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One Year After Fukushima: Still Haven’t Learned

Date : Fri, 9 Mar 2012 14:14:09 -0500

For Immediate Release
March 09, 2012 Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

* *

*One Year After Fukushima: Still Haven’t Learned*

*Sunday will Commemorate the One Year Anniversary *

It has been a year since the Earthquake struck Japan causing the catastrophe of the reactor meltdowns in Fukushima, but yet Governor Christie has learned nothing from this disaster. A few days ago at a town hall meeting in Ocean Township the Governor stated that, “we have to look at building another nuclear plant.” However, right in Ocean County, New Jersey we have one of the oldest nuclear plants, Oyster Creek in Lacey Township. Safety concerns and risk around this plant are endless, but instead of closing the plant Governor Christie made an agreement with Exelon to extend the closure date to end of 2019 without cooling towers. In addition Governor created a Nuclear Task Force, which is meaningless when the Governor should instead be looking into challenging the re-licensing and closing Oyster Creek.

“A year after Fukushima and the government has not learned its lesson. The NRC is still the No Regulatory Commission since they help to cover up the industry instead of regulating them. With all of the devastating effects and risks we have seen from this disaster our Governor still has not learned. Governor Christie is supporting using tax payer’s money to help build a nuclear plant.” *said Jeff Tittel.*

We can have a disaster here, but it will not be Fukushima the problem with NRC and nuclear power industry is that they always design for the last disaster not the next disasters. There are many unforeseen problem that could rise at Oyster Creek creating a disaster. New Jersey is not going to get hit with a tsunami, but we can have hurricanes, a small earthquake, power outrages and other things that could lead to disaster. Since this is the oldest plant in the nation metal fatigue and structural fatigue could also lead to a disaster. That is why this plant should be closed at once. There will not be another Fukushima because we never predicted a nuclear incident before it happened. We did not predict the cause for 3 Mile Island or Fermi or Chernobyl. When the next disaster happens we will not have a clue, but we hope and pray it will not be oyster creek,” *said Jeff Tittel.*

The earthquake back in August was a 5.8 and according to the US Geological Survey, Toms River has experienced earthquakes of a magnitude 5.0 or greater in the last 150 years. The Sierra Club has long questioned the safety of Oyster Creek and has urged that the plant be closed down. All of New Jersey’s nuclear power facilities are located in areas prone to damages from hurricanes. Category five hurricanes have hit the Jersey shore in the past and we are long overdue for next one. Such a storm could have very similar impacts on Oyster Creek as a tsunami. Extreme weather events at Oyster Creek could impact the facility’s corroded pipes that leak radioactive tritium or the corroding drywall liner of the reactor containment vessel. The wall is currently one-half as thick as when the plant opened in the late 1960s. The aging infrastructure on site resulted in corroded pipes leaking radioactive tritium into groundwater supplies.

“A disaster is quite possible and we maybe overdue for a earthquake of a higher magnitude putting people at risk,” *Tittel stated.*

The design of Oyster Creek is the same as the Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1, a GE Mark I BWR. Even a moderate earthquake at Oyster Creek could impact the above ground spent fuel rod storage system. The Japanese reactor had a cement dome over the containment vessel and Oyster Creek does not, possibly making it more at risk if a build up of hydrogen occurs. Being one of the oldest nuclear power plants in the country risk and safety concerns should be of high priority. If there was a major event at Oyster Creek the disaster could be worse since it lies between the two most densely populated areas in the country Yew York City and Philadelphia. The Sierra Club is concerned with excavation procedures and routes during an emergency at Oyster Creek. Ocean County’s population doubles on a summer weekend. There is close to 1 million people in a 12-13 mile radius of the power plant.

“There are assumptions for evacuation that are supposed to happen that will not like school bus drivers in Toms River going to pick people up in Long Beach Island, the road network just could not handle an evacuation,” *said Jeff.* “It is hard enough to get home from a day at the beach, let alone when you have to evacuate people during an emergency.” Earlier this year the U.S. District Court ruled that federal laws regulating nuclear power plants trump state laws, having significant impacts on the fate of the Oyster Creek plant. The Court ruled Entergy Corp.’s Vermont Yankee nuclear plant can continue running even though the operators of the plant entered an agreement with the state to not seek permit renewals. Similar to Oyster Creek, the plant had already received federal approvals to continue operating for another 20 years from the NRC when the state took action to close the plant. The Court found those federal approvals trump actions by the state of Vermont, setting a dangerous precedent for Oyster Creek and the deal Governor Christie entered into with the plant operator Exelon. Although the plant is scheduled to close in nine years under state agreements, Exelon can challenge that in court and operate under its 20 NRC license until 2030.

The Nuclear Task Force is consists of the political appointments and does not have any experts on nuclear physics or nuclear safety. Organizations such as Scandia Labs and Union of Concerned Scientists and nuclear experts at New Jersey’s universities including Professors Van Hibble and Oppenheimer have been excluded from the review group. Independent experts are critical if the panel is to produce an unbiased report on the safety of these facilities, especially as Salem and Hope Creek will be applying to NRC for relicensing in the next five years.

"This was a farce not a task force considering it did nothing. They did not have a real independent review and their plan has no real recommendations on how to make our plants safe,” *Tittel stated*.

The Christie administration entered into an Administrative Consent Order (ACO) with Oyster Creek’s operator Exelon to close the plant by 2019. Since the plant would close early, the state would not require cooling towers. However Oyster Creek’s permits have also been extended by the NRC and under their jurisdiction the plant could operate until 2030. If Exelon decides to keep Oyster Creek open beyond 2030, the state may not be able to stop them. The court ruled that federal regulations trump *state laws.*

* *“Since the courts have ruled in favor of Vermont Yankee, the Governor’s deal could be scrapped by Exelon and Oyster Creek will continue to deteriorate the health of Barnegat Bay. The other disaster that this plant is causing is an ecological disaster of Barnegat Bay, which would have long lasting devastating impacts on the environment, community, and economy,” *Tittel said.*

Every day, 2.8 percent of the total volume of Barnegat Bay moves through the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station to cool the plant’s systems causing the thermal pollution that leads to algae blooms and lots of dissolved oxygen. Oyster Creek also kills billions of fish larva, fish eggs, and a variety of aquatic species in the Bay as its pumps act as a giant vacuum, sucking up and destroying everything in its reach as they take in water to cool the plant’s nuclear reactors. Water temperatures this summer reached 91 degree and the stench from the decaying plants was unbearable. Without cooling towers, the plant continues to pollute the Bay with superheated water and kill millions of pounds of aquatic biota each year. We saw a massive fish kill because of the cooling water system at Oyster Creek destroying the aquatic ecosystem of Bay.

“Lessons of Fukushima disaster is that old, obsolete nuclear power plants like Oyster Creek should be closed. They are not worth the risk to the environment or the public health and safety,” *said Jeff.* “Governor Christie needs to realize the dangers that nuclear power plants pose on the environment and the public by starting to invest in the safer, cleaner alternatives like wind and solar.”

-- 
Nicole Dallara, Outreach Coordinator
New Jersey Sierra Club
145 W. Hanover Street
Trenton, NJ 08618
609-656-7612
-- 
Nicole Dallara, Outreach Coordinator
New Jersey Sierra Club
145 W. Hanover Street
Trenton, NJ 08618
609-656-7612
_________________________________________________________
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Received on 2012-03-09 11:14:09

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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