Rep. Saxton, Smith, Andrews, & Holt Join Advocates Calling for Probe Into Oyster Creek Safety
Trenton, NJ - Stop the License Renewal of Oyster Creek (STROC), a coalition of six citizen, consumer and environmental groups joined Representatives Saxton and Smith to demand a probe into the NRC's failure to ensure Oyster Creek Nuclear Plant's safety.
Congressmen Saxton, Smith, Andrews, and Holt wrote a letter to the NRC, criticizing them for failing to enforce Exelon's commitment to monitor water running along the dry well liner, which could corrode the liner that houses the nuclear reactor.
"When deciding whether a vital safety structure has been allowed to corrode beyond its safety margins because of violations of the operating license which the NRC failed to notice for eight years, redundancy becomes a necessity," read the letter to the NRC from Representatives Saxton and Smith.
At a hearing on September 13th, the NRC admitted that Exelon failed to meet this commitment and disposed of the water without testing it for contamination. If the dry well liner were to corrode enough, it could cause a nuclear accident threatening over a million people. Despite this information, the NRC's September 21st inspection report notes their failure to monitor water runoff, but does not fine Exelon for the violation.
"We cannot rely on Exelon to tell us the truth about Oyster Creek or follow commitments key to its safety," said Adam Garber, Consumer Advocate for New Jersey Public Interest Research Group (NJPIRG). "Without that assurance, we are letting Exelon and the NRC roll the dice with Oyster Creek, and it will be New Jersey residents who have to pay the debt."
In response to the NRC's oversight failure, Representatives Saxton and Smith are calling on the NRC to let the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safety (ACRS) review the current evidence on the dry well liner and determine if the plant is within safety margins.
"NRC's offering of endless last chances to the Oyster Creek for repeated violations is a dangerous dodge of its regulatory responsibility," said Paul Gunter of Nuclear
Information and Resource Service. "In this instance, NRC translates as 'No Regulatory Control' over matters of vital public safety," Gunter concluded.
Although NRC inspectors relied only on visual inspection of an epoxy coating meant to stop corrosion in 1992, the Coalition's expert Dr. Rudolf Hausler has stated that visual inspection alone is inadequate and could leave ongoing corrosion undetected. Instead of relying on the epoxy coating which is past its supposed 10-year life span, the letter questions why the NRC failed to use other methods to monitor the dry well. This includes periodic ultrasonic testing of the entire liner.
"Although the NRC attempted to downplay the incidents, the plant's safety depends on an epoxy coating that is beyond its designated life," said Richard Webster of Rutgers Environmental Law Clinic. "These incidents threaten the safety of the plant, and the plant must be closed immediately for comprehensive testing of the containment vessel."
The NRC and Exelon's failure to act on possible corrosion on the dry well liner is symptomatic of larger problems, according to the Coalition. Throughout Oyster Creek's relicensing process, attempts to gather information about Oyster Creek's safety have repeatedly been refused or forced through a confusing maze. In response to this, the letter from Representative Saxton's office, asks for the NRC to explain in writing why it is unconcerned about corrosion of the dry well liner.
"Over the last three years, the citizens have asked the NRC time and time again for assurances about the safety and security of the continued operation of Oyster Creek. Time and time again, we have been shuffled, patronized or admonished and sent on our way," said Peggi Sturmfel, Program Coordinator for the New Jersey Environmental Federation. "If a federal agency won't respond to the people they protect, maybe they will answer to the people who watch over them."
"The NRC keeps proving time and time again that its initials actually stand for Not a Regulatory Commission. They are nothing but a rubber stamp for the industry no matter how it impacts public safety or the environment," said Jeff Tittel, Director of NJ Sierra Club.
Due to the NRC and Exelon's failure to ensure the plants safety, the Coalition is calling for immediate action by Governor Corzine and New Jersey's Congressional delegation to ensure that the plant is not allowed to operate when its safety is in serious doubt. In addition, the incident should be investigated by the New Jersey Attorney General, and the United States Attorney.
STROC is a coalition of safe energy advocates that has filed a legal contention before the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board of NRC. This contention challenges the adequacy 20-year license renewal application because it fails to provide proof that corrosion of the drywell liner is being managed safely. The contention filed by six groups requests that the license require ultrasonic test measurements be taken at all levels of the dry well liner at regular intervals for the life of the plant.
< Return to Press Release Index