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Nuclear reactor needs "precautionary principle"
Joseph J. Mangano, MPH, MBA

Letters To The Editor
Asbury Park Press
Sunday November 30, 2008

A letter writer stated that unless "real scientific proof" of danger at the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in Lacey is demonstrated, the reactor should continue operating. ("Women oppose relicensing plant, Nov. 20.)

That logic is backward. Health and environmental policies have long observed the "precautionary principle" — if safety is uncertain, policies should be cautious. In this case, Oyster Creek's operators and regulators must prove safety or the reactor should be shut down.

The U.S. nuclear industry and government officials have consistently claimed plants were safe — to be proved wrong. A half-century of insistence that atomic bomb fallout was harmless ended when a 1997 National Cancer Institute study concluded fallout caused up to 212,000 Americans to develop thyroid cancer. Assurance that a reactor could not melt down ended in 1979 when the Three Mile Island accident melted half the reactor's core.

There are multiple safety concerns plaguing Oyster Creek. The lining protecting radiation from escaping into the environment is leaking and corroding. Nuclear waste equal to several hundred Hiroshima bombs is accumulating at the plant. Routine radioactive emissions have been higher than at most U.S. reactors. And high local cancer rates, especially in susceptible children, have been documented.

Industry and government have failed to prove Oyster Creek is safe. The precautionary principle should be observed.

Joseph Mangano

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