Dramatic increase in thyroid cancers following the 1986 Chernobyl disaster

The Nuclear Policy Research Institute (NPRI) today called on the Bush administration to reassess its commitment to the expansion of nuclear power; based on new study reported in the June edition of the International Journal of Epidemiology. The study documents a dramatic increase in thyroid cancers following the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

According to the study, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, rates of thyroid cancers among women in Belarus have increased 12-fold in the years since the April 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine.

The authors noted that “the magnitude of increases observed is remarkable given the relatively limited time interval since Chernobyl.

Additionally, the study points out that children two years and younger at the time of the accident were even more vulnerable, and that their cancers tended to be more invasive and expanded beyond the thyroid gland.

A number of nuclear power plants in the United States have recently faced public safety problems that were unexpected by industry officials. These problems could have had catastrophic effect for the American people. Inspectors at Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Plant, located 21 miles southeast of Toledo, Ohio, identified a six-inch deep football-sized hole in the reactor vessel. This hole was initially missed by years of inspections, and would have resulted in a meltdown had it not been identified. At the time the hole was found, 95% of the steel protecting the reactor from meltdown had been eaten away by acid. In 2003 cracks were found in the instrumentation tubes which measure the operations of the South Texas Project nuclear reactors, 90 miles southwest of Houston, Texas, allowing the reactor to leak. Had these leaks not been identified by routine inspection, they could also have eventually resulted in a meltdown.

“Given the disastrous consequences of a major nuclear accident as demonstrated by this new study, we call on the Bush administration to halt its push for funds to subsidize the nuclear power industry, and shift those funds into safe and renewable energy sources such as solar and wind,” said Charles Sheehan-Miles, executive director of Nuclear Policy Research Institute.

Pointing out the risk of terrorist attack against one of the 103 operating nuclear plants in the United States, NPRI President Dr. Helen Caldicott said, “Terrorists don’t need nuclear weapons. Thanks to the nuclear power industry, they are already deployed all over America, and even terrorists with limited knowledge could cause a meltdown at one of these plants.”

The Nuclear Policy Research Institute will host a symposium, Nuclear Power and Children’s Health, in Chicago, Illinois October 15-16, 2004. More details are available at www.nuclearpolicy.org


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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