When it comes to childhood cancers, the answer is No, nuclear power plants are not related..
The Swiss did a major study looking for the risks of childhood cancers and leukaemia amongst children who lived near nuclear power plants.
Childhood cancer and nuclear power plants in Switzerland: a census-based cohort study
Ben D Spycher, Martin Feller, Marcel Zwahlen, Martin Röösli, Nicolas X von der Weid, Heinz Hengartner, Matthias Egger, Claudia E Kuehni
We used a cohort approach to examine whether residence near nuclear power plants (NPPs) was associated with leukaemia or any childhood cancer in Switzerland.
They followed 2,925 children over a period exceeding two decades.
They divided them up into <5 km, 5–10 km and 10–15 km and >15km from the nearest NPP.
This nationwide cohort study found little evidence of an association between residence near NPPs and the risk of leukaemia or any childhood cancer.
This is also written up by World Nuclear News.
In the report, they discuss some of the previous studies that did find a link, starting with an English report in 1984.
They address some of the issues with those reports - particularly:
- Correlation doesn't equal causation. There may be other reasons why cancers might be found to cluster around NPPs. (An example not in the study: Major factories (including NPPs) tend to be built in cheap areas which may be correlated to poor health.)
The paper does highlight (with references) that some studies "found an increased risk also at places where NPPs were planned but not built, concluding that factors other than radiation might be responsible."
- Poor methodologies and sample sizes were used in other studies, e.g. from Germany and Finland.
So, there have been mixed results from studies, but the Swiss study seems to be more statistically sound than the earlier attempts, and despite its large size, it found no evidence for nuclear power plants causing childhood cancers.