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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Local nuclear power station neighbors to be studied for cancer risk

Two nukes within 50 miles of Charlestown to be included in study of six power plants
By Will Collette

Most Charlestown residents probably don’t know that we are downwind of two nuclear power plants that have had multiple violations in the past. One is the Millstone nuclear power plant just 20 miles due west on the other side of New London. Millstone, owned by Virginia-based Dominion Resources, is an active facility.

The other is the decommissioned Connecticut Yankee power plant in Haddam, 40 miles west northwest of Charlestown, which is now being used as a storage site for high-level radioactive waste. As I’ve reported earlier, 3.6 million pounds of high-level radioactive waste are also being stored at Millstone.

Both sites have been picked as part of a small pilot study by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to determine whether there are statistically significantly higher rates of cancer among adults and children living close to those plants. The study will be conducted by the National Academy of Sciences.




Westerly and Charlestown would easily fall within the danger zone based on prior studies as well as the actual experience at the Fukushima nuclear disaster caused by Japan’s earthquake and tsunami. However, only the communities adjacent to the power plants will be studied.

Studies outside the immediate area would only be warranted if there was a significant release of radiation at the sites. While there have been safety violations at both sites, there have not been any reported major releases.

The Millstone reactor’s site on the coast has made it prone to weather-related problems. Last summer, Millstone had an extended shutdown when the ocean water it takes in to cool its Unit 3 reactor was too warm to safely do the job. When Sandy was about to hit the Connecticut coast, Millstone had to power down and erect storm barriers to prevent damage from the storm’s surge.

As the effects of climate change affect the operating condition at plants like Millstone, and “freak” weather becomes more commonplace, the odds of future problems at Millstone could rise unless the plant’s owners invest in more safety measures.

But don’t hold your breath. Their response to last summer’s rise in water temperature in Long Island Sound was to ask the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to grant them more leeway to judge what temperature levels are tolerable.