Examining the Reasons for Ending the Cancer Risk Study

Scott Burnell
Public Affairs Officer

One way NRC regulations protect communities around U.S. nuclear power plants is by requiring the plants to regularly sample air, water, and vegetation around their sites. Results of this sampling are sent to the NRC (and in some cases state agencies) to show only very tiny amounts of radioactive material are released during normal operations.

Even with this scrutiny — and a 1990 study showing no difference in cancer mortality rates between those living near U.S. reactors and those living elsewhere — questions persist about cancer risk from nearby reactors. The NRC had worked with the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) since 2010 on a study into the potential cancer risk of living near a U.S. nuclear power plant. But we ended this work earlier this month after a hard look at the low likelihood of getting usable results in a reasonable time frame.

radiationsymbolWhy are we comfortable that this decision, also driven by our budget situation, is in line with our mission to protect public health and safety?

First and foremost, the staff considered existing conditions around U.S. reactors, as shown by the ongoing environmental sampling and analysis we mentioned earlier. That evidence supports the conclusion that the average U.S. citizen’s annual radiation dose from natural sources, such as radon and cosmic rays, is about a hundred times greater than the largest potential dose from a normally operating reactor.

This information shows how complicated it would be to single out an operating reactor’s potential contribution to cancer risk. Researchers looking for small effects need a very large study population to be confident in their results. The NAS discussed this issue in its report on Phase 1 of the cancer risk study. The NAS said that the effort “may not have adequate statistical power to detect the presumed small increases in cancer risks arising from… monitored and reported releases.”

The NRC staff examined the NAS Phase 2 report plans to validate the methods recommended in Phase 1. The Academy was very clear that the pilot study at seven U.S. sites was unlikely to answer the basic risk question. The NAS proposal said: “any data collected during the pilot study will have limited use for estimating cancer risks in populations near each of the nuclear facilities or for the seven nuclear facilities combined because of the imprecision inherent in estimates from small samples.”

The pilot study would also examine potential differences between individual states’ cancer registries. Large differences in registry quality or accessibility would hurt the study’s chances of generating useful results.

The NAS concluded they would need more than three years and $8 million to complete the pilot study. If the pilot succeeded, expanding the research to all U.S. operating reactors would require additional years and tens of millions of dollars. The NRC decided that in our current budget environment the time and money would not be well spent for the possible lack of useful results.

The NRC agrees with the NAS that the study’s overall approach is scientifically sound. Interested individuals or groups can examine the NAS Phase 1 and 2 reports for a more detailed discussion of the methods and resources needed to conduct the proposed study. The NRC staff will examine international and national studies on cancer risk to see if we should conduct any future work in this area.

Author: Moderator

Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

43 thoughts on “Examining the Reasons for Ending the Cancer Risk Study”

  1. The NRC is not looking out for the public there supporting the nuclear power industry and not doing their job for Public Safety! This should be criminal they should do their job. With nuclear power plants dotted all over the nation the entire population is at risk. The scientific study must be completed. No excuses!

  2. IMO those reactors have been a very good investment in useful infrastructure by our parents generation. Now it is time for us to do even better for our children by investing in modern versions of capable, safe, emission free nuclear power plants. Regarding costs, the cost and risk is already ridiculous for nuclear power, it should be abandoned. Nuclear power is an excuse to generate money for the nuclear energy industry. Current nuclear construction is increasing our power bills. Your comment Mr. Williamson indicates your willingness to sacrifice safety for money savings for the nuclear industry.

  3. It is true that research into the risk of cancer next to nuclear plants is needed, but given the costs outlined of this study is it any surprise that the research has been called off? With budgets like they are, who wouldn’t raise a fuss about these figures? Where would the money be coming from – taken away from another project or program? Hopefully a more cost effective way of treating the research can be developed in the future.

  4. Reply to Mr. Adams reference this statement: [Nuclear Fuel] has yet to cause a single injury, much less an early fatality. Not true, there have been injuries and deaths – http://www.iaea.org/inis/collection/NCLCollectionStore/_Public/27/060/27060437.pdf In most cases the spent nuclear fuel is contained, but not always, particularly when a nuclear reactor has a fuel meltdown due to a loss of cooling water.

    Low level ionizing radiation is damaging – http://www.sc.edu/news/newsarticle.php?nid=5214#.Vih5R5Uo7IV Nuclear workers cancer risk – http://www.unc.edu/news/archives/jun05/wing8061605.htm “Low level ionizing radiation, including background radiation, is a cause of cancer, heritable mutations, and probably other significant health effects.” http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:SZhB_F4KMKAJ:www.psr.org/nuclear-bailout/resources/low-level-ionizing-radiation.doc+&cd=5&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

  5. Here is a larger group whose health problems have been confirmed. “The above numbers of applications filed represent 108,584 unique individual workers.” Atomic Energy workers – http://www.dol.gov/owcp/energy/regs/compliance/weeklystats.htm

