Radiation exposure and cancer incidence (1990 to 2008) around nuclear power plants in Ontario, Canada

Abstract of the journal article published in Journal of Environmental Protection
September 2013 (refer to Volume 9, 2013)

R. Lane, E. Dagher, J. Burtt, P.A. Thompson
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission


Radiation doses and cancer incidence among the population living within 25 km of three nuclear power plants (NPPs) in Ontario, Canada were investigated for the period 1985 to 2008 for radiation exposure and 1990 to 2008 for cancer incidence. This study design provided at least a five-year latency period between potential radiation exposure and cancer incidence.

Around the NPPs, the incidence of childhood cancers, leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma in young children (aged 0 – 4) was lower than the general Ontario population, but not statistically so. Cancer incidence in children aged 0 – 14 was similar to the Ontario population.

Overall, for all ages there was no consistent pattern of cancer incidence (all cancers combined and radio-sensitive cancers) across the population living within 25 km of the three NPPs. Some types of cancers were statistically higher than expected, others were statistically lower than expected and others were similar to the general Ontario population. Although variations in all cancers combined and radiosensitive cancers were found in this study, the pattern was found to be within the natural variation of cancer in Ontario.

During the period 1985 to 2000 (Pickering and Bruce NPPs) and 1985 to 2002 (Darlington NPP) radiation doses to members of the public from the operation of the NPPs, estimated on the basis of a hypothetical individual at the facility fence line, were ≤0.052 mSv/year; while for the period 2001 to 2008 (Pickering and Bruce NPPs) and 2003 to 2008 (Darlington NPP) radiation doses, more realistically estimated using the critical group concept for six age classes, were ≤0.0067 mSv/year. Hence, public doses from environmental releases of radionuclides from Ontario NPPs represent a very small fraction of natural background radiation (1.338 and 2.02 mSv/year) in the regions where the NPPs are located.

Our study shows no evidence of childhood leukemia clusters around the three NPPs and that the incidence of all the cancers investigated for all age groups is within the natural variation of the disease in Ontario. The radiation exposure from NPP operation is a small contributor to the public's total exposure to radiation and is not a plausible explanation for any excess cancers observed within 25 km of any Ontario NPP.

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