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SCSQUARED halfRoger Johnson, San Clemente

Cancer is a serious health issue everywhere, and this is especially true in San Clemente where we all live near a nuclear power plant. Does living near a nuclear power plant increase the risk of cancer? We may never know because on Sept. 8 the Nuclear Regulatory Commission terminated research designed to answer this question.

The National Academy of Sciences has been working on this for five years. Last December, they released a report titled Analysis of Cancer Risks in Populations Near Nuclear Facilities ( The study would have been conducted near six nuclear power plants including our own San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

If you lived within 31 miles of San Onofre, you would be in the study. The research would have focused on children who (along with woman and the human fetus) are far more vulnerable to radiation.

Studying this issue is difficult because there are many sources of radiation and many causes of cancer. We do know that radiation effects are cumulative and the National Academy of Sciences has reported that even low levels of radiation can be harmful. Edison has been regularly discharging low-level radiation into the ocean and into our air since 1968. Recent studies in Europe have reported that just living near a nuclear power plant can double the risks of cancer in children.

The current study was proposed because the nuclear industry has been relying on an old and discredited study by the National Cancer Institute published a quarter of a century ago. The NRC likes this study because it was unable to find cancer streaks. But this study examined cancer deaths, not cancer incidents, and it studied where people died rather than where they lived or worked. Even worse, it averaged people who lived near a nuclear power plant with those who lived far away.

No wonder it failed to find an effect. Scientists know that failure to find an effect is never proof that there is no effect. Nevertheless, the nuclear industry has used this study to mislead the public and suggest radiation is harmless. Trivializing radiation dangers is a common PR tactic for the industry.

According to the California Dept. of Public Health, 1.3 million Californians today have a history of cancer. In 2013, there were 144,800 new cases and 55,485 cancer deaths. About one out of four deaths in California are caused by cancer (about 152 per day) and cancer is the leading cause of death in children.

Cancer is not one disease but rather a large group of diseases characterized by uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. Cancer-causing radiation can easily penetrate living tissue, which is why technicians hide behind lead shielding every time you get an X-ray. Radiation is known to adversely affect cell DNA, but exact causation is difficult to prove because health effects are sometimes not manifested for years or even decades. In Japan, thousands of people continue to die every year, not from old age, but from medical complications caused by the radiation they received as children in August of 1945 when they lived near Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

The NRC sets standards on what is allowable based on estimates of risk to the average adult male. They state what is permissible, not what is safe. San Onofre’s environmental emissions continue even after reactors were shut down in January of 2012.  For example, in 2012 (after shutdown), there were 335.1 hours of liquid effluent release of radionuclides. The longest one went on continuously for 28 hours discharging 1.03 billion gallons into the ocean. Were you in the ocean that day? You will never know because discharge days are secret.

The public should be outraged that the nuclear industry has blocked cancer research. Anyone concerned should contact their representatives in Congress and demand that the study be rescued by the EPA or some other government agency.

Everyone should be concerned, especially since the current plan is to store thousands of tons of uranium and plutonium indefinitely a few miles from here. There is no known technology for storing this material safely for decades or centuries. It represents a major threat not only to San Clemente but to all of Southern California.

Roger Johnson is a retired neuroscience professor living in San Clemente.

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comments (9)

  • Mr. Johnson, do you have the amount of curies that were discharged to the ocean from these releases or what the dose estimate was from this discharge? 1 billion gallons of “radioactive water” is meaningless unless you know the level of radioactivity. Having 30 years experience in radiation protection, I would venture to guess that the dose received from the release of this water is significantly less than the 150 millirem/year that I’ve measured off my granite counter top. Or the 400 – 500 millirem from a chest x-ray. Or the 500 millirem from cosmic radiation the people in Denver receive every year from cosmic radiation (~700 millirem for the folks in Leadville). Guess all those folks will be dropping dead from cancer any day now.

  • The National Academy of Sciences concluded that any data collected in the pilot study at seven U.S. sites was unlikely to answer the basic risk question. The NAS recognized that “any data collected during the pilot study will have limited use for estimating cancer risks in populations near each of the nuclear facilities or for the seven nuclear facilities combined because of the imprecision inherent in estimates from small samples.
    The basis of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission decision is that all nuclear plants in the U.S. perform environmental sampling and analysis. The evidence supports the conclusion that the average U.S. citizen’s annual radiation does from natural sources, is about 100 times greater than the largest potential dose from a normally operating reactor. See

  • Silly Karl, you’re using facts. They prefer fear tactics instead.

  • The facts are that Edidon has a long and documented history of process control failures at Songs. The NRC letters and reports document this. The NRC has failed also to protect the citizens by using miss leading studies and now cancelling this study. Similar studies in France have proven that cancer abounds near these nuclear facilities. Both Edison and the NRC are duplicitous on the cancer issues.

  • Radiation is one of those things that you can’t touch, feel or smell. Thus, the consequences of such are difficult to measure. However, according to The National Academy of Sciences, “There is no safe level of radiation”, and according to the California Cancer Registry,( child cancers rates in San Diego and Orange Counties were 21.35% greater in 1999-2010.

