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Does living near a nuclear plant give children cancer? via Beyond Nuclear International

By Cindy Folkers

 

Nuclear regulators don’t want you to know

More than 60 studies have shown increases of childhood leukemia around nuclear facilities worldwide. Despite this finding, there has never been independent analysis in the US examining connections between childhood cancer and nuclear facilities. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) had tasked the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to conduct such a study, but then withdrew funding, claiming publicly that it would be too expensive.

In fact, documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) process reveal that NRC employees had already determined the study would show no impact. Internal emails indicate that staff was presupposing a conclusion for which they had no evidence, demonstrated by statements like “even if you found something that looked like a relationship [between cancer and radiation], you wouldn’t know what to attribute it to,” and “[m]ost people realize that all the evidence shows you’re not going to find anything.” The evidence, however, had not yet been fully collected and examined.

Not protective and unaccountable

While the NRC claims it protects public health, its radiation exposure standards fail to account fully for:

  • impacts on the placenta
  • impacts on fetal blood forming cells
  • impacts on fetal and embryonic organs
  • estrogenic impacts
  • disproportionate impacts on women
  • genetic impacts past the second generation
  • cumulative damage of repeated radiation exposure

NRC exposure data and modeling is designed to demonstrate compliance with the NRC’s regulations but not to assess health impacts. The NRC has already stated numerous times that it believes low doses of radiation, the kind NRC claims its licensees are allowed to release, pose risks so low that health impacts may not be discernible. We don’t know if NRC’s claims of no discernible or attributable public health impact from nuclear power are actually true since no one has ever looked properly.

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Studies in other countries show association between nuclear facilities and childhood cancer. However, given the demonstrable bias of the US NRC toward low doses having no health impact, it is essential that a US study go forward under the auspices of outside, independent experts, in order to examine what is happening in the US.

Ground-breaking study plans were threat to current health assumptions

Under the original and now canceled study, the NRC had tasked the NAS to use the most advanced methods in order to update the study the NRC currently uses to claim its reactors are safe. That study, published in 1990, had several shortcomings including the way the authors define and examine disease, assumptions about doses, location of cases, and who is examined.

The NAS was considering two study designs, one examining specifically children. This study type, dubbed by one expert as a case-control nested in a cohort, is very similar in basic design to studies conducted in France and Germany, which show increases in childhood leukemia around nuclear power facilities.

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