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Nuke Plants Cause Excess CancerDeaths When Running, Rates Decline When They Shut Down

by Michael Steinberg Thursday, Nov. 01, 2018 at 10:20 PM

A recent study showed that nuclear power plants cause excess cancer caused by their routine radioactive releases when operating. The rates decline after they shut down.

Nuclear Shutdown News chronicles the decline and fall of the nuclear power industry in the US and beyond, and highlights the efforts of those who are working to create a nuclear free world. Here is our October 2018 report.

Twenty Years On

This month marks the 20th year since my book Millstone and Me:Sex, Lies and Radiation first appeared in the 10th month of 1998.

This work was inspired by Dr. Ernest Sternglass, whose groundbreaking early 1980s book Secret Fallout: From Hiroshima to Three Mile Island exposed the dangers of so-called "low level" radiation to human health.

When the Millstone nuclear plant opened in 1970, it did little but ruin the view from our town beach in Niantic on the coast of Long Island Sound. Or so I though then. But later that decade Dr Sternglass demonstrated that rates of cancer , mortality in general, infant mortality and other maladies began rising after Millstone started emitting radioactivity into local water and air. Since then these diseases have affected too many friends and family members.

In 1995 I returned from San Francisco to southeastern Connecticut to carry out my own followup investigation. Dr. Sternglass was my mentor in this project. When I sent my preliminary findings to him, which I had calculated using data from Vital Statistics volumes at the University of California San Francisco library, he called to tell me these findings, "confirmed our worst fears."

That was all I needed to hear to send me back to Connecticut to pursue this project.

Dr. Sternglass was also a founding member o f the Radiation and Public Health Project, which continues to carry on his work.

In last month's issue I reported on the shutdown of the nation's oldest operating nuclear plant, New Jersey's Oyster Creek, which started up in 1969. In this month's report one of Dr. Sternglass's closest associates Joseph Mangano, now executive director of the Radiation and Public Health Project, details the negative health effects of Oyster Creek's decades long radioactive releases.

Mangano's report appeared as an op ed piece in the September 11, 2018 edition of New Jersey's Asbury Park Press. It is reported, in part, as follows:

"Inadequate concern for health impact of Oyster Creek"

"A far greater concern than job loss from the shutdown of Oyster Creek is the danger to human health from the exposure to huge amounts of poisonous chemicals over the past half century...Like all reactors Oyster Creek released over 100 radioactive chemicals not found in nature but produced by nuclear plants and weapons."

"These chemicals include Strontium 90, Iodine 131 and Cesium 137...Any reactor releases a portion of radioactive chemicals into local air and water. It enters human bodies through food , water and breathing.

Oyster Creek had the largest releases of any (US) reactor-far more than the 1979 partial meltdown at Three Mile Island. A study found that one of the chemicals, Strontium 90 entered baby teeth near two nuclear plants (including Oyster Creek) at levels 30-50 % above areas farther from nuclear plants--levels that rose in the 1980s and 1990s--strong evidence that releases from reactors were entering human bodies. No such releases will happen after next week (when Oyster Creek closes).

"In the period before Oyster Creek's startup, the Ocean County (NJ) cancer death rate was 3 % below the rest off New Jersey. Since then the county-to-state ratio increased, reaching a high of 10 % above other New Jersey counties in the past decade. If the county level had remained 3 % below the state rate after the early 70s, nearly 5000 fewer county residents would have died of cancer.

"In the future less intake of toxic products should reduce cancer risk. A recent medical journal study showed that after Rancho Seco nuclear plant (near Sacramento) closed, the rate of cancer in Sacramento County fell beyond the rest of California counties--a total of about 4300 fewer.

"There is no need for further loss of life of people to cancer to produce small amounts of electricity. Replacing nuclear power with safe renewables and less expensive solar and wind will improve public health in central New Jersey."

And everywhere, I might add.

Sources:Millstone and Me: Sex, Lies and Radiation in Southeastern Connecticut, Michael Steinberg;Radiation and Public Health Project,; Asbury Park Press,

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