“We’ve just been through a heart wrenching catastrophe with Sandy. So many have lost their homes, been displaced, been made physically ill by the aftermath of the devastation that to add the greater risk of a Fukushima radioactive event to the mix would simply be inhuman,” said Janet Tauro, chair of the Board of Directors of the NJ Environmental Federation and a founder of the local group, GRAMMES (Grandmothers, Mothers, & More for Energy Safety).
The federal petition seeks to keep OCGNS, which was shut just before Sandy for routine safety inspections and refueling, offline until several safety measures are implemented to address the new problems, not the least of which was Sandy weakening OCGNS’s already flawed evacuation plan.
The safety advocates have also reached out repeatedly to the Christie Administration through various means, including a letter to the Governor sent 2 days ago (http://www.cleanwateraction.org/files/publications/nj/Governor.Oyster%20Creek%20restart%20post%20Sandy.pdf), to ensure greater protections but have not gotten any response, even an acknowledgement of the concerns as of yet.
“I dare any public official to look me in the eye post-Sandy and say with absolute certainty that the risk of major problems at Oyster Creek isn’t significantly greater after Sandy and therefore that greater precaution isn’t needed. Tell me, is putting Oyster Creek online for the little bit of power it supplies to the grid worth the risk?” Are the corporate profits worth risking putting us through more trauma than we’ve just faced? Look a mother straight in the face and explain it,” added Tauro.
The petition to the NRC cites an unworkable evacuation plan in light of the damage Sandy wrought, and a possible violation of NRC regulations by plant owner Exelon to notify the federal agency if there are significant changes that would compromise the evacuation plan. Nuclear power plants cannot operate without an approved evacuation plan.
Richard Webster of the Environmental Enforcement Project at Public Justice in Washington, D.C., counsel to GRAMMES, NJEF, and Beyond Nuclear, filed the petition yesterday outlining reasons Oyster Creek should remain offline, including Exelon’s, the plant’s owner, failing to notify federal regulators of the grave consequences of Sandy to the evacuation plan.
“It is entirely possible Exelon is in violation of federal regulations. Further, an inadequate design from the start, containment degradation, metal fatigue, climate change causing more violent storms, and one of the most loaded radioactive pools of waste in the world makes it pretty clear that we’ve just been lucky for 43 years. It’s time to be reasonable, get smart, and shut down Oyster Creek,” said Webster, the first attorney in the United States to win a hearing for his clients before the Atomic Safety Licensing Board. To do so, applicants must prove their “contention” is a threat to public safety, and, has scientific and analytical merit.
While not well-publicized and some not yet publicly disclosed, the new safety concerns concerning Oyster Creek discovered during the outage, some caused by Sandy, include:
* The intake canal was inches away from totally flooding pumps key to the cooling system;
* The pre-Sandy evacuation plan fails to address the post-Sandy reality of new population centers in evacuation shelters and other places, clogged streets with debris and construction vehicles, and displaced emergency responders;
* Sandy proved the design basis (how strong a storm the plant can withstand) inadequate;
* The barrier island’s natural physical defenses are now weaker and make OC more vulnerable than before Sandy;
* Inspections during the outage revealed new cracks or precursors to cracks in and/or around the reactor vessel and control rods; and 33 of 43 emergency sirens were inoperable at the height of Sandy.
In light of these new concerns, the safety advocates are calling on Governor Christie and NRC to ensure Oyster Creek does not restart until five conditions are met:
The evacuation plan is updated to reflect the new reality post-Sandy;
The design storm for flood defense purposes is updated to reflect the recent spate of storms and climate change and, additional flood protection is put in place as appropriate;
The “indications” (cracks or their precursors) are investigated and the public assured through release of additional data and analysis they pose no additional risk of a nuclear catastrophe;
Exelon reviews whether the indications were predicted by its modeling and whether it can predict that no problematic indications will develop before the next inspection cycle and proof of ability to predict fatigue accurately is released to the public; and NRC and NJDEP’s Oyster Creek Safety Advisory Panel hold public meetings which satisfactorily answer the public's concerns.
“It’s clear Oyster Creek should stay off line until the evacuation plan is updated to reflect the new post-Sandy reality”, said Kerry Butch, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey.
“Sandy has shown that Oyster Creek, the oldest nuclear plant in the United States, needs a complete reevaluation of the assumptions it was designed to back in 1962. Sandy was too close a call for Oyster Creek to be allowed to start up without a reevaluation,” added Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates and an internationally respected expert on the ongoing events at Fukushima and Mark I Boiling Water Reactors, the designs as Oyster Creek and Fukushima. Gundersen was brought in to the catastrophe at Three Mile Island to assist in avoiding a meltdown.
"You only need to think about adding radioactive contamination to the devastation and permanent relocation for the Jersey shore to conclude that restarting Oyster Creek is not worth the risk," said Paul Gunter, Director of Reactor Oversight at Beyond Nuclear, Takoma Park, MD, who disclosed the containment corrosion at Oyster Creek and authored the contention that was heard before the Atomic Safety Licensing Board. He has been following the General Electric Mark I controversy surrounding containment degradation and vulnerability before and after the Fukushima disaster.
“Sandy was catastrophic on many levels, but it could have been worse. Fortunately, Oyster Creek was off line when Sandy hit. It needs to stay so until the problems exposed during the outage and caused by Sandy are adequately addressed. The Governor, NRC and Exelon need to make it so,” concluded David Pringle, Campaign Director of the NJ Environmental Federation, the Garden State Chapter of Clean Water Action.