By John W. Gofman, M.D., Ph.D. Professor Emeritus, Molecular and Cell Biology, U.C. Berkeley March 9, 1996

Forget it, if you are thinking about having a real evaluation, from the radiation establishment, of the human cost of the Chernobyl Blow-Up at this 10th anniversary (or ever). The monolithic nuclear/radiation "community" cannot afford to provide a meaningful analysis of the radiation consequences. Life, for this monolith, requires the lowest possible death consequences of Chernobyl. And the reason that a real evaluation is absent is not because it is too early in the follow-up to know. Nor does the reason have anything to do with cold wars, with Communism, or other 'isms'. Those enterprises (military or civilian) which deliver ionizing radiation to people, anywhere in the world, share the common goal of underestimating the health-hazard of ionizing radiation. Thus, the military enterprises, the nuclear power enterprises, and the medical radiation enterprises (x-rays and "nuclear medicine") share a common endeavor.

Does one ever hear part of the truth? Yes, on some occasions. For example, when one has a massive source of locally-concentrated radiation exposure, such as that caused by mountainous releases of radio-iodine in parts of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine, the pathway from grass to cow to milk to human thyroid gland creates very high radiation exposure of that particular gland, especially in children. By now, even the best apologists for the nuclear power enterprises are admitting the thyroid cancer-rate in some of those regions is already 100 times the normal rate. The many hundreds of observed radioiodine-induced thyroid cancers will increase with time, but will be a much smaller number than all other Chernobyl-induced cancers which will ultimately occur -- without detection.

A Million Chernobyl-Induced Cancers

My estimate in 1986, based upon releases of various non-iodine radionuclides, was 475,000 fatal cancers plus about an equal number of additional non-fatal cases, occurring over time both inside and outside the ex-Soviet Union [1]. Such estimates, old and new, have to be based on real-world evidence from non-Chernobyl studies -- because standard epidemiological studies (which "count" extra cancer cases) are the wrong tool for evaluating Chernobyl. No one can "see" even a half-million Chernobyl-induced cancers when they are spread among a half-billion people and occur over a century.

There is great "beauty" in this situation, from the viewpoint of radiation enthusiasts. They can sponsor studies from which they can announce, "We didn't find a half-million extra cancers -- we didn't find any provable excess at all."

If a half-million people were rounded up in a stadium and shot to death, the corpses would be there to see. The same number of people killed by vicious cancers from Chernobyl -- spread out in time over Europe, Britain, Scandinavia, and the ex-USSR -- will never know what killed them. And assuredly the radiation community won't tell them. Then how can we assure you that the cancers are real?

No Safe (Risk-Free) Dose of Ionizing Radiation

In 1986 [2], and more definitively in 1990 [3], we provided proof that there cannot be a threshold dose (safe dose) of ionizing radiation with respect to cancer causation. Resolution of the "safe dose" issue means everything, as to the true cost of exposure to nuclear pollution and to other sources of ionizing radiation (such as medical x-rays). My proof has been confirmed. The United Nations and British radiation committees have recently published (1993, 1995) conclusions nearly identical with my analysis of 1990. [4] No safe (risk-free) dose.

This means that you cannot have a Chernobyl accident without having Chernobyl-induced cancers. And when a lot of people receive extra radiation exposure, the aggregate number of radiation-induced cancers over time can be very large -- even though each individual's personal risk is very small. [5]

Something Even Bigger Than Chernobyl

Chernobyl is not alone as a killer. We have been killing people with radiation for the past 100 years. I refer to the over-use of radium and medical x-rays ever since Roentgen's 1895 discovery of the x-ray. In 1995, I published the finding that about 75% of recent breast-cancers in the USA were caused by earlier medical exposures to radiation [6]. The radiation "authorities" have, of course, criticized my work with their rhetoric, since they are unable to refute the work otherwise. And more recently, I am extending my estimate of causation to include the majority of most types of cancer in both women and men [7]. This makes even Chernobyl small by comparison.

"But we are not interested in radiation-induced cancers from X-Rays!" is the bizarre reaction from some members of our nuclear-age peace movement. Sadly, the misery of unnecessary cancer is the same, whether the cause is Chernobyl, Hiroshima, Hanford, or careless overdosing by medical x-rays. Indeed, from equal radiation doses, medical x-rays are twice as carcinogenic as gamma and beta radiation from Chernobyl and Hiroshima.

Footnotes & References:

By John W. Gofman Biographical Information:

Informant: NHNE


Chernobyl may have killed 1000 British babies - UN accused of ignoring 500,000 Chernobyl deaths


Speaking of Rapacholi...

