In the news

NJPIRG Law and Policy Center
Asbury Park Press
Michael Symons

Environmental activists said in a report Tuesday that nearly 3.3 million New Jerseyans drink water from supplies at risk of contamination if there’s a leak or accident at a nuclear plant.

Speakers at a Statehouse news conference called for nuclear plants to be shuttered or phased out, with no new plants developed, in favor of renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar. In the short term, they want independent safety reviews, immediate upgrades and regular groundwater tests.

“The dangers are too close to home. There’s too many New Jerseyans’ drinking water that would be at risk. You shouldn’t have to worry about getting cancer from drinking a glass of water,” said Jennifer Kim, an advocate with New Jersey Public Interest Research Group.

Kim said the report is the first to measure the number of people whose drinking water supplies are within range of a nuclear plant. She said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provided water intake data previously not released by the government, citing national security interests.

The groups said almost 3.3 million people in the state get their drinking water from surface waters within 50 miles of Oyster Creek, three Salem County nuclear plants or Indian Point in New York. That distance is what the Nuclear Regulatory Commission uses to measure food and water supply risks.

The number of people whose drinking water supplies are within 12.4 miles of a nuclear plant, the distance that Japan’s government required to be evacuated after last year’s Fukushima meltdowns, is much smaller — 6,199, all in the vicinity of the Salem County plants.

Suzanne D’Ambrosio, a spokeswoman for Exelon’s Oyster Creek plant in Lacey, said the plant operates conservatively within all federal and state regulations.

“We’ve got a comprehensive and proactive environmental monitoring program that is designed to ensure the continued health of the bay, our groundwater and the residents who use our groundwater,” D’Ambrosio said.

Radioactive leaks can also pose a hazard even without an accident, the environmental groups said. Such leaks can wind up in water supplies because that water, from places such as Barnegat Bay or the Delaware River, gets cycled through a plant daily to cool the nuclear processes.

The Salem and Hope Creek plants are within 50 miles of the water supply for 2.9 million people, including residents of Maryland and Pennsylvania. Oyster Creek is within 50 miles of the supply for just over 1 million. Bergen County water supplies are within range of New York’s Indian Point.

Oyster Creek is scheduled to close in 2019.

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