The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission
 yesterday acknowledged that 12
 people are expected to die as a direct result of
 each commercial nuclear
 reactor that is relicensed and operates for its
 20-year license
 extension period.

 The admission came in a correction to its 1996
 relicensing regulation,
 which was published in the Federal Register July
 30. According to the
 Federal Register notice, each relicensing is
 expected to be responsible
 for the release of 14,800 person-rem of radiation
 during its 20-year
 life extension. The figure includes releases from
 the nuclear fuel chain
 that supports reactor operation, as well as from
 the reactors
 themselves. The NRC calculates that this level of
 radiation release
 spread over the population will cause 12 cancer
 deaths per reactor.

 However, this figure understates the ramifications
 of continued reliance
 on nuclear power. Additional releases from the
 storage, transportation
 and disposal of high-level radioactive waste
 created by the reactors
 would cause additional deaths. The purpose of the
 Federal Register
 correction notice was to except the effects of
 high-level waste from the
 previously published but little-noticed 14,800
 person-rem figure.

 Accidents and non-routine radiation releases are
 not included in the
 NRC's figure, and could cause still higher
 casualties. The NRC only
 calculated likely cancer deaths, so deaths from
 other radiation-induced
 diseases and non-fatal cancers are not included in
 its calculations.

 There currently are 103 commercial reactors
 operating in the U.S. The
 Bush administration and nuclear power industry
 have made relicensing the
 vast majority of these reactors a centerpiece of
 their strategy to
 maintain and increase reliance on nuclear power.
 The NRC has said it
 expects as many as 100 reactors to apply for
 license extensions; this
 would result in some 1200 cancer deaths among the
 U.S. population.

 "This admission by the federal government gives
 the lie to the
 administration and nuclear industry's claim that
 nuclear power is
 somehow an 'emissions-free' technology," said
 Michael Mariotte,
 executive director of the Washington-based Nuclear
 Information and
 Resource Service. "Not only does the nuclear fuel
 chain result in
 meaningful greenhouse gas releases, but the deadly
 radiation emitted at
 every step of the process kills people directly.
 The Bush administration
 thinks killing more than 1,000 people is an
 acceptable price to pay for
 continued use of nuclear power. We think it's a
 national scandal."

 (Mariotte noted that the only operating uranium
 enrichment plant in the
 U.S., at Paducah, Kentucky, is the nation's
 largest emitter of CFC-114,
 which was banned by the Montreal Protocol for
 being a major ozone
 destroyer and greenhouse contributor.)

 Paul Gunter, director of NIRS' Reactor Watchdog
 Project, pointed out,
 "The NRC's notice implicitly admits that the 103
 reactors now
 operating-if they last only until the end of their
 original license
 period-will be responsible for more than 2,400
 cancer deaths in the
 U.S., even without all of the dozens of accidents
 and 'incidents' that
 have plagued the industry over the years and
 caused additional releases
 of lethal radiation."

 "Instead of relicensing atomic reactors," said
 Gunter, "we should be
 closing them and accelerating implementation of
 clean, sustainable,
 energy efficiency and renewable energy

 Nuclear Information and Resource Service
 1424 16th Street NW, #404, Washington, DC 20036
 202-328-0002; f: 202-462-2183;;