The Salem/Hope Creek nuclear plant in southern New Jersey is one of just four U.S. plants with three large reactors (all others consist of one or two).These reactors started operations in 1976, 1980, and 1986 and routinely released toxic radioactive gases and particles into the environment. Only a single study has been performed by federal officials on cancer near nuclear plants—a study now 30 years old. A review of official mortality data using four-year periods shows the Salem County cancer death rate was consistently just below that of other New Jersey counties up to the mid-1980s. However, from 1983-1986 to 2015-2017, the county rate soared from −5.4% below the rest of the state to +32.6% above. The county/state mortality ratio for all causes also increased rapidly in these periods, from +0.6% above to +28.4% above the state. Salem now has the highest cancer death rate, and the 2nd highest total death rate of any New Jersey county. Had the 1983-1986 county-state ratios not changed in the following 31 years, 3493 fewer deaths (1018 of them from cancer) would have occurred among Salem County residents. The lack of any apparent etiologies that could have caused such a dramatic and unexpected change, plus the fact that the Salem/Hope Creek reactors are aging, corroding, and more prone to leaking radionuclides, emphasizes the immediate need for more studies of this type, and the inclusion of local health as a crucial factor in public decisions on the plant’s future.
Journal of Environmental Protection (accessed) 10th July 2019 read more »