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Lautenberg: Answers Needed on Oyster Creek Safety Procedures

Senator requests information from NRC based on nuclear plant's performance during Sandy

Editor's note: The following letter was drafted by Sen. Frank Lautenberg and sent to Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Allison Macfarlane concerning safety at Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station.

Dear Chairman Macfarlane:

I am writing to request an update on actions being taken by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to address safety concerns that have been reported at the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station following Superstorm Sandy. 

As you know, Superstorm Sandy hit New Jersey on Oct. 29, 2012, bringing unprecedented damage to our coastline, our infrastructure and homes throughout the state. Given that New Jersey is home to four nuclear reactors that provide approximately 50 percent of the state’s electricity, we were fortunate that our nuclear power facilities generally weathered the storm well and that local communities were not put in danger. However, three safety concerns have arisen at Oyster Creek in Ocean County, New Jersey, in the wake of Sandy.  

NRC has reported that 36 of Oyster Creek’s 43 Emergency Planning Zone sirens failed to operate during Superstorm Sandy. These sirens are designed to warn the public of potential hazards in the event of an emergency. The malfunction of these sirens is of deep concern, even though the plant was off-line for scheduled refueling prior to Superstorm Sandy. Please provide me with any steps the NRC is taking to correct these failures and ensure that all emergency sirens are operable during future emergencies. 

In addition, rising tides, the direction of the wind and the storm’s surge combined to raise water levels in Oyster Creek’s intake structure. High water levels at the facility prompted safety officials to declare an “unusual event,” which was later upgraded to an “alert.” While water levels eventually receded, this experience demonstrates a potential safety risk during future extreme weather events. Please provide me with NRC’s plans to review or update Oyster Creek’s emergency disaster plans to incorporate lessons learned from Superstorm Sandy, including changes in storm surge and flooding potential.

Finally, a safety inspection by NRC has revealed a pinhole leak of about 2 to 3 drops per minute in the reactor’s cooling system. NRC has already indicated that this leak could grow into a crack if left unaddressed. However, neither NRC nor the Safety Advisory Panel answered questions about this leak at a recent public meeting. Please provide additional clarity on the status of this leak and actions NRC is requiring at Oyster Creek to address any potential safety concerns resulting from this leak. 

The NRC has an obligation not only to ensure the safe operation of nuclear facilities like Oyster Creek, but also to inform affected communities about steps being taken to address safety concerns identified by the agency.  I appreciate your attention to this matter.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg

