]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]        REPLY TO A.V. NERO            [[[[[[[[[[[[
                          By Sysop                    (1/23/90)

    [After the Health Physics Society reprinted an old piece from
ACCESS TO ENERGY ("On naked imbeciles" comparing the emission 
limits at the boundary of a nuclear plant with EPA's remedial 
level of radon-infested homes), A.V. Nero of the Lawrence 
Livermore Lab, an antinuke who measures radon levels in the US,
wrote a letter with personal attacks on me, claiming that I had 
an axe to grind, calling me St. Petr, and making the analogy that 
when a car weighs 1,000 lbs it is not overweight because it is 
not human.
    His letter and my reply appeared in the HPS Newsletter, 
January 1990. I have my own letter on disk from my word 
processor, but not, of course, Nero's, and I don't have the time 
or inclination to retype out his letter by hand, so below I just 
give my reply.]

[Reply to A.V. Nero's letter]

   What, pray, might be the ax that I am twice accused of
grinding? If it is my insistence on consistency, then I can see
why Nero is getting shrill instead of keeping to the issue.

    His oft-repeated joke of the 2,000 lb overweight car is very
funny; but it becomes hilarious when one realizes that it has not 
the tiniest connection whatsoever with the issue. The threat, 
ionizing radiation, and the target, the human body, is the same. 
The level at which this threat is DEEMED DANGEROUS should 
therefore be the same also, and no amount of Nero's splendid 
footwork around this simple point can obscure the fact that the 
government has a double standard for the danger level in the 
whopping ratio of 80 : 1. Nero's trailblazing criterion of risk 
by outside agent vs. risk controllable by an individual (as 
distinct from the established criterion of whether the risk is 
voluntary, which it is not for radon) is a brilliant milestone in
legal philosophy. It says that the dose of morphine an individual 
can safely inject in himself is 80 times higher than a licensed 
physician considers safe and is allowed to administer.
     Two air changes per hour is considered adequate; by whom? he 
sneers. By the EPA, among others. Its publication RADON REDUCTION 
METHODS (1986) claims reductions as high as 90% "for 0.25 ach to 
2 ach." He should not shrink from an occasional visit to the 
library; lots of people do it. However, more respectable and less 
politicized figures than the EPA use the same rule of thumb; 
Prof. B.L. Cohen, for example, though Nero presumably considers 
him, too, "smacking of Inhaber, Hurwitz, and the like."
     St. Petr stands accused of touting negative ions as an air
cleaning method; but who is he and when did he tout them? 
Speaking for Petr the uncanonized, I do not tout any such 
methods, for, unlike Nero, I report the news, I do not make it. 
On this occasion I reported on the measured results published by 
Prof. Moller of Harvard, and I see no reason to doubt them, since 
he is a serious scientist who does not seek shortcuts to glory by 
pushing half-baked, panicky theories in the Sunday supplements. 
Nero, who has on several occasions grossly misled his readers on 
nuclear proliferation, wastes and defense, and who has downplayed 
energy conservation as a radon-enhancing effect while stressing 
the effect of heating homes on global warming, hardly makes it
into that category.
     I have written about altering the pressure field below a
home on other occasions; the "omission" in this item was trivial, 
since it was not devoted to a survey of radon countermeasures. 
Yet again I stand accused of grinding an undisclosed, mysterious 
ax and putting down strawmen. There is a good reason why strawmen
weigh so heavily on Nero's mind. He crusades against the "myth of 
an unpenetrable shield against nuclear weapons," a claim akin to 
the claim of impossible nuclear accidents. Nobody ever made 
either claim, and in both cases the myth was rudely manufactured 
by the heroes who then fought it with exemplary valor.
     But omission must surely weigh doubly heavy on Nero's mind;
two of them perhaps more than others. While Nero's popular 
writings scare people with (correct) comparisons of radon and 
Chernobyl, he never breathes a word about hormesis. And worse, 
while he misrepresents the dangers of nuclear power, he studiedly 
omits any comparison with the vastly greater dangers of electric 
power production by any other method. 
     Nero fiddles while coal is burning.

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