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Safety First? NRC Hearing Tonight on Salem and Hope Creek Nuclear Power Plants

Date : Tue, 10 May 2011 16:10:03 -0400

  For Immediate Release
May 10, 2011 Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

Safety First? NRC Hearing Tonight on Salem and Hope Creek Nuclear Power Plants

Today the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is holding a hearing on safety concerns at PSEG's Salem and Hope Creek nuclear power plant. The NRC found thorough agency inspections and reporting by PSE&G that the plants meet all safety standards, despite closing of the Salem reactors due to issues with the cooling intake system. Despite the on-going situation at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan, the emergency alert and notification systems and occupational and public radiation controls have not been tested at Salem within the past year.

"It is irresponsible for the NRC to not look at these critical safety measures while one of the biggest nuclear disasters continues to unfold in Japan," said Jeff Tittel, director of NJ Sierra Club. "We need independent experts examining these plants to ensure they are truly safe."

The Salem 1 Nuclear reactor has been shut down three times in the past three weeks as vegetation clogged cooling water intakes. The Salem plant does not have a closed loop system with cooling towers and depends on constant withdrawals from the Delaware River to cool the nuclear reactors. An issue with the cooling intake systems could lead to a melt down, as seen at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan.

Salem 1 and its twin reactor, Salem 2 take in 3 billion gallons of water from the Delaware River per day. The water is circulated throughout the plants for cooling and then the hot water is discharged back into the Delaware River. These thermal discharges are laden with chemicals and the water is too hot to support cold-water dependent aquatic ecosystems, characteristic of the Delaware River. The water intake system kills 3 billion fish a year.

The neighboring Hope Creek reactor at Artificial Island has a cooling tower which re-circulates water in the plant so it needs to draw only about 58 million gallons of water per day from the river. This makes the plant less dependent on continuous intakes from the Delaware River and reduces fish kills which hurt recreation and fishing industries.

The NRC inspection process does not involve consultation with outside nuclear safety experts. Organizations such as Scandia Labs and the Union of Concerned Scientists and nuclear experts at New Jersey's universities including Professors Van Hibble and Oppenheimer should be included in safety reviews of New Jersey's nuclear facilities. Independent experts are critical in producing an unbiased report on the safety of these facilities.

What is especially troubling is that a fourth reactor is being proposed at the Salem plant. At the Japan facility there are six reactors on one site, four of which are currently leaking, magnifying the problem significantly. The four reactors at Japan were having trouble at the same site simultaneously as opposed to only having one reactor in trouble such as Three Mile Island. Adding a fourth reactor to the Salem Nuclear Plant would add to potential problems at the site.

Salem is in a less populated area but can be impacted by storm surges, flooding, and sea level rise as a result of climate change. The NRC's latest round of inspections have not looked at emergency preparedness, radiation containment, and initiating circumstances of emergencies, which is especially troubling following the events in Japan.

    The plant is currently applying for relicensing and that process must ensure the facility is safe and can handle worst case scenarios, natural or man-made, before any licenses are issued. Tritium leaks, metal fatigue, and other issues that could occur as the plant gets older must be studied in the relicensing. There have been tritium leaks at the facility in 2002 and 2010. Installing a closed loop system with cooling towers must be a component of relicensing to make the plant safer and to reduce its destruction of fisheries on the Delaware River. The current water intake system, pulling from the Delaware River, could result in more problems during emergency as seen with the events happening this week with grass getting clogged.

"The NRC hasn't learnt anything from Japan. They will relicense every plant and say all is fine even though there are serious problems," said Jeff Tittel. "NRC stands for 'No Regulatory Commission' as they take the side of industry at the expense of public health and safety."

Kate Millsaps, Program Assistant NJ Sierra Club 145 W. Hanover Street Trenton, NJ 08618 609.656.7612 (f) 609.656.7618  <http://www.newjersey.sierraclub.org/> www.newjersey.sierraclub.org   Received on 2011-05-10 13:10:03

New Jersey Sierra Club, 145 West Hanover St., Trenton, NJ 08618, USA
tel: 609 656 7612, fax 609 656 7618
or email Nicole Dallara, Outreach Coordinator, at nicole.dallara@sierraclub.org

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