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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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Monday
Mar102014

Scientists: Test West Coast for Fukushima Radiation

As reported by USA Today, calls are growing for the U.S. federal government to test the Pacific Ocean for Fukushima fallout. Varying models predict Fukushima radioactive contamination plumes in the sea will arrive at the West Coast of North America this summer at the latest, or as early as next month.

A report presented last week at a conference of the American Geophysical Union's Ocean Sciences Section showed that some Cesium-134 has already has arrived in Canada, in the Gulf of Alaska area.

Ken Buesseler, a chemical oceanographer based at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, reports that Cesium-134 serves as a fingerprint for Fukushima.

"The models show it will reach north of Seattle first, then move down the coast," Buesseler said.

Although Buesseler is calling for more federal involvement, he's also taking matters into his own hands. He's launched "How Radioactive Is Our Ocean?" The project will use crowd-sourced money and volunteers to collect water samples along the Pacific Coast, to be shipped across the country to be analyzed.

Similarly, Cal State Long Beach marine biologist Steven Manley has launched "Kelp Watch 2014," which will partner with other organizations to monitor kelp all along the West Coast for Fukushima radiation.

Oregon state park rangers take quarterly ocean water samples to test for radioactivity, according to the article. Their program began in April 2012, tied to monitoring for Japanese tsunami debris washing up on shore.

California also monitors ocean radioactivity near the sole remaining operating nuclear power plant in the state, Diablo Canyon.

The article reports Buesseler saying that current models predict that the radiation will be at extremely low levels that won't harm humans or the environment.

However, this does not comport with the affirmations of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS), in multiple reports over decades, that any exposure to ionizing radioactivity, no matter how low the dose, still carries a health risk for cancer. NAS has found that the higher the exposure, the higher the risk of cancer, but there is no threshold below which a radioactive exposure can be called "safe." NAS also has found that these health risks for cancer from ionizinig radioactivity accumulate over a lifetime of exposures.

Friday
Mar072014

EPA: Should 1977 radiation standards be revised? Comments needed

The EPA is considering revising its limits for radiation releases and doses to the public from normal operation of nuclear power and other uranium facilities. In the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR), EPA makes clear that it is not proposing any changes currently but is gathering information and comments. It is hosting a series of informational webinars (scroll to bottom), the next of which is March 19, 2014 at 1pm EST (click to register). Scroll down for full webinar announcement from EPA. Watch this page for reminders, updates, and comments as they become available.

COMMENTS MUST BE SUBMITTED BY WEDNESDAY JUNE 4, 2014 on this ANPR

From EPA: "'Environmental Radiation Protection Standards for Nuclear Power Operations' (40 CFR 190). limit radiation releases and doses to the public from the normal operations of nuclear power plants and other uranium fuel cycle facilities, the facilities involved in the manufacture and use of uranium fuel for generating electrical power. Advancements in the scientific understanding of radiation risk and new nuclear technologies and practices have led EPA to consider whether to revise the standards. EPA has issued this ANPR to request information to support our review. No changes to the current standards are being proposed at this time."

 

EPA ANNOUNCEMENT: Informational Webinar

Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR)
“Environmental Radiation Protection Standards for Nuclear Power Operations” (40 CFR 190)

March 19, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

You are invited to join us in a webinar about the ANPR for “Environmental Radiation Protection Standards for Nuclear Power Operations” (40 CFR 190). In this webinar, we will go over the current standards and identify the areas where EPA is considering revisions and where we are looking for public input.  Please note that this webinar is informational and intended to help members of the public submit comments. Comments must be received in writing by June 4, 2014.

A.     REGISTRATION REQUIRED

Advanced registration is required. When you register, you will be prompted to create a password. Upon registering, you will receive an email with the webinar link and instructions.  To register:
https://epa.connectsolutions.com/anprwebinar/event/registration.html

B.     SCHEDULE OF WEBINARS

Other topic-specific webinars will be scheduled.  For more information, updates, and background information, please visit our website at: www.epa.gov/radiation/laws/190. You can subscribe to this page to be notified when additional information is posted.

