Both the great Truths and the great Falsehoods of the twentieth century lie hidden in the arcane, widely inaccessible, and seemingly mundane domain of the radiation sciences

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Trial of the Cult of Nuclearists: EXHIBIT F continued

What follows is the continuation, in serial form, of a central chapter from my book A Primer in the Art of Deception: The Cult of Nuclearists, Uranium Weapons and Fraudulent Science.

EXHIBIT F continued:

A very dramatic cluster of cancers has been discovered along the Menai Strait between the island of Anglesey and North Wales. Mud banks in this area are known to be heavily contaminated by radionuclides discharged from Sellafield. As reported by the Low Level Radiation Campaign:

In the seaside town of Caernarfon, leukemia in the 0-4 year-old age group is more than 20 times higher than the UK national average. Brain cancers in the 0-14 age group are 18 times the average. Elevated risks not confined to the town — the 34 wards surrounding the Menai Strait - have:

* an eight-fold excess of leukemia in children younger than 4

* a five-fold excess of brain and spinal cancer in children younger than 15

* a 10-fold excess of retinoblastoma in children under 14.

(Retinoblastoma, a rare eye cancer, has been associated with radioactivity since the Seascale cluster of leukemia is accompanied by a 20-fold excess of retinoblastoma in children of Sellafield workers)” [1].

These findings are highly relevant to the current discussion. Britain’s Committee of Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (COMARE) investigated the reported childhood leukemia cluster in the environs of Seascale, near the Sellafield reprocessing plant. Repeatedly, they advised that, according to the current knowledge base, doses to the surrounding population from Sellafield were too low to be responsible for inducing the observed illnesses. The even more dramatic cluster of childhood cancers along the Menai Strait serves as a powerful indictment of COMARE’s objectivity and its assessment of Sellafield’s innocence. What it does is offer further confirmation that radioisotopes released from this reprocessing facility are inducing cancer in children. This newest revelation of the relationship between radiation in the environment and cancer screams out, once again, that there is something terribly suspect in what is currently embraced as the “truth” about the risks to health posed by internal exposure.

In Europe, other nuclear facilities besides Sellafield have been found to be inducing illness in their neighbors. Clusters of childhood cancer and leukemia have been discovered in communities near the nuclear reprocessing facility at Dounreay in the far north of Scotland. Research undertaken in 1986 revealed that childhood leukemia within 12.5 km of Dourneay was 600% higher than the average incidence elsewhere in Scotland [2]. As at Sellafield, COMARE confirmed that this excess was real, but denied that it was the result of nuclear pollution, on the grounds that the currently accepted dose-response models could not account for it. Another cluster of childhood leukemia in the United Kingdom was identified in the region close to the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston in Berkshire. The excess was observed in children under five years old who lived within 10 km of the facility [3]. According to the CERRIE Minority Report: “these well-documented effects indicate a potential for the existence of errors in the ICRP risk model of between two and three orders of magnitude.”

The Hinkley Point nuclear power plant is located near Burnham-on-Sea in Somerset, UK. The first reactor came online in 1964. That the plant was contaminating the surrounding area was confirmed in subsequent years with the discovery offshore of radionuclides adhering to fine sediments in the Steart Flats mudbank. To discover whether or not this pollution was harming the local population, the Somerset Health Authority in 1988 undertook a study of the incidence of leukemia in parishes within a 15 km radius of the plant. The study confirmed that, during the period 1959-1986, a significant increase occurred in the incidence of leukemia and non-Hodgkins lymphoma among people younger than 25 years of age [4]. The relative risk, driven by a high number of cases occurring in the first five years of the plant’s operation, was between 2.0 ad 2.5 times the national average. For the period 1995-1999, breast cancer mortality in Burnham-on-Sea was twice the national average. Evidence that Hinkley Point pollution was responsible for this increase was made obvious by this observation from the researchers who discovered this increase:

Our first analysis of the Hinkley Point area was for breast cancer mortality. Results supported the hypotheses: analysis showed that there was a statistically significant excess risk of dying of breast cancer in the aggregate wards within 5 km of the center of the offshore mud banks near Hinkley Point (RR=1.43; p=0.02). The risk fell off with increasing distance from a point source taken to be the center of the mud bank with Relative Risks of 1.43, 1.33, 1.24, 1.16 and 1.13 in wards contained within 5, 10,15,10 and 25 km rings around the point source. The overall risk in the study area was 1.09 (relative to England and Wales rates for the same period). The most significant high risk ward was Burnham North with 8.7 deaths expected, 17 observed (RR=1.95; p=0.02).

