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Now that we are the official home of a nuclear waste dump, how does this threat affect our lives? 

Even if there is no catastrophic accident, scientists have long worried whether just living near a nuclear power plant can cause cancer, especially in women and children (and the human fetus) who are much more vulnerable to radiation exposure. Research in Europe reports an increase in cancer risks.

 The prestigious National Academy of Science spent five years studying this issue and issued two lengthy reports entitled Cancer Risks in Populations Near Nuclear Facilities. They singled out the 50 km radius around San Onofre as one of the regions to be studied. That means everyone from Huntington Beach around to Solana Beach. Unfortunately, the NRC stepped in and terminated the research before it could begin.

 Eager to restart this research, 1,200 area residents recently signed a petition requesting congressional funding to make it happen.  Cancer is the No. 1 killer in California. Could all the radioactive releases be a contributing factor?

 Edison has been conducting radioactive releases in secret for over a half-century. Starting this year, they are no longer done in secret, because the California Lands Commission (at the request of Surfrider Foundation) now requires 48-hour advance warnings. We just learned that there were four in October, with one scheduled for Oct. 29. 

 The nuclear industry attempts to trivialize these releases by focusing on the radiation in a single release. The problem is that the effects of radiation are cumulative, so each exposure adds to previous exposures. One X-ray may not be harmful, but would you want 1,000 X-rays? There are generally no immediate effects from ionizing radiation, because DNA cell damage takes years or decades to become cancer.

 In the five years before the plant was shut down, SCE conducted over 1,000 releases. They pumped over 100 billion gallons of radioactive water into the ocean through giant pipes 18 feet in diameter. Air ejectors blasted radiation into the atmosphere, and prevailing winds carried it over our cities. Some releases went on continuously for 28 hours.  

 No one knows for sure if there are cancer effects, but let’s support the research designed to find out. Let’s also urge elected officials at all levels to show some leadership in pressuring authorities to get the thousands of tons of highly radioactive uranium and plutonium moved to a safer location.

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