[Excerpt] “The public generally accepts the premise that exposure to radiation can have an undesirable effect. Furthermore, it believes that as the radiation dose increases, the magnitude of the effect will increase. On the other hand, while the background radiation dose varies from a few hundred millirem/year (a few millisieverts/yr) in some places to a few thousand millirem/yr (tens of millisieverts/yr) in others, researchers have been unable to find a correlation between the level of background radiation and incidence of cancer or other maladies attributable to radiation.
Because there is considerable controversy about the relationship between radiation dose and its effects, i.e., the shape of the curve, and because use of the LNT model does lead to standards that can be expensive to meet, national and international organizations periodically review the evidence related to the shape of the curve and issue recommendations on the shape that regulatory agencies should use. The National Council on Radiation Protection (NCRP) released its latest review in June 2001. In its report, the NCRP concluded that there was not sufficient evidence to justify changing from the LNT model to another. The target release date for a report by the National Academy of Sciences on the biological effects of ionizing radiation (BEIR-VII) is October 2003.
The papers in this issue of Pierce Law Review explore the potential impact of the shape of the dose-response curve, if any, on society. This paper focuses on the impact dose response curves have on public acceptance, including nuclear energy. Use of nuclear technology, as is true of almost all technologies, offers benefits to society and presents some problems. Whether society chooses to take advantage of the benefits and deal with the problems or chooses to ban the technology often depends, in large measure, on public acceptance of that technology.
Audeen W. Fentiman, Effects of the Shape of the Radiation Dose-Response Curve on Public Acceptance of Radiation and Nuclear Energy, 1 Pierce L. Rev. 31 (2002), available at http://scholars.unh.edu/unh_lr/vol1/iss1/6