Local experts question credibility of power plant study

Journal article finds cancer rates in California dropped after a nuclear power plant was shut down
Nominate a Top Woman in Business. Click here. Nominate an NEPA business professional under 40. Click here.

20 Under 40: JenniferDessoye

Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2016:11:17 11:10:02

Dr. Jennifer Dessoye is assistant professor of occupational therapy at Misericordia University and owner of Bright Beginnings Early Learning Academy (BBELA). Discontent with the early education curriculum and understanding of human development and neurolo (read more)

20 Under 40: Amy Hlavaty Belcher

Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2016:11:09 13:55:46

Amy Hlavaty Belcher, 39, owner and artistic director of Abrabesque Academy of Dancing, believes that for those who have been given much, much is expected. “I just try hard to do my best,” she said. I have been blessed with many opportunities and many gift (read more)

20 Under 40: Christopher Hetro

Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2016:11:14 11:21:35

Chris Hetro, 33, works hard and plays hard. “A strong work ethic is important, but finding balance outside of work is important because life is too short and you need to enjoy it,” he explained. As an electrical engineer and project manager at Borton-Laws (read more)

20 Under 40: C. David Pedri

Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2016:11:14 15:19:17

For attorney C. David Pedri, 37, it’s all about a combination of qualities that contribute to success. “My philosophy is simple: be open and honest, treat people the way you would want to be treated, with respect, and work hard to attain your dreams. The (read more)

20 Under 40: Ed Frable

Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2016:11:09 11:13:04

Ed Frable, 28, believes “if I work hard and stick to my word, good things will happen. My crew will not be deterred. We will re-evaluate our game plan and not give up until the job is complete,” explained Frable, the owner/operator of Ed Frable Constructi (read more)

20 Under 40: William H. Bender II

Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2016:11:16 13:11:08

William H. Bender II, CFP, CIMA, CRPC, loves what he does. “I’m lucky. I come to work every day excited to help the people and institutions we work with,” explained Bender, 34, first vice president at Bender Wealth Management Group, Merrill Lynch. The fam (read more)

20 Under 40: Angelo Venditti

Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2016:11:14 16:09:11

Angelo Venditti, 38, heard a call to the helping professions early on. Geisinger Northeast’s chief nursing officer answer was to volunteer for his local fire company. After high school, he became a paramedic, then enrolled in nursing school. Three years a (read more)

20 Under 40: Donald Mammano

Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2016:11:17 12:38:37

At 20, Donald Mammano began his own company, while attending the University of Scranton. Mammano, now 33, and president of DFM Properties, recalls, as a youngster, holding a flashlight while his father fixed the kitchen sink. “From that point on I was fas (read more)

20 Under 40: William J. Fennie III

Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2016:11:15 09:50:19

William J. Fennie III, 27, is always knocking on the proverbial door, because he knows one day, one will open. As an investment specialist with Integrated Capital Management (iCM) he cannot take “no” for an answer. “I make cold calls every day to invite f (read more)

20 Under 40: Marcus Magyar

Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2016:11:14 13:25:24

As an advisor at CAPTRUST Financial Advisors, Marcus N. Magyar, CFP, 30, provides comprehensive wealth management and investment portfolio services to business owners, executives, families and high-net worth individuals. His multi-disciplinary team of pro (read more)

20 Under 40: Heather Davis

Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2016:11:10 13:34:44

Heather M. Davis, 33, director of marketing and communication, is responsible for creating, overseeing and implementing a strategic marketing and comprehensive communications plan for The Commonwealth Medical College (TCMC). She is also responsible for pr (read more)

20 Under 40: Alexandria Duffney

Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2016:11:14 14:24:50

Alexandria Duffney, 30, is competitive by nature and loves a good challenge. These qualities have led her to her position as associate director of graduate admission at Wilkes University. Here she works with prospective students interested in enrolling in (read more)

20 Under 40: John Culkin

Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2016:11:07 17:18:26

John Culkin’s tenets inform: “Less haste equal more speed; the same boiling water that softens the potato hardens the egg, it is all about what you are made of, not the circumstances surrounding you; and don’t ask someone to walk a mile in your shoes, bef (read more)

20 Under 40: Conor O'Brien

Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2016:11:14 17:19:58

“What could be worse than getting to the end of your life and realizing you hadn’t lived it,” mused Conor O’Brien.” As co-founder and executive director of the Scranton Fringe Festival, O’Brien, 25, is responsible for leading the development of the overal (read more)

20 Under 40: Jessica Siegfried

Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2016:11:10 14:12:08

Jessica Siegfried, 38, is senior designer with BlackOut Design Inc., where she is responsible for all creative design at the full-service agency, from traditional branding and print to collateral and front end web design. “I’ve always had an interest in t (read more)