    Two other groups whose ill health effects have been confirmed as a result of low level radiation exposures – 1)Tobacco use group, largest cause of lung cancer: http://www3.epa.gov/radtown/tobacco.html#about 2) Radon exposure group: ” Radon (chemical symbol Rn) is an odorless, colorless, radioactive gas. It is the leading cause of lung cancer for U.S. residents who have never smoked.” http://www2.epa.gov/radiation/radionuclide-basics-radon

    Combine the cumulative effects of Radon exposure and Cigarette smoking, you have an example of the effects of compounding two known causes of cancer, both relate to low level ionizing radiation exposures. Combine the cumulative effects of ionizing radiation from the work place, individual exposures due to close proximity of an ionizing radiation source emitting radionuclides or energy sources such as x-ray or gamma, life styles, and radon exposure, the risk of cancer is greatly increased. This reasoning also dispels the radiation hormesis theory which ‘nuclear fanatics’ embrace and is before the NRC in an attempt to change the “no-threshold dose-response relationship between exposure to ionizing radiation and the development of cancer in humans.”

    Radiation safety and health of the populace – Environmental bioaccumulation, cumulative health effects of pollution in communities where nuclear facilities are proposed or currently located are all issues which are not taken into consideration by the NRC regarding whether a nuclear reactor should be licensed or relicensed. The NRC’s main focus is that of economics, not radiation safety as it applies to community health in licensing approvals.

    The NAS study would have interfered with your base value – money flowing into and from the nuclear industry which finances your existence, instead of studies which support radiation safety, human health and life.

  6. The study made many assumptions about a closely monitored population of radiation workers. From this the researchers concluded that there was an association (not a direct cause and effect) between those workers’ doses and the occurrence of leukemia. It would be difficult to try and apply such study results to the general public. The study included more than 300,000 people from several countries. This is an example of the difficulty in assembling a large enough population to study very small health effects.

    Scott Burnell

  7. Upon reading some of the writings within, it is apparent that some supporters of nuclear energy are blinded by the money and fallacy it generates. Purposefully and cleverly attempting to fool the public into believing that ionizing radiation at low levels does not cumulatively destroy cellular life which may or may not be repaired, and in many cases cellular mutations occur which we call cancer.

    How do they do it? The nuclear industry needs a simple restricted belief system, with simple definitions to pawn off on the public contrary to bio-physical fact, a flat earth religious philosophy so to speak based on money; replacing the realities of a complicated bio-physical, factual world. The nuclear way is the right way, radiation hormesis is a fact, low level radiation is helpful, although the facts contradict the radiation hormesis claim. Have the ionizing radiation hormesis claims submitted by nuclear supporters to the NRC, for the purpose of changing the linear no-threshold model (LNT) rule, interfered with the NAS study?

    The proof that radiation hormesis is bunk and that low levels of radiation kills are cigarettes and radon – death from low level ionizing radiation http://www3.epa.gov/radtown/tobacco.html#about

    For all things nuclear, deceit and propaganda is a dangerous place to be, as that is an erosion of the Human Reliability standard and a precursor to a disastrous catastrophe as it breaks the basic laws of scientific reasoning and reporting of factual information.

  8. @Gary Morgan

    “I ask of you Mr. Williamson, please, do not say nuclear power is clean, as it generates tons of highly radioactive nuclear waste. The purpose for the nuclear reactor was and is to furnish materials for nuclear weapons.”

    The total quantity of high level “nuclear waste” (aka reusable nuclear fuel) generated in the US since 1957 is approximately 80,000 tons. That’s certainly “tons of highly radioactive” material, but it is carefully contained and monitored and has yet to cause a single injury, much less an early fatality.

    Shielding is simple and uses robust material (water, lead, concrete, steel) with well understood engineering principles. Exposures are also limited by controlling exposure time and increasing distance from sources.

    The sole reason for developing commercial nuclear reactors is to produce vast quantities of heat that can be turned into useful products like electricity. During the period between 1971-2014, commercial nuclear plants in the US have produced 23.4 billion MWhrs of electricity. If that electricity is valued at a conservative $30 per MWhr, they have produced a vital product worth nearly $750 billion dollars.

    If that electricity had been produced using a combination of coal and natural gas that releases 600 kg CO2/MWhr, there would be an additional 14 billion tons of CO2 in the atmosphere.

    IMO those reactors have been a very good investment in useful infrastructure by our parents generation. Now it is time for us to do even better for our children by investing in modern versions of capable, safe, emission free nuclear power plants.

    Rod Adams
    Publisher, Atomic Insights

  9. Looking at some of the comments, Scott, I don’t envy your job – if acrophobes were as common and as rabid as radiophobes, airliners would be required to taxi from town to town.