C.     ABOUT THE STANDARDS & THIS ANPR

Environmental Radiation Protection Standards for Nuclear Power Operations” (40 CFR 190). limit radiation releases and doses to the public from the normal operations of nuclear power plants and other uranium fuel cycle facilities, the facilities involved in the manufacture and use of uranium fuel for generating electrical power. Advancements in the scientific understanding of radiation risk and new nuclear technologies and practices have led EPA to consider whether to revise the standards. EPA has issued this ANPR to request information to support our review. No changes to the current standards are being proposed at this time.

D.     DOWNLOAD THE ANPR  

Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking from the Federal Register, February 4, 2014

E.     SUBMISSION OF COMMENTS

Comments are due by June 4, 2014. To be considered, comments must be submitted in writing to the 40 CFR 190 Docket No. EPA-HQ- OAR–2013–0689. Instructions for submitting comments by mail are in the ANPR. You may also submit comments electronically:

Submit Comments on Line at Regulations.gov

F.     ABOUT EPA AND NUCLEAR POWER OPERATIONS

EPA’s mission is to protect human health and the environment. The Agency sets generally applicable environmental standards that limit the amount of radioactivity that can be released into the environment. EPA does not directly regulate the daily operations of nuclear power plants or nuclear fuel facilities. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has regulatory responsibility for licensing and oversight of nuclear power plants and other commercial facilities that use radioactive materials. NRC implements EPA standards at applicable facilities.

G.     QUESTIONS?

If you need further information from an EPA staff member, please contact Brian Littleton at littleton.brian@epa.gov.(While we are happy to answer your questions, please note that EPA can only consider written comments officially submitted to the 40 CFR 190 Docket.)

Thursday
Feb202014

Beyond Nuclear/PSR speaking tour across MI a big success!

Alfred Meyer, PSR board memberAlfred Meyer (photo, left), national board member of Physicians for Responsibility (PSR), spoke throughout Michigan on a tour organized by Beyond Nuclear from Feb. 12-17. His presentations of "Nuclear Power: What You Need to Know about Price, Pollution and Proliferation" were dedicated to the memory of Dr. Jeff Patterson, PSR's Past-President.

Alfred Co-Chairs PSR's Radiation and Health Committee.

Alfred's first stop on Feb. 12, at Grand Rapids' Fountain Street Church, drew 35 attendees, despite the wintry weather. Corinne Carey of Don't Waste MI video-recorded the talk, and will post it to cable access t.v. in the near future.

Alfred had a productive day in Kalamazoo on Feb. 13th. His presentation at Western Michigan University (WMU) was attended by over 50 people, and garnered an extended interview by Gordon Evans on WMUK Radio, as well as an article by Yvonne Zipp in the Kalamazoo Gazette. Alfred also spoke at a press conference held at WMU's impressive solar panel array, launching a campus climate campaign to divest the university from fossil fuel investments. Alfred was also interviewed by Dr. Don Cooney, WMU Social Work professor and Kalamazoo City Commissioner, and Dr. Ron Kramer, WMU criminology prof., on "Critical Issues: Alternative Views" t.v. program. The interview will be aired on Kalamazoo cable access in the near future, as well as posted to YouTube.

The tour stop in South Haven (4 miles from Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor) on Feb. 14 drew 25 attendees, despite it being Valentine's Day. Kraig Schultz of Michigan Safe Energy Future--Shoreline Chapter video-recorded the talk, and will post the recording to the MSEF YouTube channel in the near future.

Ferndale in Metro Detroit on Feb. 15 drew 75 attendees. Damon J. Hartley of the Peoples Tribune did a write up and took lots of photos.

Monroe's event (within the 10-mile Emergency Planning Zone from the GE BWR Mark I, Fermi 2, as well as the proposed Fermi 3) on Feb. 16, drew 30 attendees, and garnered coverage in the Monroe News (text, PDF). The Ann Arbor (home base for PSR's new MI chapter) event on Feb. 17 also drew an audience despite an impending winter storm.

Beyond Nuclear has been honored and privileged to work with the following groups to make this speaking tour a success: Michigan Physicians for Social Responsibility; Sierra Club; Fountain Street Church; WMU Lee Honors College; WMU Environmental Studies program; WMU Institute of Government and Politics; Michigan Safe Energy Future (both Kalamazoo and South Haven chapters); Don't Waste Michigan; Ferndale Public Library; Alliance to Halt Fermi 3; Ellis Library; Don't Waste Michigan; Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes; and the Ecology Center.

Friday
Jan172014

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.

Friday
Jan172014

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.