ERWIN — Nuclear Fuel Services President Joseph Henry said Thursday that NFS officials welcome the facility’s inclusion in a National Academy of Sciences study that will examine the cancer risks for populations living in close proximity to Nuclear Regulatory Commission-licensed nuclear reactors and processing facilities.
“We think this is an important study, and we’re very pleased that it’s going to be done by an organization such as the National Academy of Sciences,” Henry said. “They’re known for their independence, and we welcome an objective and scientific approach to the subject.”
Hours before Thursday’s meeting to allow NAS representatives to gather public input as it carries out the first phase of the cancer risk assessment, Henry gave his thoughts on the study.
The NRC approached and commissioned the NAS in 2010 to request an update to a 1990 study conducted by the National Institute of Health’s National Cancer Institute, which examined cancer risks for populations living around nuclear reactors.
The NAS study will be broken up into two phases. The first phase, now under way, will identify the methods and approaches for how to design and conduct the nationwide study. The findings of this phase will inform the cancer risk assessment to be completed in the study’s second phase.
Henry said NAS officials have already visited a number of reactor facilities across the country as part of the assessment and were onsite at NFS on Thursday afternoon. He expects them to return as the study moves along. Henry said more than 100 operating nuclear reactors and nine processing facilities are to be included in the NAS study.
“An independent study done by a responsible organization is a good thing, so we welcome the fact that they’re coming here,” Henry said. “Since the last study was done, there’s been a significant improvement in the statistic-keeping and the methodology for doing these studies, so the results should be more accurate that the previous study just because a number of years have passed and the scientific approach has improved.”
Henry said he expects NAS officials to collect data from the state and county and NFS itself. He said NFS officials will cooperate fully with the study and that data collected at the facility is confirmed by data collected by the state, giving it independent validation.
“It’s important to know that we have professionals working,” NFS spokeswoman Lauri Turpin said. “The data we provide is available to our two resident NRC inspectors at all times. It’s something that we take very seriously, and we actually can get extremely accurate results.”
The 1990 study found that there was no increased risk of death from cancer for people living near nuclear facilities. Henry said NFS officials had “no reservations” about cooperating with the updated study because similar results are anticipated.
“One of the reasons we welcome the study is we expect that they’ll confirm our operations here are extremely safe and have no impact on the public or the environment,” Henry said.