NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Study Claims Proximity to Nuclear Power Not Related to Cancer Rates

June 5, 2013

A study by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) on populations living near three of Ontario's nuclear power plants was just released this month. The Radiation and Incidence of Cancer Around Ontario Nuclear Power Plants from a 1990 to 2008 study (the RADICON study) demonstrated that there is no evidence of childhood leukemia clusters, nor non-Hodgkin's lymphoma increases, nor increases in any other cancers in any age group, in communities within 25 kilometers of the nuclear reactors. These results are similar to every other reputable study done for any other nuclear plant site around the world; that is, there is no causal relationship between nuclear power and cancer, says James Conca in Forbes.

The RADICON study evaluated radiation doses and cancer rates over an 18-year period for members of the public living near the three reactors compared with people in the general population of Ontario. It included cancer of the thyroid, lung and bronchus; female breast; ovary; esophagus; stomach; colon and rectum; bladder; brain and other nervous systems; liver; leukemia.

  • The variation in cancer occurrences throughout these populations (some higher, some lower) appeared completely random, as would be expected with cancers arising from factors other than radiation.
  • The data collected for this study takes into account all emission spikes from the reactors, and the methodology improves on recent epidemiological studies of childhood cancer that have used distance from power plants as a substitute for actual radiation dose.
  • Since public radiation doses resulting from the operation of nuclear power plants are 100 to 1,000 times below natural background radiation, these results are not surprising.
  • Especially, the observation that radiation dose does not equate with proximity to a nuclear plant, since other factors, like prevailing wind directions and diet, influence radiation doses to the public more than distance.

Doses closest to the nuclear plants were not consistently higher than doses further away, and vice versa, so distance from the power plant is not an appropriate substitute for dose, as is mistakenly done in many studies. Lifestyle characteristics of the surrounding communities, like tobacco use, poor diet and physical inactivity, accounted for about 60 percent of all cancer deaths.

Overall, the RADICON study showed that all cancers for all age groups are well within the natural variation of the diseases in Ontario. There are no differences in cancer rates between those living near the nuclear plants and those living far.

Source: James Conca, "Nukes In My Backyard - No Big Deal," Forbes Magazine, June 1, 2013.


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