Health risks

Its is well known that exposure to radiation increases your chance of getting cancer.  But scientists are still debating whether or not this applies at very small doses. We are exposed to natural radiation, to radiation from medical procedures, and there is also a significant amount of detectable radiation all over the earth from atomic bomb tests (which were mostly in the Northern hemisphere).  Nuclear power stations also routinely release radiation via various mechanisms (e.g. releases of tritiated steam and condensate).  At Koeberg, this has resulted in radiation levels in groundwater more than 10 times higher than normal [Progress Report # 26 – February 2010 Monitoring Run].

The question is: do we want to add to the levels of radiation we receive by building more reactors, or should we be cautious until we know for sure?

In 2009, Koeberg released over 160% of the Annual Authorised Discharge Quantitiy (AADQ) for the isotope niobium-95, which remains dangerously radioactive for about a year (which is 10 half lives). Iron-59 was also accidentally released into the air, at over 360% the AADQ.  Iron-59 remains dangerously radioactive for over a year.

Research seems to indicate [New England Journal of Medicine] that exposure to multiple risk factors resulted in a very significant increase in leukaemia in children.  Do we want to add exposure to this low level of radiation released from nuclear power stations to the risk factors our children are exposed to?

The following published research papers also seem to indicate that there may be a link between cancer and nuclear power stations:

  1. Leukemia in young children living in the vicinity of German nuclear power plants. Int J Cancer. 2008; 1220:721-726 …living within a 5km radius of the power plant exhaust stacks were more than twice as likely to develop leukaemia…KiKK study – Kaatsch P, Spix C, Schultze-Rath R, et al.
  2. …a statistically significant rate of leukemia in children less than nine years of age.   Baker PJ, Hoel DG. Meta-analysis of standardized incidence and mortality rates of childhood leukemia in proximity to nuclear facilities. Eur J Cancer Care. 2007:16:355-363
  3.  A review of children and young adults living near 198 nuclear sites in 10 countries consistent with above studies.  Laurier D, Jacob S, Bernier MO, et al. Epidemiological studies of leukemia in children and young adults around nuclear facilities: A critical review. Rad Prot Dosim. 2008; 132:182- 190
  4.  Infant death and childhood cancer reductions after nuclear plant closings in the United States.Arch Environ Health. 2002 Jan-Feb;57(1):23-31. Strontium-90 levels in local milk declined sharply after closings, as did deaths among infants who had lived downwind and within 64 km of each plant. Mangano JJ, Gould JM, Sternglass EJ, Sherman JD, Brown J, McDonnell W
  5. The so called ‘Tooth fairy’ study concluded that “It is likely that, 40 years after large-scale atmospheric atomic bomb tests ended, much of the current in-body radioactivity represents nuclear reactor emissions.”.
  6. Added Dec 2013: This is a 2013 study which confirms the link between radioactive Iodine exposure and hypothyroidism


3 responses to “Health risks

  1. This is very good adivce.Rod: Don’t know the source of the detailed account of Chernobyl to which you are referring. I’m sure you’ve done a lot more reading than I have, but one source I found very useful is Bernard Cohen’s book: ‘The Nuclear Energy Option’. Chapter 7 is ‘THE CHERNOBYL ACCIDENT — CAN IT HAPPEN HERE?’. That chapter describes in detail some good old human bungling and incompetence. Reply

  2. Thanks Shahbaj. That book painstakingly describes how a Chernobyl type accident could never happen outside of Russia, due to peculiarities of the Russian graphite moderator design. Then came the Fukushima multiple meltdowns… That shows that at least some statements in this book are plain wrong.

  3. Yes, well, my advice is, whatever the experts say, to live as FAR away from any nuclear reactors as possible. Great post with researched studies, thanks. Now how can we bring this to the attention of the decision-makers (Zuma et al), witnessed, so they have to admit to having known about this info. You know, like a registered letter. Maybe we can shame them into doing the right thing for their country, its people and its future.

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