Committee Examining Radiation Risk of Internal Emitters
The CERRIE Minority Report, which was excluded from the Main Report at a late stage, provides strong biological and epidemiological evidence that current models of hazard from radioactivity inside the human body underestimate risks by at least 100 and possibly up to 1000 times. For the persistent excess of leukaemia in young people in Seascale, near the Sellafield reprocessing plant, COMARE has concluded that “on current knowledge” doses would have been 300 times too small to cause the number of cases observed. However, two Members of the Committee pointed to numbers of other disease anomalies which suggest that the risk estimates are in error by a factor of just that scale. A clear example is the sharp increase in infant leukaemia in several countries after Chernobyl. CERRIE’s Final Report accepts that this would be expected on the basis of the radiation doses to the foetus. It also accepts that the benchmark is up to a 40% increased risk at a dose of 10,000 microsieverts from obstetric X-rays. Doses in Greece were 200 microsieverts but infant leukaemia increased by 160%; in Germany doses were 100 microsieverts and there the increase was 48%; in Wales and Scotland doses were 80 microsieverts and the increase was greater than 200%. The Final Report of CERRIE fails to observe that these data are a serious challenge to the conventional radiation risk model’s fundamental assumption that cancer risk is linear, or strictly proportional to dose.
CERRIE was set up by Michael Meacher in 2001 following representations from LLRC. The remit was to identify areas where consensus could and could not be reached, to explain the reasons for any areas of disagreement and suggest research to resolve them. The Final Report was to be agreed by all members. Two members dissent because while it does identify the existence of disagreements it notably fails to explain them. Large areas of evidence have been misrepresented, for example the post-Chernobyl infant leukaemia referred to above, DNA minisatellite mutation and the Second Event theory of radiation mutagenesis.
The Minority Report contains the letter in which Marion Hill, a widely respected expert in the field of radiation protection standards, resigned from the CERRIE secretariat in February 2003. She alleged that the Chairman and Dr. Ian Fairlie, another member of the Secretariat, were excluding her with serious consequences for bias in the work of the Committee. A Statement by Dr. Paul Dorman, who is still a member of the Secretariat, expresses reservations about his exclusion from the final reporting process, about whether the Committee has fulfilled its remit and about the impact of legal threats on Members’ preparedness to accommodate scientific dissent.
There is section of “Defining Questions” posed by Green Audit at the outset to facilitate debate and crystallise views. Most Committee members provided answers early in the discussions and these are reproduced (Appendix 2). The Committee later drew back from this technique and voted to exclude it from the Final Report. As a result the Committee had no clear procedure to identify Members’ views, nor the balance of views – these were interpreted by the secretariat.
Two Russian Academicians who attended CERRIE’s three-day workshop in Oxford in July 2003 said there were thousands of studies in Russian which were relevant to the Committee’s work. They strongly recommended that resources should be devoted to translating at least the abstracts to make them available to a wider scientific audience. This issue has been ignored by the Committee but LLRC has summarised around 100 studies from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and other territories affected by the Chernobyl accident which report a wide range of health effects (Appendix 3). The authors, who include personnel from government ministries, clinics, research institutes and universities, frequently criticise bodies such as WHO, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the European Commission for adhering to ICRP’s modelling and denying the clear association between the observed disease and radioactive pollution.
The Minority Report also contains a brief account (Appendix 4) of an international conference on Chernobyl effects in Kiev in 2001 at which Swiss TV reporters filmed the progress of a cover-up of resolutions passed by the conference.
The authors of the Minority Report believe that the suppression of material which has occupied much of the three year CERRIE process was motivated by fears that, if it were published in an official report, it could precipitate legal challenges to the emissions authorisations without which nuclear reactors cannot function. This could have a significant impact on the future potential for nuclear power.
In July the Final Report was leaked to New Scientist, leading to news media suggesting that CERRIE would report that, due to uncertainty in estimating risk, Plutonium might be 10 times more dangerous than previously thought. In a letter published in New Scientist (14th Sept) a Committee member noted that this was an understatement, since the Final Report identifies multiple uncertainties, some of which cover several orders of magnitudes and none of which can be taken in isolation.
The version of the Final Report addressed by the Minority Report is the draft dated 23rd July 2004, which is close to that adopted at the last meeting 24th June. It is the latest available to LLRC.
In October 2002 the Chairman wrote it would of course be possible for members to have minority reports. A Committee meeting in March 2004 voted unanimously in principle to include a dissenting statement in the Final Report. In May Members voted by 10 to 1 to accept a late draft. The Chairman then asked Departmental lawyers for opinions and in papers provided as the last item of business at the next and final meeting on 24th June 2004 the lawyers advised that Members might be held liable for any libels or “negligent misstatements” the dissenting statement might contain. The Chairman had previously made references to “offensive material” and “potential libels” but had identified no specific points despite repeated requests from LLRC. No valid criticisms were ever identified.
The motion to exclude the Dissenting Statement alleged that it did not adequately identify the grounds of dissent from the Main Report. This topic had been discussed at previous meetings and was resurrected at the last moment (i.e. after discussion of the legal opinions) by Dr. Philip Day, the Friends of the Earth nominee, Peter Roche (Greenpeace), Professor Jack Simmons (academic) and Professor Eric Wright (academic). The Chairman did not allow discussion. The vote was 5 in favour (the 4 proposers plus Dr Richard Wakeford of BNFL) 2 against (Richard Bramhall, LLRC and Dr Chris Busby, Green Audit) 2 abstentions (Dr Colin Muirhead and Dr John Harrison, NRPB). 2 Members were absent (Professor Sarah Darby, academic, and Dr Roger Cox, NRPB).
The Minority Report is available at £25 + £2 / €30 Euro + €5 / $30 US dollars + $8.00 . Students and campaigners can apply for copies at a concessionary price of £15.00.