Drinking water for nearly 3.3 million New Jersey residents could be at contamination risk from a radiation leak at a nearby nuclear power plant, according to a report released this week by two advocacy groups.

The study “Too Close to Home” was released by the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group Law & Policy Center and Environment New Jersey Research and Policy Center. It uses the fallout from the Fukushima nuclear disaster that followed the Japan earthquake and tsunami to illustrate effects of a similar disaster locally. 

The report determined how many people nationwide live within a 50-mile radius of a nuclear power plant. About 49 million Americans depend on drinking water sources within that 50-mile radius, the report stated.

The radius is the distance that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission uses to determine risk to food and water supplies.

While the report focuses on the Fukushima disaster, it also notes that the majority of radiation risks from nuclear power plants comes from leaked tritium, which is a radioactive form of hydrogen. 

Tritium leaks have been reported near the sites of both nuclear power plant complexes in New Jersey, including at Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in Lacey Township and at the Salem Nuclear Power Plant in Lower Alloways Township, Salem County, the report stated.

“While there’s no scientific evidence that any member of the public has been harmed by a radiation release by a U.S. nuclear power plan, Exelon will continue to take extraordinary measures to protect the bodies of water and drinking supplies near all its nuclear facilities,” said Suzanne D’Ambrosio, spokeswoman for Oyster Creek.

The report recommends that the country phases out nuclear power and increase other alternative energy sources as an overall solution. The report also recommends that the country should conduct a thorough safety review of nuclear power plants and ensure that emergency plans account for the potential impacts to the drinking water supplies for residents who live outside the 50-mile radius.

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