For the first time, recent German data reveal large spikes in radioactive releases during the refuelling of nuclear power stations. Until now, the nuclide amounts were only published as annual averages throughout the world. Now, after requests by IPPNW and the Green Party in the Bavarian State Parliament, non-averaged values have been made available for scientific evaluation for the first time anywhere in the world. This provides a plausible explanation for the findings of the KiKK study published in 2007 and 2008 that under-fives living near nuclear power plants are considerably more at risk of cancer, particularly leukemia, than children living further away.
In September 2011, the Gundremmingen nuclear power plant (located between Ulm and Augsburg in Southern Germany) emitted much larger amounts of radioactive noble gases during inspection/refuelling than are emitted during normal power operation. According to the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) in Germany, the normal emission concentration of released radioactive noble gases during the year is about 3 kBq/m³.
However during inspection/refuelling on September 22, this concentration suddenly increased to an average of ~500 kBq/m³ with a peak of 1,470 kBq/m³. During the following week (September 22 - 29), the concentrations were still much higher (average 150 kBq/m³) than during normal power operation (see table).
In order to refuel, reactor pressure vessels must be opened about once a year. This releases to the local environment very large volumes of radioactive gases and vapours, including noble gases, H-3 (tritium), carbon-14, and iodine-131. Until now, the nuclide amounts were only published as annual averages throughout the world. Now, after requests by IPPNW and the Green Party in the Bavarian State Parliament (Landtag), non-averaged values have been made available for scientific evaluation for the first time anywhere in the world.
Analyses by IPPNW Germany and Nuremberg physicist and statistician Dr Alfred Körblein demonstrate dramatic increases in the emissions during the brief inspection and refuelling period at Gundremmingen. Dr Körblein stated “At its maximum value, the concentration of noble gas emissions during refueling was 500 times greater than during normal reactor operation ”.
These release spikes result in considerably larger radiation doses to people living nearby. IPPNW Germany warns of the probable health impacts of such large emission spikes. “Especially at risk are unborn children. When reactors are open and releasing gases, pregnant women can incorporate much higher concentrations of radionuclides than at other times, mainly via respiration” said Reinhold Thiel, member of the German IPPNW Board. “Radioactive isotopes inhaled by the mother can reach the unborn child via the blood and placenta with the result that the embryo/fetus is contaminated (‘labelled’) by radioactive isotopes. This contamination could affect blood-forming cells in the bone marrow later resulting in leukemia. This provides a plausible explanation for the findings of the KiKK study published in 2007 and 2008 that under-fives living near NPPs are considerably more at risk of cancer, particularly leukemia, than children living further away”.
He demanded “Up to now, supervisory authorities and nuclear operating companies have kept these spikes secret by only providing annually-averaged figures, despite our repeated requests for disaggregated data. We need these half-hourly data of the releases of each radioactive nuclide from all German NPPs for scientific evaluation. This is necessary for the protection of unborn children near German nuclear reactors. ”
Since 1998, the IPPNW is trying to raise awareness of the increase of children's cancer rates in the vicinity of nuclear power plants. After a massive public campaign by the IPPNW in 2001 due to elevated childhood cancer rates by Bavarian nuclear power plants, the Federal Office for Radiation Protection approved a scientific investigation resulting in the study "Childhood Cancer in the vicinity of nuclear power plants (KiKK study)." Its highly significant result was: "under-fives living near nuclear power plants are considerably more at risk of cancer, particularly leukemia, than children living further away". Operators and industry-friendly scientists still deny, however, the influence of radiation on these increased disease rates. Supposedly, the emitted radiation from the nuclear power plants is a factor of 1000 too low to cause the disease. But this argument is now contradicted by this research on release spikes during the refueling outage.
More on KiKK-study at: http://www.bfs.de/en/kerntechnik/kinderkrebs/kikk.html
Source: Press release IPPNW Germany, 11 November 2011
Contacts: German Section of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War: Doctors for Social Responsibility (IPPNW). Reinhold Thiel, Tel. 0049 172-24 57 852 or Henrik Paulitz, Tel. 0049 171-53 888 22