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RADIOACTIVE CONTAMINATION AND POTENTIAL HEALTH RISKS
FROM THE OYSTER CREEK NUCLEAR POWER REACTOR

Joseph J. Mangano, MPH, MBA
Radiation and Public Health Project
June 12, 2007

This report was prepared with the assistance of:
Grandmothers, Mothers, and More for Energy Safety
Jersey Shore Nuclear Watch
New Jersey Public Interest Research Group
Ocean County (NJ) League of Women Voters
UNPLUG Salem

Advisors:
Rosalie Bertell PhD, Founder of the International Institute of Concern for Public Health
Marci Culley PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology, Georgia State University
Samuel Epstein MD, Professor Emeritus of Public Health, Univ. of Illinois-Chicago
Sam Galewsky PhD, Associate Professor of Biology, Millikin (IL) University
Donald Louria MD, Professor of Preventive Medicine, New Jersey Medical School
Kay Kilburn MD, (recently ret.) Professor of Medicine, Univ. of Southern California
Janette Sherman MD, Adjunct Professor of Medicine, Western Michigan University


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Oyster Creek is the oldest of 104 nuclear reactors operating in the U.S. The AmerGen Company has applied to the federal government to extend Oyster Creek’s license for an additional 20 years after it expires on April 9, 2009. To date, federal officials have not acknowledged any public health risks of operating Oyster Creek for 20 more years.

Exposure to radioactivity has been linked to numerous negative human health impacts, including cancer. Continuing to operate Oyster Creek increases the risk of human exposure to radioactivity in two basic ways.

First, continued operation would cause the reactor core to produce additional high-level radioactive waste that would be added to the 1,000 tons already stored at the site. Coupled with the growing local population, more stored radioactive waste would make the results of a meltdown from mechanical failure or act of sabotage even more severe than at present.

Second, nuclear plant operations routinely release radioactivity, both at refueling and on an on-going basis. Continued operation of the plant thus means more radioactivity release to the environment. Circumstantial evidence suggests Oyster Creek’s present operations may be having significant impacts on human health; that makes the increased risks of exposure from continued operation very troubling.

The principal findings of the report are:

Operating Performance

1. Oyster Creek has emitted more radioactivity than most U.S. reactors. Depending on which type of radioactivity is measured, it ranks between 1st and 10th from 2001-2004.

2. Annual airborne emissions of radioactive Strontium-90 from Oyster Creek were higher in 1994-2004 than 1983-1993. The median annual release increased from 50 to 70 microcuries, and the number of major spikes in annual releases increased from 1 to 3.

3. Oyster Creek is not only old, it has been heavily used in recent years, operating 96% of the time in this decade, compared to just 67% before 1995. As a result of its age and wear and tear, parts of the reactor system have significantly corroded, increasing the chance of a catastrophic meltdown.

Circumstantial Evidence of Radioactive Contamination from Oyster Creek

4. Within the area measured, levels of radioactive isotopes that do not occure in nature but are produced in nuclear reactors are generally highest in water, fish, sediment, and vegetation closest to the Oyster Creek site.

5. The average level of radioactive Strontium-90 in New Jersey baby teeth, many from children living close to Oyster Creek, has doubled from the late 1980s to the late 1990s. Sr-90 is an isotope only produced by nuclear reactors and nuclear bombs.

Circumstantial Evidence Suggesting a Possible Link Between Oyster Creek and Cancer

6. Ocean County has the highest cancer incidence rate of any New Jersey county

7. The Ocean County death rate is above the U.S. for cancer, but below for other causes

8. A statistical link has been documented between trends in Strontium-90 in baby teeth and childhood cancer incidence in Monmouth and Ocean Counties. Five years after an increase or decrease in the Sr-90 levels occurs, a corresponding increase or decrease appears in childhood cancer incidence.

9. Elsewhere, the closing of nuclear power plants has been correlated with a decrease in cancer incidence. One of the most striking cases is the Rancho Seco, California plant. Immediately after that plant closed, cancer started decreasing in the four counties downwind of the plant. If closing Oyster Creek were correlated with a similar cancer decrease, it could mean 4810 fewer cancer deaths over 20 years in Monmouth and Ocean Counties.

Back to the article: Educating New Jersey:
On The Risks of The Oyster Creek Nuclear Reactor

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