  10. Mr. Adams – regarding the bioaccumulation issue. I submit to you evidence from very learned people regarding bioaccumulation. Radionuclides and ionizing radiation do bio-accumulate, Statement – “A federal advisory committee recommends that the lifetime exposure be limited to a person’s age multiplied by 1,000 millirems (example: for a 65-year-old person, 65,000 millirems).” Link – http://news.mit.edu/1994/safe-0105 If there were no concern about the “bio-accumulation” of life time ionizing radiation there would be no need for rules regarding lifetime exposure. Study link about bioaccumulation of radiation in clams http://www.clarku.edu/mtafund/prodlib/hanford/HanfordClamReport.pdf

    Medical use of radiography, quote – “In the mid-’90s the Food and Drug Administration suggested a method for the lifelong recording of X-ray absorbed dose, and as recently as July 2005 the National Academy of Science published their most recent report underscoring the fact that any level of ionizing radiation may have carcinogenic effects.” Note – “..lifelong recording of x-ray absorbed dose…” If there were no concerns about the bioaccumulation of the ionizing radiation, in this case x-rays, there would be no reason to record all lifelong absorbed doses of ionizing radiation. Link – Ionizing Radiation Exposure from Radiologic Imaging: The Issue and What We Can Do http://www1.radmd.com/media/126106/n-o100rev2-radsafety-provider-edu.pdf

    No doubt, there is a concern over the accumulation of radionuclides in our environment. There is no doubt that substances that contain elements or chemical compounds emitting ionizing radiation bio-accumulate in our environment and all living things. As you state, some radionuclides are expelled by natural processes, others decay and no longer pose a threat. However, that does not mean that the biological and physical damage has not been perpetrated upon the cellular structure of the organism, human or other living thing ingesting a radionuclide or exposed to ionizing radiation. The accumulation of damage in a living organism’s cellular structure and the organisms failure to repair damage is bioaccumulation of damage due to toxicity. Ionizing radiation and radiation producing materials are classified as a toxic substance by the CDC: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/substances/toxsubstance.asp?toxid=86 The definition of bioaccumulation is simple – “Bioaccumulation occurs when an organism absorbs a toxic substance at a rate greater than that at which the substance is lost.” It is important to realize that bioaccumulation applies to more than just chemical or elemental substances, it applies to energy which may destroy cellular structure quickly or over a period of time, such as ionizing radiation.

  11. There are no nefarious motives, I do agree with you that it was a mistake to cancel the study.

    Why proceed into areas which attempt to manipulate via attacks? When folks make the ad hominem attack you are surrendering the argument to them, if it is caught. Attacks and fallacy display weakness in a presentation or argument. There are distinct differences between challenges and attacks.

    I have no problems with challenges or arguments regarding any of my comments, I appreciate them, either in agreement or disagreement; it is healthy to have dialogue or argue an issue, it is part of our great American System of responsible speech. Dialogues regarding nuclear issues, particularly in this case, the “Ending of the Cancer Study,” are important as folks may actually learn something.

    I ask you Mr. Hall, since you claim to be a lay person, how do you know what anyone is saying is the truth or not? Yet, you immediately believe and agree with the pro-nuclear side. that is not a logical explanation to anything regarding nuclear matters.

    Thanks for mentioning where I may find the commentary to my posting. It has been my experience if there is a posting which has not been added within it is for reasons that are libelous, unproven allegations or blatant disrespectful comments. Personally, agree or disagree, I appreciate this blogs intent and all who post within, even if I do not agree with the NRC post or a poster’s reply.

  12. “All doses are cumulative”? So, by that theory, if we allow Joe Radworker to get his full federal limit of 5 rem/year for 20 years straight, he will demonstrably suffer the exact same effects as if he got 100 rem in one shot? A potentially lethal dose? Years of study of the workers in the military / shipyards says exactly the opposite. You need to come up with another strawman.

    “…generates tons of highly radioactive nuclear waste.” Yes, and we know exactly where it all is, right there in that pool or in the storage casks out back, inaccessible to Paul Public. The same can’t be said for all the naturally occurring radionuclides going up the stacks of the coal plants, whether it’s burned here or in China. We know how to handle waste.

  13. Seeing Roe Adams response, talks about how low dose is good for health is like me saying that a little sun is so great so take off all your close and jay out side to absorb it with out tanning oils, not to many would be alive the next day in mid summer. If he believes that the back ground radiation will not increase above the safe level, God help him. I would believe that anyone doing studies would say it is of little value. All so did these studies involve all types of radiation including SR-90 and mixes of types and for long exposure over years and ingesting the isotopes. He is hanging his hat on air.

  14. Here is the problem – The cumulative impact daily on the population and environment is not measured and that is part of the problem in emissions reporting. Regarding San Onofre, there was and has been tritium and other radionuclides released. All ionizing radiation is cumulative and the impact is cumulative on everything in the environment, humans included, this is not stated nor accurately measured. The cumulative impacts are the problem which indicates the need for real time 24/7 monitoring instead of the quarterly averaging with annual reporting. Examining Riverside Ca. – On shore winds to the nearest EPA daily monitor for the gross beta and gamma counts for the 2012-2013 period, there are considerable fluctuations in the counts during the time frame of concern. cdxnode64.epa.gov/radnet-public/query.do

