of proving categorically if low doses of radiation can, or cannot, result in cancers, while Japanese radiation expert and medical doctor Hisako Sakiyama, who was formerly chief researcher at Japan's National Radiological Institute, believes even low doses can result in DNA damage leading to cancer. At the other end of the spectrum is Oxford University Emeritus Professor Wade Allison, who says radiation is less dangerous than fire and that the IAEA-stipulated safe exposure limit of 1 mSv per year is “unjustifiably strict by a factor of 1,000.” In other words, humans could easily withstand an annual radiation exposure of 1,000 mSv or per year.
Scientists such as Allison will be required to justify such statements time and again as the debate goes on and a more accurate picture of the effects of radiation on health emerges. In the interim, scientists could do worse than follow the hippocratic oath that physicians are sworn to ("do no harm"). At times, Pasha seems to border on the alarmist with statements that seem to fly in the face of that ancient pledge. "Fukushima disaster is totally out of control." he writes. "This is a nuclear war without a war. ... Fukushima nuclear facility is a TICKING TIME BOMB."