We followed this by analyzing risk of dying of prostate cancer (Busby et al., 2000b). This also supported the hypothesis. As with the breast cancer, prostate cancer mortality showed a significant trend with distance, falling from 1.4 in the 5 km ring around the center of the offshore mud banks to 1.02 in the 25-30 km ring (Chi square for trend 3.47, p = .05). Again, the downwinders at Burnham-on-Sea suffered a significantly raised cancer mortality risk: for prostate cancer mortality in the two wards, Burnham North and Burnham South combined, the Relative Risk was 1.5 with p = 0.05 (14 expected, 21 observed)” [5,6}.

In the UK, HM Dockyard Plymouth services nuclear submarines. When the decision was made in 2000 to increase capacity, Devonport Management Limited, which operates the facility, applied to the Environment Agency to be allowed to increase its annual emissions of radionuclides. A 700% increase, from 120 GBq to 800 GBq, was proposed for tritium discharges into the Tamar River, which flows past Plymouth. In addition, permission was sought for raising tritium discharges into the atmosphere from 1 to 5 GBq together with a new requirement for releases of 45 GBq of carbon-14 and 15 Gbq of argon-41. This proposal raised concern among local citizens. One question that many people sought an answer to was the health effects, if any, caused by the lower levels previously permitted. In response, the South West Devon Health Authority (SWDHA) issued a report on leukemia in the Plymouth area, based on figures provided by the South West Cancer Intelligence Unit. According to the report, a statistically significant excess in leukemia incidence of 25-30% was present for the period 1995-1997, for both men and women of all age groups. However, the SWDHA report concluded that these increases were not related to radionuclide discharges from the dockyard. Their reasons, according to Cancer and Leukemia and Radioactive Pollution from HM Dockyard, Plymouth was: “(a) the crude death rates from leukemia were not highest in the wards closest to the dockyard, Keyham [on the east side of the Tamar near the dockyard] and Torpoint [on the western side of the Tamar, opposite the dockyard], and (b) radiation exposure from the releases were too small to cause any measurable increases in leukemia” [7]. To prove (a) as false and (b) as an invalid assumption based on incorrect risk models of the ICRP, Plymouth’s Campaign Against Nuclear Storage and Radiation (CANSAR) and the environmental group Green Audit conducted research on the incidence, not death rate, of cancer and leukemia in Keyham and Torpoint. The results of their study confirmed that in the 10-year period 1994-2003, there was an 18-fold excess risk of leukemia in Keyham (seven reported cases where only 0.38 were expected based on national rates) and a 4.7-fold excess in Torpoint (four cases reported where only 0.84 were expected.) To add greater strength to the findings, a proportional incidence analysis was carried out in which the ratios of leukemia to all cancers were determined and compared to the ratio for the country as a whole. Again, an excess incidence of leukemia in the two wards was confirmed. The risk for all cancers combined was also elevated. In Keyham, for all ages, there were 39 cases of cancer reported when the expected number was only 20. In Torpoint, there were 76 reported cases where only 45.8 were expected. These results confirmed the excess leukemia risk in the vicinity of the Plymouth dockyard. Further, they drive another nail into the coffin of inaccurate risk factors that leave leukemia incidence near nuclear installations unexplained.


[1] Low Level Radiation Campaign (LLRC). The Nuclear Laundry - Again! New Cluster of Childhood Cancers and Leukemia Far Worse than Seascale. Low Level Radiation Campaign Activists’ briefing. March, 2004.

[2] Busby C. Wings of Death: Nuclear Pollution and Human Health. Aberystwyth, Wales: Green Audit Books, Green Audit (Wales) Ltd; 1995.

[3] Beral V., Roman E. and Bobrow M. Childhood Cancer and Nuclear Installations. London: British Medical Journal; 1993.

[4] Green Audit. Hinkley Point Cancer Cluster: Cancer Mortality and Proximity to Hinkley Point Nuclear Power Station 1995-1998.

[5] Busby C., Dorfman P., Rowe H. Cancer Mortality and Proximity to Hinkley Point Nuclear Power Station 1995-1998: Part 1-- Breast Cancer. Aberystwyth: Green Audit: 2000.

[6] Busby C., Dorfman P., Rowe H. Cancer Mortality and Proximity to Hinkley Point Nuclear Power Station 1995-1998: Part 2 -- Prostate Cancer. Aberystwyth: Green Audit; 2000.

[7] Busby C, Avent I. Cancer and Leukemia and Radioactive Pollution from HM Dockyard, Plymouth. Occasional Paper 04/04. Aberystwyth: Green Audit; March 2004.