Radiation Exposure and Risk

Ionizing radiation damages living things and contaminates the environment, sometimes permanently. Studies have shown increases in cancer around nuclear facilities and uranium mines. Radiation mutates genes which can cause genetic damage across generations.



Volunteers Crowdsource Radiation Monitoring to Map Potential Risk on Every Street in Japan

As reported by Democracy Now! on the Pacifica Radio Network:

Safecast is a network of volunteers who came together to map radiation levels throughout Japan after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster in 2011. They soon realized radiation readings varied widely, with some areas close to the disaster facing light contamination, depending on wind and geography, while others much further away showed higher readings. Safecast volunteers use Geiger counters and open-source software to measure the radiation, and then post the data online for anyone to access. Broadcasting from Tokyo, we are joined by Pieter Franken, co-founder of Safecast. "The first trip we made into Fukushima, it was an eye-opener. First of all, the radiation levels we encountered were way higher than what we had seen on television," Franken says. "We decided to focus on measuring every single street as our goal in Safecast, so for the last three years we have been doing that, and this month we are passing the 15 millionth location we have measured, and basically every street in Japan has been at least measured once, if not many, many more times."

The atomic reactors that melted down and exploded at Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4 were General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactors. The U.S. has 23 still-operating Mark Is, as well as 8 more very similarly designed Mark IIs.


Missouri: exposure to radwaste may have caused increase in disease

New data are adding to concerns that exposure to radioactive waste  could be causing  health problems. After World War II, Mallinckrodt Company generated nuclear waste which was dumped in Coldwater Creek in North St. Louis County contaminating the creek and surrounding areas.

The group that compiled the data, named “Coldwater Creek—Just the facts please,” started a Facebook page after noticing an increase in cancer cases among people in their late 30s and 40s who lived near the creek during their childhoods.

Reported health problems included 1,242 cases of cancer and 320 cases of auto-immune disorders, which can be caused by exposure to radiation. Among the cancers were 95 cases of brain cancer, 59 cases of thyroid cancer, and 39 cases of appendix cancer, which is diagnosed in fewer than 1,000 Americans each year. A number of additional thyroid abnormalities were also reported.

Those who compiled the information met with the St. Louis County Health Department and representatives of the federal agency for toxic substances and disease registry.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services in 2013 conducted a study of six zip codes near the creek, but blamed higher rates of some cancer on lifestyle factors like smoking and unhealthy eating habits.

However, the study used data from 1996 to 2004, after most of the radiation contamination had been cleaned up. Many of the people who were part of the study didn’t live there at the time of the radiation contamination, while many who lived and played near contamination sites have since moved away according to the citizen's group conducting the survey.

News and survey presentation.


Beyond Nuclear on Thom Hartmann: "Military poisoned by Fukushima radiation"

On Thursday evening, Jan. 2nd, Thom Hartmann hosted Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps on his television program, in a segment entitled "Military poisoned by Fukushima radiation," to discuss the apparent radiation sickness and maladies suffered by sailors who served on the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, which was anchored just a mile or two downwind and downstream from Fukushima Daiichi in Japan during the first, worst days of the catastrophe.

Arnie Gundersen at Fairewinds Energy Education has commented on the sick sailors in a podcast.

The re-launching of the lawsuit, brought by 71 sick (half with various cancers) Reagan crew men and women against Tokyo Electric Power Company, comes after the recent exposé by the Tampa Bay Times about sick U.S. Navy sailors who were ordered to dump radioactive wastes, over the course of 15 years, into the Atlantic Ocean, a half-century ago, aboard the Calhoun County.


Environmental coalition meets NRC's "Nuclear Waste Confidence" DGEIS public comment deadline

Environmental coalition attorney Diane Curran

(The risks of generating, storing, and ultimately "disposing" of irradiated nuclear fuel includes risks to human health, of course. Environmental coalition expert witnesses have looked at the risks of high-level radioactive waste storage pools, dry casks, and repositories leaking, and/or releasing catastrophic amounts of hazardous radioactivity due to natural disaster, accident, or attack.

Even the costs of storing and "disposing of" irradiated nuclear fuel reflects the risk to human health. After all, the high cost has entirely to do with the need to isolate the high-level radioactive waste from being released into the living environment.