20 Under 40: David Johns

Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2016:11:08 10:15:37

David Johns’ career path has been shaped by his diverse experiences. As director of structural engineering at Greenman-Pedersen Inc., Moosic, Johns, 39, ensures that his engineering and consultant teams provide clients with their best effort. “We complete (read more)

20 Under 40: Robyn Jones

Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2016:11:14 12:41:32

Robyn Jones, 38, president of ReferLocal LLC, has learned just as many lessons from her business successes as she’s had from her failures — and she believes it’s important to share that knowledge with her employees. After graduating from American Universi (read more)

20 Under 40: Nisha Arora

Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2016:11:14 10:02:06

Nisha Arora, 36, tries to be the best version of herself every day. As general counsel for ERA One Source Realty Inc., she realized she cannot control other’s behavior so “I try to focus on myself and how I can be better,” she explained. Arora’s responsib (read more)

20 Under 40: Justin Sandy

Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2016:11:10 14:59:27

Starting at a young age in Hazleton, Justin C. Sandy, 33, found a passion for running. He became a member then a coach for Misericordia University’s cross country and track and field programs. “It was at Misericordia that I also garnered the profound sati (read more)

20 Under 40: Dr. Ariane Conaboy

Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2016:11:16 09:38:07

As a doctor of internal medicine at Physicians Health Alliance, Dr. Ariane M. Conaboy, 34, realizes the importance of human life and how fragile it can be at times. Conaboy graduated from Scranton Prep and the University of Scranton with a double major in (read more)

Find us on Facebook!

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

"Like" us on Facebook for all of the latest news! (read more)

Follow us on Twitter!

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

Follow us for constant updates! (read more)

Article Tools

Font size
Share This

When Wilhelm Roentgen stumbled onto the potential of x-rays in 1895, his findings transformed the medical world.

That discovery fueled a flurry of scientific research that fueled other inventions that would alter society including nuclear power plants. These plants supply about 20 percent of the electricity produced in the U.S. without producing greenhouse gases or other air pollutants.

While health concerns about significant radiation exposure surfaced after events at Three Mile Island in the 1970s and more recently in Fukushima, Japan, some advocates against nuclear energy suggest even low levels of radiation around power plants cause cancers.

A recent study published in Biomedicine International, “Long-Term local Cancer Reductions Following Nuclear Plant Shutdown,” suggests notable drops in breast, thyroid and other cancer rates 20 years after the 1989 closure of a plant at Rancho Seco, an economically challenged California reactor.

The authors of the study, Joseph Mangano, executive director of the Radiation and Public Health Project, and Janette Sherman, M.D., suggest a correlation exists between the elimination of radioactive emissions from nuclear power plants and significant long-term declines in human cancers.

Nuclear energy advocates disagree with the study’s suggested findings.

“By the authors’ own admission, the study has so many caveats that they can’t determine the exact cause of the change in cancer rates,” says Joseph Scopelliti, community relations manager, PPL Susquehanna. “The National Cancer Institute and other scientific organizations have conducted study after comprehensive study that found no adverse public health effects around nuclear power plants. Although it is very difficult to determine what actually causes cancer, most studies respected by the scientific community have not implicated low-level radiation as a public health risk.”

The National Academy of Sciences began performing a state-of-the-art study on cancer risk for populations surrounding Nuclear Regulatory Commission-licensed nuclear facilities in 2011. That study continues today and nuclear energy advocates await its results.

“Susquehanna has extensive controls in place to minimize radiation exposure to the public and our employees,” says Scopelliti. “Very sensitive radiation monitors around our plant have shown no increase in radiation above normal background levels. The exposure our employees get inside the plant is well below federal limits for radiation workers.”

The Susquehanna Steam Electric Station in Salem Township, Luzerne County, rests within a population estimated in 2010 at nearly 55,000 people within a 10-mile radius and over 1.7 million within a 50-mile radius.

“We do extensive radiological studies of air, water, plant life and animal life in the area around the Susquehanna plant,” says Scopelliti. “These studies began 10 years before the plant was built and has continued since then. In all those years, we have seen no changes in radiation levels in the local environment attributable to the Susquehanna plant. The radiological effects of the Susquehanna plant on the local environmental are undetectable.”

One nuclear expert agrees.

David J. Allard, director of the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Radiation Protection, oversees nine active nuclear power plants on five sites throughout the state. DEP also oversees licensing for medical, academic, industrial type of sources of radiation including nearly 30,000 pieces of x-ray equipment in facilities, half of which are used by dentists.

