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Does Living Near a Nuclear Plant Give Children Cancer?

More than 60 studies have shown increases of childhood leukemia around nuclear facilities worldwide. Despite this finding, there has never been independent analysis in the US examining connections between childhood cancer and nuclear facilities. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) had tasked the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to conduct such a study, but then withdrew funding, claiming publicly that it would be too expensive.

In fact, documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) process reveal that NRC employees had already determined the study would show no impact. Internal emails indicate that staff was presupposing a conclusion for which they had no evidence, demonstrated by statements like “even if you found something that looked like a relationship [between cancer and radiation], you wouldn’t know what to attribute it to,” and “[m]ost people realize that all the evidence shows you’re not going to find anything.” The evidence, however, had not yet been fully collected and examined.

Not protective and unaccountable

While the NRC claims it protects public health, its radiation exposure standards fail to account fully for:

  • impacts on the placenta
  • impacts on fetal blood forming cells
  • impacts on fetal and embryonic organs
  • estrogenic impacts
  • disproportionate impacts on women
  • genetic impacts past the second generation
  • cumulative damage of repeated radiation exposure

NRC exposure data and modeling is designed to demonstrate compliance with the NRC’s regulations but not to assess health impacts. The NRC has already stated numerous times that it believes low doses of radiation, the kind NRC claims its licensees are allowed to release, pose risks so low that health impacts may not be discernible. We don’t know if NRC’s claims of no discernible or attributable public health impact from nuclear power are actually true since no one has ever looked properly.

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