February 3, 1998 -- Governor Bob Miller's Letter to Dr. Barry Johnson, Assistant Director Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

Capitol Complex
Carson City, Nevada 89710
(702) 687-4486
Fax: (702) 687-4486
February 3, 1998
    Dr. Barry Johnson, Assistant Director
    Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
    1600 Clifton Road, NE
    Atlanta, Georgia 30333
    Dear Dr . Johnson:

    I am writing to request the assistance of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry with studies of health risks posed to Nevada's citizens as a result of the federal government's radiological activities at the Nevada Test Site (NTS) and other locations within our State. Even though Nevada has a long history of exposures to nuclear radiation from weapons testing at NTS, there has been little to no attention given by federal agencies to the health risks of past exposures and almost no thought to understanding the risks from ongoing and proposed nuclear waste disposal activities at NTS.

    The limited epidemiological studies carried out with respect to fallout from NTS weapons tests were focused primarily on selected citizens in Utah. These studies, combined with dosimetry results, showed a relationship between fallout and thyroid abnormalities and leukemia rates. The National Cancer Institute recently released a national study of radioactive iodine exposures from nuclear tests, but that study is insufficient for understanding health risks to Nevadans who were exposed not only to radioactive iodine but also to many other radionuclides because of their proximity over many years to NTS detonations. Medical ethnographies carried out in "downwinder" communities report a great deal of anecdotal evidence for health effects from fallout beyond what has been documented epidemiologically to date.

    Apart from continuing health risks associated with past weapons testing activities, the State of Nevada is concerned that risks posed by ongoing and proposed federal nuclear waste disposal activities are not being adequately addressed. The NTS continues to be a principal disposal site for low-level radioactive waste (LLW) from Department of Energy facilities around the country and could see significant increases of LLW shipments (over 200,000 by some estimates) if plans for designating NTS as a regional waste disposal center are pursued. At the same time, Nevada could also be impacted by thousands of shipments of high-level radioactive waste (HLW) and spent nuclear fuel beginning early in the next century should Yucca Mountain become a HLW repository or should Congress be successful in designating NTS as an interim storage site for commercial spent fuel.

    I am asking the help of ATSDR in developing a statewide and, perhaps, regional approach for identifying past and potential health risks associated with federal nuclear activities in Nevada. Such an effort could involve epidemiological studies and health surveillance activities. Any assistance you can provide in this regard will be greatly appreciated.

    Should you have questions regarding this request or need additional information, please contact Mr. Bob Loux, Executive Director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, at (702) 687-3644.

    Bob Miller

Congressional delegation
Charlotte Crawford, Department of Human Resources
Yvonne Silva, Nevada Health Division
Bob Loux, Agency for Nuclear Projects
Robert Spengler, ATSDR

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