It is alarming that the radioactive equivalent of thousands of nuclear weapons will now be stored indefinitely at San Onofre (“Coastal Commission OKs Nuclear Storage,” Oct. 19 edition).
But this is not the only outrage. A month ago the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) blocked a scientific study designed to find out if the regular radioactive emissions from San Onofre can cause cancer. The study is entitled Analysis of Cancer Risks in Populations Near Nuclear Facilities.
This research would have been carried out by the prestigious National Academy of Sciences. The health records of everyone within 31 miles of the plant would be screened for possible cancer streaks. The radius stretches from Newport Beach to Solana Beach and includes everyone in Laguna Beach.
The dirty little secret of the nuclear industry is that all nuclear power plants regularly discharge radiation into the environment. San Onofre has been doing this regularly since 1968 and continues doing it even after the shutdown. Numerous radionuclides are ejected into the atmosphere or pumped into the ocean at a million gallons/minute. One day in 2012 they pumped 1.031 billion gallons into the ocean (discharge days are kept secret).
Many argue that the nuclear industry blocked the study because it was afraid of what the results might show. The NRC (funded by the nuclear industry) has a $1 billion budget, but claimed it could not afford the $8 million for the study. It also said that it already knows the answer: low-level radiation is harmless. Trivializing radiation dangers is a regular PR effort of the industry.
The NRC continues to cite a now thoroughly discredited study by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which examined this issue a quarter of a century ago. The nuclear industry likes this study because it failed to find cancer streaks. We now know that the NCI study failed because it examined only cancer deaths, not incidence, and it studied only where people died, not where they lived or worked.
Also worrisome are recent studies in Europe reporting that children who live near a nuclear power plant double their risk of cancer.
The official logo of the NRC is “Protecting People and the Environment.” It should read “Protecting the Nuclear Industry and Its Profits.” Those who are outraged should contact their representatives in Congress and demand that Congress rescue the study and fund it with another agency such as the EPA.
Roger Johnson, San Clemente
The author is a retired neuroscience professor.