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Oyster Creek Under Alert After Sandy

Date : Wed, 31 Oct 2012 13:56:50 -0400

For Immediate Release
October 31, 2012 Contact Jeff Tittel,609-558-9100 <tel:609-558-9100>

Oyster Creek Under Alert After Sandy

The state of alert at Oyster Creek has just ended.The alert was issued due to rising water levels and outages of parts of its warning system and the plant itself.These are safety problems that continue to not be addressed and a key reason why this power plant needs to be closed.Luckily the Oyster Creek was being refueled and was not in full operation when Hurricane Sandy hit, otherwise the impacts could have been much worse.The impacts from Hurricane Sandy would have been lessened if the plant had a closed loop system.This is what we have said all along that the safety issues at the plant; with storm surges and flooding they should be required to have cooling towers. Without cooling towers, Oyster Creek depends on continuous withdrawals from waterways to cool spent fuel, making the plant more vulnerable during power outages and to disruption of their water intake systems.There was flooding on site and some of the backup systems failed as a result. We knew about the power outage issues before and called for more redundancies in the system and for the elevation of those systems.We need this plant closed to prevent a major disaster from occurring at the Shore.

"We were lucky that the storm surge wasn't worse and that the plant was offline for refueling.Had the surge been worse and the plant in full operation we could have seen a real serious incident at Oyster Creek.In some ways because of these conditions at Oyster Creek we were very fortunate with Sandy even though the storm was devastating in many other parts of the state.This is a wakeup call that we need to do better job with planning and safety at the plant"*said Jeff Tittel, Director of NJ Sierra Club*. In 2009 the draft permit called for a closed loop system at Oyster Creek, but in 2010 Gov. Christie withdrew that permit and allowed them to operate over the next ten years.This allowed them to continue impacting the ecology of the Bay and jeopardize the safety over ten years.The deal Governor Christie cut with Oyster Creek's operator Exelon is not even enforceable as the plant as a federal license to operate for the next 20 years, which trumps any agreement with the State.In Vermont the state Legislature passed legislation for the closing of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant and the plant won the right to remain open in court under its federal licenses.Since the Oyster Creek has been relicensed there have been more than half a dozen incidences there from power outages to tritium leaks and now storm surges. Instead Governor Christie created a Nuclear Review Taskforce earlier to examine the safety of New Jersey's four nuclear power plants and their preparedness in the face of potential natural disasters. The panel was a joke and stacked with pro-nuclear industry members.They have not come forward with any real recommendations.The Sierra Club has long questioned the safety of Oyster Creek in Forked River and has urged the panel to recommend the plant be closed down. 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.

"When the Governor cancelled the permit requiring cooling towers, he hurt not only the environment but safety.With a closed loop system a plant like this would not be a vulnerable to a storm surge and would better protect the ecology of the Barnegat Bay.Instead the Governor played politics and put both the environment and public safety at risk," said Jeff Tittel. The design of Oyster Creek is the same as the Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1, a GE Mark I BWR. Even a moderate hurricane or flooding 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.

"This plant has the same design as Fukushima. The plant is in a coastal area without cooling towers and is vulnerable to storm surges and flooding.In some ways with all the terrible things that have happened with this storm, not having a bigger problem at Oyster Creek was good news amid all the bad, but does not mean next time it will not be worse," said Jeff Tittel. In the past we have also raised concerns about the plant's warning system and excavation procedures and routes during an emergency. 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. It is hard enough to get home from a day at the beach, let alone when you have to evacuate people during an emergency. Without cooling towers Oyster Creek impacts the ecology of the Barnegat Bay as well.The plant kills billions of fish larva, fish eggs, and a variety of aquatic species from Bay anchovies to glass shrimp.The pumps act as a giant vacuum, sucking up and destroying everything in its reach.The biggest problem is the superheated water entering the Bay.Discharge waters measured hundreds of yards away from the discharge point reach 97 degrees, the equivalent of a hot tub, four feet below the surface. This discharge does not include the tritium that is discharged into groundwater. The dilution system for the discharge does not do an adequate job in dropping the temperature of the water or diluting pollutants before it enters the Bay. At Salem 1 in south Jersey also had issues as high river levels in the Delaware and storm debris impacted the plant, forcing the staff to manually shut the reactor off.This plant also does not have a closed loop system with cooling towers.

"We believe that this plant should be closed.It is the oldest plant in the nation and has serious problems from tritium leaks to corrosion of dry wall liner.It is in a densely populated area and the evacuation plan will not work.The plant is subject to flooding and storm surges.This is the wrong plant in the wrong place and needs to be closed," *said Jeff Tittel*.

Kate Millsaps
Conservation Program Coordinator
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
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Received on 2012-10-31 10:56:50

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