Radiation andPublic Health Project
Home About RPHP Projects Publications & Reports Journal Press Room
   
   


Spotlight

Public Health Risks Of Extending Licenses
Of The Indian Point 2 and 3 Nuclear Reactors

Joseph J. Mangano, MPH, MBA
Executive Director
Radiation and Public Health Project

November 12, 2007

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, retired professor of medicine, University of Southern California
Janette Sherman MD, adjunct professor, Environmental Institute, Western Michigan Univ.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The Indian Point nuclear plant, 35 miles north of midtown Manhattan, has three reactors, two of which remain in operation. Entergy Nuclear, which operates the plant, has requested that the federal government extend the operating licenses of the two reactors for 20 additional years beyond their 2013 and 2015 expiration dates.

To date, federal officials have not acknowledged any public health risks of license extension at Indian Point. This report explores risks from extending the Indian Point licenses.

Continued operation of Indian Point raises the risk of radioactivity exposure in two ways.

  • First, the reactor cores would produce high-level waste to be added to the 1,500 tons already at the site, worsening the consequences of a large-scale release.
  • Second, because reactors routinely release radioactivity, keeping Indian Point in service would mean greater releases and risks to local residents.

The principal findings of this report are:

  1. A large-scale release of radioactivity in a meltdown, from mechanical failure or act of sabotage, would harm thousands through acute radiation poisoning or cancer.
  2. Indian Point has released the 5th greatest amount of airborne radioactivity out of 72 U.S. nuclear plants. In some periods, releases are up to 100 times greater than normal.
  3. Radioactivity levels in the Hudson River near Indian Point are over 10 times greater than those in Albany. Large variations exist in local radioactivity levels; for example, 2006 airborne radioactivity was three times as high in late fall, an in late spring.
  4. Levels of Strontium-90 in local baby teeth are the highest of any area near seven U.S. nuclear plants. Local children born in the late 1990s have an average Sr-90 level 38% greater than those born a decade earlier.
  5. In the four counties closest to Indian Point, the incidence of cancer exceeds the state and national rates. In 2000-2004, excess cancer cases range from 2090 to 3631.
  6. Local incidence rates of childhood cancer and thyroid cancer, both known to be sensitive to radiation exposure, are among the highest in New York State. Local thyroid cancer incidence is about 70% above the U.S. rate.
  7. Cancer incidence in the towns within five miles of Indian Point is 20% greater than the rest of Rockland and Westchester Counties.
  8. There is a statistical link between average levels of Strontium-90 in local baby teeth and local childhood cancer rates.
  9. If closing Indian Point is associated with decreases in cancer mortality as it did near the Rancho Seco CA plant, 5000 fewer cancer deaths would occur in the next 20 years.

While many factors contribute to cancer risk, evidence suggests that more detailed study on Indian Point is warranted, and that the public be informed of any health risks.

Back to Spotlight