  15. Apologies for my error – reference this paragraph in my post, which I’m referring to Mr. Adam’s post – “You make this statement, quote: “When background dose rates are more than 100 times higher than possible plant releases, it is absurd to believe that the plant releases would have a detectable effect.” Where have you been, apparently deceiving the public at every opportunity? There have been many nuclear plant radioactive emissions releases which exceed your claim. Where in East Tennessee does the background radiation levels exceed 100 times 20,000+ bq/liter of tritium emissions? Tritium leaks in East Tennessee nuclear reactors have exceeded the maximum so called safe limit as established by the EPA. ” >>>> Sentence should read – Where in East Tennessee does the background radiation levels exceed 100 times 20,000+ pCi/l, picocuries per liter of tritium emissions? 1 Becquerel bq = 27 pCi. This example lists radioactivity present, the real question is how does the tritium released equate into a dose received by the public at the emission source and downstream? What is the cumulative impact of tritium releases on the local environment? The cumulative impact on the population and environment is not measured and that is part of the problem in emissions reporting.

  16. Its a shame the moderation here is so shabby that responses to specific comments are so belated that flowing debate is almost impossible. I note on Rod Adams’ site that his response to one of Gary Morgan’s has not yet appeared here, so Rod has posted it at his own site, “AtomicInsights”.

    In truth, to a lay person like myself, actions such as cancelling this study show a remarkable ignorance about human nature on the part of the decision makers at the NRC. The decision only opened the door for people like Morgan and Captd to pick up their megaphones and assert nefarious motives for this study’s cancellation. The people, and science, would have been far better served had this study, once publically announced, gone forward. Even if the study proved to be inconclusive, as is a distinct possibility, at least the accusations of the NRC trying to “hide” science would not be able to beleveled. What those such as Morgan or Captd are loathe to admit, is the cancellation of this study does not support EITHER argument, including their own. All it did was open the door to bluster from both sides. However, if one looks at the bluster, as opposed to the attempt to offer scientific argument, one has to gives Adams the thumbs up for attempting to keep the argument civil and science based. And in my world, that goes a long way towards establishing credibility.

  17. Left unsaid is that the promise of Electricity “too cheap to meter” somehow got forgotten and what we have now is nuclear reactors being run by Utilities that a far more concerned with profits than they are with safety; which is why they are continually opposing additional safety improvements, even though their ratepayers are footing the bills for all improvements as part of their very high electric bills.

    The high cost of Nuclear Energy is now making it very hard if not impossible to build new reactors, since they have been played by cost over runs that are giving the entire a black eye.

    It is also sad that on one hand the NRC can spend money creating Pro-Nuclear materials for students and other “educational” materials but they cannot fund a study to measure what the effects are of living near a reactor. I would like to see a post detailing the amounts of money spent by the NRC for health studies vs education and similar “promoting” efforts, since they BOTH are important.

    Because there are many trained professionals that do not agree with the what the NRC and the Nuclear Industry says, it even more important that these STUDIES be completed.

    Nuclear Power Kills: the Real Reason the NRC Canceled Its Nuclear Site Cancer Study

    by Chris Busby

    counterpunch.org/2015/09/22/nuclear-power-kills-the-real-reason-the-nrc-canceled-its-nuclear-site-cancer-study/

    Chris Busby is an expert on the health effects of ionizing radiation. He qualified in Chemical Physics at the Universities of London and Kent, and worked on the molecular physical chemistry of living cells for the Wellcome Foundation. Professor Busby is the Scientific Secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk based in Brussels and has edited many of its publications since its founding in 1998. He has held a number of honorary University positions, including Visiting Professor in the Faculty of Health of the University of Ulster. Busby currently lives in Riga, Latvia.

    Parts of the above were post: https://public-blog.nrc-gateway.gov/2015/10/06/examining-the-reasons-for-ending-the-cancer-risk-study/comment-page-2/#comment-1617820

    CaptD

    Comment moved here by moderator.

  18. @Mr. Morgan

    Mentioning the fact that Chairman Jaczko pushed the initial study hardly qualifies as me making “an attack.” I freely admit to having attacked the former chairman — and current professional antinuclear activist — on a number of occasions on Atomic Insights, but the above comment was not one of those times.

    Ionizing radiation does not “bioaccumulate.” In fact, ionizing radiation is a very short lived phenomenon that disappears as soon as the source is removed. The specific particles involved — alphas, betas, and gammas — give up their energy and merge into existing matter through ionization and absorption reactions.

    Radioactive isotopes, unlike some materials that are hazardous because of their chemical nature, decay and lose their radiation hazard over time. Some of the specific materials that have a radiation component to their hazard – like uranium – also have a chemical nature to their hazard which does not disappear over time any more than the hazard of lead or mercury disappears.

    Radiation hormesis is not a fallacy, but a heavily studied and repeatable phenomenon. Even the BEIR VII report, which stated that there was not sufficient evidence AT THAT TIME, to change regulations to incorporate the hormesis response, did not dismiss it as a fallacy. It devoted an entire appendix to the concept and described the results of several experiments that showed it was repeatable in a number of biological models.

