‘Alarming’ cancer rates near N-power station

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'Alarming' cancer rates near N-power station

Jun 13 2006

Martin Shipton, Western Mail

Cancer rates in villages near the Trawsfynydd power station are
'alarmingly high' leading to new concerns about the side-effects of
nuclear power, a new investigation reveals.

The study claims that women under 50 are particularly at risk, with their
level of cancer during the past three years being 15 times more than the
national average.

The figures are based on a face-to-face survey with villagers in Llan
Ffestiniog, Gellilydan and Cwm Prysor, Gwynedd. Researchers for S4C
current affairs programme Y Byd Ar Bedwar knocked on the doors of more
than 400 houses in the area with a questionnaire asking about cancer cases
in the family. They got a reply from 88% of the households.

A report based on the questionnaires was written by Dr Chris Busby, a
director of the Aberystwyth-based environmental consultancy Green Audit.
He has written a number of other reports on cancer levels around nuclear
installations, but says the results of the Llan Ffestiniog study were far
more shocking than the others.

'I would describe the last three years as showing a meltdown in the
situation in that area,' said Dr Busby. 'It's a really alarmingly high
level of cancer.'

The programme-makers obtained anecdotal details of all cancers which had
been diagnosed in the past 10 years. The results showed there was a highly
significant excess cancer risk in the past three years, especially among
younger people.

The research found that the number of women under 50 diag- nosed with
cancer in the past three years was 15 times higher than the national
average for England and Wales.Five of the female respondents under 60 had
been diagnosed with breast cancer, which is five times more than the
expected figure for the local population.

One of those is a member of Gwynedd County Council's executive committee.
Plaid Cymru councillor Linda Jones said, 'I'm so glad this survey was done
and I hope now that the results will be investigated by an independent
body to look into what has caused these high levels of cancer.'

Six months ago she alerted the programme to the high levels of cancer in
Llan Ffestiniog. Many villagers have often wondered whether radiation from
the nuclear power station is responsible for cancer levels in the area,
but up until now nobody has undertaken a conclusive study to establish
whether the rates are actually higher than normal.

The Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit in Cardiff does
collate cancer figures for the whole of Wales, but has never published a
breakdown for small areas.

Former UK Environment Minister Michael Meacher said the Y Byd ar Bedwar
figures were a 'sensational development', and said the Government should
instigate a full inquiry. 'The true health effects must be resolved before
any commitment to new nuclear power stations is made', he said.

The Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit refused to respond to
the new figures. In a statement its director Dr John Steward questioned
the methodology used and said the results were likely to be biased. The
statement said, 'It was obtained from door to door and therefore depends
on co-operation which will be higher in those with cases in the family. It
is based on self-reports which are not confirmed by medical records.'

But Dr Busby is adamant that his conclusions should be taken seriously. He
said that fallout from Chernobyl in 1986 could have had a bearing on the
results. But he believes the most obvious suspect is Trawsfynydd nuclear
power station.

'There is a very high and statistically significant level of cancer near a
nuclear plant which is releasing material which causes cancer,' he said.
'Now if that's being alarmist then this is quite right because there
shouldn't be such a plant. If that plant wasn't there, and if Chernobyl
hadn't happened, most of these women would be okay, and some of the ones
that have died would be alive.'

Trawsfynydd power station stopped operating in 1991, and is now being
decommissioned. A spokesman for the British Nuclear Group Reactor Sites,
which is now responsible for the site, said, 'Discharges from Trawsfynydd
have always been strictly controlled and monitored with limits set by
relevant regulators to ensure protection of public health. Trawsfynydd has
always operated within those limits.'

But for cancer sufferer Linda Jones the Government needs to look once more
at the possible effects on public health before proceeding with plans to
expand nuclear energy.

'If they want to build nuclear power stations, fine, and I'm sure they'll
spend millions of pounds doing so. Why don't they spend some money first
to look at what causes this?'

Y Byd ar Bedwar 8.25 tonight

Thanks, Neil.


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