Axiom or postulate (in mathematics): a proposition that is not and cannot be proven within the system based on them. Axioms define and delimit the realm of analysis. In other words, an axiom is a logical statement that is assumed to be true. Therefore, its truth is taken for granted within the particular domain of analysis, and serves as a starting point for deducing and inferring other (theory and domain dependent) truths. An axiom is defined as a mathematical statement that is accepted as being true without a mathematical proof. (Wikipedia)
Can I assume (that word again!) that Dr Looi made no assumptions in his medical practice? That it was based on incontrovertible and unchangeable truths? Dr Looi is perfectly aware that clinical medicine, more than most sciences, is very pragmatic and often entails (unavoidably) decisionmaking in situations of uncertainty.
Let's recall that obstetric X-rays were assumed to be safe by the medical and scientific community until the 1950s, when Professor Alice Stewart (Oxford) raised the alarm with her findings of increased risk of childhood leukemia. These findings were initially also dismissed as a fringe minority opinion (by Sir Richard Doll, no less, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford), but her persistence eventually saw them incorporated into mainstream medical practice.
Dr Looi was rather nonchalant in describing the risks posed by Thorotrast exposure, another unfortunate instance of unwitting human experimentation. Here’s an abstract from a June 2008 report of a long term follow-up study of German patients subjected to Thorotrast between 1930 and 1950 (European J Cancer) :
Thorotrast was the brand name of a stabilised colloidal solution of thorium dioxide which was used preferentially as an X-ray contrast medium for arteriography between 1930 and 1950. The administration of the medium led to lifelong chronic α-particle irradiation by thorium decay products, mainly in the organs of deposition. Several epidemiological follow-up studies were set up after recognition of these side-effects among which the German study was the largest. After an extended follow-up, by 2004 only nine out of 2326 originally exposed subjects were still alive (while 151 of the comparison group, which originally numbered 1890 subjects, survived) and partially more than 70 years observation and chronic exposure time could be studied allowing for further observations to be made about long-term mortality effects of Thorotrast exposure. Median life-expectancy was shortened by 14 years and mortality increased, affecting total mortality SMR = 287 for males, SMR = 387 for females) as well as cause-specific, especially liver cancer (SMR = 16,695 and SMR = 12,680, respectively), and the haematopoietic system (SMR = 556 and SMR = 504, respectively), but not lung cancer. Mortality (total and selected cause-specific) increased with cumulative time since first exposure.
i.e. the liver cancer mortality rate among Thorotrast-exposed males was 167 times the rate among German males in the general population; for females, it was 127 times.
What these episodes teach us is that when technical experts disagree among themselves (as they did in the CERRIE expert panel on internal emitters), the precautionary principle becomes even more important.
In this situation of uncertainty, IAEA, AELB, and Lynas are taking the precautionary principle rather lightly with regards to LAMP, in contrast to California for instance, where Molycorp must comply with a zero liquid wastes discharge requirement despite the limited solubility of thorium compounds in most circumstances; or in Germany, where the popular will has obliged Angela Merkel to phase out nuclear power plants even as scientists and researchers continue to lock horns over the unexplained excess of childhood leukemias in the vicinity of nuclear power plants and nuclear reprocessing facilities (see below).
A quick response to Ng Ai Soo (?): I’m referring to macroscopic radioactive particles (e.g. thorium-containing dusts), not to a radioactive atomic nucleus nor sub-atomic particles. You have also assumed that the doubling of leukemia risk for children living within 5km of a nuclear power plant in Germany (KiKK 2008) and in France (Geocap 2012) couldn’t possibly have been due to ionising radiation (including internal emissions). That’s what mainstream medical opinion (in retrospect, hubris) assumed about obstetric X-rays and Thorotrast imaging. Dr Ian Fairlie, who headed the scientific secretariat of CERRIE, has attempted to marshal some evidence in support of a hypothesis of teratogenic effects of ionising radiation on the developing embryo or foetus:
Notwithstanding Busby's controversial persona, the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) accepts that Busby raises legitimate and important scientific issues (regarding internal emitters), even as they disagree with his opinions and conclusions in these matters.
In my comments I have tried to avoid ad hominem (personal) attacks and to engage solely with the scientific/technical merits of the arguments, whatever the credentials and personal or other motivations of my contenders might be. In that same spirit, I have viewed these 2 videos of an exchange between Busby and Jack Valentin, scientific secretary emeritus of ICRP (hosted by Swedish environmentalists):