    That report, published in 2006, was based on science that had been peer reviewed and published sometime before 2004. It recommended further research, much of which was conducted during a ten year long, reasonably supported Low Dose Radiation Research Program by the Department of Energy. The numerous studies produced as a result of that widespread, diverse research effort continues to add to the weight of evidence that shows the NAS BEAR 1 Genetics Committee was wrong when they overturned 50 years of observations on the effects of low level radiation on humans and issued a report declaring that all radiation was bad “from a genetics perspective.”

    They had no evidence available to them. No experiments had been conducted at levels below about 50 Rad. The few that were in the neighborhood of 50 rad indicated that there was a distinct threshold response below which the irradiated subjects had results that were not distinguishable from the controls.

    The sad part of the story is that several of the scientists who knew about those results worked to obscure them from the record and to deny their important implications. They WANTED to teach us that all radiation was bad. One of them, Hermann Muller, had been pressing that outlier idea for nearly 3 decades.

    It apparently coincided with the interests of the Rockefeller Foundation, which steadily supported Muller. The Rockefeller Foundation initiated and provided 100% of the funding for the NAS committees on the Biological Effects of Atomic Radiation from 1954-1962.

    The Chairman of the Genetics Committee, which is the one whose report was covered on the front page of the New York Times on June 13, 1956 and was published in full in the same edition of the paper, served as the director of the Rockefeller Foundation natural science funding program from about 1933-1959. Both before and after he obtained unanimous consensus from his 12 member committee of geneticists, his program provided at least half of the members with most of their research funding.

    Bad science can exist and be promoted by people with economic interests. The RF, supported by an oil rich family with major investments in hydrocarbon focused companies, had a strong interest in scaring people away from radiation and limiting the growth of a formidable competitor.

    Rod Adams
    Publisher, Atomic Insights

    Moderator Note: Verbiage amended to adhere to blog guidelines

  19. Since there is no reply button to Mr. Dan Williamson’s comment to my posting, I’ll answer here.

    All doses are cumulative, man made radionuclides add to the exposure and increase the adverse health risk. Law does not stop radiation emissions, unintended releases and accidents.

    Regarding costs, the cost and risk is already ridiculous for nuclear power, it should be abandoned. Nuclear power is an excuse to generate money for the nuclear energy industry. Current nuclear construction is increasing our power bills. Your comment Mr. Williamson indicates your willingness to sacrifice safety for money savings for the nuclear industry.

    I ask of you Mr. Williamson, please, do not say nuclear power is clean, as it generates tons of highly radioactive nuclear waste. The purpose for the nuclear reactor was and is to furnish materials for nuclear weapons.

  20. The link you list Mr. Adams has this to say – “Each day our DNA is damaged by UV radiation, free radicals and other carcinogenic substances, but even without such external attacks, a DNA molecule is inherently unstable.” There is a difference between UV radiation and ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation bio-accumulates in our environment and all living things, UV radiation does not.

    You make an attack on the previous Chair of the NRC who expressed great concerns about nuclear facilities and people who pose a credible threat to health and safety and deceive the public.

    You make this statement, quote: “When background dose rates are more than 100 times higher than possible plant releases, it is absurd to believe that the plant releases would have a detectable effect.” Where have you been, apparently deceiving the public at every opportunity? There have been many nuclear plant radioactive emissions releases which exceed your claim. Where in East Tennessee does the background radiation levels exceed 100 times 20,000+ bq/liter of tritium emissions? Tritium leaks in East Tennessee nuclear reactors have exceeded the maximum so called safe limit as established by the EPA.

    The releases of ionizing radiation emissions from all sources contribute to an increasing background level of radiation, depending on the specific radionuclide released and its specific half life. Our studies are demonstrating an increase in background ionizing radiation levels since 2012 by 15% in many areas of the Tennessee River Valley. Historically, some specific location background levels have increased by 50% since the mid 1980’s.

    This statement is a fallacy, as no one could possibly no the outcome of a study which did not occur, quote: “There is no chance that the study would have found excess cancers.” Another statement from you which is a fallacy: “Ionizing radiation…at low doses, the stimulated repair mechanisms provide an overall health benefit not unlike that achieved with moderate exercise, moderate intakes of a variable diet, moderate red wine consumption and moderate consumption of vitamins and minerals.” Comparing ionizing radiation with vitamins and exercise is ridiculous. Apparently you subscribe to the radiation hormesis fallacy.

    The bottom line is this Mr. Adams, and I understand that you support the nuclear industry, people involved in the nuclear energy industry who intentionally deceive people are freighting. Reason, they violate principles of Human Reliability. The question must be asked, if you’ll deceive citizens with questionable statements and fallacy, what other deceitful stories are told about more serious events and conditions of nuclear facilities? By the way, this is the reason why all WANO and INPO reports should be released publically, many times they tell an entirely different story than what the NRC or nuclear operators report.

  21. Thank you very much, Scott Burnell, for taking the time to help refute the blizzard of blatant lies put forth by the FUD (fear, uncertainty, death) specialists. Please keep up the good work.

