Nuclear power offers the increasingly important benefit of emission-free energy. As with many energy technologies, it also comes with risks. Accidents at nuclear sites have released radiation into the environment, but the health effects are often misunderstood. Forum on Energy has compiled a Radiation Resource Guide to provide comprehensive information and foster a clearer understanding of the realities, risks, and benefits of radiation.
The Radiation Resource Guide identifies the best online resources from more than 40 national and international organizations. The guide also includes:
- Accurate news coverage
- Educational videos
- Recently published books
- List of experts in the field
Forum on Energy invites you to explore the guide and empower yourself to make informed judgments about nuclear power and news stories about radiation. Click through the sections below to learn more:
Radiation in the News
On May 30, Forum on Energy reported on a story about traces of radioactivity from Japan being found in tuna off the coast of California. Scientists concluded the radiation level was trivial and represented 30 times less radiation than the naturally occurring levels in the fish. Some media coverage, however, portrayed the story in a different light. Headlines such as Serving Tuna with a Geiger Counter from OregonLive.com on June 2 can leave readers with an incorrect impression about the health implications.
A recent study by the World Health Organization assessed radiation exposures in Japan following the Fukushima accident. A May 24 Los Angeles Times article, Japan radiation report finds mostly low doses; risks unclear, reviewed the study, which found doses to be lower than expected in some areas and higher than expected in others. These studies and corresponding news coverage can often be very technical and leave you with a number of questions. For example:
- What is a sievert? A becquerel? A curie? (see the Center for Disease Controls Primer on Radiation Measurement)
- What are the relative health impacts of radiation exposure? (see the Nuclear Regulatory Agencys Radiation and Its Health Effects)
- What are common sources of radiation exposure? (see the Environmental Protection Agencys Radiation Doses in Perspective)
- Is it healthy to live near a nuclear power plant? (hear directly from local communities in the Heritage Foundations Living Near Nuclear short film)
- Is it safe to work at a nuclear power plant? (see the Limiting Exposure section of the World Nuclear Associations Nuclear Radiation and Health Effects)
Check out these interesting visualizations that tell us more about radiation.
- The Associated Press (via CBSNews.com) offers an interactive graphic that demonstrates the cumulative effects of radiation, and compares them to the effects of everyday activities like a 10-hour airplane flight and a chest X-ray. From the piece: The health effects from radiation are cumulative. While radiation is above natural levels in some part of Japan, it would take a long time to match the dose received from many everyday activities. Scroll to the middle of the page and click on Radiation Fears to see the relevant portion of the graphic.
- The blog XKCD published a Radiation Dose Chart, which offers a comprehensive comparison of everyday exposure, Chernobyl, and Fukushima.
Below is a collection of some of the more accurate, useful and informative videos on radiation from various sources.
- What is Radiation — a great video from Heritage’s Powering American series
- In a video from the World Nuclear Association (WNA), three international experts elaborate on the radiation effects after Chernobyl and the actions to take in Fukushima. Watch Fukushima and Chernobyl: Myth and Reality (English/Japanese).
- CBSs Chris Wragge looks at the question, Can radiation from Japan reach the West Coast?
- The Heritage Foundation released Powering America, a film that pulls back the curtain on nuclear energy to reveal uranium mining and milling in Canada; new construction and operating plants in the United States and nuclear waste processing activities in France.
- The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education has a series called “Understanding Radiation,” which includes the following videos:
We offer some recommended reading for those interested in learning more about radiation.
Nuclear Energy: What Everyone Needs to Know
by Charles Ferguson
Charles D. Ferguson provides an authoritative account of the key facts about nuclear energy.
The Rise of Nuclear Fear
by Spencer Weart
Building on his classic, Nuclear Fear, Weart follows nuclear imagery from its origins in the symbolism of medieval alchemy to its appearance in film and fiction. Long before nuclear fission was discovered, fantasies of the destroyed planet, the transforming ray, and the white city of the future took root in the popular imagination.
