Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering

NRE 8011/8012 and MP 6011/6012 Seminar

Nuclear & Radiological Engineering and Medical Physics Programs


Sociopolitical influences on Risk Acceptance of the Nuclear Industry


Mr. Michael Stafford, CHP


Director, Nuclear and Radiological Protection Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory


Thursday, November 18, 2021 at 11:00:00 AM   Add to Calendar


https://bluejeans.com/704416174/2338 Building


Nolan Hertel


The beginning of the atomic age at the conclusion of WWII provided a grim introduction to the harmful effects of radiation. It was well established that radiation induced cancer was occurring in the affected Japanese populations, and it became important for scientists to develop a process for quantifying and assessing radiation-related risks. Sociopolitical pressures existed at opposite ends of the spectrum. The US political agenda was in favor of exploiting the “peaceful uses” of nuclear energy, whereas there were sceptics in the scientific community, concerned about radiation induced mutations. It was believed that a “single hit” of ionizing radiation would result in a mutation. In 1955, the National Academy of Sciences commissioned the Biological Effects of Atomic Radiation (BEAR) study to settle the controversy between the two positions: the idea that any additional radiation slightly above background levels is “harmless” versus the idea that radiation effects are additive to background levels in causing cancers or mutations that may be passed on to offspring. The BEAR Genetics Panel convinced the committee to adopt the position that “radiation-induced mutations” follow a linear dose response, down to a single ionization event. This “single hit” hypothesis later became known as the linear non-threshold (LNT) dose response model that has stirred controversy ever since. Edward J. Calabrese, University of Massachusetts, has researched the origin of the LNT component of the BEAR study and found several disturbing developments, including the suppression of scientific data that would have threatened the validity of the LNT model. The prospects for a nuclear solution to global climate change are hanging in the balance of delivering a realistic perspective of radiation risk that will influence broader sociopolitical risk acceptance.


Current Director, Nuclear & Radiological Protection Division (NRPD), UT-Battelle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The ORNL research mission incorporates a diverse array of high hazard nuclear facilities, high energy particle accelerators, research/production reactor, and User Facilities to serve the national and international scientific communities. The responsible line manager for ensuring that Nuclear Safety, Criticality Safety, Accelerator Safety, and Occupational Radiological Protection staff and programs effectively support the advancement of the ORNL Nuclear Mission. Also serves as a Crisis Manager for the ORNL Emergency Operations Center. Member of the Battelle Operations Committee for the Idaho National Laboratory Battelle Energy Alliance for over 10 years. Received Bachelor of Engineering, B.S.E. (Environmental Engineering) and Master of Engineering, M.E. degrees from University of Florida, 1983. Studied under the direction of Dr. Emmett Bolch, and Drs. Chuck and Genevieve Roessler. Plenary Member of the Health Physics Society since 1981 and Certified Health Physicist since 1990.