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Horizon investigates the real dangers of radiation


Category: Factual & Arts TV

Date: 11.07.2006
Printable version


For the last 50 years the world has lived in fear of radiation. Hiroshima, Nagasaki and accidents at nuclear power stations struck terror in people everywhere - but Horizon: Nuclear Nightmares has uncovered evidence to suggest these fears could be unfounded.

 

Horizon: Nuclear Nightmares (BBC TWO, Thursday 13 July 2006) speaks to a number of scientists who are asking whether we need to think again about the dangers of radiation as there is evidence to suggest that there is a threshold below which radiation may be harmless - or even beneficial.

 

The programme examines in detail the aftermath of the ultimate nuclear nightmare - the explosion and fire 20 years ago at Chernobyl Reactor number four.

 

The results of the investigation are astonishing. In the aftermath of Chernobyl experts predicted tens of thousands of deaths from cancer.

 

Yet, when the authoritative UN Chernobyl Forum report - compiled by scientists from organisations such as the WHO - was published late last year it put the total death toll from the accident at just 59.

 

Fifty workers in the plant died from acute radiation sickness and so far only nine cases of cancer can be attributed to the accident.

 

This is a huge discrepancy between prediction and reality.

 

Those predictions were based on a theory called the Linear no threshold (LNT) model.

 

This model was derived by studying the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who received huge radiation doses; yet there is almost no data to support the model at the sort of levels of radiation exposure caused by Chernobyl.

 

The LNT model is, the experts admit, little more than an informed guess.

 

Horizon's investigation has turned up evidence to suggest that there is a threshold below which radiation may be harmless.

 

There are many places on Earth where the natural background radiation is tens or even hundreds of times higher than in the Chernobyl exclusion zone.

 

Yet studies of populations who live in these natural radiation hot spots have consistently failed to find any negative health consequences.

 

The programme also reports on the scientific experiments that suggest that a little radiation may even protect against cancer by stimulating the body's natural cancer defences. These ideas are controversial.

 

What is accepted by all the experts Horizon talked to is that for the victims of Chernobyl the real problem is not radiation - but radiophobia, the fear of radiation, which has caused acute psychological trauma.

 

Could we all find ourselves victims of radiophobia, as we fight shy of a technology which may be vital in the fight to save our civilisation from the effects of global warming?

 

Horizon: Nuclear Nightmares, Thursday 13 July 2006, BBC TWO, 9.00pm

 

CD2

 

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Category: Factual & Arts TV

Date: 11.07.2006
Printable version

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