A Field Guide to Radiation
by Wayne Biddle
To be published July 31, 2012
A comprehensive and accessible guide to understanding how radiation affects our everyday lives. Nuclear energy, X-rays, radon, cell phones . . . radiation is part of the way we live on a daily basis, and yet the sources and repercussions of our exposure to it remain mysterious.
The Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear Energy
by Gwenyth Cravens
Gwyneth Cravens takes an informed and clarifying look at the myths, the fears, and the truth about nuclear energy.
Understanding Radiation: Natural and Mandmade Sources of Radiation
by D. Kvasnicka of the U.S. Department of Energy
This guide helps to explain the natural sources of radiation all around us, as well as the man-made sources.
Radiation and Modern Life: Fulfilling Marie Curie’s Dream
by Alan E. Waltar
This book reflects on the countless ways that the work of Marie and Pierre Curie has so marvellously enriched our daily lives. Through artful use of vivid anecdotes that give vibrancy to technical explanations, Waltar provides numerous examples of radiation’s many uses in agriculture, medicine, electricity generation, modern industry, transportation, public safety, environmental protection, space exploration, and even archaeology and the arts.
A collection of leading experts in the field of nuclear energy and radiation science are listed below. Excerpts are from official bios.
John Boice is Professor of Medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and President of the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP). NCRP is a non- profit organization that supports the scientific and public aspects of radiation protection through independent analyses by leading scientists throughout the United States.
Cham Edwards Dallas is Professor and Director at the Institute for Health Management & Mass Destruction Defense College of Public Health, University of Georgia. Dr. Dallas has a national/international reputation in toxicology, issues regarding weapons of mass destruction, and mass casualty management.
Dr. Robert DuPont
For more than 40 years, Robert DuPont has been a leader in drug abuse prevention and treatment. A graduate of Emory University, DuPont received an M.D. degree from the Harvard Medical School. He completed his psychiatric training at Harvard and the National Institutes of Health. DuPont maintains an active practice of psychiatry specializing in addiction and the anxiety disorders and has been Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Georgetown University School of Medicine since 1980.
Charles D. Ferguson
Charles D. Ferguson has been the President of the Federation of American Scientists since 2010. Ferguson worked for FAS on nuclear proliferation and arms control issues as a senior research analyst and director of the nuclear policy project.
Richard Morin is a Researcher at Mayo Clinic and Chairman of American College of
Radiology Radiation Safety Committee.
David Spiegelhalter is Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk at the
University of Cambridge. His background is in medical statistics, particularly
the use of Bayesian methods in clinical trials, health technology assessment,
and drug safety.
Websites and other online resources that will help you delve deeper into the field of nuclear energy are listed below.
- Radiation Fact Sheets (CDC Radiation Branch)
- Radiation Dictionary (CDC Radiation Branch)
- Background Radiation (CDC Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry)
- Public Health Statement for Ionizing Radiation (CDC Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry)
- Radiation Dispersal from Japan-Radiation Basics (CDC National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health)
- Radiation Dispersal from Japan-Environmental Radiation Monitoring (CDC National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health)
- NCRP publications on topics related to Fukushima response
- Advising the Public About Radiation Emergencies, National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements, Nov 30, 1994. Made available for free download in response to requests for information following Fukushima.
- Nuclear and Radiological Security and Safety Publications
- Radiation Safety Program-Summary
- Radiation Safety Program-Policy
- Radiation Safety Program-Procedures
- American Association of Physicists in Medicine
- American Cancer Society
- American College of Radiology
- American Society for Radiation Oncology
- Conference of Radiation Control Program Directors
- Federal Emergency Management Agency
- International Agency for Research on Cancer
- International Commission on Non–Ionizing Radiation Protection
- International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP)
- International Commission on Radiation Units and Measurements (ICRU)
- International Radiation Protection Association
- National Cancer Institute
- National Institutes of Health
- NIAID: Medical Countermeasures Against Radiological and Nuclear Threats
- NRSB: Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board
- Radiation Information Network
- Radiation Research Society (RRS)
- Radiological Society of North America
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration