New Study: Cancer decline since Rancho Seco nuclear plant closed over 20 years ago
by Michael Steinberg
Recently Southern California Edison asked the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission for permission to restart Unit 2 at its San Onofre nuclear plant. Units 2 and 3 at San Onofre have been shut down since January 2012 after radioactive steam escaped into the environment, and subsequent investigation found that steam generators installed less than two years before had suffered significant damage to large numbers of critical tubes in the generators.
Now Edison wants to restart Unit 2 in June, and receive permission from the NRC to operate that reactor for two years, despite failing to substantially address the damage to the steam generators or pinpoint the reasons for the problems, according to environmental group Friends of the Earth.
“Yet again Edison is putting profits before safety,” FOE’s Kendra Ulrich said on April 3.
FOE cited evidence given by Edison to the NRC recently that, if it were given permission to restart Unit 2, the unrepaired generator tubes “will vibrate, suffer further wear and potentially burst in 6 to 13 months,” well before the two year operating license period Edison wants was up.
Edison also said it would likely have to shut down Unit 2 four or five times during the two year period.
On April 2 FOE released a report carried out on its behalf by “renowned nuclear engineer John Large,” into the problems at San Onofre. In that report Large stated, “Edison has yet to provide convincing evidence that it knows the full reasons or root cause of the severe damage to its steam generators. The problems remain unresolved and unrepaired.”
No Nukes = Less Cancer
Meanwhile, another recent study found that cancer cases have declined in Sacramento County in Northern California since the Rancho Seco nuclear plant there closed over 20 years ago.
The report, “Long-term Local Cancer Reductions Following Nuclear Plant Shutdown,” appeared in the March 2013 edition of the journal Biomedicine International.
Authors Joseph Mangano and Jeanette Sherman (of the Radiation and Public Health Project, radiation.org) used data from the California Cancer Registry to examine trends in Sacramento County, comparing incidences during Rancho Seco’s years of operations to those since it permanently shut down.
Rancho Seco began operating in 1974 and shut down in 1989 after local residents voted to close it permanently.
The authors concluded: “Since the late 1980s cancer incidences in Sacramento County have declined for 28 of 31 categories (genders, races, types of cancers). Of these, 14 declines are statistically significant. The estimated reduction in cancer cases over a 20 year period is 4319. Many factors can result in lower cancer incidence over two decades, but elimination of radioactive isotopes should be addressed as one of these potential factors in future reports.”
Let us hope that these lessons from the recent past in Northern California will be applied in the near future in Southern California.