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NRC Open House a 'Dog and Pony Show,' Advocates Say

NRC says Oyster Creek operated safely in 2011 with only eight "green" findings

Barnegat resident Marianne Clemente came into last night’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) on the annual assessment of Oyster Creek Generating Station outraged.

“This is not a public hearing,” she said.

The open house, which consisted of several tables and NRC representatives, was to give citizens the opportunity to discuss plant-related topics, including its 2011 safety report.

“They have to start listening to us,” said Clemente, who attended the open house as an independent concerned citizen. “This isn’t clean energy. They’re talking about mothballing (the plant) when they should be decommissioning it. There’s no reason for it to be open right now.”

Despite the NRC boasting that Oyster Creek operated safely during 2011, Clemente along with other anti-nuclear advocates still have their concerns.

“This plant has so many problems,” Clemente said, referring to the plant’s tritium leaks and when a on its property. “How safe is that? There’s a whole list of things.”

Members of Save Barnegat Bay, Grandmothers, Mothers and More for Energy Safety (GRAMMES), the New Jersey Environmental Federation and Jersey Shore Nuclear Watch expressed the same sentiments.

The meeting was a “move to shut down meaningful public participation,” a press release from GRAMMES said prior to the meeting.

“We thought this was a hearing,” said Peter Weeks a resident of Lavallette and a member of Save Barnegat Bay. “It’s a dog and pony show. But we’ll still make our points about the ongoing safety issues, all the things that they don’t want to talk about.”

The groups set up camp with a table dedicated to their concerns. “It’s just a ticking time bomb,” Weeks said.

Fear brought Joan and Charles Blake of GRAMMES to the open house. From Oyster Creek being the oldest operating nuclear plant in the country and its similarities to Fukushima to tritium leaks and the spent fuel pool, it’s not worth the risk, Joan Blake said.

“There’s no reassurance that there’s safety,” Joan Blake said, regardless of the plant’s positive annual assessment. “I think we’re playing with fire.”

The couple was also “disappointed” by the form of the forum.

“It’s like punching Jell-o,” Charles Blake said. “They just say, “Thank you for your input.’ “

The NRC is in the process of , Oyster Creek Resident Inspector Jo Ambrosini said. Oyster Creek already has hardened vents, she said.

Oyster Creek’s vents are a major concern of local advocates and the NRC recently issued a nationwide order to install a more reliable system by 2016.

“There’s not a whole lot more that has to be done,” she said. “It’s a work in progress. Right now we’re just verifying that what the NRC originally regulated is in place.”

Those same concerns don’t worry Mark Dykoff, the Mayor of Lacey Township.

“There’s a lot of misinformation out there,” he said. “Education is so important.”

With Exelon Corporation, the owner and operator of Oyster Creek, being well established in the nuclear industry, Dykoff cannot see the company jeopardizing their reputation with safety flaws.

He has also spoken to plant employees who confirm the plant’s safety, he said. “I have to believe them.”

Lacey’s major concern is the , which could be stored in town for as long as 60 years after the plant closes, he said.

“In the interim, we’re a storing facility,” he said. The township is hoping funds that have been going towards the former national repository at Yucca Mountain can go to the township for keeping the spent fuel on site.

The NRC has deemed both spent fuel pools and dry cask storage safe, Ambrosini said.

The municipality has an ordinance that requires spent fuel rods to be stored for 10 years before being relocated to dry cask storage, Ambrosini said. Typically it’s five years.

“In the interim (until another solution is found), most places are going with dry cask storage,” she said.

Ambrosini’s job entails a two-pronged approach — confirming data and finding faults, she said.

“Exelon ideally likes to catch (an error) with the workers,” she said. “We provide an extra layer of protection.”

At the conclusion of the last year, there were no performance indicators or inspection findings that were greater than green, which signifies very low safety significance, the NRC reported.

Ambrosini explained that in one finding, Exelon did not make an accurate immediate determination of an ioperable emergency service water pump discharge piping.

“It’s best to catch that at a green level,” Ambrosini said.

The NRC logged approximately 5,200 hours of inspection to Oyster Creek in 2011. Time was also spent inspecting any potential safety concerns following the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, which indicated the plant remains safe for continued operation.

Since the Forked River nuclear plant performed well in 2011, Oyster Creek will receive a “detailed inspection regime” used by the NRC for plants that are operating safely.

“When you look at the whole process,” the NRC looks at the pinnacle of safety,” Oyster Creek spokesperson Suzanne D’Ambrosio said. “Our job is to run at the pinnacle of safety.”

In 2012, some of the areas of performance to be inspected by NRC specialists include permanent plant modifications, radiological waste processing and handling, emergency preparedness and the plant’s implementation of a voluntary industry initiative to address potential degradation of underground piping.

The annual assessment for Oyster Creek is available on the NRC website. Current performance information for the plant can also be found on the NRC website.

As per public requests, the NRC has committed to holding a public hearing within two weeks. Continue to follow Patch as more information on the meeting becomes available.

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