High cancer rates near Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant

March 4, 2014

diabA report by the World Business Academy that details negative health trends in the area surrounding the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant in San Luis Obispo County was released Monday.

Stephen W. Hosea, MD, the associate director of Internal Medicine Education at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, concluded after reading the report that those living near Diablo have higher cancer risks.

“The data contained in this report support a remarkable predisposition of persons living within a 15 mile radius of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant to have a significantly increased incidence of various cancers, including thyroid, breast and melanoma,” Hosea said. “Exposure to radiation is well known to result in an increased risk of developing cancer. Until an alternative plausible explanation is provided, the overwhelmingly logical conclusion must be that the exposure to radiation as a direct consequence of living within a 15 mile radius of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant results in an increased risk of developing cancer.”

The report listed the following major findings about local health patterns:

1. Since the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant opened in the mid-1980s, San Luis Obispo County has changed from a relatively low-cancer to a high-cancer county.

2. Due to increases in the San Luis Obispo County cancer rate during 2001-2010, an additional 738 people were diagnosed with cancer.

3. Cancer incidence in San Luis Obispo County rose from 0.4 percent below to 6.9 percent above the average for the state of California during the time period of 1988-1990 to 2003-2010. The current cancer rate is the highest of all 20 counties in southern California.

4. After Diablo Canyon began operating, significant rapid increases occurred for the incidence of thyroid and female breast cancer in San Luis Obispo County, both highly radiosensitive cancers.

5. After Diablo Canyon began operating, infant mortality in San Luis Obispo County rose significantly.

6. After Diablo Canyon began operating, child/adolescent cancer mortality in the county rose rapidly.

7. Melanoma incidence in San Luis Obispo County soared from 3.6 percent above to 130.2 percent above the state incidence rate during the period from 1988-1990 to 2003-2010, and is now the highest of all California counties.

8. Cancer mortality for people of all ages in San Luis Obispo County rose from 5.1 percent below to 1.4 percent above California from 1988-1990 to 2008-2010, making SLO the 25th highest county in the state (up from 43rd highest).

9. The ratio of babies born at very low-weight (below 3 pounds, 4 ounces) rose 45.0 percent higher in the nine San Luis Obispo County zip codes closest to Diablo Canyon, versus the other more distant 10 county zip codes.

10. The ratio of all-cause mortality rose 47.9 percent higher in the nine San Luis Obispo County zip codes closest to Diablo Canyon, versus the other more distant 10 county zip codes.

11. In the 10 zip code areas in Santa Barbara County closest to Diablo Canyon, there was a greater rise in the rates of infant mortality (61.7 percent), low weight births (40.2 percent) and total mortality (19.1 percent), than in the five zip codes areas in the city of Santa Barbara, located approximately 90 miles from the reactors.

12. The major findings of this report show increases in various rates of disease and death in San Luis Obispo County, as compared to the state of California, since the 1980s (before plant start up and during its early years of operation). This includes increases in infant mortality, child/adolescent cancer mortality, cancer incidence for all ages (especially thyroid, female breast, and melanoma), and cancer mortality for all ages.

Conclusions and Recommendations:

While many factors can affect disease and death rates, the official public health data presented in this report suggest a probable link between the routine, federally-permitted emissions of radioactivity from the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant and elevated health risks among those infants, children and adults living closest to the reactors.

These findings strongly suggest that federally-permitted radiation releases pose a health risk to the public, especially to people living near Diablo Canyon in California.

These data also correspond with earlier studies showing significant declines in local disease and death rates after the shutdown of the Rancho Seco nuclear power plant in Sacramento County in 1989.


Dr. hosea specializes in the following:

Infectious Disease Specialist

Sub-specialties: Internal Medicine


Infectious disease specialists are physicians who diagnose, treatand manage of infectious diseases. Usually infectious conditions are first diagnosed by a patient’s primary-care doctor or an internal medicine specialist, with the infectiologist called in when diagnosis is difficult or prescribed treatment has failed. Infectiologists have extensive knowledge of viruses, bacteria, parasites and fungi – whether contagious, communicable, food-borne, airborne or sexually transmitted. They deal with conditions in many parts of the body, including the sinus, brain, urinary tract, bowel, heart and lungs, with many of the conditions treatable with antibiotics.

from lifescript.com


If you think Diablo is ‘leaking’ radiation to the point of causing cancer then PGE’s monitors are useless.

On the other hand if cancer rates are on the rise in SLO county then rather than blame Diablo a different source maybe responsible.

About the time Diablo was completed SLO county has continued to grow

It would-be irresponsible not to consider other mitigating factors.

Perhaps the proliferation of fast food restaraunts, open burning sanctioned by the APCD or the increased hot air exhaled by local politicians can give you cancer!


There are “cancer clusters” in many parts of the world. Most of them are far from power plants of any kind. Something other than cancer rates have risen in SLO county as well…it’s called the population. Increase the number of people and you will increase all manor of things related to humans.


Another pin in happy town’s happytalk propaganda balloon.


Must be time for someone to begin asking for more tax money so they must get the people worked up and scared.


There are a few other factors that need to be considered. Among them: demographic changes; as more people retire here their increased age could account for an increase in cancers and the additional numbers of these people also skew the results; lower birth weights are often due to older moms, teenagers, smokers, and those without adequate pre-natal care; there are a lot more golf courses now than fifteen years ago and so of course with more people outside melanoma could be expected to rise; without real numbers other than the 738 additional people diagnosed with cancer, the percentage increases are rather meaningless. I need more information before I could agree with a blanket statement like the second paragraph of the article.

More impressive would be the statistics for the people working at the plant. Or could these numbers and percentages mostly represent these workers? More information, please.


