Nuclear Power Plants Threaten Drinking Water for 1.5 Million Connecticut Residents

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State ranks 10th in the nation for the number of its residents using at-risk water supplies.

Environment Connecticut Research & Policy Center

West Hartford, CT – The drinking water for 1.5 million people in Connecticut could be at risk of radioactive contamination from a leak or accident at a nuclear power plant, says a new study released today by Environment Connecticut Research & Policy Center and the Connecticut Public Interest Research Group Education Fund.

“Nuclear power’s risks hit too close to home,” said Environment Connecticut Program Director Christopher Phelps. “This report finds that the drinking water supplies of millions of people in Connecticut and across the country are at risk of contamination in the event of a nuclear accident like the one in Fukushima, Japan.”

 The nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, Japan last year highlighted the many risks associated with nuclear power. After the disaster, airborne radiation left areas around the plant uninhabitable, and even contaminated drinking water sources near Tokyo, 130 miles from the plant.

According to the new report, “Too Close to Home: Nuclear Power and the Threat to Drinking Water,” the drinking water supplies for 1.5 million people in Connecticut are within 50 miles of an active nuclear power plant – the distance the Nuclear Regulatory Commission uses to measure risk to food and water supplies. 

Local bodies of water also play a critical role in cooling nuclear reactors and are at risk of contamination.  In the case of the Fukushima meltdown, large quantities of seawater were pumped into the plant to cool its reactors. The contaminated seawater was then leaked and dumped back into the ocean, carrying radioactivity from the plant with it.  Long Island Sound provides cooling water for the Millstone nuclear power plant and could be similarly at risk of contamination in the event of a serious accident.

“As we reshape our energy economy, there is no reason to keep close to half of Connecticut’s population at risk for something as simple as drinking a glass of water,” said Abe Scarr, ConnPIRG Organizing Director.

The report recommends that the United States move towards a future without nuclear power by retiring existing plants, scrapping plans for new plants, and expanding energy efficiency and the production of clean, renewable energy such as wind and solar power.

In order to reduce the risks nuclear power poses to water supplies immediately, the report recommends completing a thorough safety review of U.S. nuclear power plants, requiring plant operators to implement recommended changes immediately and requiring nuclear plant operators to implement regular groundwater tests in order to catch radiation leaks, among other actions.

“The good news is that we have safer, cheaper, and cleaner ways to meet our energy needs in the future,” concluded Phelps. “Energy efficiency, wind, solar and other safe and renewable energy sources are plentiful and can more than meet our nation’s energy needs.”