Interesting post and has relevance as suggesting above background level of ionising radiation exposure is tolerabale and even possibly "beneficial" has been mooted for a long time.

I am including a few links for those that might be interested in a certain "maverick" Dr John Gofman who in various interviews gives very detailed and knowledgeable facts on the issue.

His involvement in the Manhattan project entailed obtaining 1 milligram of plutonium from a ton of uranium. Very much hands on researcher

panayis zambellis luton

Two drunks

Realise this isn't masts, but the culprits and techniques are from the same stable. The supposed 'gulf' between ionising and non-ionising radiation is a handy distraction as far as health is concerned. Much of the illness generating capabilities increasingly look the same, just that non-ionising takes longer.


From llrc.

Horizon: Nuclear Nightmares. BBC Two, 9.00 p.m. Thursday 13th July (United Kingdom)

A lot of people have, understandably, been outraged at the advance spin on this documentary (see, e.g. Monday's 10th July Times,,2-2263204.html).

The programme apparently will offer up as "new" (The Times says) the idea that there is a threshold dose below which radiation doesn't cause harm. We read that it "may even be beneficial" and that "Evidence … has convinced experts that the risks of radiation follow a much more complex pattern than predicted."

We certainly agree that dose/response curves are complex. The reason for the complexity is that more than 50 years ago the American National Committee on Radiological Protection adopted a grossly simplistic concept of "dose" as an average of energy deposited into body tissue. This model was based on external irradiation, with which they were familiar since it was what they had been dealing with for decades in the search for adequate standards for regulating X-rays. It wasn't too difficult to extend that simple physics-based model to the external irradiation from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs, and it was convenient to assume that radioactivity inside the body could be understood as if it were external — an approach which fails to account properly for the huge variations in energy distribution from different kinds of radioactivity.

Even in 1952 Karl Z. Morgan, who was responsible for the NCRP sub-committee on internal radioactivity, refused to agree that internal could be dealt with like external. His sub-committee was closed down and for the rest of his life he was a critic of the NCRP and its successor the International Commission on Radiological Protection – "I feel like a father who is ashamed of his children." All this happened before the structure of DNA was discovered and long before biological responses like genomic instability, the bystander effect and microinflammation were even suspected. For these reasons all competent authorities now recognise that for many internal exposures "dose" is a virtually meaningless term, so it is irritating to see propaganda like The Times report still using it; inhaled particles of reactor fuel cannot be compared with chest X-rays. One size does not fit all.

It is appalling to see WHO denying the reality of life post-Chernobyl, but we must bear in mind that their minds are clouded by the ICRP dose/risk model and by the International Atomic Energy Agency's power of vetoing any WHO research on radiation and health. In their crazed world the risk model predicts no discernible health impact because doses (whatever "dose" may mean) from Chernobyl fallout were too small — a maximum of twice natural background. When there is an all-too-observable impact (e.g. 30% increase in cancer in Belarus in ten post-Chernobyl years or a similar increase in northern Sweden) they say it must be caused by something else rather than inferring that the risk model is wrong. Their science and their epidemiology are like two drunks holding each other up — a temporary marvel!.

For an alternative view see and the European Committee on Radiation Risk's volume Chernobyl: 20 Years On. ECRR has summarised thousands of Ukrainian, Belarusian and Russian studies. Scientists and clinicians in those regions are reporting a melt-down in human health. Studies of animals and plants show genetic defects transmitted over 22 generations, although plants don't suffer from radiophobia. There is a flyer on

In 2004 LLRC summarised about 100 of these Russian language studies for the CERRIE Minority Report: they are on our site at

The BBC documentary "Nuclear Nightmares" looks as if it will be propaganda intended to soften us up for a new round of nuclear power stations. We have raised this with the series producer and we shall be watching to see if the programme or the series complies with the rules of the Office of Communications. Rule 5.5. says "Due impartiality on matters of political or industrial controversy and matters relating to current public policy must be preserved […] This may be achieved within a programme or over a series of programmes taken as a whole."

We have obtained calculations of the health impact of replacing the present nuclear power generating capacity with new nuclear build. These are based on the ECRR's 2003 Recommendations and will be the subject of a separate circular.

We don't feel worried by the UK Government's announcement today. Nuclear power stations cannot operate without discharge licences, but the scientific debate over radiation risk has reached such a point that any decision to emit radioactivity will be subject to legal challenge. That's the point at which the drunks will hit the pavement.

11 July 06

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