Radiation Protection and Environment

: 2022  |  Volume : 45  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 105--106

What is required to make nuclear power acceptable to public?

MR Iyer 
 Former IAEA Professional & Ex. Head, Radiation Safety Systems Division, BARC, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Correspondence Address:
M R Iyer
Former IAEA Professional & Ex. Head, Radiation Safety Systems Division, BARC, Mumbai, Maharashtra

How to cite this article:
Iyer M R. What is required to make nuclear power acceptable to public?.Radiat Prot Environ 2022;45:105-106

How to cite this URL:
Iyer M R. What is required to make nuclear power acceptable to public?. Radiat Prot Environ [serial online] 2022 [cited 2023 Jun 2 ];45:105-106
Available from: https://www.rpe.org.in/text.asp?2022/45/3/105/377231

Full Text

In the recent Conference on Nuclear Energy at UC College, Aluva, I had occasion to analyze the presentations on public acceptance of nuclear power and the inevitability of nuclear power to prevent global warming that prompted me to collate my impressions on the topic.

In the past I have been expressing my views in whatever forum available on this topic, including the options opened up to me as a member of the advisory committee of Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB).[1]

I have always been of the firm view that as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA) and linear no-threshold (LNT) are major impediments responsible for the public suspicion of nuclear power! Without developing our publicity strategy to be able to assure the public what is safe and what is not safe in plain language without invoking complex jargon and philosophies, it would be counterproductive in our efforts to impress on the public the safety and desirability of nuclear power.

That impression was doubly reconfirmed during my interactions with the antinuclear leaders during my membership of the Kudankulam Expert Group during 2010–2011. I found myself dumbfounded when they posed back with logical reasoning our own much-touted International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) norm that any amount of radiation can be risky and there is no threshold for the ill effects!

That was sufficient to make them rebuff that we ourselves are not sure of the ill effects. It is illogical to expect someone to accept nuclear power while the nuclear regulators base their radiation protection norms based on LNT that “any amount of radiation would induce cancer and even possible genetic aberrations.” Only response you expect from the public would be: “It is better to avoid nuclear power if the nuclear people themselves are not sure.”

Frankly with this ICRP norm, however, high we may eulogize nuclear power to save us from greenhouse gases, we will continue to be on an unsafe bulwark in our attempts to make nuclear power accepted!

Invoking quixotic philosophies and split hair microbiological findings rarely cut ice with public common sense! The expectation to make public accept nuclear power is contradictory with the basic radiation safety norms we had set for the purpose! Earlier we realize this and correct our radiation protection tenets, it is better for the cause of nuclear power!

LNT may be microbiologically correct. However, when we compare the notionally extrapolated linear risk factors, which itself has no scientific basis, with the many thousand-fold higher risk from other agents to which man is exposed, it looks ridiculous to cling on to this concept that is manifestly unfriendly to nuclear power. Even the LNT extrapolated risk for the public dose limits is orders of magnitude lower than that works out for the natural background dose in many locations. We must remember ionization effect from any radiation source is the same including natural background. That is equally ionizing as radiation released from nuclear operations. ICRP may very well make a distinction between the two by arbitrarily qualifying the limits apply only for radiation above the natural background! Prescribing a dose limit that is half the average natural background and orders lower than the natural radiation background in many locations seems to be illogical.

Logic cannot be used to defend that. What we need is a firm dose limit taking into account existence of such natural radiation background where public lives and commensurate with risk factors due to other agents including genetically existing factors. And further to be on the safe side, we add philosophies like ALARA to cap it up! And make the nuclear operators use sensitive detectors to assess that they contribute to only a few percent of the dose limits. And further caution, the public that any amount of radiation could be harmful! This sound completely illogical and contrary to safety philosophies followed in the case of other toxicants. Thus, there is a basic need to strengthen the hands of nuclear operators to assure the public of a safety limit unequivocally and assure anything below is safe as in any other industrial toxicants.

Further, as I have been pointing out that “ALARA dose limitation subject to social and economies considerations” quoted widely in our basic radiation safety codes is still more damaging. Such unquantifiable norms can never be proved to have been met by a nuclear facility if called upon to do so by any judicial agency of the country. Such norms based on social and economic considerations may even be going against our constitution!

I traced the origin of this basic safety tenet of radiation protection to the cold war politics when they wanted to keep the monopoly of nuclear technology from falling in the hands of other countries by portraying a horrifying picture of nuclear radiation! And the radiobiologists who control ICRP were eager to preserve the milking cow for funds for their open-ended low dose radiation research trying to find a needle in a haystack running behind a nonentity! This is the opinion expressed by the American Nuclear Society.

Although everybody agrees with the logic nobody dares to boldly back it up, in spite of epidemiological and radiobiological proof against LNT from HBRAs world over and follow-up of second and third-generation survivors of US bombing of Japan.

Let us hope the days are not far away for International agencies to go away from such highly exaggerated concepts of radiation protection and make it more pragmatic to remove public suspicion of nuclear energy.


1Iyer MR. Is as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA) concept relevant to low-dose exposures? Rad Prot Environ 2021;44:1-2.