“The technical reality with these nuclear power plants is that under the federal regulations, Title 10, Part 50, in the code of federal regulations, these power plants can’t emit liquid and airborne radiation that cause greater than three millirem of radiation,” says Allard.

“We see lots of background (radiation) and it’s only when you have Chernobyl or Fukushima where you actually see material on our samples other than the natural background and some residual fallout from the 50s and 60s. We monitor this and quite honestly at those kinds of levels, it’s really, really difficult to measure.”

According to Allard, radon, chemical exposures, genetics and lifestyles may have more impact on the prevalence of cancer rates.

“The problem is that correlation does not mean causation just because people live next to a power plant,” he says. “People are moving in and out. There are other major sources of radiation exposure that the public gets that really swamp whatever little radiation does come from the nuclear plant. The big one is the medical screenings…In these studies, whether by the NRC or Mr. Mangano, you have to control for those other sources of exposure.”

Other studies find results contrary to those offered by Mangano’s study.

“The largest and most comprehensive study of cancer mortality near nuclear power plants—by the National Cancer Institute—found no evidence of increased risk of death from a wide range of cancers, and no adverse impact of nuclear energy facilities on public health,” says Thomas M. Kauffman, spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute. “The National Cancer Institute study was published in March 1991 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. NCI scientists studied more than 900,000 cancer deaths using county mortality records collected from 1950 to 1984.”

Kauffman disputes the suggestions made by Mangano’s study.

“Operations of U.S. nuclear power plants are overseen continuously by the government to ensure compliance with strict radiation safety standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and enforced by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission,” says Kauffman.

“Radiation monitoring information is reported annually and publicly to the government, and consistently is found to be less than one-tenth of the exposure levels allowed by the federal government. Numerous studies and reports indicate that, historically, the annual exposure to the nearest resident from a U.S. nuclear power plant has been less than 1 millirem, compared to the annual average exposure from natural sources of 300 millirem.”

Another radiation expert disputes the study’s suggested findings, referring to the study as a speculative editorial rather than a scientific study.

“It has no merit,” says Dr. James Conca, senior scientist with the RJLee Group and director of the Center for Laboratory Sciences, an analytical and forensic laboratory based in Pasco, Wash. “No one has been able to establish a link between cancer and being close to a nuclear power plant or facility of any sort because the amount of the radiation is so far below background because you can’t separate background from it.”

Conca credits the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s practices, standards and regulations with securing public safety.

“In fact, the medical issues, they produce much more exposure than any nuclear power plant,” he says. “Over the last 20 years, cancers in all areas have decreased. It has nothing to do with (a nuclear plant closure). People stop smoking. The air quality got much better because of the Clean Air Act. That had a huge effect.”

Despite the hard-core beliefs on both sides of the issue, no one knows the effects of low-dose radiation, according to one radiation biologist.

“There are projected risks from low-dose radiation that we estimate and we estimate the risk from low-dose radiation by extrapolating the dose from high-dose radiation,” says Day Werts, Ph.D., director of education and clinical research, Dept. of Radiation Oncology, Allegheny Hospital. “But in order to get statistical data, you have to have huge amounts in the population to study because the risk is so low. We have data from other sites that project risk at the high dose end and we extrapolate the data down to the low dose end to come up with the low-dose risk.”

Werts agrees with the author of the study that a number of issues need to be examined but questions the study’s methodology and controls. “His control group in the study only spans a two-year period of time while a study group spanned a 20-year period of time, so it’s difficult to really make large distinctions in the data when your control group and study group aren’t better matched,” he says. “Also he describes cancer incidence in 16 primary cancer types and only four of the incidence rates were statistically significant from the controls and all of those were in women.”

Werts wonders what effect improved screenings and evaluation and lifestyle changes may have had on those statistics.

“It doesn’t negate the data, but it is a confounding feature,” he says. “On the whole, the statistics that are presented here are interesting but I don’t believe they are conclusive. Clearly, more studies need to happen in these large population groups that are potentially exposed to low-doses of radiation. We need these continued kinds of studies but they need to be unbiased. They need to account for all of the variables and it’s going to take a long time before we really get a clear understanding of the low-dose radiation understanding risk. That’s something we would all like to know.”

We welcome user discussion on our site, under the following guidelines:

To comment you must first create a profile and sign-in with a verified DISQUS account or social network ID. Sign up here.

Comments in violation of the rules will be denied, and repeat violators will be banned. Please help police the community by flagging offensive comments for our moderators to review. By posting a comment, you agree to our full terms and conditions. Click here to read terms and conditions.