Reaction to the articles published this morning in La Dernière Heure, De Morgen, Het Laatste Nieuws

SCK•CEN would like to recall that this study was already published in 2012 and on which the Nuclear Research Centre has already reacted at the time. This epidemiological study was conducted by the Scientific Institute of Public Health in collaboration with the FANC and the Foundation against Cancer. It focused on the incidence of acute childhood leukemia and thyroid cancer within a radius of 20 km around the nuclear sites of Doel, Tihange, Mol – Dessel, Fleurus and Chooz.

This study has an ecological point of view and analyses what is happening in the areas corresponding to a radius of 20 km around major nuclear facilities. This study provides some answers to the concerns of the population to know if there is or may be a higher occurrence of a specific disease around a potential source of pollution. This kind of study has a purely descriptive nature, and cannot be used to draw conclusions about any possible causal relationship, nor to draw conclusions on an individual level.

The results of this study show that in the vicinity of the Doel and Tihange power plants the incidence of new cases of acute childhood leukemia and cancer of the thyroid is not above average. Regarding the sites of Mol – Dessel and Fleurus, the incidence of thyroid cancer is slightly higher than elsewhere. According to the authors of the study this is not exceptional, given that there is a similar increase in 1 out of 5 Belgian cities, even without a nuclear installation in the vicinity.

The incidence of acute leukemia among children was also investigated. We did not observe a significant increase in the radius of 20 km around the Mol – Dessel nuclear site. If one reduces the perimeter around the site, the results could be interpreted as a slight increase. However, the authors of this study recall that it is not possible to draw any conclusions based on this short period of observation, and the small number of cases that were registered.

"SCK•CEN stands behind the proposal of the authors to redo the study when more complete and more accurate data will be available.", says Hans Vanmarcke, expert in radiation protection at SCK•CEN and future president of the United Nations Scientific Committee for the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR). "As in the past, SCK•CEN gladly lends its expertise in the matter of further study."

Prevention and safety is a top priority at SCK•CEN. Reducing all possible risks is a permanent task rooted in our safety culture, and the results are thoroughly checked internally and externally.