Canadian military study on CANDU reactors

abstract for a Canadian National Defense report (2004) on the dangers of CANDU nuclear fuel cycle.

Adverse Impact of the CANDU Nuclear Fuel Cycle

The Canadian Deuterium Uranium - CANDU reactor fuel cycle consists of: uranium mining and milling in the Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan and Ontario; uranium refining, conversion and fuel fabrication in Ontario; and nuclear power plant operations and temporary used fuel storage in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick. In this research, analysis was made of the adverse impacts of the CANDU fuel cycle on the environment, the public and workers between the 1950s and present. Sources of data analyzed included industry reports, conference proceedings, journal articles, government publications, and reference texts.

National and international studies of nuclear industry workers showed statistically significant increases in all types of cancer with increased cumulative radiation dose. In Canadian industry studies, lung cancer and Non-Hodgkin's and Hodgkin's lymphoma were found to be the most frequent cancers amongst Beaverlodge and Port Hope workers. Mine tailings waste management areas were seen to have caused adverse impacts to water quality and aquatic species in all Canadian mine and mill locations, from radiologic and/or chemically toxic elements released. Levels of radiation from gamma and radon at these waste sites preclude unlimited public access. Routine releases from Ontario CANDU power plants have resulted in the build-up of radionuclides in the environment. Hydrogen-3 (tritium) measured 1,680 Bq/L in precipitation and carbon-14 measured 5710 Bq/kg-Carbon in fresh produce near the Pickering nuclear power plant in 1999, as compared to background estimates of 1 Becquerel/L for tritium and 250 Bq/kg-Carbon for carbon-14. The Ontario Provincial Water Quality Objective for tritium in drinking water is 7000 Bq/L, with an OPG target of 100 Bq/L at all water supply plants in the vicinity of OPG reactors. Anomalously elevated levels of potassium-40 near Ontario CANDU reactors require further investigation. Tritium in groundwater at the Pickering nuclear power plant measured from 105 to 1011 Bq/L due to leaks and rainfall deposition. In a review of birth defects near Ontario nuclear power plants, statistically significant incidences in Down Syndrome were found at Pickering and Bruce and Leeds/Grenville between 1978 and 1988. Increased incidence of thyroid cancer in Ontario over the past few decades requires further research to determine whether its rise is causal or coincidental with CANDU power plant emissions.

Confounding the radiological risk estimates from CANDU power plant operations in Ontario is the use of radiation in medicine and dentistry without dose tracking. A stronger emphasis within the CANDU fuel cycle on isolation and containment is required to minimize radionuclide releases and reduce risk to the environment, workers and public. Professional certification of a greater number of Canadian health physics professionals to better monitor all aspects of radiation protection is recommended.

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