Environmental Group Investigates Georgia Power Plants, High Cancer Death Rates in Predominately Minority County
Opponents of the expansion of nuclear reactors at a power plant in Burke County, Ga., have raised concern about the rate of cancer deaths in the area, which has a high rate of poverty and a large minority population, the Augusta Chronicle reports.
The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League on Wednesday presented a study -- by Joseph Mangano, executive director of New York City-based Radiation and Public Health Project -- that found a 25% increase in the cancer death rate in Burke County after the reactors at Vogtle Nuclear Power Plan went online in the late 1980s. By comparison, there has been a 4% decline in cancer deaths nationwide, Louis Zeller, nuclear campaign coordinator for the group, said (Corwin, Augusta Chronicle, 6/21).
The group launched the study in December 2006 after the plant announced plans to add two more reactors in the area. The study -- which was a side-by-side comparison of before and after the plant opened up the current two current nuclear reactors -- found that since the plant began its operation, the levels of radioactivity in the environment increased significantly. At the same time, the area's infant mortality rate also increased by 70% in comparison to surrounding areas, WRDW Channel 12 reports (Cho, WRDW Channel 12, 6/20).
According to the Chronicle, Mangano "stopped short of saying the cancers are caused by radiation and not other factors." The report does not prove that radiation is in fact the cause behind the higher cancer death rates, according to Mangano. He said, "My point is this area has always been poor and high-minority. If you look at the period before Vogtle began operating, some of the death rates are actually low. The Burke County death rate was well below the U.S. And afterwards it was high. One would have to look at it further, but it's not apparent that the poverty status changed drastically in Burke County from the late '80s until now" (Augusta Chronicle, 6/21).
The group plans to present the study to the state Division of Public Health and the Georgia Public Service Commission within the next few months and has filed a lawsuit to block the expansion. Georgia Power said it will review the report (WRDW Channel 12, 6/20).