An Unexpected Relationship Between Nuclear Power and Low Birth Weight

Applehu Akbar writes: Ars Technica reports on a Carnegie-Mellon study of an unexpected side effect of the slowdown in nuclear plant construction after Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. The pollution associated with replacing the power in places where nuclear plants were delayed or canceled has resulted in significantly lower birth weights for children born in the region. The impact on birth weight starts at 97g less in the second quarter after a nuclear shutdown and goes to 146g for in the third quarter, and of similar magnitude thereafter. Though the steady shift in recent years from coal to natural gas has probably slowed this trend down (no update to the study has been announced) because gas pollutes less, Trump’s policy of bringing back coal may mean that micro-babies are back in fashion. Here’s an excerpt from Ars Technica’s report: “[Carnegie Mellon assistant professor of economics and public policy Edson Severnini] looked at the closure of the Browns Ferry nuclear plant in Alabama in 1985 as well as the Sequoyah plant in Tennessee, which was closed from 1985 to 1988. The closure of the two plants corresponded to increased coal burning at nearby coal plants — in 1985, TVA noted in its annual report that coal plants had ‘extraordinary performance’ due to the shut down of the nuclear plants. He also gathered birth-weight data from the National Centre for Health Statistics (NCHS) and found that babies born in regions with the biggest increase in coal burning had lower birth weights than babies born in other nearby areas. Looking at data from 1983 to 1985, before the nuclear plant shut down, also showed that the largest change in birth weight occurred after the shutdown.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.


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