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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.

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Saturday
Jan102015

Around 185 Entergy Palisades workers exposed to 2.8 R in month-long job

Workers pictured at Palisades last spring doing repair work on top of the reactor vessel head. Entergy provided this and other photos of the work to the NRC.As reported by Lindsey Smith at Michigan Radio, around 185 workers at Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor in Michigan were exposed to 2.8 Rem of radioactivity exposure on a single project last year. From Feb. to March, 2014, the Control Rod Drive Mechanisms at Palisades were replaced, due to chronic seal and through-wall leakage that dates back to 1972.

2.8 Rem of exposure violates Entergy's self-imposed ALARA (As Low As Reasonably Achievable) limits of 2 Rem/year for workers. 2 Rem/year for nuclear workers is the national standard in Germany, which will completely phase out reactor operations by 2022 as a direct response to the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe.

However, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission allows, or permits, up to 5 Rem/year of exposure to nuclear workers. Members of the general public, by comparison, are only allowed to receive 100 milliRem, or 0.1 Rem, per year of exposure to artificial radioactivity from the nuclear power industry. Thus, in a single month, 185 workers at Palisades were exposed to 28 times the amount of harmful radioactivity allowed for members of the general public in an entire year.

Wednesday
Jan072015

NRC to hold regulatory conference with Entergy re: worker overexposures at Palisades

As reported by the Kalamazoo Gazette/MLive, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will hold a regulatory conference with Entergy Nuclear Palisades to discuss the radiological overexposure of around 185 workers during Control Rod Drive Mechanisms replacement in Feb. to March, 2014. The problem-plagued Palisades atomic reactor is located on the Lake Michigan shore in Covert, MI (photo, left).

Thursday
Dec182014

Theo Colborn’s gifts to us

Theo Colborn (1927-2014) changed the way we think about the damage coming from chemical contamination. Her legacy is not only proving this shift in thinking for chemicals, but in providing a road map for how we should assess radiation damage, especially during child development. She continued her work until she past away on Sunday, December 14.

Her ground-breaking investigations on chemical contamination recognized that looking only at the cancers that resulted from exposure was masking a large part of the problem because, in the case of toxic chemicals, cancers were often the result of higher exposures. Once she started to include non-cancer disease, a pattern formed and she found, to her surprise, that low doses given over a longer time were responsible for more subtle, non-fatal, but still very damaging health impacts. These non-cancer effects included reproductive and neurological abnormalities, low-birth weight and premature birth.

Dr. Colborn recognized that damage also depended on when these tiny doses were delivered, overturning the concept that the dose always makes the poison. The question of timing has particular significance for in-utero cycle since the embryo starts as only a few cells that then divide and grow rapidly into a whole functioning human being. A chemical exposure delivered at any sensitive time during this process can have negative impacts on the developing child. Often chemical doses at this level were allowed by federal agencies and considered safe. This is changing in large part due to work by Dr. Colborn and her colleagues and the term “endocrine disrupting chemical” is now widely known.

Colborn’s realization that low doses of endocrine disrupters, delivered at just the wrong time, can cause non-fatal, non-cancer disease, mirrors an uncomfortable truth in radiation protection: there is a lack of focus on the impact of small, long-term doses on the developing child and other sensitive populations. Studies that have been conducted showing disruption of the birth gender ratio, thyroid abnormalities, and cardiovascular disease, have been minimized or ignored and remain unincorporated fully into protection regulations. This remains true even for some types of cancers like childhood leukemia. Dr. Colborn has expanded the way science and society examines the impact of endocrine disrupting chemicals, and public health will be better for it. In demonstrating that fresh methods were needed to assess chemical damage, she has shown us that, likewise, different methods of assessment for radiation damage are needed for much the same reasons. This is just one of the many gifts she has left us. And we are eternally grateful.

Special thanks to Rachel Carson and her Sisters: Extraordinary Women Who Have Shaped America’s Environment by Robert Musil, which explores the lives of American women activists who are linked to Rachel Carson’s work protecting humans, animals and the environment. He provides a chapter on the work of Dr. Colborn from which some of the information above was extracted.

Our Stolen Future, a chemical contamination detective story written by Dr. Theo Colborn, “brought world-wide attention to scientific discoveries about endocrine disruption and the fact that common contaminants can interfere with the natural signals controlling development of the fetus.”

Thursday
Nov132014

You can HELP! Beyond Nuclear, others, file NRC FOIA, ask for extension

Beyond Nuclear, Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition, in New York (IPSEC), and Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the U. S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) this week. The groups are demanding NRC turn over documents they used as the basis for proposed rule changes on radiation exposure. A change in radiation exposure rules will affect the public, particularly vulnerable children who should be the standard by which every human is protected. Additionally, the groups are asking for a six month extension on the rule comment period which currently ends on November 24, 2014.

JOIN US in asking for an extension to this comment period to ensure fair public input. SIGN our letter if you haven't already.

Preparation of this NRC proposed radiation rule change was a multi-year project for NRC Staff, and the current comment period of 120 days does not allow adequate time for stakeholders in impacted reactor communities to review the long and technical documents NRC references.

Also, while reviewing the NRC's Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“ANPR”), we discovered that many of the NRC’s references, which the NRC staff used as the basis of the proposed rule, are publicly inaccessible.  Additionally, some references depend on other references which are non credited by in the Federal Registry notice. In order to fully understand the basis for NRC’s reasoning, public review of all foundational documents, referenced and unreferenced, is necessary.

Industry has the means and resources to obtain these documents and NRC recognized in its ANPR that it was using documents that were not readily available to the public either through public libraries or online. NRC's behavior in this case has yet again shown its disdain for meaningful public comment.

Wednesday
Oct222014

A new scientific panel to examine low dose radiation impacts?

On November 17, 2014, the Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board of the National Academy of Sciences will be hosting a meeting to assist with scoping the next Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR) report—the BEIR VIII report—on health risks from exposure to low levels of ionizing radiation.

The meeting, which is open to the public in its entirety, will be held at the National Academy of Sciences, located at 2101 Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC.

This is a preliminary meeting as no agency has formally requested a BEIR VIII report yet. For the previous NAS report on low-dose ionizing radiation impacts, see BEIR VII, published in 2006. Register here.