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NJPIRG Law and Policy Center
Gita Bajaj

(TRENTON) Assemblyman John F. McKeon, a long-standing advocate of nuclear safety, called for the immediate implementation of some of the safety protocols and safeguards recommended in the report released Tuesday, on the threat to drinking water from radioactive leaks from nuclear facilities.

According to the report, "Too Close to Home: Nuclear Power and the Threat to Drinking Water," released by New Jersey Public Interest Research Group (NJPIRG) and Environment New Jersey, 75 percent of U.S. nuclear power plants have leaked tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen that can cause cancer and other genetic defects. The report cites that even a common leak at a nuclear plant can threaten the drinking water for millions of people.

Its findings include that more than 3.2 million New Jerseyans who live within 50 miles of an active nuclear plant, could be at risk of radioactive contamination from a leak or accident at a local nuclear power plant. Fifty miles is the distance the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) uses to measure risk to food and water supplies.

McKeon, who sponsored a series of measures to turn the tide on the degradation of Barnegat Bay, said the report elevates concern about the safety of the state's critical watersheds.

"We remain deeply concerned at the risk to the Barnegat Bay watershed and Delaware River from radioactive contamination from the Oyster Creek and Salem nuclear power plants. Since nuclear plants draw their cooling water suplies from critical waterways, they become a natural destination for spilled or dumped radioactive liquid," McKeon (D-Essex\Morris) said.

"As our state's nuclear facilities get older, they are more likely to leak radioactive materials into our drinking water supply, posing a serious threat to public health and safety, as well as to the environment. It is imperative that necessary safeguards are immediately implemented to prevent radioactive contamination of our water supply. We support using hardened dry casks to store nuclear waste to reduce the risk associated with spent fuel pools. We also support requiring nuclear plant operators to implement regular groundwater tests in order to catch tritium leaks," he added.

McKeon also called for the implementation of a recommendation by the report for the construction of on-site storage capacity for contaminated water to prevent the release of radioactive water in the event of an accident.

New Jersey has four nuclear reactors: Oyster Creek in Lacey Township, Hope Creek in Lower Alloways Creek Township, and the Salem Units One and Two reactors, also in Lower Alloways Creek Townshsip. These supply an estimated 55 percent of the state's electricity.

According to the NJPIRG and Environment New Jersey report, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster on March 11, 2011, served as a reminder that nuclear power comes with inherent risks. Over a period of several days, three Japanese nuclear reactors suffered meltdowns. A large amount of radioactive materials escaped into the environment over the ensuing months.

The report cites that among the risks demonstrated by the nuclear disaster in Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant, is the threat of contamination of drinking water supplies by radioactive material. Following the accident, drinking water sources as far as 130 miles from the plant were contaminated with radioactive iodine, prompting cities such as Tokyo to warn against consumption of the water by infants.

The United States has the world's largest commercial nuclear energy program and together with France and Japan, contributes 57 percent of global nuclear generating capacity. There are 10 nuclear reactors in 31 U.S. states that supply 20 percent of the nation's electricity.





Gita Bajaj

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