Theater of Cruelty

Nuclear scares from No to the EU


No to the EU's Gullbjørg Røisli and Ole Ø. Kvalheim responds in Ny tid on November 4 to my post "Lammer Lem No-league?" from 14 October. Both claim that I have ridiculed Tine Larsen and Røisli. They do not address what was my main concern – No to the EU's reflex reactions to Steinar Lem's doubtful EU yes. My criticism is of No to the EU's unwillingness to take up the debate on how Norway can have a better environmental policy, and inability to enter into a fact-oriented debate.

I still believe that No to the EU has a long way to go. Røisli and Kvalheim's contributions are confusingly similar in their discussion and understanding of the directive that has been the subject of our debate: Euratom Directive 96/29 – 'Establishing basic safety standards for the protection of the health of workers and the general public against the dangers posed by associated with ionizing radiation ». Both are stubborn about their misunderstanding that the EU allows nuclear waste to be mixed into consumer goods. How they can get this out of a reading of the relevant directive is a mystery to me.

Both refer to Section 4, Article 6 of the Directive to substantiate their claims. By cutting the following paragraphs, they make it appear as if the EU is putting economic and societal concerns ahead of health and safety: "Member States shall ensure that any new classes or types of practices which cause exposure to ionizing radiation before they are first adopted or first approved are justified by their economic, societal or other benefits in relation to the health damage they may cause."

Their further analysis is probably based on a misunderstanding of the following paragraphs of Article 4.1: "All Member States shall require prior authorization for the following practices, except as otherwise provided for in this Article: (…) (c) the deliberate addition of radioactive substances in the production and manufacture of consumables and the import or export of such products". They seem to overlook Article 13 altogether: "1. The provisions of para. The dosage limits referred to in paragraphs 2 and 3 for individuals in the population must be observed (…); 2. The effective dose limit is 1 mSv per dose. year(…)." No matter what you allow, the limit value of 1 mSv (millisievert) radiation dose per person per year from artificial sources should not be exceeded.

We can not avoid to be exposed to some artificial radiation within a year. Luminescent watches and smoke detectors are examples of consumables containing added radioactive material. Television, computers and tobacco cause radiation when used. A ban on radioactive materials in consumer products would mean that smoke detectors would not be legal. Radiation limits of zero would mean that TVs and cigarettes had to be completely banned. It is therefore quite obvious that certain "economic and social considerations" must be taken into consideration when considering permitting the use of radioactive material.

The size of the radiation doses must also be put into context. The natural background radiation varies globally between 1 and 10 mSv per year per person (UNSCEAR 2000). In Rammar, Iran, the natural background radiation is 260 mSv / year per person. There is no prevalence of cancer in the population of Rammar, but the National Academy of Sciences in the United States still estimates that all ionizing radiation – natural or artificial – will increase the risk of cancer. A dose of 1 mSv per year per person could lead to 1 in 1000 in the population getting cancer. There is great uncertainty in these calculations, but this is the number one bases oneself on in precautionary calculations. That the EU proposes that artificial radiation can give a dose of 1 mSv per year, must based on this be considered a reasonable level – and an improvement from previous rules, which allowed almost 1,7 mSv per year.

The EU also has few common rules for handling nuclear waste. The Euratom Treaty requires nuclear waste to be handled safely and states that the EU may require a Member State to comply with safety requirements. A proposal for a directive (COM 2003 32) with more specific provisions awaits the Council's decision. Currently, decisions are blocked by Finland, Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom. For the time being, it is therefore the responsibility of the Member States to ensure that nuclear waste is handled properly in accordance with international treaties. Therefore, if some Member States should allow nuclear waste to be mixed into consumer goods, then it is something they must be responsible for themselves, towards their own citizens. It is not the EU's fault.

It helps distort the debate when No to the EU uses this type of intimidation propaganda in the EU debate – consciously or unconsciously. Nor does it contribute to any debate about what we must do here in Norway to have a better environmental policy. I take it that this is what Steinar Lem tried, and it is a pity that No to the EU should react so convulsively and unconstructively.

Christer Gulbrandsen holds a master's degree in political science from the University of Oslo, and is a member of SV.

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