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How safe is it to live near a nuclear reactor?

1. If the 52 reported cases represented a rate 50% higher than the statewide rate, what
is a reasonable estimate of m, the average number of such cancer cases statewide?
2. Based on your estimate of m, what is the estimated standard deviation of the number
of cancer cases statewide?
3. What is the z-score for the x  52 observed cases of cancer? How do you interpret
this z-score in light of the concern about an elevated rate of hematopoietic
cancers in this area?
How safe is it to live near a nuclear reactor? Men who lived in a coastal strip that extends 20 miles north from a nuclear reactor in Plymouth, Massachusetts, developed some forms of cancer at a rate 50% higher than the statewide rate, according to a study endorsed by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and reported in the May 21, 1987, edition of the New York Times. 16 The cause of the cancers is a mystery, but it was suggested that the cancer was linked to the Pilgrim I reactor, which had been shut down for 13 months because of management problems. Boston Edison, the owner of the reactor, acknowledged radiation releases in the mid-1970s that were just above permissible levels. If the reactor was in fact responsible for the excessive cancer rate, then the currently acknowledged level of radiation required to cause cancer would have to change. However, confounding the mystery was the fact that women in this same area were seemingly unaffected. In his report, Dr. Sidney Cobb, an epidemiologist, noted the connection between the radiation releases at the Pilgrim I reactor and 52 cases of hematopoietic cancers. The report indicated that this unexpectedly large number might be attributable to airborne radioactive effluents from Pilgrim I, concentrated along the coast by wind patterns and not dissipated, as assumed by government regulators. How unusual was this number of cancer cases? That is, statistically speaking, is 52 a highly improbable number of cases? If the answer is yes, then either some external factor (possibly radiation) caused this unusually large number, or we have observed a very rare event! The Poisson probability distribution provides a good approximation to the distributions of variables such as the number of deaths in a region due to a rare disease, the number of accidents in a manufacturing plant per month, or the number of airline crashes per month. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the Poisson distribution provides an appropriate model for the number of cancer cases in this instance.
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This question was asked on Oct 17, 2011.

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