  22. Southern California Edison’s report on the steam generator leak (http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1209/ML12090A153.pdf on page 3 of 3) clearly states the fully monitored event resulted in 0.0375 Curies of iodine and noble radioactive gases reaching the environment, which could lead to a dose of 0.00004 mrem. That dose would be less than one-hundredth of one percent of the average annual U.S. natural radiation dose. San Onofre’s 2012 annual effluent release report (http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1314/ML13142A425.pdf on page 39) also describes the event.

    Scott Burnell

  23. The answer is the nuclear industry and their employees in the interest of the nation…open up all you dose and health record for scientific scrutiny. Then you could extrapolate it out to low level public dose.
    By the way, I had a guy who I work with for years who died of asbestosis. He got it at a nuclear plant. I worked on shift with him for years. He was my brother. What are the facts on that. What is worst at nuclear plants: asbestos or radiation?

    I believe the pressures to not do the radiation study comes from the congressional anti-government regulatory disruptors. These concentrated forces are severely disrupting plant NRC oversight and it is only going to get worst if the House and Senate are taken over by the extremist government hating forces. As the recent senate NRC budget hearing highlighted, if the inept NRC (Sen. Inhofe) can’t keep tract of federal spending documentation on $91 million dollars worth of reactor research, (me) do you think the documentation on plant oversight is any better? I keep thinking about the Pilgrim recent daily event report with the NRC missing the 1992 information notice on fire protection wire hot short issue.

  24. “Low doses of radiation do increase cancer risk.” By “low doses,” you mean those lower than the typical earthling receives every day? So, if you’re already getting 300mr/year just by being here, how are you bestowing upon yourself the ability to root out those millirem coming from the neighborhood nuke, considering that those “special” millirem are not allowed by law to be more than a tiny percentage of your everyday dose?

    “The only definitive and reliable method of determining exposure and health risks to humans and our environment is real time, full time monitoring and reporting all emissions at the nuclear site and the surrounding area up to 100 miles.” Would I be correct in assuming that you would not be willing to help foot the monstrous cost for such a quixotic pursuit in your monthly bill? In your little world, that would be chalked up to the nuke plant’s price of admission?

  25. Scott:

    While I applaud the NRC’s decision to halt the cancer study that Chairman Jaczko pushed, it would be nice to hear the scientific basis stated more assertively.

    There is no chance that the study would have found excess cancers. Of course, just by the laws of probability, there might have been a small population near one or more of the plants that seemed to have higher than average cancer incidence, but there would also have been other populations with lower than expected rates.

    When background dose rates are more than 100 times higher than possible plant releases, it is absurd to believe that the plant releases would have a detectable effect. Based on our vastly increased understanding of biology and genetics over that in existence in June 1956, when the “no safe dose” assumption first made headlines, we now know that DNA is subjected to continuous damage and repair.

    Ionizing radiation is just one of many sources stress on DNA stabilization mechanisms; at low doses, the stimulated repair mechanisms provide an overall health benefit not unlike that achieved with moderate exercise, moderate intakes of a variable diet, moderate red wine consumption and moderate consumption of vitamins and minerals.

    Career-long studies of DNA response and repair mechanisms have most recently been recognized with the awarding of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Tomas Lindahl, Paul Modrich and Aziz Sancar.

    http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/chemistry/laureates/2015/press.html

  26. Scott – When San Onofre started leaking ☢ on 01/31/12, the amounts were never disclosed nor were a complete listing of exactly what leaked into the environment which left those living nearby angry at both SCE (the operator) and the NRC which is regulating them… In fact, the “leak was downplayed since it signaled the destruction of not just Unit 3 RSGs but also Unit 2 RSGs, since they both were found to have more tube damage than the rest of the US nuclear let combined.

    http://sanonofresafety.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/steamgeneratortubesplugged1.pdf

    Since we are now in the 21st Century, there is no reason at all (except protecting the Nuclear Industry) for all these measurements NOT to be posted online when they are taken. All those that are concerned should be able to view what any particular NPP or NRC regulated facility is measuring.

    Parts of the above posted at: https://public-blog.nrc-gateway.gov/2015/10/06/examining-the-reasons-for-ending-the-cancer-risk-study/comment-page-1/#comment-1617499

  27. Gary Morgan — SALUTE for a stellar comment!

    I’d love for you to be the one in charge of all US ☢ monitoring/testing.

    Then we would be sure that our monitoring system would not be “down” for maintenance like it was when Fukushima occurred.

  28. Do you support the radiation hormesis theory “Dr. Burn?”

    There is a one word description of assuming conclusions – FALLACY. Some of your conclusions are based on false assumptions; the current scientific information, rules and policies regarding ionizing radiation safety do not support your fallacies.

