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Canadian Study Finds No Excess Cancers Near Ontario Nuclear Plants

Sept. 11, 2013—A study conducted by Canada’s nuclear regulator has found no evidence of childhood leukemia clusters in the communities within 15 miles of Ontario’s three nuclear power plants.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission study, “Radiation and Incidence of Cancer Around Ontario Nuclear Power Plants from 1990 to 2008,” also confirmed that public radiation doses from the plants are extremely low—100 to 1,000 times below natural background radiation.

Data from the Canadian and Ontario cancer registries and the Canadian census were used to conduct the study. Cancer cases among the population living near the Pickering, Darlington and Bruce nuclear energy facilities were compared with cancer cases among the general population of Ontario from 1990 to 2008. These three sites have had a total of 20 CANDU reactors in operation at various times since 1971.

The study used detailed public dose information around each plant, generated from radiological releases and environmental monitoring data. This methodology improves on recent epidemiological studies of childhood cancer that have used distance from a nuclear power plant as a substitute for radiation dose. With the miniscule doses closest to nuclear plants not consistently higher than doses further away, the study found distance to be a poor surrogate for dose.

The study found all cancers for all age groups in the communities studied to be well within the natural variation of the disease in Ontario, with some types of cancers higher than expected and others lower. The study concluded that radiation is not a plausible explanation for any excess cancers observed near the plants.

A similar study of 1.3 million Swiss children was completed two years ago, finding no increased cancer risk from living near power plants (see Nuclear Energy Overview, July 14, 2011).

Meanwhile, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is implementing a pilot cancer risk study recommended by the National Academy of Sciences that is intended to update a 1990 National Cancer Institute report used to communicate the risks of living near U.S. nuclear energy facilities. (For NEI’s comments on this study, see Nuclear Energy Overview, Oct. 25, 2012).

The RADICON study summary report is available on the CNSC website.