NRC Asked to Revise Plans, Regulations to Consider Post-Sandy Conditions

The NRC is 'failing to enforce its regulations,' anti-nuclear advocates said on a teleconference with the federal agency

Anti-nuclear advocates and concerned citizens who participated in a teleconference Thursday asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to revise regulations and take action against Oyster Creek Generating Station in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

“We’re here because we have serious concerns about the ongoing safety of the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant,” said attorney Richard Webster of Public Justice, who submitted a petition on behalf of Beyond Nuclear, the New Jersey Environmental Federation (NJEF) and Grandmothers, Mothers and More for Energy Safety (GRAMMES).

“The NRC appears to be failing to enforce its regulations and that lack of enforcement is leading to a lack of adequate protection at the power plant,” he said.

The petition, filed in November, called on the NRC to keep Oyster Creek offline until safety measures were implemented to address certain problems.

A refueling and maintenance outage revealed “indications” (precursors to cracks) in the reactor nozzle and a pinhole leak in the reactor vessel. Both were repaired prior to returning Oyster Creek to service.

During Hurricane Sandy, the intake canal was inches away from flooding pumps key to the cooling system, according to the petition. Also, 33 of 43 emergency sirens were inoperable, which Oyster Creek failed to report in a timely manner, Webster said.

The advocates also argue that the pre-Sandy evacuation plans fail to address the post-Sandy reality and that the superstorm proved the design basis (how strong a storm the plant can withstand) is now deemed inadequate.

The NRC denied the request for immediate action because “there were no immediate safety concerns at Oyster Creek or to the health and safety of the public,” Alan Howe said. FEMA concluded that offsite emergency response was adequate and currently only one siren is inoperable.

Exelon Corporation, the owner and operator of Oyster Creek, must prove that there is adequate protection, Webster said, adding that revisions must be made to regulations and plans reflecting current conditions in the aftermath of Sandy.

The design basis is supposed to reflect the most severe event or natural phenomenon to occur in the area, but revisions have yet to be made, Webster said.

“We find this surprising because Hurricane Sandy is the worst event ever to hit the plant; the worst event recorded, as far as I understand, on the Jersey Shore,” he said.

The licensee should re-evaluate the probable maximum flood based on the storm surge of Sandy because current regulations are now irrelevant, he said.

That should have been done before the plant returned to service, Webster said.

“We’re hoping that another big storm doesn’t hit,” he said. “We shouldn’t be sitting around, praying for a lack of a big flood for 20 years. This agency should be taking action to ensure that the plant can withstand the probable maximum flood on a reasonable basis.”

The plant’s design is supposed to withstand a category five hurricane, Peggy Sturmfels of the NJEF and Clean Water Action said. At most, the superstorm was a category one hurricane.

“A category five would’ve wiped us all out,” she said. “I’m really concerned that the design basis has not been revised.”

Anticipating more severe storms more frequently, Janet Tauro of the NJEF and GRAMMES asked for backup battery power to be installed for the emergency sirens as well as submersible pumps.

“All of us were greatly impacted by Sandy. Some of us were even displaced and are not able to live in our homes,” she said. “I don’t think that’s too much for the public to ask.”

In Ocean Township, the Planning Board approved townhouses to be built less than a mile away from the power plant’s dry cask storage, Committeeman Joseph Lachwiec said. The township had to evacuate thousands along Oyster Creek due to Sandy.

As a 67-year-old Vietnam Veteran, Lachawiec said he was “damn scared” as he watched Sandy’s storm surge rise. He questioned how FEMA’s new zone level and height regulations would impact the plant and its dry cask storage.

Over the years problems have arose at Oyster Creek, including tritium leaks, but with the plant expected to close in 2019 rather than 2020, when the operating license actually expires, it has been “solution by dilution,” he said.

Lachawiec compared the plant to a car with an old motor.

“You don’t fix it," he said. "You don’t put a lot of money into it. You put a can or two of STP into it and sell it to someone else. In my personal opinion, this is what’s going on with this plant. You’ve got Band-Aid approaches to everything and I’m fearful of the whole thing.”

Representatives from the NRC and Exelon did not provide comments or questions in response to those who spoke up against Oyster Creek Generating Station.

The meeting was not a public hearing or an opportunity for members of the petition to question the Petition Review Board on the merits of their decision, Howe had said.

The meeting was for petitioners to provide additional explanation or support for the petition, he said. The Petition Review Board will hold an internal meeting to determine whether the petition would be reconsidered, he said.

The meeting was transcribed by a court reporter and a webcast will be made available for the public.

brokeninbayville January 04, 2013 at 04:00 PM
That's actually in your policy?? I will have to look at that. Not that it's going to much matter, we'll be dead...
Katherine Graham January 04, 2013 at 04:14 PM
Where is Gov. Christie on this issue? If the plant goes, it will have Chenoble effects for the country and the world.
Jackthebear January 04, 2013 at 05:21 PM
Yes. Section I - Exclusions: 1. Ordinace or Law 2. Earth Movement 3. Water Damage 4. Power Failure 5. Neglect 6. War 7. Nuclear Hazard 8. Intentional Loss 9. Governmental Action Again this is my homeowners policy. Not sure if I'm more concerned over the Nuclear Hazard or the Governmental Action. Sheeeesh!
grace January 05, 2013 at 05:16 PM
just lovely that plant has got to go now
foggyworld January 07, 2013 at 02:15 PM
The homes within a five mile radius are already called the Kill Zone. You wouldn't want to come back as your probably wouldn't want to move to Chernobly. And more than the kill zone is involved because radiation can be spread through the wind to places like Manhattan. And the water would warm up and may the Bay a dead entity. The sorrow attached to that plant is that it was not built to sustain any hurricane. They were relatively lucky this go round because the storm seemed to skip parts of the coast while aiming at others. I watched the Bay all night and saw houses and a business crumble but the only time I became frightened was when the tower height lights at Oyster Creek went out. So insurance will be the least of our worries if that inadequately built plant is allowed to continue on and with the NRC's blessing. And after they go, we will have to worry about the spent but irradiated rods that are apparently going to be here forever. It takes 300,000 years via the half life reading for rods like that to lose all of their radiation. Who is going to watch over those rods? And who is going to pay for the 300,000 years of survieilance?


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