Resource Guide: Radiation


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
  • Infographics
  • 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 || Radiation Graphics || Video || Books || Experts || Online Resources || Other Related Organizations

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.

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 Control’s Primer on Radiation Measurement)
  • What are the relative health impacts of radiation exposure? (see the Nuclear Regulatory Agency’s “Radiation and Its Health Effects”)
  • What are common sources of radiation exposure? (see the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Radiation Doses in Perspective”)
  • Is it healthy to live near a nuclear power plant? (hear directly from local communities in the Heritage Foundation’s “Living Near Nuclear” short film)
  • Is it safe to work at a nuclear power plant? (see the “Limiting Exposure” section of the World Nuclear Association’s “Nuclear Radiation and Health Effects”)

Radiation Graphics

Associated Press Infographic

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.

Video

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 action’s to take in Fukushima.” Watch “Fukushima and Chernobyl: Myth and Reality” (English/Japanese).
  • CBS’s 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:

Books

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.

Experts

A collection of leading experts in the field of nuclear energy and radiation science are listed below. Excerpts are from official bios.

John Boice
“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 Dallas
“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
“Richard Morin is a Researcher at Mayo Clinic and Chairman of American College of
Radiology Radiation Safety Committee.”

David Spiegelhalter
“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.”

Online Resources

Websites and other online resources that will help you delve deeper into the field of nuclear energy are listed below.

American Nuclear Society

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Health Physics Society

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

National Council on Radiation Protection & Measurements

National Institute of Radiological Sciences (Japan)

Nuclear Energy Institute

Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

Radiation Answers.org

 Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF)

Radiation Epidemiology Branch, National Cancer Institute (NCI)

SENES Oak Ridge, Inc.- Center for Risk Analysis

United Kingdom Health Protection Authority

U.S. Department of Agriculture

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency–Radiation

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR)

World Health Organization

World Nuclear Association

Other Related Organizations