US approves new reactors, while Fukushima radiation is killing Americans

A study originally published in December 2011 came to the conclusion that the US death rate may have increased by 14,000 as a result of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The same researchers have now revised this estimate up to 20,000 additional deaths. This information is coming at the same time that two new reactors have been approved, despite acknowledgements that the design does not include adjustment for the lessons of Fukushima.

Dr. Janette Sherman and Joseph Mangano published a study in The International Journal of Health Services describing the statistical analysis used to determine 14,000 additional deaths due to Fukishima radiation. To be clear, the study alleges that many of those additional deaths occurred among populations already at high risk. Infants and young children do not have fully developed immune systems, so even small changes in radiation levels can influence death rates. The elderly are also highly susceptible to compromises in their immune system, as well as people who are ill, etc. In this video, the researchers discuss their work on an update to the paper, detailing continuing increased death rates they believe are tied to radiation from Fukishima. The study notes a similar pattern of increased death rates after the Chernobyl incident, as described in “Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe For People and the Environment.”

In the scientific community, there has been criticism of Dr. Sherman’s methods and findings. Emerging facts show that Americans are being exposed to increased radiation. San Francisco has just reported finding the highest levels of radiation in milk products since August 2011. There have also been findings of increased radiation levels in water supplies, along with increased radioactivity levels in sea life and associated food supplies. The early efforts at cooling the reactors flushed unprecedented amounts of radiation into the Pacific Ocean. Recent studies (using thousands of baby teeth from Washington University in St. Louis) indicate that increased exposure to even “low” levels of radiation result in higher rates of cancer, going back to the 1950s, when nuclear testing raised radiation levels.

We hear little of these facts from the mainstream media, with even PBS being accused of soft-pedaling the dangers. The frontline episode, “Nuclear Aftershocks,” made a number of mistakes, failing to challenge a quoted expert listing the increased cancer risk for nearby residents at “0.2%.” The problem with the figure is that it is only true initially, with risks increasing each following year. Radioactive half lives for elements released in the Fukishima disaster mean that there will be dangerous exposures to radiation for hundreds of years to come, with the danger of cancer increasing each year, due to prolonged exposure.

While we are seeing the dark side of nuclear power on an almost daily basis, the US government is approving two new reactors in Georgia. The sole vote against granting approval for the new reactors was from Gregory B. Jaczko, the chairman of the commission. Jaczko cited the lack of adaptation in the designs submitted, given the concerns that have arisen in analyzing causes of the Fukishima disaster. Anti-nuclear groups have promised lawsuits in order to stop construction of the new reactors.

Illinois is experiencing problems with its own Nuclear industry, with a recent release of steam from the Byron generating plant which is 110 miles from Chicago. Illinois derives a greater share of its power from nuclear sources than any other state. The state’s history goes back to 1942 and the construction of one of the first nuclear piles at University of Chicago, along with the first commercial nuclear reactor – Edison’s Dresden Station, which was also one of the first to be closed prematurely. In all, three Illinois plants have been forced to close early.

Currently, President Obama, Senator Durbin and Senator Kirk all continue to support the nuclear energy option, despite concerns. Those concerns include over 1,000 tons of nuclear waste stored near Lake Michigan in a closed facility. The current method of approving new plants and regulating old ones is done completely through regulatory agencies and political decisions not involving the average citizen. Given the danger that has been seen at Chernobyl and Fukishima, it seems the time has come to give ordinary citizens more say in policies that have the potential to not just harm the current population, but people yet to be born.