Wolfgang Weiss, UNSCEAR, Germany

“Every amount of radiation can cause cancer”

Wolfgang Weiss is a member of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) and was its chairperson in 2011 and 2012. Until his retirement in 2014, the physicist was head of the Department of Radiation Protection and Health of the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection.

“You don’t have to pass any threshold to enter the danger zone of radioactive radiation. This means that even the smallest amount of radiation can cause cancer. But even if we must assume this, we still can't prove that a disease in question has anything to do with the low exposure to artificial radiation that someone received in his or her lifetime. We are all exposed to a natural background radiation, which can sometimes be higher and other times lower. When you add an artificial source of radiation, for example as a result of a nuclear accident, it increases the risk of developing cancer. But it's only when this radiation exceeds a certain level that can we actually measure this risk in the form of increased hospital admissions. Anything below that disappears in a statistical noise. This means that we no longer can make reliable statements about whether a connection actually exists. In Fukushima, a young mother asked me if it’s dangerous for her small child to live in a zone now declared safe. She had planned to move to a different part of the country. There, the natural background radiation is higher than in Fukushima after the nuclear disaster, and therefore the risk greater of developing cancer. I could only provide the woman with advice from a statistical perspective when it came to her child’s risk of cancer. But this of course doesn’t go far enough. It’s much more important to explain to people how they should deal with these risks. This could mean not eating mushrooms or not residing in certain areas.”

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Founded in 2012, the Association for Sustainable Journalism on the Internet is committed to high-quality, independent on-line journalism that stands the test of time. The association promotes and runs journalistic websites dedicated to topics that are hardly covered any more in conventional media. Its members include journalists, photographers, designers and web designers.

Pressbüro Seegrund, which was founded in 1989, is firmly established in the media landscape. Its focus is on feature reports, reportage and non-fiction books. It has launched a number of online magazines in recent years including www.alpenmagazin.org, www.mangel-und-moral.org, and the latest creation: www.mensch-und-atom.org.


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Martin Arnold, freelance journalist, author and media entrepreneur for the past 30 years
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Without provoking or causing a scandal, www.society-and-the-atom.org wants to shake things up a bit by encouraging society to reflect on a subject that affects all of us: nuclear power. It is a subject that polarises, turning opponents and supporters into ideologues. And it is a subject that divides the informed and the uninformed in a way that creates intentional and unintentional dependencies. Against the background of the current debates on the 'energy transition', we want to contribute a critical discussion for all those who want to more know about nuclear power. And we want to do our bit to overcome the deep ideological divide that separates supporters and opponents. When it comes to this subject, the truth very quickly becomes relative – or is made relative. You move around in an area where experts, opinion makers, ideologues, affected persons, victims, lobbyists, politicians and world saviours jostle against each other. Everyone should be able to have their say, to tell their truth. The truth of the radiation victims as well as that of the power plant operators, the supporters and the opponents. The second objective of the book is to explore the many facets of truth – and remain receptive to all those who want to make it comfortable for us.

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