By Mindi Messmer, candidate for NH House of Representatives – Rye and New Castle
(Published July 30, 2016 www.seacoastonline.com)
On July 20, 2016 was the second meeting of the Governor’s Task Force for the Seacoast Pediatric Cancer Cluster meeting. The task force’s goal is to coordinate a consistent strategy related to health and environmental concerns. This task force is providing an important function to investigate if there is a possible environmental trigger for the pediatric cancer cases that the state has recognized as a statistically significant “cluster.” While the eventual outcome of this task force may not be identification with certainty of the cause of these cases, it hopefully plays an important role in raising public awareness of environmental issues in our own backyards. I applaud Representative Tom Sherman for his continual efforts to organize and lead this cause. The agenda for the July meeting can be found here http://www.dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/gtfscc/index.htm and the webcast is here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31Jxbb7Rbuw&app=desktop.
One of the topics addressed at the meeting was Seabrook Nuclear Power Station. Representatives from the State of New Hampshire spoke about how Seabrook is monitored. The states of New Hampshire and Massachusetts have historically received appropriations from the utility that runs Seabrook Station.
Additionally, Sandra Gavutis of c-10.org spoke about their continuous, real time radiation monitoring which has been conducted in several northern Massachusetts towns since approximately 1991 (Figure 1). The State of Massachusetts paid for the monitoring network and continues to pay for the monitoring every year. According to Gavutis, each radiation monitoring station costs $7,000 in capital costs plus monitoring. According to public records, $75,000 was earmarked by the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security State of Massachusetts in fiscal years 2008 and 2009. This money is allocated to c-10.org by the State of Massachusetts from the appropriations they receive from the utility that operates Seabrook.
Figure 1. C-10.org continuous real-time monitoring stations in Massachusetts and private monitoring locations in New Hampshire (www.c-10.org).
The state of New Hampshire is also appropriated funding on an annual basis by the utility to address issues related to Seabrook Station. In 1998 and 2000, the total funding appropriated from the utilities to the State of New Hampshire for emergency preparedness for Seabrook Station was $1.2M and $1.4M, respectively. Several calls to obtain more current appropriations from the utility to the New Hampshire Department of Safety Homeland Security and Emergency Management Public Information Officer were not returned. A few continuous, real time stations located in New Hampshire are operated by c-10.org and paid for with private funding.
Rather than real time monitoring like c-10.org operates in Massachusetts, the state of New Hampshire uses thermo luminescent dosimeters or “TLDs” to monitor emissions in the seacoast. These are placed around the seacoast towns sometimes one or two per town, however, some towns like Greenland and New Castle are not monitored. The TLD results represent average radiation values over a calendar quarter (or 90 days). If there are spikes of radiation emitted those spikes would be averaged over 90 days. According to Sandra Gavutis of C-10.org, the Seabrook Plant routinely emits radiation, usually timed with easterly winds, as part of their maintenance. C-10.org has also historically measured radiation spikes during plant operations like relocating nuclear fuel rods.
At the meeting, we were also told that New Hampshire monitors an EPA RadNet station in Concord, New Hampshire some 27 miles from Seabrook. When asked, the state said that RadNet data would only really only provide “control” or background information and would not be helpful to notify the regulators or public in the event of an emergency. Mr. Debanond Chakraborty from the state of New Hampshire Radiological Testing Division said “…you can consider that as a control location. But as far as I am concerned there are no continuous air monitoring or radiation monitoring done other than this one within the state either by us or federal entities.”
I find it alarming that there is no continuous, real time monitoring for radiation emissions from Seabrook at the perimeter or in New Hampshire seacoast towns, however there is in Massachusetts. The Seacoast residents are left to rely on Seabrook plant officials to let us know if they had a large release based on the plant stack monitors. This account was presented in the Report by the President’s Commission following the Three Mile Island disaster, “On the first day of the accident, there was an attempt by the utility to minimize its significance, in spite of substantial evidence that it was serious” (http://www.threemileisland.org/downloads/188.pdf). We should embrace Ronald Regan’s words “Trust but verify.” Additionally, when asked, state representatives were unsure if and how they would be notified of a spike of radiation measured in C-10’s locations in Massachusetts.
Additionally, a study conducted in 2008 in Germany reported a 1.6-fold increase in solid cancers and a 2.2-fold increase in leukemia among children living within 5 km of all German nuclear power stations (Fairlie, 20091). The study further concluded that US regulatory agencies should conduct epidemiological studies of cancer incidences near all US nuclear power stations. They recommended that epidemiological studies establish whether a significant relationship exists between increased cancers among children under the age of 5 within 5 kilometers of nuclear power stations and proximity to them. When evaluating the pediatric cancer cluster, the state of New Hampshire looked at pediatric cancer rates in Rye, New Castle, Portsmouth, Greenland and North Hampton. The evaluation did not include Seabrook, Hampton or towns or other towns proximate to Seabrook Station.
Currently, concrete degradation is delaying the request for re-licensing the Seabrook plant. The concrete degradation is detailed here on the NRC’s website http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/operating/ops-experience/concrete-degradation.html. Are we living next to a future Fukushima Daiichi?
I find all of this appalling, reckless and haphazard to say the least. The fact that real time monitoring of radiation emissions from Seabrook Station is not conducted in New Hampshire poses a real threat to health and well-being of all New Hampshire residents as well as a national security risk.
The states of New Hampshire and Massachusetts are appropriated funds every year for emergency preparedness. Massachusetts has spent some of this money on creating a continuous, real time radiation monitoring in towns adjacent to the New Hampshire border. Shouldn’t some New Hampshire’s annual appropriation be used to fund a few real-time radiation detectors in our Seacoast towns that can be used to alert us of an emergency? And if we chose to know, what levels of radiation we are being dosed with through regular maintenance activities?
1- Fairlie, 2009. Commentary: childhood cancer near nuclear power stations. Environ Health. 2009; 8: 43.