BY TOM HESTER SR.
New Jersey's four nuclear power plants are operating safely and have effective response plans in place to deal with potential emergency situations, according to a final report issued by the Governor's Nuclear Review Task Force, which examined lessons learned from the nuclear emergency that occurred in Japan last year in the wake of an earthquake and tsunami.
But the four-member task force is also offering suggestions on how the plants can improve their response to emergencies, coordination between the plants, and improve communications in case of emergencies at nuclear power plants near the state’s border in New York and Pennsylvania.
"Based on information provided by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and licensed operators of New Jersey's nuclear plants, Task Force members have a high level of confidence that New Jersey's nuclear power plants are operating safely and have effective action plans to address the lessons learned from the Fukushima incident,'' state Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin, who chairs the task force, said Thursday.
Martin said the taks force found adequate safety features at the plants and a reliable emergency preparedness and response system in place.
New Jersey has four nuclear reactors: Oyster Creek in Lacey Township, the Salem Units One and Two reactors in Lower Alloways Creek Township, and Hope Creek, also in Lower Alloways Creek.
The report stresses the nuclear reactors located in the state are designed to withstand severe events, including hurricanes, earthquakes and floods.
The task force examined emergency response protocols, technical reviews of plant operations, the chain of command and control at each of the state's nuclear facilities, evacuation plans, and emergency communications to the public. The report touches on numerous issues, including power supply at the plants, spent fuel storage, emergency planning zones, communications, interaction between the state and federal government, and coordination between New Jersey and neighboring states regarding reactors located there.
Final recommendations include:
* Power Supply: Ask the NRC to enhance safety at all New Jersey nuclear plants by working with the Exelon Corp. and PSEG, owners of New Jersey's nuclear plants, to develop procedures to quickly move essential equipment to deal with potential emergencies.
* Spent Fuel Storage: Increase the number of emergency diesel pumps at nuclear plants to handle cooling for all damaged systems; add monitors to view the spent fuel pool level from multiple locations; create regional agreements between nuclear plant operators to provide access to redundant pumps and generators; press the NRC and federal U.S. Department of Energy to create a national depository for spent nuclear fuel.