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Environmental group contends SRS radiation hazards are increasing

Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012 5:04 PM
Last updated Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012 2:23 AM
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Environmental groups unveiled a new analysis Wednesday they contend warrants a re-examination of health impacts associated with Savannah River Site radiation.

Louis Zeller, executive director of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, discusses a report on radiation from Savannah River Site during a news conference at the Augusta-Richmond County library.  ROB PAVEY/STAFF
Louis Zeller, executive director of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, discusses a report on radiation from Savannah River Site during a news conference at the Augusta-Richmond County library.

“What we are saying is that you have a suspicious situation that certainly calls for a new inquiry,” said Louis Zeller, executive director of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League.

The 75-page report involved a year-long study of data from the U.S. Energy Department, state and federal environmental regulators and health departments in Georgia and South Carolina.

Among the findings were indicators that radiation levels are gradually increasing, rather than decreasing, as other studies have said; and that “radiosensitive” diseases and deaths – including infant and fetal deaths, thyroid and lung cancers and leukemia – exceeded the national average in the five-county area surrounding SRS, where about 2,000 “excess deaths” occurred since 2002.

Joe Mangano, the principal author and director of the Radiation & Public Health Project, acknowledged the conclusions are based on new interpretations and comparisons of existing data, but said the numbers raise enough questions to warrant more scrutiny.

“Many things can cause infant death and low birth weight and so on,” he said. “Radiation may not have caused all these deaths, but it certainly should be taken seriously.”

The study also found that cesium levels in deer and wild hogs killed at the site have increased in recent years, rather than decreased.

“We don’t go around testing humans,” Zeller said. “No one comes to you for hair or blood samples, so what they see in animals is the closest we can get.”

The study compared cesium levels in deer and hog tissue from the 1988-1999 period with levels recorded from 2000 to 2008, Zeller said. Results showed an 83 percent increase in cesium in hog tissue, and an 81 percent increase in deer tissue.

“This finding was a surprise,” Mangano said. “We expected levels of radiation to go down – and it was exactly the opposite.”

The complete study, he said, will be shared with Energy Department officials in hopes they will examine the data with an open mind.

“We don’t want to fight with them,” Mangano said. “We want them to take it seriously, to read it and to engage in conversation.”

Jim Giusti, an Energy Department spokesman at the site, said the group’s conclusions conflict with numerous studies by many agencies.

“I guess we’ll respectfully disagree with them at this point,” he said, adding, however, that site officials would welcome a copy of the analysis.

“Our data show the releases are doing down, not increasing, even with all the cleanup activity,” Giusti said. “At this point, we’d like to get the report, and then get the right people to look at it and review it.”

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Little Lamb
Little Lamb 02/23/12 - 09:06 am
This Energy Department

This Energy Department spokesman, Jim Giusti, disagrees with the environmentalist dude with the mustache, but it looks like to me they are comparing apples and oranges. Louis Zeller (the dude with the mustache) says that cesium in hog and deer tissue samples are higher recently than they were in the 1990s. Jim Giusti says that “releases are going down.” Both of those statements could be true because they are talking about two entirely different things. We need to pin Giusti down about just what he means by "releases." He might be talking about releases of tritium or some such irrelevant thing.

Retired Army
Retired Army 02/23/12 - 11:10 am
Let's keep this real simple.

Let's keep this real simple. The crud produced by "clean" nuclear reactors lasts for 10,000 years or more and we have no safe way to get rid of it. Water, erosion, earthquakes(yes we are subject to them here) in time there will be a catastrophe of some sort. Inevitable.

I swear, one of these days a 6,000 lb 3 eyed green glowing fish is going to jump on a dock in Savanah and demand to know who's in charge here.

Use the money to develop clean renewable sources, green our homes and transportation. It's common sense. Poison is not.

Clean Water
Clean Water 02/23/12 - 12:18 pm
I hope that those in

I hope that those in authority will take a close look at this report. The true effects of radiation on the environment and the people living around SRS can not be ignored any longer. There are serious issues with the health of people in the communities that surrond SRS or people that drink water from the Savannah River. Plant Voglte and SRS are separated by the river, which both use. I believe that people that live next to, or below the site have been effected for years. What happen to Compassion for ones neighbor?

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 02/23/12 - 05:41 pm
Okay, Clean Water. Who lives

Okay, Clean Water. Who lives downstream from SRS and Vogtle and drinks Savannah River water? Why, they are the cities of Savannah, Beaufort, and Jasper. Are you claiming that all of them have health problems directly attributable to radioactive contamination of drinking water?

ProNuke 02/23/12 - 06:11 pm
Does anyone have any idea of

Does anyone have any idea of the numbers that go with this hysteria? It is irrelevant how long something will remain toxic; most natural poisons will last for eternity. CONCENTRATION is the potential problem; if it is high enough to be harmful in CREDIBLE SCENARIOS, then action is needed. The hysteria in Japan has made people forget that it was the earthquake and tsunami that killed 25,000 people, so calling it a "nuclear disaster" is ridiculous. I have seen the numbers from people who went to Japan to assess the threat, and there will be ZERO radiation deaths in the future, actually a low probability of cancer to those first 3 first responders.

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