Studies to examine health risks of New England nuclear power plants

Warning signs posted near gate to Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, Mass.

January 29, 2024 – Petros Koutrakis, professor of environmental sciences at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, is leading two studies to investigate the health impacts of New England nuclear power plants on nearby residents.

Koutrakis spoke about his research in a January 25 interview on Vermont Public.

The first study will look at the incidence of cancer in residents who live near three nuclear power plants—Pilgrim in Massachusetts, Seabrook in New Hampshire, and Yankee in Vermont.

The second study will focus on the Pilgrim power plant, where wastewater has been evaporating since February 2023 and releasing the radioactive isotope tritium, according to Koutrakis. Researchers will analyze blood samples from people to identify biomarkers—such as DNA damage—that could give clues about tritium’s potential health effects.

Koutrakis recommended that residents near the Pilgrim power plant use air cleaners in their home, as well as ask policymakers to require proper wastewater disposal methods, such as shipping it to a disposal site. “It’s more expensive, but this is the right thing to do,” he said.

Listen to or read the Vermont Public story: Harvard launches two studies of Pilgrim nuclear plant health risks

Photo credit: Associated Press/Steven Senne