Permissible Dose

Permissible Dose: A History of Radiation Protection in the Twentieth Century

J. Samuel Walker
Copyright Date: 2000
Edition: 1
Pages: 189
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pprpn
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Permissible Dose
    Book Description:

    How much radiation is too much? J. Samuel Walker examines the evolution, over more than a hundred years, of radiation protection standards and efforts to ensure radiation safety for nuclear workers and for the general public. The risks of radiation—caused by fallout from nuclear bomb testing, exposure from medical or manufacturing procedures, effluents from nuclear power, or radioactivity from other sources—have aroused more sustained controversy and public fear than any other comparable industrial or environmental hazard. Walker clarifies the entire radiation debate, showing that permissible dose levels are a key to the principles and practices that have prevailed in the field of radiation protection since the 1930s, and to their highly charged political and scientific history as well.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92484-0
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. LIST OF FIGURES
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
    J. Samuel Walker
  5. CHAPTER ONE The Discovery of Radiation and Its Hazards
    (pp. 1-28)

    During a period of several decades after the German physicist Wilhelm Konrad Roentgen discovered x-rays in 1895, radiation evolved from a source of public fascination and scientific acclaim to a source of widespread public fear and scientific controversy. Roentgen’s discovery, highlighted by an image of the bones of his wife’s left hand and her wedding ring, created a wave of excitement. Newspapers and magazines gave it headline treatment, dozens of books and hundreds of technical articles rapidly appeared, and department stores provided demonstrations to attract customers. TheJournal of the American Medical Associationreported in 1896 that “the surgeons of...

  6. CHAPTER TWO The Debate over Nuclear Power and Radiation
    (pp. 29-66)

    The fallout controversy of the 1950s and early 1960s largely disappeared as a prominent public policy issue after the Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963. But many questions about the consequences of fallout remained unresolved, and the debate left a legacy of ongoing scientific inquiry and latent public anxiety about the health effects of low-level radiation. Those fears, and acrimonious scientific dissension, were rekindled in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This time the major issue was the hazards of radioactive effluents released from nuclear power plants. The Atomic Energy Commission, which the 1954 Atomic Energy Act had made responsible...

  7. CHAPTER THREE The Role of Federal Agencies in Radiation Protection
    (pp. 67-90)

    While the AEC and, after its abolition, the NRC were trying to decide on a “practicable” and then a “reasonably achievable” level of radiation emissions from nuclear power plants, they were also engaged in a bureaucratic battle with the Environmental Protection Agency over jurisdictional boundaries on radiation safety. The roles of the AEC/NRC and EPA in protecting the public from the radiation hazards of nuclear power generated sometimes sharp differences. The importance of the issue was magnified by the energy crisis of the mid-1970s, which made increasing energy supplies a major national goal that often conflicted with the objective of...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR New Controversies, New Standards
    (pp. 91-128)

    During the late 1970s and early 1980s the publication of several studies on the effects of low-level radiation, increasing fears about the long-term consequences of exposure to fallout from nuclear bomb testing, a serious accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania, and a new BEIR report rekindled scientific debate and public concern about radiation. As always, the evidence was too fragmentary to be conclusive, and scientists disagreed sharply about its meaning. In an atmosphere of continuing controversy and unavoidable uncertainty, both EPA and the NRC undertook major revisions of their regulations on radiation protection. Both incorporated...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE The Ambiguities of Radiation Effects
    (pp. 129-156)

    As debates continued over exposure limits that would protect public health from radiation hazards, new studies on the nature and severity of those hazards appeared. A series of reports published in the 1980s and 1990s prompted a reexamination of prevailing views but yielded no definitive conclusions. They provided a confusing and sometimes contradictory variety of assessments of the risks of exposure to low-level radiation. While researchers presented new information on radiation, the subject remained a source of prominent media attention. It also, from all evidence, remained a cause of acute public fears that exceeded those raised by other environmental or...

  10. Essay on Sources
    (pp. 157-160)
  11. Index
    (pp. 161-168)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 169-170)