Cancer rates around the Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Plant in Lacey Township, and six other facilities nationwide will be studied in a pilot project by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), which will update figures in use by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for 23 years.

Oyster Creek Sirens Tested Today

According to information from NRC, the data will help determine whether a broader look at more nuclear reactor sites is warranted.

Epidemiological research, says NRC, will take two forms. One will document cancer types in people of all ages living near nuclear generating stations. Another will be a ”record-linkage-based case-control study” of cancer development in children born near the sites.

In addition to Oyster Creek, NAS will send teams to the Dresden Nuclear Power Plant in Illinois; the Millstone Power Station and the decomissioned Haddam Neck power plant in Connecticut; the decomissioned Big Rock Point Nuclear Power Plant in Michigan; and the shuttered San Onofre power station in California. Also on the list is Nuclear Fuel Services in Erwin, Tennessee.

NRC says that the Dresden and Millstone sites contain reactors that are currently active and others that are decommissioned.

In a general release, agency officials say that the sites offer a spectrum of operating histories and population levels that would result in a comprehensive stream of data from state cancer registries.

The NAS data would update information about cancer potentials last issued by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in 1990.

Cancer vulnerability has been a rallying point for activists who oppose continued operation of Oyster Creek, which still stands as America’s oldest operating commercial nuclear generating station. The Ocean County League of Women Voters conducted a seminar that touched on the subject this past weekend in Toms River.

The Dresden reactor has been in operation for only one year less than Oyster Creek. Both are owned by Illinois-based Exelon, which originally won renewals for both sites through 2029.

A subsequent agreement in New Jersey brokered by Governor Chris Christie places Oyster Creek on track for decommissioning starting in 2019. The compromise was reached after Exelon officials balked at a recommendation from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to build a self-contained waterborne cooling system for the Lacey mill.

DEP’s aim was to relieve the negative impacts on Barnegat Bay, the source for the water that cools the reactor. Exelon cited the expense of building cooling towers, indicating that it would be more cost-effective to simply shut down operations.

Millstone is run by a group of power suppliers and draws its cooling water from Niantic Bay, off Long Island Sound. It began operations in 1986 and is licensed through 2035.

Haddam Neck, known as the Connecticut Yankee generating station, came on line in 1968, a year before Oyster Creek was built. It stopped sending power to the grid in 1996 and was decommissioned in 2004.

San Onofre Unit One also begain operating in 1968 and continued until 1992. Southern California Edison has stated its intention to decommission it. Two more units built in the early 1980s fell under heavy scrutiny when upgrades intended to last 20 years failed in 2009 and 2010.

Big Rock Point was the fifth nuclear power plant built in the United States. Ground was broken in 1960 and it was licensed two years later to what is now Consumers Energy. Production ceased in 1997.

Nuclear Fuel Services produces fuel fo the US Navy’s nuclear fleet, and refines uranium into fuel for nuclear generators. It’s under the corporate umbrella of Babcock & Wilcox.

NAS is expected to conduct meetings before beginning the pilot study. Information about places, dates and times is to be posted at the NAS website. Also posted are archival records of meetings during Phase 1 of the study.

Jason Allentoff contributed to this report.

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