Federal study to re-examine link between cancer and nuclear plants

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The National Academy of Sciences is launching a study to examine radiation levels around six nuclear power plants, including San Onofre.

The $2 million dollar study is sponsored by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which says it doesn’t expect to observe any increased cancer risk, but the NRC wants to be absolutely sure.

“People want to know whether there’s any relation between living near a nuclear power plant and increased cancer risk,” said NRC Spokesman Scott Burnell. “This question is an evergreen.”

For two decades, the NRC has relied on a 1990 National Cancer Institute study that showed there wasn’t a significant relation.

Burnell says new research methods have become available since the study came out.

“That study looked at information at the county level, and today with geographic systems and other sorts of data you can drill down to a much greater level of detail,” said Burnell.

Steven Kerekes with the nuclear industry’s Nuclear Energy Institute says every plant has extensive radiation monitoring that shows the amount of exposure is safe.

He doesn’t expect the study to come up with anything new.

“If indeed there were another way to slice the apple and they could demonstrate it could mean something, we certainly would support the science,” Kerekes said. “The National Academy of Sciences has all but admitted already that they’re not going to come up with real meaningful information from this.”

The Academy is expected to announce the results in two years.

In the more immediate future, the NRC is reviewing plant operator Edison’s proposal for a partial restart of San Onofre.

And at its next meeting in Irvine, the California Public Utilities Commission will discuss whether ratepayers should be let off the hook for costs associated with the plant.

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