When Nuclear Plants Close, Infant Deaths And Childhood Cancers Drop

A study of the areas surrounding nuclear power plants has found that rates of infant death and childhood cancer drop dramatically after the plants close. Rates dropped by 17 percent on average, and in one case, infant deaths and childhood cancers dropped by a full 42 percent.

Researchers from the nonprofit Radiation and Public Health Project selected areas in the US where a nuclear plant closing had left a 70-mile radius that was nuclear-plant-free for at least two years. There were eight such regions, scattered throughout the country. The researchers did not attempt to rule out other factors that might have caused the improvements, but in each case the reduction in cancer and death far exceeded the nationwide average decline, which was 8 percent.

“We finally have peer-reviewed accurate data attaching the nuclear power plants to death and injury in the host communities. This is a sobering and significant scientific study and we all need to take it seriously,” New York State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky said in a press conference. Eight percent of the nation's population—over 22 million people—lives within 50 miles of New York's Indian Point reactor, which is still operating.

Two of the eight closed plants, including one in Massachusetts where the researchers found an almost one quarter reduction in children's deaths and cancers, had closed only temporarily and have since re-opened.