One man who believes that nuclear energy is bad for nature told me that living near to a nuclear power plant causes cancer.

I visited one nuclear power plant and they confirmed the words of our physics teacher that the atomic energy is good for nature in comparison to car gases and other types of power plants.

But I'd like to see some article that supports or denies the hypothesis that living near to a nuclear power plant can cause cancer and if so, how high the risk is in comparison with other environmental factors causing cancer.

I believe, there is higher risk of cancer when living near to thermal power station and the energy gain is much smaller in opposite to nuclear power station.

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    Comparing the environmental impact of nuclear power plants and car exhaust is largely irrelevant. Very broadly, nuclear power plants don't replace crude-oil based cars. They replace coal-based power stations. (Before some of you crawl all over this with exceptions - electric cars, hydroelectric schemes, gas-based generators, wind-power, solar-power etc.: I am talking very broadly.)
    – Oddthinking
    Jan 23, 2012 at 16:26
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    Ants and flowers are everywhere too, still not relevant. Comparing with alternatives to nuclear power would be relevant, like for instance the most common alternative: coal plants.
    – Zano
    Jan 23, 2012 at 16:43
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    xralf, if the country's nuclear power plants were more polluting than the country's cars, that would mean... nothing - we can't replace the nuclear power plants with cars. If the country's cars were more polluting than the power plants, that would mean... nothing - we can't replace the cars with nuclear power plants.
    – Oddthinking
    Jan 23, 2012 at 16:52
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    @Zano You can live near nuclear power plant and you can live near place with high car traffic and still can compare the risks of cancer. This comparison is possible (though difficult). There is no limit. If you want to compare it to place with many flowers. It's just comparison nothing more. Here alternatives are other factors causing certain type of cancer (not only energy alternatives)
    – xralf
    Jan 23, 2012 at 16:58
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    It always amuses me that the Coal power industry releases much more radioactive material into the environment every year than the nuclear industry ever has: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – Mark Booth
    Jan 24, 2012 at 18:11

1 Answer 1


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.

  • Thank you. It seems that the man could be partially right and new studies should be conducted.
    – xralf
    Jan 23, 2012 at 17:36
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    I read it as "He was partially right, based on limited preliminary data, but new studies have been conducted (3,000 children, 24 years!).
    – Oddthinking
    Jan 23, 2012 at 17:50
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    See interesting slight related question here
    – Benjol
    Mar 22, 2012 at 10:01

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