The core issue is that, world-wide, over 60 epidemiological studies have examined cancer incidences in children near nuclear power plants (NPPs): most (>70%) indicate leukemia increases.
I can think of no other area of toxicology (eg asbestos, lead, smoking) with so many studies, and with such clear associations as those between NPPs and child leukemias.
Yet many nuclear Governments and the nuclear industry refute these findings and continue to resist their implications. It’s similar to the situations with cigarette smoking in the 1960s and with man-made global warming nowadays.
In early 2009, the debate was partly rekindled by the renowned KiKK study (Kaatsch et al, 2008) commissioned by the German Government which found a 60% increase in total cancers and 120% increase in leukemias among children under 5 yrs old living within 5 km of all German NPPs.
This table reveals a highly statistically significant 37% increase in childhood leukemias within 5 km of almost all NPPs in the UK, Germany, France and Switzerland.
It’s perhaps not surprising that the latter 3 countries have announced nuclear phaseouts and withdrawals. It is only the UK government that remains in denial.
So the matter is now beyond question, ie there’s a very clear association between increased child leukemias and proximity to NPPs. The remaining question is its cause(s).
Observed risk 10,000 times greater than it’s meant to be
Most people worry about radioactive emissions and direct radiation from the NPPs, however any theory involving radiation has a major difficulty to overcome, and that is how to account for the large (~10,000 fold) discrepancy between official dose estimates from NPP emissions and the clearly-observed increased risks.
My explanation does involve radiation. It stems from KiKK’s principal finding that the increased incidences of infant and child leukemias were closely associated with proximity to the NPP chimneys.
It also stems from KiKK’s observation that the increased solid cancers were mostly “embryonal”, ie babies were born either with solid cancers or with pre-cancerous tissues which, after birth, developed into full-blown tumours: this actually happens with leukemia as well.
My explanation has five main elements:
First, the cancer increases may be due to radiation exposures from NPP emissions to air.
Second, large annual spikes in NPP emissions may result in increased dose rates to populations within 5 km of NPPs.
Third, the observed cancers may arise in utero in pregnant women.
Fourth, both the doses and their risks to embryos and to fetuses may be greater than current estimate.
And fifth, pre-natal blood-forming cells in bone marrow may be unusually radiosensitive.
Together these five factors offer a possible explanation for the discrepancy between estimated radiation doses from NPP releases and the risks observed by the KIKK study. These factors are discussed in considerable detail in the full article.
No errors or omissions have been pointed out
My article in fact shows that the current discrepancy can be explained. The leukemia increases observed by KiKK and by many other studies may arise in utero as a result of embryonal / fetal exposures to incorporated radionuclides from NPP radioactive emissions.
Very large emission spikes from NPPs might produce a pre-leukemic clone, and after birth a second radiation hit might transform a few of these clones into full-blown leukemia cells.
The affected babies are born pre-leukemic (which is invisible) and the full leukemias are only diagnosed within the first few years after birth.
To date, no letters to the editor have been received pointing out errors or omissions in this article.