    I agree with this quote from you in part – “… To me, assigning numbers to risks that are orders of magnitude below the actual uncertainty of what is being measured seems unscientific & is not provable. The NAS acknowledged this in saying that this “may not have adequate statistical power to detect the presumed small increases in cancer risks arising from… monitored and reported releases.” Current risk assessments surrounding U.S. Nuclear Facilities are skewered and unreliable due to the methodology of reporting emissions. The only definitive and reliable method of determining exposure and health risks to humans and our environment is real time, full time monitoring and reporting all emissions at the nuclear site and the surrounding area up to 100 miles. Then and only then may accurate exposures and health risks be assessed after examining the emissions data, cancer data, citizen health evaluations and environmental sampling. Averaging radiation emissions quarterly and reporting annually at nuclear facilities is not a scientific method of determining actual exposures, much less accurate health risk assessments. There has been no effort to conduct comprehensive health surveys in communities surrounding nuclear facilities.

    Low doses of radiation do increase cancer risk. No doubt each individual’s risks are different, with a multitude of factors influencing risk, such as age, health, sex, type of radiation source, time of exposure(s) and the distance from the source, just to name a few but important risk factors. I would suggest studying the Beir VII report and its conclusions, which you will find at this link along with the statements of Dr. John Gofman (video) and his conclusions regarding ionizing radiation and health risks: radioactivepoison.blogspot.com

    It is bothersome that the NRC and the NAS will not examine the data relating to heath risks of populations surrounding nuclear facilities. This statement in the above NRC article displays a legitimate concern – “The pilot study would also examine potential differences between individual states’ cancer registries. Large differences in registry quality or accessibility would hurt the study’s chances of generating useful results.” BEST/MATRR believes in certain areas where specific cancer rates are high and there is considerable evidence of radionuclide contamination in the environment, such as East Tennessee, where reports have been brought forward of high cancer rates, there may be an intentional effort to not report accurate cancer data to the national registry, particularly where large fluctuations of data have occurred. The NAS study should have discovered if skewering or withholding of health data was or is taking place.

  29. perhaps you should move out.. after all you moved in when a reactor was already there…

  30. LNT is not a theory. It is a hypothesis. However it has been rebranded to be called a “model”. either way it is not a theory.

  31. Two Comments:
    1. Thanks for the explanation & for saving taxpayers millions on an impossible study. Instead of funding studies that create paranoia by trying to measure the effects of fractions of a percent of natural radioactivity, our tax dollars could be better used in support of the third world by helping provide clean drinking water, feeding the hungry & immunizing children…or perhaps studying the LNT theory at very low doses: this theory may be accepted but there always has been much that disputes it.

    2. While chemical & radiological risk assessments can provide needed relative risk numbers to rank risks against one another for use by professionals in the field, the general public incorrectly thinks that the results mean that these numbers represent actual risks to individual members of the public.

    Thus the results of modern risk assessments can often be used to support the modern equivalents of witch hunts. To me, assigning numbers to risks that are orders of magnitude below the actual uncertainty of what is being measured seems unscientific & is not provable. The NAS acknowledged this in saying that this “may not have adequate statistical power to detect the presumed small increases in cancer risks arising from… monitored and reported releases.”

    Still, in my educated but humble opinion, the NAS is going to far in presuming that very low doses of radiation actually increases in cancer risk. This presumption alone shows a bias. The uncertainties are so large at such low doses that it is irresponsible to make such a presumption. While this assumption and basis for it (the LNT) are conservative, they are unproven &, more importantly, instill unfounded fear in the general public.

  32. Is it any wonder that people are fed up with government when we get tantalized with something substantial as with this cancer study only to get the rug pulled out? Really, how do they sleep at night? Pathetic.

  33. The data from around San Onofre (one of the areas chosen for the study) would have been particularly helpful, because that pair of reactors suddenly closed approximately in the middle of the period of time that the study presumably would have considered. SoCal went from two massive behemoths to zero in the blink of an eye. But NRC, who has been holding their local meetings around the country in posh hotels for years, spending many tens of millions of dollars each year doing so, can’t afford one little statistical review after decades of continued ignorance, to be used for many decades to come? Blarney! NRC was just afraid of the results — and I don’t blame them.

  34. Please reactivate the cancer study. Why did the cancellation occur? Most it because the industry desperately wants to avoid the likely results that radiation causes cancer. The fact that the NRC bent to the wishes of the industry speaks volumes about the agenda of the NRC — Promote the nuclear industry, not regulate it. This is disgusting!

  35. One word describes this article – FALLACY. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) mission to protect the public is compromised by politicians supported by Nuclear Special Interest Groups such as the NEI, Nuclear Energy Institute, applying pressure to decrease funding to the NRC. You are supporting the nuclear industry not the public. The NRC is not an agency which has separated itself from undue political and industry influences and pressures.

    A report of radiological contamination and its health effects could have been completed with less expense than $8 million dollars, accurately. The nuclear industry and the United States Government has much to hide regarding the failures to protect the public at large and in communities surrounding all nuclear facilities – this includes the uranium mining communities, the fuel facility communities, the nuclear hazardous waste communities, nuclear weapons communities and all nuclear reactor facility communities.