    I believe it is important that we cite sources and have back up data before we make public statements. Just because a banana and granite emit radiation, we must not use that as an excuse to excuse careless radiation releases by profit first value systems that are found at nuclear power plants. Remember, “There is no safe level of Radiation.”

    • “There is no safe level of Radiation.”

      Oh really? You’re getting radiation from the food you eat; you’re getting radiation from cosmic sources so that those who live at altitude, receive more than those at sea level.

      One would assume, if you are consistent in your statements and given the false charges you’ve made against Holtec AND getting into the nuclear plant, that is a tall order, that you would never choose to fly, go up into the mountains, choose to do any sun bathing because “There is no safe level of Radiation.” You would choose to never eat fish, bananas, Brazil nuts, Lima beans, and carrots and many other foods containing relatively high levels of radioactive isotopes. See here:

      or here:

      and here:

      From the above NRC source:

      “On average, Americans receive a radiation dose of about 0.62 rem (620 millirem) each year. Half of this dose comes from natural background radiation. Most of this background exposure comes from radon in the air, with smaller amounts from cosmic rays and the Earth itself. (The chart to the right shows these radiation doses in perspective.) The other half (0.31 rem or 310 mrem) comes from man-made sources of radiation, including medical, commercial, and industrial sources. In general, a yearly dose of 620 millirem from all radiation sources has not been shown to cause humans any harm.”

      This, from the above quote is worth repeating: “…a yearly dose of 620 millirem from all radiation sources has not been shown to cause humans any harm.” So, when a nuclear power plant, through its gaseous and liquid discharges gives a maximum of LESS than ONE mRem per year to the most exposed individual of the public, we can put the above into perspective, a perspective deliberately missing in the anti-nuke community. Also, according to the NRC, each member of the public receives on average, 30 mRem per year from just the food they eat, ie., 30 times MORE than the dose the most exposed person receives from the nuclear plant.

      Now, check out the doses people in Ramsar Iran receive a year.

      From the above study:

      People in some areas of Ramsar, a city in northern Iran, receive an annual radiation absorbed dose from background radiation that is up to 260 mSv y(-1), substantially higher than the 20 mSv y(-1) that is permitted for radiation workers. Inhabitants of Ramsar have lived for many generations in these high background areas.

      260 mSv = 26,000 mRem. So folks in Ramsar regularly receive up to 26,000 mRem per year and they are doing fine, yet the tin-foil hat wearing anti-nukes wish us to be worried about LESS than ONE mRem per year. 26,000 vs 1! This is why your opinions cannot be trusted because in addition to being dishonest, your data is factually bankrupt.

      To the citizens of San Clemente, beware of those who peddle irrational fear and do so to validate their philosophical predilections. In this case, they have harmed union workers, harmed the city and state, and exposed the electric grid to voltage and load supply problems, indeed San Clemente suffered a power outage directly because San Onofre was not running.

  • “Both Edison and the NRC are duplicitous on the cancer issues.”

    Edison had nothing to do with the decision, NOTHING! And, did you bother to read Ted Quinn’s excellent response including the link he posted?

    What is duplicitous is YOUR fact challenged charges you don’t even bother to attempt to support. Remember, it was the anti-nukes, who you seem to be a part of, that LIED about San Onofre’s emergency batteries, a lie none of you ever apologized for. It is the anti-nukes lying about Holtec, lying about personally getting into the plant, lying about what could happen if a canister leaked, lying about supposed TMI canisters leaking (which they haven’t, nor have any others…anywhere), lying about proposed dangers to the Spent Fuel Pools including the jaw dropping whopper that a truck bomb from OUTSIDE the perimeter could take out the pools.

    Joe, do you deny the anti-nukes have made these false charges? Do YOU feel any embarrassment at all for your participation with these dishonest folks? And just what are these “process control failures at SONGs to which you are referring? Just more of your UNsupported, factually bankrupt claims due to your philosophical opposition to nuclear power. You and the rest of the tin-foil hat crowd are hurting union workers, the city, and the state.

    If you live in San Clemente and were among those who lost power on September 20th, did you enjoy it? Or with your solar, do you even care that your neighbors were without power precisely because madam Barbara Boxer killed the goose that laid the golden egg, ie., San Onofre Nuclear Generating Plant?

  • I like you… re cool. see, I have stage 3 breast cancer….I am barely alive, but I would never blame my home town of 33 years…..never….no one should. if you want to vilify anyone, or any institution….blame the recent infiltration of “homeless” losers, and the scumbags who advocate group housing.

  • Why won’t these liberals just go away when they get what they want. The bitched when the plant was built, they cried while it was producing electricity that they used, when it was announced that the plant was going away they still whined. Now these guilt ridden, Al Gore worshiping, attention starved, politically correct, wish they had a real issue to protest, left wing hypocrites are spreading more lies. I suspect that they could care less about issues they write and cry about. They really just want to get the attention and be some kind of savior or hero in the eyes of the blind that follow them and share their misguided ideals. When the plant shut down I noticed many bumper stickers that said, “I helped shut down San Onofre”. It looks like some people really wanted some kind of recognition for opening their mouths louder than others. It is not enough for these liberals to get what they want. They also want those who disagree with them to stop their dissent and stop proving them wrong again and again.

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