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New Reactor Would Pose Health Risks
Joseph Mangano

Letters To The Editor
Toledo Blade
Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The DTE Co. has announced plans to apply for a federal license to build a new nuclear reactor at the Fermi plant in Monroe County, just south of Detroit. A new reactor would cost a whopping $3 billion, and a recent act of Congress means taxpayers would pay most construction costs.

Economics aside, health risks posed by the new reactor have been largely ignored. A meltdown, either from mechanical failure or sabotage, would be the worst environmental catastrophe in U.S. history. Many thousands would be stricken by radiation sickness or cancer, and a substantial number would die.

But another Chernobyl or 9/11 isn't necessary to affect human health. Reactors routinely emit more than 100 radioactive chemicals created only in atomic bombs or nuclear reactors into the air and water. They enter the body through breathing and the food chain, and kill or injure cells. Each substance can cause cancer and is especially harmful to infants and children. Emission levels from the currently operating Fermi 2 reactor are relatively high vs. other U.S. reactors, and may have harmed Monroe County residents.

  • In 1986-87, the first two years that Fermi 2 operated, 31 county infants died, compared to 20 in the prior two years.
  • In the decade before Fermi 2 started, the county childhood cancer death rate was 19 percent below the U.S. rate, but since has been only 2 percent less.
  • Below-average county mortality rates of radiosensitive breast, thyroid, and bone cancer before the Fermi startup are now above average.

Monroe County, with a well-educated and high-income population living close to world-class medical care, should not have elevated cancer rates. With safer sources of electricity available (like solar and wind power), any decision on the new Fermi reactor should be postponed until all health risks to local residents are thoroughly considered.

Joseph Mangano
National Coordinator
Radiation and Public Health Project
New York City

This article can be found at the Toledo Blade site by clicking here

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