    The nuclear industry and the regulator does not report real time ionizing radiation from emission sources from any active nuclear facility; reporting is based on averages reported annually from nuclear facility locations. This type of reporting is skewered, and lacks scientific credibility due to not reporting emissions in a real time monitoring program with accurate radiological assessments from real time monitoring reports along with community resident health evaluations.

    Non-profit institutional examination of nuclear emissions and community health is demonstrating an entirely different story from that which the nuclear industry and the NRC reports. When there is contradictory evidence disputing the nuclear industry and the NRC, the NEI hires nuclear industry paid persons to contradict any information assimilated from private non-profit sources, regardless if the information is actually an accurate compilation from government sources with professional data assimilation and analysis. Example – The Browns Ferry Report http://best-matrr.org/pdfs/AL_BFN_Report_2013-final-dig2.pdf

    The examination of dispersal of radiological contaminating materials in East Tennessee presents a horror story of cancer, declining health and radionuclide contamination of the environment of East Tennessee communities along the Tennessee River and its’ tributaries. The citizens of East Tennessee have become a sacrificial group since the beginnings of the nuclear age in 1945. Unfortunately, the Department of Energy (DOE) and the NRC are participants in this horror story of the atomic age, placing the money gained from atomic death industry before peoples health and welfare – shame on you. Shame on the NRC, DOE, and the many nuclear and nuclear defense industries for your continued deceit.

    This is the million pound weight in the room – the continuous deceit and placing money before human health in civilian nuclear and nuclear contractor programs, besides the continuous building of highly radioactive nuclear waste materials. The deceit demonstrated is a continuous failure to uphold Human Reliability Standards which is a cornerstone of any nuclear program, the failure due to deceit is tantamount to a disaster awaiting an outcome.

    Garry Morgan, U.S. Army Medical Department, Retired
    Director Health and Radiation Monitoring BEST/MATRR a local chapter of BREDL
    http://www.matrr.org

  36. Is it possible that the industry know how bad it is and will have to relocate many people at huge costs. How high is the tipping point.

  37. Ok, so rather than thinking of new ways to determine the impact on the community and risks (we know exist), we just stop? Hmm, what IS the mission of this Commission?

  38. RE: “One way NRC regulations protect communities around U.S. nuclear power plants is by requiring the plants to regularly sample air, water, and vegetation around their sites. Samples are sent to state agencies (and in some cases to the NRC) to prove only very tiny amounts of radioactive material are released during normal operations.”

    The NRC does not require the operators of NPP to disclose to the public what these measurements are and that is where the distrust of the NRC’s regulation of the Nuclear Industry begins.

    Since we are now in the 21st Century, there is no reason at all (except protecting the Nuclear Industry) for all these measurements to NOT be posted online when they are taken. All those that are concerned should be able to view what any particular NPP or NRC regulated facility is measuring.

    This is especially important, since the Congress is now involved in having the EPA (and other Agencies) increase the “acceptable” levels of many things.

    Documents Detail How Nuclear Material Was Handled at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station | NBC 7 San Diego http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/Documents-Detail-How-Nuclear-Material-Was-Handled-at-San-Onofre-328292351.html

    The USA is lagging far behind other Countries like Germany, in providing the public with factual specific data of exactly what is being monitored and their levels at NPP’s.

    Because Geiger counters are now becoming far more available, the NRC should step up its monitoring and insist that all NPP post their emissions as soon as they are taken; this will allow the NRC and others to know what is going on without having to rely on the very operators who for whatever reason may want to downplay disclosing an radiological event!

    Using TEPCO (which is owned by the Japanese Government) as an example, allows us to see how data made public has been “gamed” to protect the industry instead of those living nearby.

    Fukushima police sends nuclear contamination case against TEPCO execs to prosecutors http://www.rt.com/news/317474-fukushima-tepco-contamination-prosecution/#.VhP64MHTRLg.twitter

    If the NRC is proud of its methodology, then they should not be concerned about sharing DATA with the public, instead of platitudes like “acceptable”. The NRC would be well advised to do a much better job of keeping the public informed about exactly what is happening at all the facilities it regulates because then the public will better understand exactly what is happening, instead of fearing the worst.

    Moderator Note: Correction made at the request of the comment author

  39. The NRC failed the public trust in beginning a cancer risk study and refusing to complete it. The cited reasons for discontinuing this risk study could have been eliminated months before the risk study was even begun. A lack of funding excuse is ludicrous. NRC’s refusal to complete even the phase one study ruins the already tattered reputation of the NRC as a sock puppet of the nuclear industry.Here’s a clear example of lobbyists.defeating the public interest and public good. The NRC not only fails its mission it fails the taxpayers underwriting its dubious role of a regulatory agency.

  40. Shameful, and so right out in the open. I live 6 miles from Diablo Canyon. My health has gone to sxxx since we moved in. Too expensive? Too long? What am I worth to you then?Shame on the Nuclear Regulators and their nuclear masters.                 Joey Racano: ‘Weapon of mass discussion’   “Most research is funded by industry to obfuscate dangers and postpone remedies” -joey racano     

    Moderator Note: Verbiage amended to adhere to blog guidelines

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