NAS began the study in 2010, and completed the first phase in 2012. The next phase had been underway for about three years when it was halted. The study was to have been an update to a 1990 review conducted by the National Cancer Institute, which analyzed cancer death rates in areas near 52 nuclear plants. That study concluded that there was no increased risk of cancer for people living close to the nuclear facilities.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has decided to scrap a study it hired the National Academy of Science (NAS) to conduct, examining the link between cancer and several nuclear sites. NRC research director Brian Sheron explained the reasoning in a statement released Tuesday, saying “We’re balancing the desire to provide updated answers on cancer risk with our responsibility to use congressionally-provided funds as wisely as possible.” The first part of the study cost the agency $1.5 million, with the NAS projecting the remaining portion of the investigation would cost roughly $8 million in total and take up to 10 years to complete. The NRC decided to halt the study in August, which it detailed in its statement. The nuclear facilities that were to be investigated were located in California, Illinois, New Jersey, Michigan, two facilities in Connecticut, and a nuclear fuel plant in Tennessee.
NAS began the study in 2010, and completed the first phase in 2012. The next phase had been underway for about three years when it was halted. The study was to have been an update to a 1990 review conducted by the National Cancer Institute, which analyzed cancer death rates in areas near 52 nuclear plants. That study concluded that there was no increased risk of cancer for people living close to the nuclear facilities. Instead of continuing with the NAS investigation, the agency will rely on the 1990 study along with the routine testing it conducts on plants throughout the country; however leaving open the lower-cost option of commissioning an update to the National Cancer Institute study. NRC Spokesperson Scott Burnell reiterated the NRC’s position in a public radio interview following Tuesday’s disclosure, “Even when nuclear power plants do have controlled and monitored releases into the environment, you end up with potential doses to the public that are so low, it’s very difficult to assign an increase in risk from these very small doses.”
The decision to scrap the study based on financial costs does not sit well with some environmental activists. Lisa Gunter, spokesperson for Beyond Nuclear, an anti-nuclear activist group, calls the $8 million price tag a “drop in the bucket,” noting that the NRC has an annual budget over $1 billion. Gunter said “It smells wrong. It doesn’t seem like a credible answer.” In a tweet following the NRC’s announcement, the agency wrote,
“ #Nuclear regulator cans cancer study. Budget excuse not credible. They know they’d find leukemia in kids. Coverup.”-BEYOND NUCLEAR
Local politician, Daniel Steward of Waterford, Connecticut, home of one of the six facilities that were to have been studied, said that cancer worries rank high among residents who live near the area’s Millstone Power Station, which is owned by Dominion Resources. Steward said about the specter of cancer in the area, “It’s almost like you’re chasing something, and we’re not sure exactly what.” A 2001 study of another closed nuclear site roughly 30 miles away from Waterford showed sources of radioactive materials to be “are so low as to be negligible.” Still it should be noted that residents within a 10-mile radius of the Millstone plant are given potassium iodine tablets by emergency management officials to reduce the risk of thyroid cancer in the event of an emergency release of radioactive iodine into the atmosphere by the plant.
The Hill – Timothy Cama
WNPR – Leyda Quast
Yahoo/Associated Press – Stephen Singer