French study finds childhood leukemia doubled around nuclear plants

A major epidemiological study just published in the January 2012 edition of The International Journal of Cancer indicates there is “a possible excess risk” of acute leukemia among children living in close vicinity to French nuclear power plants (NPP). The study called for an “investigation for potential risk factors related to the vicinity of NPP, and collaborative analysis of multisite studies conducted in various countries.”

The study found a doubling of occurrence of childhood leukemia between the years of 2002-2007 among children under 5 years living within 5 km of nuclear plants – similar to the findings of the German 2008 study by the Cancer Registry in Mainz which found an association between the nearness of residence to nuclear power plants and the risk of childhood leukemia.

The epidemiological study was conducted by a team from the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, the Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire (IRSN) and the National Register of hematological diseases of children in Villejuif. The results marked a surprising and encouraging change at IRSN which had endeavored to discredit earlier French epidemiological studies that had shown an impact of nuclear facilities on health.


Environmental Coalition Challenges Davis-Besse License Extension on Shield Building Cracks

An NRC inspector examines one of the recently revealed cracks in the Davis-Besse concrete shield buildingToday, Beyond Nuclear, Citizens Environment Coalition of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and the Green Party of Ohio filed a 60 page contention against the proposed 2017 to 2037 license extension at Davis-Besse atomic reactor on Lake Erie near Toledo, due to recently revealed severe cracking of its concrete shield building/secondardy radiological containment structure. A copy of the contention is posted here. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission allowed FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company to restart the reactor on December 6, 2011, even though the root cause and full extent of the cracking has not been determined, and corrective actions have not been identified.

Also today, the NRC's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board rejected a motion by FENOC calling for dismissal of the environmental coalition's primary contention against the Davis-Besse license extension -- that the nearly 910 Megawatts of electricity could be readily replaced by a combination of wind power, solar power, and energy storage. The ruling is posted here. The environmental coalition's attorney, Terry Lodge of Toledo, and its expert witness, Al Compaan, Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Toledo, prepared a response to FENOC, defending the renewable energy alternatives contention; it is posted here.

The environmental coalition issued a media release about today's filing of its shield building cracking safety challenges. The media release is posted here.


Fix 'em or shut 'em French safety agency tells EDF

The French nuclear safety authority (ASN) has told the country's national electricity supplier, Électricité de France, that it must invest billions of euros in safety fixes at the country's 58 reactors or choose to close them. A report issued January 3 by ASN said that the investment was needed to ensure French reactors could withstand natural shocks similar to those that precipitated meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant site in Japan. ASN president, André Claude Lacoste, said the agency would have to suspend operations at French reactors if EDF did not meet their timeline for safety fixes. "If EDF estimates that what we are asking for is so expensive that it does no longer make it worthwhile to operate one facility, it can decide to shut that facility," he said. EDF has estimated the cost at 10 billion euros. However, the French presidential election in April 2012 could change the picture again as Socialist opposition candidate, François Holland, has pledged to shut 24 of the reactors by 2025 should he be elected.


Fukushima further bursts "nuclear renaissance" bubble

Fukushima Daiichi's explosions -- like this one at Unit 3 -- were captured on live television and were broadcast internationally.In a new report entitled "Nuclear Safety and Nuclear Economics: Historically, Accidents Dim the Prospects for Nuclear Reactor Construction; Fukushima Will Have a Major Impact," Dr. Mark Cooper of the Vermont Law School's Institute for Energy and the Environment compares the cost increases for new reactor construction -- due to increased nuclear safety regulation in the aftermath of the 1979 Three Mile Island meltdown -- to escalating costs that can be expected after the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe. Cooper points out, however, the new reactor construction costs were already skyrocketing before the TMI and Fukushima meltdowns -- but the accidents accelerated the cost increases dramatically.

He concludes: "From a big picture perspective, Fukushima has had and is likely to continue to have an electrifying impact because it combines the most powerful message from TMI on cost escalation with the most powerful message from Chernobyl on the risk of nuclear reactors in a nation where it was not supposed to happen. And, it has taken place in an environment where information and images flow instantaneously around the world, so the public sees the drama and trauma of losing control of a nuclear reaction in real time."


Allegations of deep ties between TEPCO and the Japanese mafia

The Atlantic Wire reports that the connections between Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and the yakuza, or Japanese mafia, go much deeper than just the recruiting of laborers desparate enough to take jobs in Fukushima Daiichi's hazardous radiation fields. Commenting on the desparation of taking a job at Fukushima Daiichi, a yakuza explained it as "folk wisdom": “When a man has to survive doing something, it’s the nuclear industry; for a woman, it’s the sex industry.”

The article quotes a Japanese federal senator: "TEPCO's involvement with anti-social forces and their inability to filter them out of the work-place is a national security issue. It is one reason that increasingly in the Diet we are talking de facto nationalization of the company. Nuclear energy shouldn't be in the hands of the yakuza. They're gamblers and an intelligent person doesn't want them to have atomic dice to play with." The senator added: “The primary difference between TEPCO and the yakuza is they have different corporate logos...They both are essentially criminal organizations that place profits above the safety and welfare of the residents where they operate; they both exploit their workers. On the other hand, the yakuza may care more about what happens where they operate because many of them live there. For Tokyo Electric Power Company, Fukushima is just the equivalent of a parking lot.”