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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Opponents of planned Monroe nuclear reactor push for study of cancer stats

February 5, 2012
Opponents of a planned nuclear reactor in Monroe are asking regulators to fully analyze some frightening local health statistics before signing off on a new plant.

Detroit Edison is currently navigating the federal permitting process for its Fermi 3 reactor - a proposed reactor to join the Fermi 2 plant in Monroe. Fermi 2 has been in operation since 1988 and has a generating capacity of 1.1 million. If approved, Fermi 3 would be built on the same 1,250-acre site.

But those opposed to its construction say that increased cancer rates that correspond with the start of the Fermi 2 reactor should be studied before a new plant gets the green light.
As part of the public comment process for the Fermi 3 permit, Joseph Mangano, executive director of the Radiation and Public Health Project called for further investigation into Monroe County statistics, including:

  •  Infant death rates
  •  Low birth weights
  •  Mortality rates for cancer
  •  Cancer incidence rates

"Of 19 indicators, the Monroe County rate change (before and after Fermi 2 began operating) exceeded the state or nation for all 19" he wrote in a submission to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Mangano's group is a nonprofit "dedicated to understanding the relationships between low-level, nuclear radiation and public health."

A collection of environmental groups, including Michigan's chapter of the Sierra Club, are calling for a scientific study of health conditions in Monroe County to create a baseline of data outlining the risks from living near a reactor.

"It's important to establish what the situation is," said Michael Keegan of Don't Waste Michigan. "If you're talking about putting another reactor into play, you need to know where you are with baseline cancer statistics."

DTE Spokesman Guy Cerullo questioned the validity of Mangano's work, describing it as a collection of older data. But the utility isn't opposed to letting science evaluate the impacts of nuclear plants on their communities.

In fact, he said, just such a study is underway. The National Academy of Sciences is wrapping up a 15-month study assessing cancer risks in populations living near nuclear facilities licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

"If you're going to do a study, let's do it the right way," Cerullo said. "I'd say the direction that the NRC is going in "to have the National Academy of Sciences doing this" that's the way to go."

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