Robert Yates January 29, 2013 at 06:19 PM
These concerns are all well and good, but the letter is addressed to the wrong entity. Perhaps it should have been addressed to Exelon, who owns and operates the nuclear plant. Not only are they more familiar with the plant; they are more directly responsible if something should go wrong. The senator's letter is useless posturing.
Brian Holt January 29, 2013 at 08:02 PM
GRIP Get Rid of Imcumbent Politicians
lacey voter January 29, 2013 at 09:00 PM
Who woke up this idiot..He thought the Atlantic City boardwalk was destroyed..Jesus Christmas. We no longer have to pay for Polhemus' diapers but this fossil keeps thinking he is relevant
Jon Sodofora January 29, 2013 at 09:05 PM
Term Limits
ray January 30, 2013 at 01:50 AM
Great, another politician looking to exploit fear and ignorance. And, in the process, diverting attention away from the fact that aid for Sandy victims STILL isn't passed. Not only is he a typical corrupt politician, he's senile to boot.
jabe0312 January 30, 2013 at 02:08 AM
Thats why they call them DUMBocrats.
Tom January 30, 2013 at 02:14 AM
Like he really wrote that letter. Why won't he go buy an empty island somewhere and rule that ? They just won't go away. Amazing how they keep getting voted back in.
diane January 30, 2013 at 04:41 AM
Frank, go back into your coma, please. And whatever you do, please do not run again becuase you just got to get out of the way man. And thank you doing nothing when Fort Monmouth was being shut down and everyone was being lied to. You are the epitome of what is wrong with career poloticians. Keep doing nothing for no one. With the exception of Chris Christie, that's what the pols. do in NJ.
JOHNNY Done it January 30, 2013 at 05:01 AM
I would have to agree ,He didn't write this letter He cannot focus on a subject too long . Anyone in his presence would know His mind is going , Time to retire.. His version of unprecedented damage was when the railroad bridge burned between seaside park & Berkeley He had a flash back . Time to change the ole diaper & retire
Paul Ryan voted no to Sandy Relief January 30, 2013 at 11:46 AM
you do know it was the Bush admin that decided to shutter down right? Remember Gov Christies 2 % cap that's not really a 2% cap Fema is immoral Any sign of the OC Freeloaders? Sen whats in it for me Connors? Jon Runyan is he still alive?
Mr. Dee January 30, 2013 at 04:10 PM
Thank you Senator Lautenberg for your concern for NJ citizens. Apparently Oyster Creek also has a history of leaking Tritium, which is a carcinogen: (1) From Wikipedia: "A week after Oyster Creek got its new 20-year license, workers found a tritium leak which came from two buried pipes that had not been properly insulated the last time they were worked on in 1991. A second tritium leak was discovered in August, 2009, from a pipe leading into an electrical turbine building. The tritium contaminated groundwater on the plant site and has been flowing into Barnegat Bay." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oyster_Creek_Nuclear_Generating_Station (2) "The tritium-contaminated water leaked from pipes at the Lacey Township facility last year. Tritium is a byproduct of nuclear plant operations. It's been linked to some forms of cancer." http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/12/nj_environmental_chief_says_tr.html (3) "Oyster Creek nuclear plant to remove tritium-tainted water from South Jersey aquifers" "Operators of the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station are beginning a long-awaited pollution clean-up this week by pumping tritium-tainted water from the Cape May and Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifers, which provide drinking water to more than a million South Jersey residents." www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/09/oyster_creek_nuclear_plant_to.html
jabe0312 January 31, 2013 at 12:38 AM
Mr. Dee go hug a tree.
Dave January 31, 2013 at 12:39 AM
Frankly, anything Lautenberg says is goofy. He should have stayed retired. The only battles he picks is where government takes control of our lives and he keeps making more money to add to his millionaire bank accounts. We need a fresh face in Washington to represent us in NJ and its time Lautenberg to go.
Favorite Teacher February 04, 2013 at 02:20 PM
Perhaps you folks don't realize that OC can not even make the emergency sirens work. Oyster Creek is the oldest nuclear plant in the US and was built with the same design as Fukashima. During the Fukushima disaster, the United States urged its citizens to stay at least fifty miles from the plant. Do you live within 50 miles of this relic? Over 4 million do: 2010 U.S. population within 50 miles = 4,482,261 Cities within 50 miles include Toms River: 10 miles Lakewood:19 miles Atlantic City: 30 miles Asbury Park: 30 miles Cherry Hill: 42 miles During Sandy, the intake structure was flooded with six and a half feet of water as a result of the storm surge, and the plant lost its electrical power from the grid. The 1938 New England hurricane triggered a storm surge as high as 25 to 30 feet, much higher than waves generated by Sandy. OC can not even maintain adequate emergency sirens, they had to use backup generators to keep cooling the reactor. And to the haters: Fukashim-YOU...if you don't like the Senator's concern perhaps YOU should run for public office. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_Daiichi_nuclear_disaster http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/evanosnos/2012/11/sandy-fukushima-and-the-nuclear-industry.html#ixzz2JwIb1AY3
Project Bluebeam February 21, 2013 at 08:44 AM
i think jabe 0312 or 123 or whatever has a carbon monoxide leak in his living room. No one could be so incoherent without having oxygen cut off from their brains. Inbreeding could be a reason too.

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