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Science of SAMRAI (Or Politics?)

On the September 21, 2015 issue of the New York Times, a science writer George Johnson published an article, "When Radiation Isn’t the Real Risk," which starts with the following phrase: 
     "This spring, four years after the nuclear accident at Fukushima, a small group of scientists met in Tokyo to evaluate the deadly aftermath."

No details are given by George Johnson as to who these scientists are except for Mohan Doss, a medical physicist. It is not clear if this was intentional. Below is some background information on this meeting and the rest of its participants, followed by some interesting facts relating to the potential political ties and the stance (or the lack of stance) of radiation hormesis model in radiation protection. (Note: This post focused on presenting facts on selective aspects of Johnson's ill-written article).


SAMRAI 2014 and SARI

The meeting by “a small group of scientists” referred to by Johnson's RAW DATA article in the September 21, 2015 issue of the New York Times is SAMRAI 2014 sponsored by the Society for Radiation Information and the Legislators' Committee for the Study of the Effects of Radiation. The acronym “SAMRAI” stands for the Scientific Advisory Meeting for Radiation and Accurate Information. This document describes the background and aim of SAMRAI 2014, a joint effort of the Society for Radiation Information and the Scientists for Accurate Radiation Information (SARI), with a strong wish for the recovery of the 20 km zone of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. According to this SARI post, Society of Radiation Information is essentially SARI's Japanese counterpart.

SAMRAI 2014 met in Tokyo on March 24, 2015. Here's the programPresenters included the following five individuals:

June Takada: Professor, Sapporo Medical University; program chair, SAMRAI 2014

Wade Allison: Emeritus Professor of Physics, Oxford University; SARI member
Mohan Doss:  Medical physicist in diagnostic imaging; Associate Professor, Fox Chase Cancer Center; SARI member
Sadao Hattori: Former honorary special advisor at the Central Research Institute for Electric Power Industry (CRIEPI).
Hironobu Nakamura: Radiologist and hormesis advocate, former Professor at Osaka University

Their abstracts are included in this documentRecommendations by SAMRAI 2014 to the Japanese government include return of evacuees to the 20 km zone. 

SAMRAI 2014 was originally scheduled to be held at the Lower House Diet Members’ First Office Building on December 3, 2014 (thus the name SAMRAI 2014 rather than SAMRAI 2015), followed by a press conference by Wade Allison. However, the November 21, 2014 dissolution of the Lower House and subsequent general election necessitated postponement of SAMRAI 2014 as the Lower House Diet Members' First Office Building was unavailable during the election period. Nevertheless, Allison's press conference proceeded as scheduled at the Foreign Correspondence Club of Japan on December 3, 2014.

Potential Political Ties

Further investigation reveals an interesting fact: executive members of the Society for Radiation Information overlap with the membership of a revisionist organization, Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact.

Society for Radiation Information: executive members
Chairman: Shoichi Watanabe
Vice chairman: Hideaki Kase
Vice chairman: Hironobu Nakamura 
Board member: Sadao Hattori
Board member: Jun Takada 
Board member/secretary: Hiromichi Moteki 

Advisors include members of the Legislators’ Committee for the Study of the Effects of Radiation. The first four listed below also belong to a revisionist, right-wing organization, Nippon Kaigi.

Society for Radiation Information: advisors
Takeo Hiranuma 
Yoshitaka Sakurada 
Hirofumi Ryu 
Hiroshi Yamada 
Yuzuru Nishida 

Radiation Hormesis Model in Radiation Protection

As mentioned in Johnson's article, SARI members submitted petitions to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to adopt the radiation hormesis model instead of the linear no-threshold (LNT) model in radiation protection. (Public comments are accepted until November 19, 2015). 

In 1989, Sadao Hattori, a SAMRAI 2014 presenter, was chair of the Hormesis Study Group established at CRIEPI (Central Research Institute for Electric Power Industry), a research center for the Japanese electric power industry. It is not clear when Hattori left CRIEPI. 
Interestingly, in June 2014, CRIEPI released an official statement refuting the use of radiation hormesis in radiation protection, stating:
  • Currently our center is not conducting research on radiation hormesis.
  • Based on the knowledge gained so far, we consider it difficult to generalize the effects of hormesis as the low-dose radiation effects and to incorporate them into the radiation risk assessment.
  • There are some instances where merchandise with hormesis effects are sold with reference to our research results, but our center has nothing to do with it.

  • From the 1990s to the early 2000s, our center conducted studies to verify the effects of radiation hormesis. We elucidated that various hormesis-like effects were induced by low-dose radiation in animal experiments under certain conditions. However, at this time, we consider it difficult to generalize the effects of hormesis as the low-dose radiation effects and incorporate them into the radiation risk assessment mainly for the following two reasons.

    First, many of the radiation hormesis effect verification experiments use animals not in healthy conditions (animals born prone to illnesses or animals with cancer cells transplanted). A special series of experiments like these are used to improve observation of the radiation response since the low-dose radiation effects are extremely difficult to detect. We consider it inappropriate to estimate effects in healthy human from the results obtained from such experiments.

    Second, verification experiments of the radiation hormesis effects limit indices which are being observed. For instance, in research on diseases caused by reactive oxygen, indices related to reactive oxygen are studied: whereas in most cases, indices considered as issues related to general radiation effects, such as lifetime cancer incidence or lifespan changes, are not studied. As the effects of radiation are multifaceted, we believe they should not be determined only by one-sided data.  

    Please keep the above points in mind when viewing past research results of the radiation hormesis effects currently listed on our website. 

    Furthermore, although we consider it difficult to apply the low-dose radiation hormesis effects towards the radiation risk assessment of the public, this does not mean we flatly deny their application to medical fields. However, please beware that our center has nothing to do sales of merchandise claiming radiation hormesis effects based on the results of our research (we will never cooperate with sales activities of specific products).

Lastly, another interesting set of information Johnson might have been unaware of is a series of exchanges, shown as urls below, between SARI members and the authors of the Swiss study, “Background Ionizing Radiation and the Risk of Childhood Cancer: A Census-Based Nationwide Cohort Study.”

The final paragraph in the second response by the authors, shown in the fourth link, sums it up:
     "It seems to us that the 'Scientists for Accurate Radiation Information' a priori exclude the possibility that low-dose radiation could increase the risk of cancer. They will therefore not accept studies that challenge their foregone conclusion."


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