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.



Ann Arbor moves to harmonize radiation emergency planning with international best practices

The emergency planning zones for three U.S. atomic power plants (Michigan’s Fermi 2 and Ohio’s Davis-Besse and Perry) span an international border between the United States and Canada. Following Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster, radiation protection actions were upgraded by Canadian authorities ---particularly for young children, infants and pregnant women---and unchanged by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. As a result, Canadians living in potential radiation emergency zones from U.S. reactors are now better prepared than the U.S. population. That doesn’t make sense.  

The City of Ann Arbor, Michigan’s Environmental Commission wants to harmonize radiation protection for its citizens with what Canadians are now getting for the Fermi atomic power plant. The Commission unanimously approved a resolution co-authored by Beyond Nuclear asking that the Mayor and City Council request the Washtenaw County Public Health Department, the State of Michigan and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to strategically stockpile potassium iodide tablets (KI) for the population within the city, the county and the 50-mile emergency planning zone around the Fermi-2 nuclear power station located in Monroe, MI.  City officials want the public health department and nuclear regulatory authority to harmonize the protective actions for their citizens with international best practices for the same reactor site.

There is now a consensus of the professional medical community that the pre-distribution of KI is prudent. If ingested shortly after a nuclear accident, it is a safe, effective and affordable prophylactic treatment that blocks absorption of cancer-causing radioactive iodine into the thyroid gland.  According to a July 2017 scientific statement published by American Thyroid Association (ATA) and its conclusion affirmed in November 2018 policy paper of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the pre-distribution of KI tablets to the population within a 50-mile radius of every nuclear power station with special attention to the youngest at greatest risk is an “essential adjunct to evacuation, sheltering and avoiding contaminated food, milk and water.”

In December 2017, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the Ontario Provincial Government upgraded their 2014 post-Fukushima radiological preparedness plan for populations around Canadian reactors  to additionally mandate that KI be pre-distributed to Canadians within the 10-mile radius and to stockpile and make KI available upon request to Canadians residing within the overlapping 50-mile radii of three U.S. nuclear power stations (Fermi-2 in Michigan, Davis-Besse and Perry in Ohio).  The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission similarly reviewed the distribution of KI tablets beyond the 10-mile emergency planning zone and concluded no regulatory changes were needed.

KI is now being distributed to the Ontario city of Amherstburg and the counties of Windsor, Essex and southern Chatham for the three U.S.-based power reactors.

The city of Ann Arbor is seeking equal radiological emergency preparedness for the US-side of the Fermi 2 emergency planning zone. 

The video of the December 6, 2018 Environmental Commission meeting can be viewed at                          >  <  as a special presentation and commission discussion. The KI agenda item begins with public comments (@1:57 min. through 4:37 min. marker) and a special presentation by Beyond Nuclear, thecommission discussion and approval (@5:50 min. through 40:40 min. marker).

The City resolution will now go before the Mayor and City Council for review and the vote.


Tell EPA NO attack on science! 

EPA’s proposed rule, Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science, sounds good. Who doesn’t want  EPA to be more transparent about how it sets its regulations protecting people from pollution? The reality, however, is that EPA is attempting to abandon public and environmental protections in order to protect industry profits. EPA would do this by attacking the very science on which its regulations are based, not just how it uses this science. The EPA rule would apply to all pollutants, not just radioactive substances.

PLEASE COMMENT! DEADLINE EXTENDED to Thursday, August 16, 2018, 11:59 PM ET

Use TALKING POINTS BELOW to construct your comments and submit them:

  • EPA radiation protection is already not protective enough. What protections EPA regulations do offer must remain. Increasing transparency alone is not enough to ensure increased protection so EPA must not approve this proposed rule.
  • EPA must maintain the linear, no threshold (LNT) model for cancer risk from radiation. LNT must not be abandoned in favor of less protective models.
  • The National Academy of Sciences determined a decade ago that damage can be caused by all radiation exposures so there is no safe dose. Scientific evidence supporting the LNT, and against less protective models, has continued to build since then. 
  • EPA must issue more protective regulations for sensitive females, since their cancer risk from radiation exposure is higher.
  • EPA doesn’t specifically protect against non-cancer impacts of radiation exposure and should establish a hazard index for radionuclides – something EPA already has for toxic chemicals.
  • EPA should figure out how much radiation exposure is costing us, including loss of salary from impaired neural development and lower IQ, cost of treating radiation-induced cancers, and cost of accumulating radiation damage across generations.
Thank you!

Three Mile Island disaster impacts continue  

Survivors of the 1979 Three Mile Island meltdown in Pennsylvania convened a panel of local journalists, activists and experts to mark the 39th year since the disaster. Cindy Folkers of Beyond Nuclear was one of six panelists present as people recalled their experiences on that day, and health impacts since. Leukemia and lung cancers increased as did blood malformations. One panelist revealed thyroid cancers appear earlier and seem to be more aggressive, adding to recent research that indicated thyroid cancers in the TMI area appear to bear a radiation-specific biological marker. The Nuclear Hotseat podcast features excerpts from, and context for, the event. More 

Trump EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt weakens federal regulations on radioactive coal ash disposal

As reported by Democracy Now!:

In environmental news, President Trump has nominated Dow Chemical lawyer Peter Wright to head up an Environmental Protection Agency unit tasked with overseeing the disposal of hazardous waste and chemical spills at toxic Superfund sites. Meanwhile, new data says coal ash—the residual byproduct of burning coal—has contaminated groundwater with arsenic and radium and other toxic chemicals near coal-fired power plants across the country. The new data was released on Friday, only one day after EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said the EPA would weaken federal regulations on coal ash disposal. (emphasis added)

Fossil fuels, including coal, natural gas, and oil, contain naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM). When mined/drilled and then combusted, this NORM becomes TENORM--Technically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials. Decay products of uranium, including radium, are hazardous. They are artificially released from extraction and burning, to harm humans and other life forms downwind and downstream, up the food chain (through bio-accumulation), and down the generations (many radionuclides have a long hazardous persistance).


David Zwick, clean water advocate and one of ‘Nader’s Raiders,’ dies at 75

As reported by an obituary in the Washington Post.

David Zwick, and the organization he founded, Clean Water Action, have long worked in coalition with the anti-nuclear power movement.

As but one grassroots example, Don't Waste Michigan was blessed by Michigan's Clean Water Action chapter for years on end, in the form of CWA hosting monthly Don't Waste MI meetings in its Lansing offices. CWA didn't just host the meetings, they actively took part.

Such anti-nuclear collaboration also has taken place at the national level. As but one example, CWA has long resisted the nuclear power industry's coveted national dump for highly radioactive waste at Yucca Mountain, Nevada.

This makes perfect sense, given the risks to human health and the environment (and specificially, clean water!), from nuclear power and radioactive waste, during so-called "routine" operations, let alone large-scale or even catastrophic hazardous radioactivity releases, as at Three Mile Island Unit 2 in the U.S. in 1979, Chernobyl in Ukraine in 1986, and Fukushima Daiichi in Japan in 2011.