The Environmental risks of Nuclear power stations

The Environmental risks of Nuclear power stations:
(CPES, June 14th 2006)

Michael Meacher MP (UK Environment Minister 1991 - 93), contributing to the S4C report on cancer near Trawsfynydd Nuclear Power Station, 13th June 2006:

"This is the most significant evidence of all and I think it is absolutely clear that we should not go ahead with a new round of nuclear power station build until we have looked at the health and environmental effects of nuclear power stations. These are very worrying statistics. It is up to us in Parliament and the public and those who are health specialists and those who have looked at these statistics to demand a full public inquiry."

» Front page and page 2 of North Wales Daily Post, 13th June 2006

» Report in Western Mail, 13th June 2006

Western Mail Comment

"At a time when the Government seems intent on building more nuclear power stations, it is vital that any suggestion of elevated health risks around existing installations should be properly investigated.

The survey, carried out in the communities surrounding Trawsfynydd Power Station by the S4C current affairs programme Y Byd ar Bedwar, amounts to much more than a suggestion. According to the team, whose results have been analysed by an environmental consultancy, there is significant evidence that cancer risks are higher for those living in the vicinity of the plant.

With almost wearisome predictability, the government organisation responsible for monitoring the incidence of cancer has sought to rubbish the survey, saying its methodology is unsound. It is all very well for the Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit to make such an observation, but the fact is that no relevant data is publicly available and, it appears, no official survey has been carried out in the area around Trawsfynydd.

In the circumstances, it is hardly surprising that a team of enterprising journalists will be prepared to take up the anecdotal concerns expressed by members of the community and undertake a survey to the best of their ability.

It is very unfortunate that in an era when both the UK and Assembly governments maintain they are committed to openness and transparency, so much reticence remains about the environmental health impacts of industrial emissions.

It is widely accepted as a general principle that many cancers have an environmental cause, but it is rare indeed that the culprits are identified. So reluctant is the law in this country to single out for blame particular companies, that a recent House of Lords judgement determined that where an individual had worked for several companies where employees were exposed to asbestos, none of them could be singled out for liability.

In the same way, there is a considerable reluctance to accept that nuclear plants can be responsible for elevated health risks, even when radiation is known to be a carcinogen. As the researcher, Dr. Chris Busby, puts it, "There is a very high and statistically significant level of cancer near a nuclear plant which is releasing material which causes cancer."

Official bodies that seek to dismiss the findings of the Trawsfynydd survey would be on stronger moral ground if they were prepared to produce more accurate epidemiological data for the relevant area themselves. But this has not happened.

We have a right to expect that before any decision is acted upon to build more nuclear plants, comprehensive epidemiological surveys should be undertaken and published in the vicinities of Trawsfynydd and Wylfa, the two nuclear power stations in Wales. Anything less would be an abrogation of duty by our elected representatives that could have devastating consequences for future generations."

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