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NRC To Cancel Cancer Risk Study

Dave Collins

Federal nuclear regulators are cancelling a study to examine cancer risks near U.S. nuclear power plants. The study was supposed to find out if living near a nuclear power plant increased the risk of cancer in seven sites across the country.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Wednesday the study would be too costly and would take too long. They said it would have taken 8 to 10 years and cost up to $8 million. The agency said it’s expecting budget cuts over the next five years.

“The study requires a lot of data collection: meteorological data surrounding the nuclear sites, if there was any leaked waste around the sites, human health data going back several decades,” said Lauren Rugani, spokeswoman for the National Academy of Sciences, which was handling the research.

The anti-nuclear power group Beyond Nuclear said today that halting the study is "outrageous," and that funding for it is a legitimate cost.

NRC spokesman Scott Burnell said the agency also doesn’t believe the radioactive materials released by nuclear power plants pose a big enough risk to justify the time and expense.

“Even when nuclear power plants do have controlled and monitored releases into the environment, you end up with potential doses to the public that are so low, it’s very difficult to assign an increase in risk from these very small doses,” he said.

The commission said it’ll continue to work from a 1990 study by the National Cancer Institute. That study showed no increased risk of cancer for people who live near nuclear power plants.

Two Connecticut sites were supposed to be part of the most recent study:  the Millstone plant in Waterford, and the Connecticut Yankee plant in Haddam Neck, which closed in 2004. A Millstone spokesman said the plant was ready to cooperate with the study.

Nuclear sites to be studied also included active and decommissioned plants in California, Illinois, Michigan, and New Jersey and a nuclear fuel fabrication plant in Tennessee.

This report contains information from the Associated Press.