Mark Cooper of Vermont Law School, expert witness on behalf of this environmental coalition, has estimated that storage and disposal of irradiated nuclear fuel could add $210 to $350 billion onto the costs of nuclear-generated electricity in the U.S. In addition, the once-per-century replacement of dry cask storage across the U.S., assumed by NRC in its "Nuclear Waste Confidence" DGEIS, would add another $100 billion per replacement, Cooper estimates. Cooper asserts that NRC cannot ignore such "staggering" costs in its EIS on the costs and risks of generating irradiated nuclear fuel in the first place -- that is, approving new reactor construction and operating licenses, and old reactor license extensions.)

An environmental coalition of nearly three dozen groups, including Beyond Nuclear, has submitted comments on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) "Nuclear Waste Confidence" Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS). The coalition is represented by a team of attorneys, including Diane Curran (photo, left) of Harmon, Curran, Spielberg, and Eisenberg, LLP, Washington, D.C.; Mindy Goldstein, Director, and Jillian Kysor, Fellow, Turner Environmental Law Clinic, Emory University, Atlanta, GA; and Phillip Musegaas, Hudson River Program Director, and Deborah Brancato, Staff Attorney, Riverkeeper, Ossining, NY.

The coalition is also represented by a team of expert witnesses, including Dr. Arjun Makhijani, President, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Takoma Park, MD; David Lochbaum, Director, Nuclear Safety Project, Union of Concerned Scientists, Chattanooga, TN; Dr. Gordon Thompson, Executive Director, Institute for Resource and Security Studies, Cambridge, MA; and Dr. Mark Cooper, Senior Research Fellow for Economic Analysis, Institute for Energy and the Environment, Vermont Law School, South Royalton, VT.

The environmental coalition's comments, as well as its expert witnesses' declarations, have been posted on the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) website, as well as at the bottom of a press release featuring the work of Dr. Cooper on the economic costs of irradiated nuclear fuel management. The coalition's comment and expert witness declarations are also posted at the NIRS website.

Curran, on behalf of three environmental groups (Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Riverkeeper, and SACE), in alliance with Natural Resource Defense Council, as well as four state attorneys general (CT, NJ, NY, and VT) won a landmark legal victory on June 8, 2012. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that NRC had to carry out an environmental impact statement on its "Nuclear Waste Confidence" policy and rule, including the on-site storage risks of irradiated nuclear fuel in pools and dry casks. The Dec. 20th public comment deadline on the DGEIS is a part of that court-ordered process.


First public meeting for cancer risk study announced

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Committee tasked with planning the pilot study of Analysis of Cancer Risks in Populations near Nuclear Facilities is scheduled to hold the first public meeting and Beyond Nuclear wants you to participate. If you live in the Washington, DC area, please attend the meeting in person:

Wednesday, December 11, 2013, 2-4pm, National Academy of Sciences Building, 2101 Constitution Avenue, NW (Room 125)

Seating is limited so reserve your seat ASAP.

You may also participate in the meeting remotely by calling in or viewing the meeting by WebEx.

Email or call 202 334 3066 to either reserve your seat or participate remotely.

NAS will perform the pilot study of cancer risks in populations near seven U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (U.S.NRC)-licensed nuclear facilities using two epidemiologic study designs: (i) an ecologic study of multiple cancer types of populations of all ages and (ii) a record-linkage-based case-control study of cancers in children. The pilot study will have two steps: Pilot Planning and Pilot Execution. NAS has started the Pilot Planning step which is estimated to take one year to complete. For more information on the Phase I process and report, click here.

The seven nuclear facilities that are part of the pilot study are:

Dresden Nuclear Power Station, Morris, Illinois

Millstone Power Station, Waterford, Connecticut

Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station, Forked River

New Jersey Haddam Neck, Haddam Neck, Connecticut

Big Rock Point Nuclear Power Plant, Charlevoix, Michigan

San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, San Clemente, California

Nuclear Fuel Services, Erwin, Tennessee

The study is sponsored by the U.S. NRC. It is a continuation of a previous study that was completed in May 2012.