Fire / Feu

 

 

Mise à neuf de Lepreau : Protégeons les travailleurs et leurs familles

Le premier ministre Bernard Lord a décidé l'été dernier, suite aux recommandations d'Énergie Nouveau-Brunswick de remettre à neuf la centrale nucléaire de Pointe Lepreau. 


Les gens qui travailleront sur le site lors de la remise à neuf de la centrale seront exposés à des taux de radiations très élevés et les études démontrent les risques associés de maladies graves à long terme. 


Toutefois, il est difficile pour ces travailleurs de prouver que les maladies dont ils souffrent sont directement liées à leurs expositions aux radiations nucléaires.


C'est pourquoi, il est important qu'une politique d'assurance sans égard à la responsabilité soit adoptée pour protéger ces travailleurs quoi qu'il arrive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Web sites to visit: 

Dr. Helen Caldicott has devoted 35 years of her life to an international campaign to educate the public about the medical hazards of the nuclear age, and the changes in human behavior necessary to stop environmental destruction.

Campaign for nuclear phaseout~ Sortir du nucléaire

International Institute of concern for public health, founded by Rosalie Bertell, an anti-nuclear nun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It is almost impossible for a dying worker or his widow to prove that his particular cancer was caused by radiation exposure ten or twenty or thirty years earlier, because there are other pollutants and other factors that can cause cancer too.

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Refurbishing Lepreau: Let's Protect the Workers and their Families

 

Gordon Edwards, Ph.D
President of 
Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility

December 2005

remier Lord, acting on the advice of the NB Power Corporation, decided last summer to authorize the refurbishment of the Point Lepreau reactor at an estimated cost of 1.4 billion dollars. In 2002, the Public Utilities Board, after weighing the evidence from all sides, found that the project was not economically wise even when the cost estimate was "only" $825 million.

Evidently, money is no object when nuclear power is the objective. Premier Lord maintains that any unanticipated cost over-runs will be covered by the contractor, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited.

But what about the workers and their families? Are they being properly protected? In June 2005, the US National Academy of Sciences published a comprehensive report on the health risks of low-level radiation exposure. This report confirmed that there is no such thing as a safe dose of radiation. Exposures to even very low doses of atomic radiation, far below the "permissible" doses assigned by Canada's regulatory agency can cause fatal cancers.

Within weeks, the International Agency for Research on Cancer published another report summarizing the results of a 15-country international study of workers at nuclear facilities. It showed that approximately 1 out of every 100 fatal cancers experienced by atomic workers has been caused by their exposure to penetrating radiation on the job. More than 400,000 workers were studied; about 6,700 fatal cancers have been observed to date. The study deliberately excluded workers who had suffered significant internal contamination from radioactive substances such as plutonium or tritium.

Exposures to  very low doses of atomic radiation, far below the "permissible" doses can cause fatal cancers.


(Photo: EPA)

 

So some workers are dying due to their radiation exposures. It is almost impossible, however, for a dying worker or his widow to prove that his particular cancer was caused by radiation exposure ten or twenty or thirty years earlier, because there are other pollutants and other factors that can cause cancer too.

It's the perfect crime. We know that people have been killed by radiation exposure. We know who did it. We know the lethal weapon. But we cannot prove that any particular individual was actually killed in this way.

No Fault Insurance

The only fair practice in this situation is to offer no-fault insurance to all workers who are exposed to radioactivity during the refurbishment or during the operational period following the refurbishment. If such a worker contracts cancer later on, he and his family should be compensated automatically with no questions asked. The same benefit should be extended retroactively to all workers who have worked in a radioactive environment at Point Lepreau in the past. This cost should be considered as just another cost of doing business in the nuclear era.

The US Government has adopted such a policy for workers who worked in the uranium enrichment plant (now permanently closed) at Fernald, Ohio.

It is urgent that such a policy be put in place before refurbishment begins. The intensity of the radiation fields inside the Point Lepreau reactor during refurbishment will be far greater than anything previously anticipated for radioactive demolition work in CANDU reactors. It can be very costly to some of the workers and their families if radiation induced cancers or other illnesses are the result.


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The only fair
practice is to
offer no-fault
insurance to all
 workers.

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100 Times Greater Exposure

Until recently, the only large demolition work planned for CANDUs was the final dismantlement of the radioactive structures after the reactor is permanently shut down. Dismantlement will cost several hundred million dollars, possibly as much as a billion dollars or more, and will produce yet another category of radioactive waste materials that nobody has planned for.... thousands of truckloads of radioactive rubble.

Every reactor owner in Canada has presented plans to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission recommending at least 30 or 40 years delay after shutdown before commencing radioactive demolition, in order to reduce the intense radiation fields - and hence radiation exposures of workers - by a factor of about 100.

By contrast, those working on Lepreau refurbishment will go to work almost immediately. They will be exposed to radiation fields 100 times greater than those anticipated with radioactive demolition work. Moreover, those reactors in Ontario that were recently restarted or refurbished had been shut down for at least seven years beforehand; thus Ontario workers were exposed to much less radiation than New Brunswick workers will be facing. Is it fair that they and their families should bear the financial risks resulting from death or incapacity resulting from radiation exposure?

Trouble with Tritium

A recent report (2003) from Britain also reveals that the risks associated with chronic exposure to tritium (a radioactive form of hydrogen) may be 15 times greater than currently estimated by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. CANDU reactors produce copious amounts of tritium, and workers are exposed to it every day.

The "permissible levels" of tritium in Canada are much more lax than in other countries. In a litre of drinking water, Canadian authorities allow as much as 7000 becquerels compared with a maximum permissible level of 100 becquerels in the USA. In California, there is a proposal to reduce the permissible level to 15 becquerels per litre of drinking water.

The so-called "background level" of tritium in drinking water is less than 2 becquerels per litre, but almost all of that comes from radioactive fallout due to the above-ground testing of nuclear weapons in the 1940s and 1950s. Thus the Canadian standard for tritium in drinking water is about 3500 times higher than that caused by bomb fallout.

There is overwhelming scientific evidence that tritium is much more harmful than is estimated by the Canadian nuclear industry. The Ontario Government asked ACES, the Advisory Council on Environmental Standards, to examine the health risks from tritium. At that time the drinking water standard was 40,000 becquerels per litre. The ACES report recommended that the permissible levels of tritium in drinking water be lowered immediately to 100 becquerels per litre, to be reduced further in subsequent years to 20 becquerels per litre.

Instead, the Government of Ontario reduced the standard from 40,000 to 7,000 becquerels per litre -- 70 times higher than what ACES considered as an interim measure, and 350 times higher than the more stringent standard recommended by ACES. The same inflated tritium standard (7,000 becquerels per litre) is being used in New Brunswick.

If New Brunswick is going to invest billions of dollars to prolong the life of the decrepit Point Lepreau reactor, let us at least ensure that workers and their families are not forced to bear a disproportionate share of the burden. Providing no-fault insurance for the workers and their families is the least we can do.

Gordon Edwards, Ph.D., teaches Mathematics at Vanier College in Montreal and is President of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, Dr. Edwards has also served as an expert consultant on nuclear issues to governmental and non-governmental organizations across Canada for 30 years.