Thursday, 11 September 2014

"240 people died as a consequence of the Windscale accident"

I looked into the claim that "240 people died as a consequence of the Windscale fire". I couldn't find any evidence for it.

John Garland said: "The reassessments showed that there was roughly twice the amount than was initially assessed."

This would have also impacted the numbers of cancers that the accident would have caused, said the authors.

Previously, it was thought that the radiation would have eventually led to about 200 cases of cancer, but the new contamination figures suggest it could have caused about 240.

The claim of 240 was made by Rebecca Morelle, a BBC journalist (ref 1). If John Garland made that claim it must've been in ref 2 (unavailable online)

The radioactive fallout at Fukushima Daiichi was 1000 times that of Windscale. No one died from radiation at Fukushima Daiichi. 240 excess cancer deaths due to Windscale looks like a made up number to me. 'Made up', as in extrapolated from a mathematical model. That model being LNT (linear no-threshold) extrapolated to zero. The 240 figure is also reported in a physics newsletter (ref 3). Given the truth of the LNT model is entirely open to dispute, the 240 estimate must also be disputed. 0 looks like a more likely figure to me. LNT is only controversial when it extrapolated to zero. At low radiation levels: there's weak evidence to support LNT, and strong evidence to refute it.

Ref 4 gives a good description of that cause of the fire.

  1. BBC news, Rebecca Morelle
  2. Atmospheric emissions from the Windscale accident of October 1957, Atmos. Environ. 41 3904–20; Garland J A and Wakeford R 2007 DOI: 10.1016/j.atmosenv.2006.12.049
  3. Institute of Physics, Environment Physics Group, Newsletter, Nov 2007
  4. The Windscale reactor accident -- 50 years on, 2007 J. Radiol. Prot. 27 211, doi:10.1088/0952-4746/27/3/E02

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