Letter to the editor
A recent report showed the Burke County cancer death rose 25 percent since the late 1980s, when the Plant Vogtle nuclear facility began operation ("Cancer rate near Vogtle questioned," June 21). This rise was especially great for children and young adults, and occurred as rates declined across the United States, In parallel, levels of radioactivity in local water and sediment rose about the same rate since startup. Since Burke County is a poor area with an African-American majority, this raises the issue of environmental injustice. Citizens must question whether adding more environmental contamination is ethical for a population already at risk.
If a nuclear reactor were to melt down, from mechanical failure or an act of sabotage, huge amounts of radioactivity would spew into the air, and many thousands would suffer and die from radiation sickness and cancer. According to a 2006 report from Greenpeace, Vogtle had several "near-miss" accidents from mechanical problems in the past 20 years. Since 2001, all U.S. nuclear reactors are considered terrorist targets.
But another Chernobyl or 9-11 isn't necessary to harm local residents. Nuclear reactors routinely release some 200 chemicals into the air and water that cannot be tasted, seen or felt. These chemicals, created only by nuclear weapons and reactors, are radioactive. They enter the body through breathing and the food chain, and cause cancer by damaging cells. The unborn, infants and children are most susceptible.
With the record of levels of radioactivity and cancer rates increasing, the aging Vogtle reactors should be closed and no new reactors built there. Solar and wind power are safe, renewable and less costly methods to produce electricity. Safety and environmental justice issues demand no less.
Janette Sherman, M.D., Alexandria Va.