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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.

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comments (6)

  • Anyone interested in reading the report “Analysis of Cancer Risks in Populations Near Nuclear Facilities” can download it for free from the National Academies of Science website.

  • This is a reply I made to similar false claims Roger Johnson made in the San Clemente Times:

    They are NOT secret as evidenced by the fact that you accessed the effluent report right off the NRC website; a report you obviously do not know how to read. You confused DILUTION water flow with the mildly radioactive effluent and arrived at an impossibly large figure AND you even got the dilution water flow rate wrong because the number YOU used was the average DILUTION water flow for the entire year, not the discharge you were pointing to. Furthermore, YOU neglected, or more probably didn’t understand, the conclusion found on page 65 of the report which stated that the largest dose to the most exposed member of the public was .965 mRem (that’s point 965 mRem, ie., less than ONE!). That dose was for the combined total of both gaseous and liquid releases for the entire year. To put that number in perspective, the NRC says the average individual receives 30 mRem per year just from the food they eat, ie., 30 times more radiation from just their food than the nuclear plant. Dose from a chest x-ray is about 700 mRem and a full body about 1000 mRem. See here from the NRC:

    On average, Americans receive a radiation dose of about 0.62 rem (620 millirem) each year. Half of this dose comes from natural background radiation. Most of this background exposure comes from radon in the air, with smaller amounts from cosmic rays and the Earth itself. (The chart to the right shows these radiation doses in perspective.) The other half (0.31 rem or 310 mrem) comes from man-made sources of radiation, including medical, commercial, and industrial sources. In general, a yearly dose of 620 millirem from all radiation sources has not been shown to cause humans any harm.

    Some residents in Ramsar Iran receive as much as 26,000 mRem/year and that is from naturally radioactive springs.

    So when YOU claim San Clemente residents should be terrified about less than 1 mRem/year from the nuclear plant, you are branding yourself a crack-pot. Indeed, releases to the environment are not publicly announced because they pose zero danger, and just because I don’t tell my neighbor every time I fire up my BBQ, it doesn’t mean it is a secret particularly if my BBQ times are a matter of public record.

    See here for doses when taking inter-continental flights, think of the flight crews:

    Guarapari Beach Brazil and the radioactive sands people sun themselves on:

    Radioactive places around the globe:

    From the NRC website:

    NRC regulations strictly limit the amount of radiation that can be emitted by a nuclear facility, such as a nuclear power plant. A 1991 study by the National Cancer Institute, “Cancer in Populations Living Near Nuclear Facilities,” concluded that there was no increased risk of death from cancer for people living in counties adjacent to U.S. nuclear facilities.

    Dilution water flow is ocean water pumped from the OCEAN back to the OCEAN. Roger is wrong because he deliberately fudges the numbers to arrive at a value absolutely impossible. Impossible because there isn’t a fraction of that amount of water on site and we have no pumps that could pump out that amount even if we did.

    Considering his many false statements in the past, statements where he was corrected but continued to repeat them anyway, one can only conclude that Roger Johnson is just another dishonest, lying activist unconcerned with the truth…he does a disservice to the community and state within which he lives.

    Here is the NRC site where Roger misused the numbers:

    See page 18 for the liquid effluent report numbers he again, misused. See also page 65 where the total dose for the most exposed member of the public is given for ALL effluents for the year. See a total body dose of 9.65 E-01 which equals point 965 mRem or less than one mRem.

    In addition, Johnson’s claim that all radiation dose is cumulative is baloney. See here for some perspective from an expert on radiation and its effects, a 3 minute video:

    I’ve worked at San Onofre for over 30 years, and part of my job is performing these releases and apparently, debunking Roger’s numerous false claims and lies. I speak as a private citizen and have neither the permission nor blessing of SCE to write.

    • Has anyone died from radiation exposure at a nuclear power plant in the U.S.

      • @ Joanna Clark

        Has anyone died from radiation exposure at a nuclear power plant in the U.S.

        Answer, no.

        Sorry for the late reply

    • Outraged at blocking the study, strongly put, but yes, somewhat….or at least curious that there might be something to hide! (I didn’t read terrified). I am sorry to see the study cancelled, as I would be interested in the results . I am interested in knowing the risks of living near anything that may be detrimental to my health. Even if it’s a BBQ! Education and awareness are not a bad thing. The alternative to being interested in transparency by our regulatory entities is complacency, which allows secrecy and possible criminal intent to slip by the public without being detected. What isn’t productive to any discussion is name calling. I think we can all agree that we want to live in a clean healthy world.

  • @ Christine

    “What isn’t productive to any discussion is name calling.”

    No, what isn’t productive is lying, making false statements, and pointing to studies that don’t say what you claim, all of which the anti-nuke zealots have done in spades. However, if you wish to be duped by these crack pots, I support your right to be conned.

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