Childhood leukaemia close to nuclear plants ‘extremely rare’

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A new report has concluded that the incidence of childhood leukaemia in the vicinity of nuclear power plants in Great Britain is extremely small, if not zero.

The Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (COMARE) report determined that the cases of people with leukaemia living within 10km of a nuclear power plant do not appear to differ from a larger group of control patients.

The report was based on an analysis of the incidence of leukaemia in children under five years of age living in the vicinity of 13 nuclear power plants. It used cancer registration data for Great Britain between 1969 and 2004.

Despite finding no reason for alarm, the committee did recommend the continuation of a programme of environmental measurements of radioactivity, including the continued monitoring of carbon-14 discharges (both gaseous and liquid) for existing nuclear installations and similar programmes for all new nuclear power plants in the UK.

The committee also said that it would like to see the monitoring of liquid carbon-14 discharges from nuclear power plants — as undertaken in the UK — extended to the rest of the European Union.