Pollyanna, nice that you bring up old people in-migrating and bringing their cancer with them, but how do you explain the problems of newborn babies and kids who’ve been born here? Selective story telling that conforms to your prejudices perhaps? Incidentally, public health statistics always deal with statistics (like percentages). Guess you don’t believe in public health?


What problems are you talking about? SLO County had the third lowest infant mortality in the state! http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/app/california/2013/measure/additional/129/data/asc-2



This is a classic tale of ONE MD (in academia) weighing in on what a non-profit think tank produced to alarm the masses. The World Business Academy is a non-profit business think tank and network of “business and thought leaders.” Their mission is to “inspire business to assume responsibility for the whole of society…” They are all about climate change and renewable energy. Essentially, they are a lobbyist.

The 36 page report should be a good read for most, but understand one CRITICAL piece of information. Cause and effect. Yes, there are some alarming numbers in here, but how do we know it’s from Diablo? They don’t emit Strontium 90 or Iodine so it seems irresponsible to blame them. A LOT has happened in the last 25 years. 25 years, ago we didn’t even have the internet…perhaps that is to blame. Also, be very wary whenever statistics are provided without uncertainty bounds. With the very low population of this area, sample sizes are small and statistical uncertainty can overwhelm the data. This is true particularly relative to very low level radiation measurements, which are highly prone to error.

For example, let’s look at the Strontium 90 data provided. The shock statement “In California, the average Sr-90 level in baby teeth rose steadily, increasing 50.2% for children born in 1994-97 vs. children born in 1986-89.” The report states, however, that the study only tested 50 baby teeth for data set 1 and 20 for data set 2. Listing the uncertainties provided here as 14 and 32 for the two data sets, the real difference could be as small as ZERO and still be within their numbers. So 50.2% sounds a LOT more important than “we MIGHT have a difference.”

It would be quite interesting to have SOMEONE with a nuclear engineering degree review this. So far as I can tell, nobody here, not even the author in New Jersey, knows what a neutron is used for.


Huh? And someone with a nuclear engineering degree’s authority in medical matters is what?


Actually, to get a nuclear engineering degree, a large portion of the curriculum involves radiation monitoring instrumentation, characteristics, and biology. Understanding all the risks is paramount and through the study of the ionization of tissue, we can understand, at a molecular and cellular level, the issues. The flip-side to your question, of course, is what authority does someone with a medical degree have when reporting out statistical data, drawing conclusions from that data, and making assumptions about how a nuclear power plant works. The “design life” of a power plant, for example, has nothing to do with any particular component; it’s only the licensing period originally agreed upon by the NRC. Reactor vessel embrittlement issues are the concern, but core low leakage designs mitigate neutron damage and (as evidenced by the mass extensions) the reactor vessels are performing very well with this design. All of this, of course, was missed by the good doctor.


So, tell me why cancer mortality rates are higher in 24 other counties than in SLO County? Do those counties have more nuclear power plants than SLO County?

And, why is the infant mortality rate lower in the ZIP Codes surrounding Diablo Canyon and higher in both those farther away and statewide. Wouldn’t that indicate that being close to the nuke plants lowers infant mortality, not increases it!


Perhaps you should read the article again; the point is not to compare to other counties, but the fact that SLO went from 43rd to 25th highest since Diablo opened, indicating a cause and effect… How do you explain that away?


See my analysis of Table 13, Section V above…

THAT is how you explain that away!


I would tell you why cancer rates are higher in other counties, but I don’t think you are truly interested, or perhaps you are not capable of understanding. But I bet if you put your mind to it, you could come up with some plausible explanations.

It is the change in cancer rates in slo county that you ought to try and focus on; i know it is difficult for the small-minded.

And your second paragraph is a false statement. You have made an invalid inference; nowhere does the article state that mortality rates are lower in zip codes surrounding Diablo canyon compared to the rest of the state; they are comparing zip codes within SB county only.


Stick to signing, tommy boy, and leave the thinking to others who are more capable.

My comment on the infant mortality rates was based on reading the actual study, not just the CCN article. The stats on infant mortality are on page 26.

The study also states “the fetus, infant, and young child are far more sensitive to a given dose of radiation than are adults. Thus, any adverse effects to persons living near Diablo Canyon should be detectable using measures of fetal and infant health.”

This makes lots of sense, however, SLO County had the third lowest infant mortality rate in California for 2006-2010. That seems to conflict with the report’s premise that Diablo causes more infant mortality, no? The data is at http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/app/california/2013/measure/additional/129/data/asc-2


The statement in the report doesn’t use “infant mortality” as a metric. It states that “fetal and infant health” should be studied. Big difference.


1. Both the report and the CCN article specifically use “infant mortality” as one of their metrics.

2. Do you really believe that death should be ignored when evaluating an infant’s health??? No worry, he died, so he’s healthy again!


This report should be enough to stimulate further study of the matter but it falls far short of definitive proof that the presence of Diablo Canyon NPP causes cancer. “Coincidence does not equal causality” — or something to that effect. There could easily be other explanations for the results.

I personally want to know more about the World Business Academy (of which I hadn’t heard before) and hear agrrement from more medical specialists than Dr. Hosea before I believe this particular hypothesis. (It doesn’t rise to the standards of scientific theory yet.)


I agree with you totally. More research is warranted.

I’m concerned that the study picks and choose data to support its points and doesn’t look at any other factors that can explain the changes over time.

Why, for example did the report compare SLO’s cancer incidence only to counties below the 37th latitude? Perhaps it’s because if the had chosen the 38th latitude, both Marin County and the Mariposa-Tuolumne Counties would have been included and they have much high rates than SLO?


The SLO canary is dead.

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