Roger Johnson, San Clemente
Does living near a nuclear power plant increase the risk of cancer? No one knows for sure, but recent studies in Europe report that children living near a nuclear power plant double their risk of cancer. Could this be true for those living near San Onofre? After five years of planning, the prestigious National Academy of Sciences issued a report titled Analysis of Cancer Risks in Populations Near Nuclear Facilities. Unfortunately, we may never find out. On Sept. 8, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission cancelled the research just as it was about to begin.
If you live within 31 miles of San Onofre, you would be in the study. The research would have focused on children who, along with women and the human fetus, are far more vulnerable to radiation. The reason for concern is the discharge of low-level radiation into the ocean and atmosphere which has been happening regularly since 1968.
There are many sources of radiation and many causes of cancer, but radiation effects are cumulative and the NAS has stated that even low levels of radiation can be harmful. The nuclear industry has countered this with PR campaigns trivializing the dangers of radiation. They often cite a now-discredited 1990 study by the National Cancer Institute which failed to find cancer streaks. But this study examined cancer deaths, not cancer incidence, and it studied where people died rather than where they lived or worked. Even worse, it averaged people who lived near a nuclear power plant with those who lived far away.
In 2013, there were 144,800 new cases of cancer in California. About one out of four deaths in the state are caused by cancer, and cancer is the leading cause of death in children. Cancer-causing radiation can easily penetrate living tissue which is why technicians hide behind lead shielding every time you get an X-ray. Radiation adversely affects cell DNA, but exact causation is difficult to prove because health effects may not manifest for decades. In Japan, thousands of people continue to die every year from medical complications caused by the radiation they received as children in August of 1945.
The NRC sets standards on what is allowable based on estimates of risk to the average adult male. They state what is permissible, not what is safe. One day in 2012 (after shutdown), Edison blasted 1.03 billion gallons of radioactive effluent waste into the ocean. Were you in the ocean that day? You will never know because discharge days are secret.
The public should be outraged that the NRC blocked cancer research. Anyone concerned should contact their representatives in Congress and demand that the study be rescued by the EPA. We should all be worried, especially since the current plan is to store thousands of tons of uranium and plutonium indefinitely a few miles from here. There is no known technology for storing this material safely for decades or centuries. There is no proven technology for finding radiation leaks before they happen or fixing them after they happen. Becoming a nuclear waste dump is a threat not only to this area, but to all of Southern California.