Controversy of LNT Model

As was written, today the protection system is based on the LNT-hypothesis, which is a conservative model used in radiation protection to estimate the health effects from small radiation doses. The LNT model is recommended by the ICRP and accepted by most radiation protection authorities in the world. It must be emphasized, conservativeness of this model has enormous consequences and a number of organisations disagree with using the linear no-threshold model to estimate risk from environmental and occupational low-level radiation exposure. This model is excellent for setting up a protection system for all use of ionizing radiation. This model assumes, that there is no threshold point and risk increases linearly with a dose, i.e. the LNT model implies that there is no safe dose of ionizing radiation. If this linear model is correct, then natural background radiation is the most hazardous source of radiation to general public health, followed by medical imaging as a close second.

LNT Model and Hormesis Model
Alternative assumptions for the extrapolation of the cancer risk vs. radiation dose to low-dose levels, given a known risk at a high dose: LNT model, and hormesis model.

In case of low doses, its conservativeness has enormous consequences and the model is sometimes wrongly (perhaps intentionally) used to quantify the cancerous effect of collective doses of low-level radioactive contaminations. A linear dose-effect curve makes it possible to use collective doses to calculate the detrimental effects to an irradiated population. It is also argued that LNT model had caused an irrational fear of radiation, since every microsievert can be converted to the probability of cancer induction, however small this probability is. For example, if ten million people receives an effective dose of 0.1 µSv (an equivalent of eating one banana), then the collective dose will be S = 1 Sv. Does it mean there is 5.5% chance of developing cancer for one person due to eating banana? Note that, for high doses one sievert represents a 5.5% chance of developing cancer.

Problem of this model is that it neglects a number of defence biological processes that may be crucial at low doses. The research during the last two decades is very interesting and show that small doses of radiation given at a low dose rate stimulate the defense mechanisms. Therefore the LNT model is not universally accepted with some proposing an adaptive dose–response relationship where low doses are protective and high doses are detrimental. Many studies have contradicted the LNT model and many of these have shown adaptive response to low dose radiation resulting in reduced mutations and cancers. This phenomenon is known as radiation hormesis.




Radiation Protection:

  1. Knoll, Glenn F., Radiation Detection and Measurement 4th Edition, Wiley, 8/2010. ISBN-13: 978-0470131480.
  2. Stabin, Michael G., Radiation Protection and Dosimetry: An Introduction to Health Physics, Springer, 10/2010. ISBN-13: 978-1441923912.
  3. Martin, James E., Physics for Radiation Protection 3rd Edition, Wiley-VCH, 4/2013. ISBN-13: 978-3527411764.
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Nuclear and Reactor Physics:

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  7. Robert Reed Burn, Introduction to Nuclear Reactor Operation, 1988.
  8. U.S. Department of Energy, Nuclear Physics and Reactor Theory. DOE Fundamentals Handbook, Volume 1 and 2. January 1993.
  9. Paul Reuss, Neutron Physics. EDP Sciences, 2008. ISBN: 978-2759800414.

See above: