Nuclear WastePrinceton and Stanford University will tell you what you probably already know from common sense: The risk is dependent on the amount of exposure and that concentration of radioactivity and time of exposure are factors in the risk off cancer or genetic issues someone might suffer. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission sets standard for people who work with nuclear materials (medicine, power plants, etc..), but publishes no guidelines that correlates how much radiation exposure causes what kind of cancer So...
The best way to maybe tell is to look at nuclear accidents and resulting incidences of cancer following those. Chernobyl wracked up several thousand deaths by cancer, 30 people died from acute radiation poisoning and 6000 cases of thyroid cancer. The impact of the After a tsunami damaged the Daichi plant at Fukushima the expected expected impact includes 130 deaths by cancer and 180 cancer illnesses with the upper limits rising to over 1300 people dead or stricken over the years. The VA has compiled a list of diseases related to radiation exposure. There is an International Nuclear Event Scale (INES Level) with 7 levels, level 4 involving at least one death, Level 7 including Chernobyl and the Fukashima explosion. So we know exposure kills and creates illness, but...
Who is at Risk?Maybe you are and don't know it. Hard to tell Correlating illness and death with nuclear incidents has not been studied in depth. In the year after 3 mile Island there was 54% increase in infant deaths, but not attributed by study to the Three Mile Island incident. The math in a Columbia University did not account correlating observed increases in cancer in the area of 3 Mile Island. The state of New Mexico fined the U.S. Energy Commission $54 mil dollars for the contamination of 13 workers at the only high level radioactive waste sin the country (Waste Isolation Pilot Plant). All 13 workers have tested positive for contamination, though none high enough to suffer acute radiation exposure sickness. It may take years to know what effect the exposure had on these 13 workers and so far no assessment has been done to determine exposure levels to local residents. An ex-nuclear technician who goes by the byline "Amasimp" described the Ten Most Famous deaths by radiation in a blog which includes Chernobyl, Nagasaki, and Hiroshima, but most are results of accidental exposure. The National Cancer Institute admits from studies that there is a risk of cancer for those who live near a nuclear power plant and describe (in past tense) how people become exposed, but publishes no actual numbers of people who have been afflicted with cancer. According to The Daily Mail, Dr. Chris Busby conducted a study that shows that people living near a nuclear power plant were five times more likely to develop cancer. Healthline.com reported a drop of over 4,000 cases of cancer in twenty-years since the closing of a nuclear power plant near Sacramento, California. Aside from the health threat, there have been eight nuclear power plant incidences resulting in more than $140mil damage for each incident
Are You At Risk?Do you live near a nuclear power plant or nuclear waste disposal site? There are 62 active nuclear power plants in the United States. You can find a list here that includes a map. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission lists four low level waste disposal sites. There are only two high level waste disposal sites: One at Yucca Mountain, Nevada; the other near Carlsbad, New Mexico. However, most of the nuclear power plants store high level waste. According to an assessment done by the Morris [IL] Hospital and Healthcare Center the Morris area had a much higher rate of cancer and death by cancer than the rest of the state of Illinois. Morris, Illinois is also home of the Dresden Nuclear Power Plant and high level waste repository.
What Should You Do?Move. That is the quick solution, because clean up is not going to come quickly at this point. However, if you have any concern for the near future, then the best bet is to take proactive measure toward alternate, safe energy sources:
What Can You Do?A good reverse osmosis filter will reduce radioactive levels in your water. Lining your house and making your own clothes out of aluminum foil isn't practical and I'm sure there are some health issues from too much contact with aluminum. Moving if you find that you are near a site is not a particularly feasible option, and runs the risk of moving closer to another spent fuel repository.
If you feel you are at risk you can contact the EPA's Radiation Protection Division; although if it is discovered that you are at risk, the time it might take to resolve the problem is might make moving and option
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Radiation and Indoor Air
Radiation Protection Division
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460-0001