Nuclear Industry Opposes Cancer Study that Includes San Onofre Power Plant

Friday, October 26, 2012
Lindsey Schiller and her family lived next to the Limerick Generating Station nuclear plant for a decade (photo: CNN)

Twenty years after a federal study found no cancer danger to people living near nuclear power plants, a new study is being launched at seven facilities, including one at California’s San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station between San Diego and Los Angeles.

The pilot study of cancer risk, which will be conducted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the National Academy of Sciences, is expected to be completed by 2014. It will update the 1990 study that the federal government has used as a primary source for assuring the public that there was little, if any, measurable health risks from nuclear plants beyond those presented by accidents and malfunctions.

The study is opposed by the Nuclear Energy Institute, the policy arm of the nuclear industry. “In our view, the report recommends an epidemiological study that will likely involve an outlay of significant resources without much expectation for a meaningful outcome in regard to advancing the scientific understanding of potential risks,” Ralph L. Andersen, a senior director at the institute, has said.

The NRC says the study will cost approximately $2 million.

The study could be extended to all 65 U.S. nuclear power plants. About 1 million people live within five miles of nuclear facilities and more than 45 million are within 30 miles.

Independent studies in Germany and France have raised serious questions about the general health effects of producing electricity using radioactive uranium. Their studies showed that children living near nuclear plants were twice as likely to develop leukemia.  

The San Onofre plant has been closed since January, when radioactive steam leaked from damaged tubes.

The seven sites include six reactors and Nuclear Fuel Services in Erwin, Tennessee, which makes fuel for the Navy. The five plants other than San Onofre are: Connecticut's Millstone Power Station in Waterford and a decommissioned plant in Haddam Neck; Dresden Nuclear Power Station in Morris, Illinois; a decommissioned plant in Charlevoix, Michigan; and Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in Forked River, New Jersey.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Cancer Risks Studied Near 7 US Nuclear Sites (by Stephen Singer, Associated Press)

U.S. to Study Cancer Risks near 6 Nuclear Plants (by Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times)

Links Between Childhood Leukemia and Nuclear Power Plant Radiation (Ecologist)

NRC Sponsoring National Academy of Sciences Effort to Carry out Pilot of Cancer Risk Study (U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Agency) (pdf)

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