This article from our friend and  ally Joe Mangano of Radiation and Public Health appeared in the Journal News.  Another thing to be thankful for. Please share with others.


An in-depth look at the end of the nuclear power industry as we know it, and what lies ahead for the communities where plants are powering down. Rockland/Westchester Journal News

The Indian Point nuclear reactor unit 2 is shutting permanently on April 30. Unit 3 will close a year from now, also on April 30. The closing of the plant will mean a meltdown of the core is no longer possible, and that no radioactive waste will be added to an enormous pile-up.

But perhaps more important, shutdown will signal the start of a healthier population who live near the plant. This is not just a hope, but a belief based on studies showing when reactors stop routinely releasing radioactivity into the environment, and thus human bodies, local disease and death rates decline.

A medical journal article showed that near each of eight U.S. nuclear plants shut from 1987 to 1998, shutdown was immediately followed by a large decline in deaths to infants less than a year old. The decline near closed reactors was three times greater than the U.S. trend.

More recently, the shutdown of the San Onofre plant in Orange County California was followed by improvements in the county’s infant health rates far greater than those in the U.S., during the first four years after the plant closed (2012-2015). These include:

  • Infant deaths of less than a year: County down 29.6%, U.S. down 7.5%.
  • Low-weight births (under 5.5 pounds): County down 3.8%, U.S. down 1.6%.
  • Premature births (gestation to less than 37 weeks): County down 8.4%, U.S. down 4.1%.

With about 38,000 births per year in this California county, each of these differences are statistically significant, and mean hundreds of fewer babies who die or are born prematurely and/or at low weight each year.

Drone photo of Indian Point Power Center in Buchanan on Tuesday, April 28, 2020.

Drone photo of Indian Point Power Center in Buchanan on Tuesday, April 28, 2020. (Photo: John Meore & Peter Carr/The Journal News)

Almost all 1.8 million residents in four New York counties that flank Indian Point (Orange, Putnam, Rockland, and Westchester) live within 20 miles of the plant. Thus, people in these counties absorb the highest amounts of radioactivity from environmental releases — but also are the most likely to benefit from a closed Indian Point.

The expected reduction in four years in these counties would include 59 fewer infant deaths, 132 fewer low-weight births, and 292 fewer premature births.

Long term benefits are also expected. Following the 1989 shutdown of the Rancho Seco plant in Sacramento County, California, cancer incidence (vs. the state) fell from 7.6% higher to 3.5% higher over the next 20 years, a reduction of 4,319 cancer cases.

If this reduction were to be duplicated over the next 20 years after Indian Point shutdown, at least 8,000 fewer cancer cases would occur to residents of all ages in the four counties.

Drone photo of Indian Point Power Center in Buchanan on Tuesday, April 28, 2020.

Drone photo of Indian Point Power Center in Buchanan on Tuesday, April 28, 2020. (Photo: John Meore & Peter Carr/The Journal News)

This series of numbers must be regarded in terms of actual humans, living health lives rather than becoming ill and sometimes dying. Every case of cancer is a physically and agonizing experience, for the patient and for their loved ones. Every loss of an infant is traumatizing to parents. We will never know exactly who avoided becoming ill, but they exist.

The saga of Indian Point, which has had at least one reactor operating at the site in Westchester County since 1962, is not quite over. A clean up of the massive amounts of nuclear waste is needed. Still, if the work is done carefully, no further deadly radioactivity — the same chemicals created in atomic bomb explosions — will enter human bodies.

These upcoming improvements are crucial, since the replacement of nuclear energy with safe, renewable sources like wind and solar power would have no negative effect on human health. The shutdowns should proceed as planned, so that toxic radiation will decrease in human bodies, and more will live healthier lives.

By Joseph Managano