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RADIOACTIVE RELEASES FROM NEW JERSEY NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS AND THE LINK WITH CANCER
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FROM NEW JERSEY NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS
AND THE LINK WITH CANCER
The Radiation and Public Health Project
Toms River NJ
April 26, 2001
RPHP Research Associates
Jay M. Gould, Ph.D., Director
Ernest J. Sternglass, Ph.D., Chief Scientist
Jerry Brown, Ph.D.
Joseph Mangano, MPH, MBA
William McDonnell, MA
Marsha Marks, ACSW, LCSW
Janette Sherman, MD
Operations at the four nuclear reactors in New Jersey (Oyster Creek
in Lacey Township, and Salem 1/2 and Hope Creek in Salem) have added
considerable radioactivity to the local environment, raising the
question of whether local residents have been harmed. The Radiation
and Public Health Project (RPHP) research group has investigated this
issue, and has documented facts that suggest such harm is occurring.
A number of these findings have been published in peer-reviewed
Radioactive Emissions The Oyster Creek reactor began operations on
May 3, 1969, making it the oldest of the 103 U.S. reactors still in
operation. The Salem 1/2 and Hope Creek reactors began operations in
1976, 1980, and 1986, respectively.
Oyster Creek emitted 77.0 curies of airborne radioactivity in the
period 1970-1993, the largest amount of any U.S. reactor.
Environmental Levels of Radioactivity From 1979 to 1995, the level of
radioactive chemicals in Trenton precipitation remained relatively
constant, suggesting that a current source of emissions (nuclear
power reactors) was supplementing and offsetting the decay of fallout
from old nuclear bomb tests.
Similarly, the average concentration of radioactive Strontium-90 in
222 New Jersey baby teeth (106 from Ocean County) is relatively
constant after 1980. The current level is equal to that in the late
1950s, when the U.S. and Soviet Union conducted large-scale nuclear
weapons tests in the atmosphere.
Annual emissions of four of five toxic chemicals in Ocean County have
fallen from 1986 to 1996.
Health Effects Current (1995-98) cancer incidence in Ocean and
Monmouth County children under age five is 32.4% greater than the
U.S. rate, and 30.6% greater than other New Jersey counties. Ocean
and Monmouth lie directly downwind of the Oyster Creek reactor.
Cancer mortality in Ocean and Monmouth County children under age 10
rose 45.9% since the early 1980s, compared to declines if 35.3% and
23.4% in the nation and the rest of New Jersey.
The current cancer mortality rate age 0-9 in Ocean and Monmouth
Counties is 74.1% higher than the U.S. and 54.0% higher than the rest
of New Jersey.
In persons over age 65 living in Salem and Gloucester Counties, death
rates from cancers sensitive to bone-seeking radioactive chemicals
like Strontium-90 soared from 1979-81 to 1996-98. These cancers
included leukemia (+130.4%), Hodgkin's Disease and non-Hodgkin's
lymphoma (+115.2%), and multiple myeloma (+74.5%).
Link Between Sr-90 in Teeth and Childhood Cancer In Ocean County,
trends in cancer incidence age 0-4 and in Strontium-90 concentrations
are similar (with a three-year lag period between). This finding
needs to be further tested using more teeth, but it suggests a
potential cause-and-effect link between environmental radioactivity
and cancer. The Ocean County result is consistent with findings in
Suffolk County NY, based on 488 teeth.
Closed Reactors In downwind areas near eight U.S. reactors closed
since 1987, infant mortality fell sharply in the first two years
after shutdown (average -16.9%, compared to -6.4% in the U.S.).
In three of the eight areas with available cancer incidence data,
cancer incidence in children under age five fell after reactor
closing (-25.0%, compared to +4.4% in the U.S.)
In 1995-97, when the Salem 1 and 2 reactors were mostly shut down,
the infant mortality rate in Salem and Gloucester counties fell -
31.3%, compared to -11.2% in the U.S. and -18.2% elsewhere in New
In 1998, when the Salem reactors returned to normal operations,
infant mortality in Salem and Gloucester increased +8.8%, while
declining nationally (-2.4%) and in other New Jersey counties (-
Recommendations The recent evidence suggesting that radioactive
chemicals emitted from Oyster Creek are one cause of elevated
childhood cancer rates in New Jersey is significant and merits more
The Tooth Fairy Project will provide critical data on levels of in-
body radioactivity, which will allow researchers to better understand
the link between environmental radiation and cancer, especially in
young persons. The Project is especially important in central New
Jersey, which is the location of the nuclear reactor with the highest
level of emissions in the U.S., and has above-average childhood
Information on the radiation-cancer link should be considered in
federal policies regulating the operation of nuclear reactors, in New
Jersey and across the U.S.
Information on the radiation-cancer link should be considered in the
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's consideration of the
environmental review of utility applications to renew and extend the
licenses of aging nuclear power plants in New Jersey and across the
RADIOACTIVE RELEASES FROM NEW JERSEY NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS AND THE
LINK WITH CANCER
Nuclear power reactors have been operating in the U.S. since 1957.
Each of the 103 reactors currently operating in the U.S. (at 72
plants) emits radioactive chemicals into the air and water, from
routine operations and from accidents. This radioactivity enters the
food chain through precipitation, and is consumed by humans. Most
emissions involve chemicals that are not found in nature, but are
produced only by atomic bomb explosions and nuclear reactor
Of the 103 nuclear reactors, four are located in New Jersey. The
Oyster Creek reactor is situated in Lacey Township (southern Ocean
County), and began operations in 1969. Oyster Creek is the oldest of
the 103 American reactors. The Salem 1 and 2 reactors in Salem
(southern Salem County) opened in 1976 and 1980, respectively. The
Hope Creek reactor, located on the same site, opened in 1986. Six
other reactors were once proposed for the state, but were later
cancelled. (Table 1)
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