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EXPECTED HEALTH EFFECTS IF THERE IS AN ACCIDENT AT PILGRIM - 
WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY


Spent Fuel Pool Accident

The spent fuel pool currently contains approximately eight times the radioactivity than the core. Because of this a spent fuel pool fire would have devastating consequences. The Massachusetts Attorney General requested a report on the potential consequences of a spent fuel pool fire at Pilgrim, 2006. The results are summarized below. The full report is available on NRC's website http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/adams/web-based.html. Adams Accession Number ML061630088."

Estimates of Costs and Latent Cancers Following Releases of Cesium-137 from Pilgrim’s Spent-Fuel Pool

 

10% release C-137

100% release C-137

Cost (billions)

$105-$175 billion

$342-$488 Billion

Latent Cancers

8,000

24,000

Source: The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Request for a Hearing and Petition for Leave to Intervene With respect to Entergy Nuclear Operations Inc.’s Application for Renewal of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plants Operating License and Petition for Backfit Order Requiring New Design features to Protect Against Spent Fuel Pool Accidents, Docket No. 50-293, May 26, 2006 includes a Report to The Massachusetts Attorney General On The Potential Consequences Of A Spent Fuel Pool Fire At The Pilgrim Or Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant, Jan Beyea, PhD., May 25, 2006.

Reactor Core Accident

Impact from Cs-137: Much of the long-term, long-distance radiological impact of a reactor release would be attributable to Cs-137. We then can compare the inventory of Cs-137 in Pilgrim’s core [provided in the LR E-1-67] to Pilgrim’s spent fuel pool and with that ratio in mind look at the consequence analysis prepared by Dr. Beyea for the Massachusetts Attorney General estimating the costs and latent cancers following release of Cs-137 from Pilgrim’s spent fuel pool.

Cs-137 in Pilgrim Core during license extension = 190,000 TBq or 5,130,000 curies

Cs-137 in Pilgrim spent fuel pool during license extension = 1,630,000 or 44,010,000 curies

The consequences from a core release potentially 8 times less from Cs-137 than predicted from a pool release. Therefore a 100% Cs-137 release from the core essentially would be equivalent to a 10% release from the pool - $105-175 billion dollars in projected damages.

It is important to note that the curve from a 10% to 100% release is not a straight line. A smaller per-cent release of Cs-137 would be proportionately less but still very significant. And, most important, the consequence analysis by Dr. Jan Beyea focused solely on Cs-137 and only on cancer. We know that other dangerous isotopes would be released in a severe accident and other health effects expected.

CRAC-II: Sandia National Laboratory did a study for U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Calculation of Reactor Accident Consequences for U.S. Nuclear Power Plants (CRAC 2), 1982. The results for Pilgrim are summarized in the table below. The statistics appear sanitized; in actuality, the figures would include your friends, neighbors, and family. 

Peak Early Fatalities w/in 1st year (scaled)

Peak Early Injuries (Scaled) w/in 1st year

Peak Cancer Deaths (scaled)

Peak Fatal Radius (miles)

Peak Injury Radius (miles)

3,000

30,000

23,000

20

65

1. peak early fatalities (deaths from radiation exposure occurring within the first year)
2. peak early injuries (radiation-related injuries occurring within one-year which require hospitalization or medical attention – include conditions such as sterility, thyroid nodules, vomiting, cataracts) 
3. peak cancer deaths (predicted to occur over a lifetime to exposed population – leukemia assumed)

If There Is An Accident At Pilgrim, What About Thyroid Cancer?

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Reported:

The NRC's NUREG/CR 1433 shows that for children, the following dangers may occur from the inhalation of nuclear materials after a massive core-melt atmospheric accident (like Chernobyl):
Also note that the estimates are conservative in that they do not take into account the vast quantities of iodine now stored in spent fuel pools from recently unloaded reactor cores that would be released in a worst case accident scenario.

Approximate Dangers of a Core-Melt Atmospheric Accident for Children

 Distance in Miles

Mean Thyroid Dose
(rem) for Exposed
Children Outdoors*

Probability of Thyroid Damage to Exposed Children Located Outdoors if not Protected by Stable Iodine (like KI)

1

26,000

100%

5

11,600

100%

10

6,400

100%

25

2,200

80%

50

760

26%

100

200

7%

150

72

2%

200

32

1%


NRC’s NUREG-1623 points out that radioactive iodide can travel hundreds of miles on the winds. An increase in cancer caused by Chernobyl…”was detected in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. Notably, this increase, seen in areas more that 150 miles from the site, continues to this day and primarily affects children who were 0-14 years old at the time of the accident…the vast majority of the thyroid cancers were diagnosed among those living more than 31 miles from the site. 

The 2001 figures were 11,000 thyroid cancers at 31 miles.

World Health Organization Reported:

The recently updated (1999) World Health Organization (WHO) Guidelines for Iodine Prophylaxis following Nuclear Accidents states in its abstract regarding thyroid cancer caused by the Chernobyl disaster: 

"This increase in incidence has been documented up to 500 km from the accident site." 


...And therefore...”That stockpiling (KI or KIO3) is warranted, when feasible, over much wider areas than normally encompassed by emergency planning zones, and that the opportunity for voluntary purchase be part of national plans." 

 

Consequence Analysis

A word of caution:

Most consequence analyses of health effects from a severe accident severely underestimate consequence by: basing the analysis on a flawed computer code, MACCS or MACCS2; using an incorrect plume distribution model, the straight-line Gaussian plume model instead of a variable trajectory model; failing to include the whole range of health consequences from a severe radiation release, not simply cancer; and relying upon outdated dose response models based upon health studies "cherry-picked" by NRC and the industry.

For example consequence analyses at Pilgrim Station use the straight-line Gaussian model that ignores the potential for a far wider geographical impact close-in; and that, because it is incapable of modeling beyond 31 miles, it diminishes consequences farther from the source (and closer to the major Metropolitan Boston and Providence population centers.)  Meteorological data inputs should come from a variable trajectory plume  model (rather than from a straight line Gaussian plume); recognize a sea breeze increases dose (rather than decreases it), and that a plume blown off-shore can have effect because it remains compacted due to lack of turbulence and is concentrated when blown back to shore. 

This is more fully explained by Pilgrim Watch in Contention 3 submitted during the relicensing adjudication. Pertinent filings are listed in the "relicensing" section of this website.

 

More about radiation health effects

 

 

PilgrimWatch.org