Dear Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Toshimitsu Motegi,
Despite the continuing disaster at Fukushima No. 1, there remains one final myth regarding nuclear power plants in Japan: Namely, that in the absence of a major accident, a normally operating nuclear power plant is safe. However, the now-verifiable reality is that it is not, at least not for residents living in the vicinity of the plant.
As early as 2007, Germany’s Federal Office for Radiation Protection published a thoroughly researched study titled “Childhood Cancer Rates Near Nuclear Power Plants.” The study covered 24 years (1980-2003) and included 1,592 children with cancer and 4,735 controls living around 16 nuclear power sites throughout Germany.
At all 16 sites, the study found that children under 5 years of age had a higher risk of developing cancer the closer they lived to a plant. Risk was most increased within 5 km of the plants, i.e. by 60 percent. Seventy-seven children living within 5 km of a nuclear plant were found to have cancer, considerably higher than the 48 that would be expected statistically.
For leukemia, the risk increase was 120 percent: 37 cases instead of the expected 17. In other words, within the 5-km range, 29 children suffered from cancer (of whom 20 had leukemia) simply because they lived in these areas. Altogether, there were up to 275 more cases of cancer than would be expected statistically at these sites.
Even normally operating nuclear power plants constantly release radioactive elements into the air and cooling water. The excess cancers among children living near nuclear facilities are likely established during the embryonic stage when the embryo is extremely radiosensitive. This is the time when cells are proliferating rapidly and are much more vulnerable than in later, more stable growth phases. Damaged cells proliferate easily, paving the way for cancer and other diseases.
Additional studies have been conducted in both Britain and the U.S. with similar, if not even more disturbing, results. In 2006, in conjunction with Welsh broadcaster S4C, an environmental consultancy produced a report based on interviews with villagers in the vicinity of the Trawsfynydd nuclear power station in north Wales.
Researchers focused on almost 1,000 people of all ages who had been living in three communities close to the power plant throughout the 1996-2005 period. The incidence of cancer (of any type) among women younger than 50 was reported to be more than 15 times the national average. Furthermore, breast cancers in women aged 50-61 were five times the average level for women of that age. Overall, the survey revealed double the risk for cancer (of any type) relative to the average rates for England and Wales.
As for the U.S., on March 20 of this year, the Cape Cod Times reported the court testimony of Richard Clapp, who was the director of the Massachusetts Cancer Registry from 1980. He told the court: “In the first two years (of his tenure), we found an excess of leukemia in Plymouth and towns near the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station. There was a fourfold excess of leukemia in people who lived and worked near the plant.”
On March 4, the Cal Coast News reported on a recent study conducted by the nonprofit World Business Academy business think tank concerning the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant in San Luis Obispo County, California. The study found that those living within a 25-km radius of the plant had a significantly increased incidence of various cancers, including thyroid, breast and melanoma.
Further, since the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant opened in the mid-1980s, San Luis Obispo County changed from a relatively low-incidence county in terms of cancer to a high-incidence county, translating to an additional 738 people diagnosed with cancer between 2001 and 2010.
Cancer incidence in San Luis Obispo County rose from 0.4 percent below the California average to 6.9 percent above that figure, giving it the highest cancer rate of all 20 counties in Southern California. After Diablo Canyon began operating, the incidence of thyroid and female breast cancer also showed a significant increase.
Perhaps most disturbingly, after Diablo Canyon began operating, both infant mortality and child/adolescent cancer mortality rose significantly. The incidence of melanoma soared from 3.6 percent above to 130.2 percent above the state incidence rate. It now has the highest rate of all the counties in California.
The preceding reports demonstrate yet again the scientifically established fact that there is no safe dose of radiation, no matter how small, bearing in mind that dangerous radioactive elements constantly accumulate in the body. Thus, with each nuclear reactor the Japanese government allows to restart, residents living as far away as 25 km will once again be placed at a higher risk of falling victim to life-threatening illnesses.
Finally, The Associated Press has just released an investigation showing that radioactive tritium has leaked from three-quarters of U.S. commercial nuclear power sites, often into groundwater, from buried piping that has corroded. What’s more, as America’s nuclear power reactors continue to age, the number and severity of the leaks has been escalating, even as U.S. regulators extend the licenses of more and more reactors. Considering Japan’s own fleet of aging reactors, can you guarantee such leaks won’t occur in Japan?
In light of this evidence, let alone the possibility of future major accidents, Minister Motegi, are you and the rest of the Abe administration still determined to restart the reactors?
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