A radioecological study has been launched in 1997 to perform a realistic assessment of radiation doses received by the population aged 0 to 24 years who lived in the vicinity of the La-Hague nuclear reprocessing plant (Nord-Cotentin, France), and to estimate the associated risk of leukaemia between 1978 and 1996.
The Working Group in charge of the study included representatives of French radiation protection institutes, nuclear operators, members of environmental organisations and international experts. The methodology retained developed three steps
The reconstructed cohort included 6656 individuals born between 1954 and 1996, who lived in the study area for at least one year between 1978 and 1996 before the age of 25. The number of person-years between 1978 and 1996 is 69 308. On the basis of the calculated doses, the estimated number of radiation-induced leukaemia attributable to releases from local nuclear installations was less than 0.002 for the period 1978-1996.
This result constitutes a best estimate of the risk of radiation-induced leukaemia among young people in the canton of Beaumont-Hague. Nevertheless, this estimation must be interpreted in the light of the limits inherent to the risk assessment process and some participants of the Working Group expressed some reservations. The estimated number of radiation-induced leukaemia attributable to local nuclear installations is low in comparison to the 4 cases of leukaemia observed by epidemiological studies during the same period. It is therefore very unlikely that releases from local nuclear installations could notably explain the high incidence of leukaemia observed among young people in the canton of Beaumont-Hague.
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