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He who pays the piper calls the tune.

We live in a bizarre world of previously only imagined "Newspeak" (Orwell 1949) in which the meaning of concepts can be redefined into their antonyms under the eyes of an editor--when a scientist who is employed by a large multinational nuclear technology corporation (BNFL) claims in all seriousness to have no conflict of interest when expressing his opinion in an exchange of letters (Wakeford 2003). The contested issue is what constitutes a valid scientific basis for estimates of radiation risk, which establishes legal rights to compensation for possibly radiation-related detriment among nuclear workers, lf the nuclear workers are BNFL (British Nuclear Fuels, Ltd.) employees, the decision whether or not such compensation should be paid by the company would likely be based on scientific advice from the in-house expert, Richard Wakeford.

In a creative twist of logic, this clear conflict of interest is purportedly erased by the fact that the author published a paper in which he "argues for a non-zero risk of cancer at low doses of radiation."

Who pays whom to avoid paying whom?

The author declares he has no competing financial interests.


Orwell G. 1949. Nineteen Eighty-Four. Reprint, New York-London:Chelsea House, 1987.

Wakeford R 2003. Use of A-Bomb Survivor Studies as a Basis for Nuclear Worker Compensation [Letter]. Environ Health Perspect 111:A268-A269.

Rudi H. Nussbaum

Professor Emeritus of Physics and Environmental Sciences

Portland State University

Portland, Oregon


Does "he who pays the piper" really call the tune: Wakeford's response

I respect Nussbaum's right to an opinion, but his letter is misleading. First, I clearly used the address of my employer in my letter and provided a statement addressing what might be considered a conflict of interest. Second, my letter (Wakeford 2003) was in response to one by Wing and Richardson (2002) that incorrectly claimed that an excess risk of childhood cancer was not experienced by the Japanese atomic bomb survivors who were irradiated in utero, citing in support a paper that I coauthored (Doll and Wakeford 1997). Third, if Nussbaum contests the conclusions my academic coauthors and I have published in the scientific literature (Doll and Wakeford 1997; Wakeford and Little 2003), he should explain why. Fourth, BNFL (British Nuclear Fuels) and almost all of the other major employers in the U.K. nuclear industry operate a voluntary compensation program jointly with the relevant labor unions (Wakeford et at. 1998). The technical basis of this program is agreed upon between the employer and employee representatives, both advised by their respective experts, lf Nussbaum's views were accepted by the scientific community, undoubtedly, they would be seriously considered by these experts.

Nussbaum would better serve science by engaging the issues addressed in my papers.

The author declares a competing financial interest because he is an employee of BNFL, but the views he expresses here are not necessarily those of his employer.


Doll R, Wakeford R. 1997 Risk of childhood cancer from fetal irradiation Br J Radiol 70:130-139.

Wakeford R. 2003. Re: "Use of A-bomb survivor studies as a basis for nuclear worker compensation" [Letter]. Environ Health Perspect 111:A268-A269.

Wakeford R, Little MP. 2003. Risk coefficients for childhood cancer after intrauterine irradiation: a review. Int J Radiat Biol 79:293-309.

Wakeford R, Antell BA, Leigh WJ. 1998. A review of probability of causation and its use in a compensation scheme for nuclear industry workers in the United Kingdom. Health Phys 74:1-9.

Wing S, Richardson D. 2002. Use of A-bomb survivor studies as a basis for nuclear worker compensation [Letter]. Environ Health Perspect 110:A739.

Richard Wakeford


Daresbury, Warrington, United Kingdom

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Title Annotation:Correspondence
Author:Nussbaum, Rudi H.
Publication:Environmental Health Perspectives
Date:Dec 1, 2003
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