DEP Nuclear Safety Hearings: How Safe? Will they Listen?
The DEP is having a public hearing tonight in Bridgeton on their Radiological Emergency Response Plan for the Salem and Hope Creek Nuclear Power Plant. These plants both pose a significant safety threat to the communities living in the 40-mile radius if there was ever an explosion or meltdown. Without considering climate change or requiring cooling towers, the DEP has actually made us more vulnerable. The DEP’s evacuation plan is not prepared to get people safely out of harm’s way and we believe the impact-radius should be at least 50 miles. This includes expanding evacuation plans for major cities like Wilmington, Delaware and Philadelphia as well as areas of South Jersey. Another concern is the DEP’s failure to plan for radiation. Currently, there only suggestion is to encourage people to take iodine tablets, which may not be sufficient to deal with the health impacts.
“We believe the DEP’s Emergency Response Plan is ill-equipped to deal with the serious risk our state’s Nuclear Power Plants pose on our communities. For years we have asked for the 40-mile evacuation radius to be expanded to 50 miles, but the DEP has failed to listen. Given all the traffic and people living in this area, we need to expand the radius to keep people out of harm’s way and plan to evacuate them. The evacuation plans must also include major cities like Wilmington, Delaware and Philadelphia. The DEP is telling people to take iodine tablets in the case of a disaster, but that is not a radiation plan,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the new Jersey Sierra Club. “The Salem and Hope Creek Nuclear Power Plants are part of the third biggest nuclear facility in the country and there are millions of people living in the 50-mile radius. There needs to be an evacuation plan that will actually work by expanding the evacuation zone. If we were to have nuclear accident here, it wouldn’t be a disaster; it would be a tragedy threatening the lives of thousands and we need to be able to evacuate people safely.”
Our main concern with the radiological evacuation plan is that it is not adequate to evacuate the amount of people impacted during an emergency. The evacuation zone needs to be expanded from 10 miles to 25 miles for an emergency evacuation and 50 miles for an evacuation notice.
“The NRC has not learned the lesson of Fukishima and the DEP has failed to prepare us in case of an emergency. The problem is we only plan for one event at a time instead of a worst case scenario. However, we could have multiple events at the same time and that is where the systems may fail. We could have a flood and power outage or a hurricane and earthquake at the same time and this could be a recipe for disaster. We plan for what is probable instead of what is possible. We have to look at the impacts simultaneous events could have on these facilities,” said Jeff Tittel. “Hope Creek is even the same design as Fukushima so a disaster like that could happen here. The DEP must consider the wider impact to people living in major cities nearby and extend the impact radius another 10 miles.”
The Salem and Hope Creek Nuclear Power Plants are built in an area that is subject to sea level rise and flooding, but the Christie Administration has failed to mitigate climate change and have increased pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. This not only bad for the environment, but dangerous because heavy river flooding along with a storm surge could alone cause a catastrophic event. The Salem and Hope Creek Nuclear Power plant also threatens our clean drinking water supply. The failure of the DEP to require cooling towers has also caused the Salem plant to close numerous times over the past few years. These shutdowns occurred because the plant was concerned vegetative matter coming in would clog the intakes.
“If a disaster like Three-Mile-Island or Fukushima Daiichi were to occur here, it would pollute the Delaware River, which supplies the drinking water for more than 7 million people. We need an adequate plan to deal with climate change to prevent a leak or serious disaster. Extreme weather events at the plant could impact the facility’s corroded pipes that leak radioactive tritium or the corroding drywall liner of the reactor containment vessel. We need to mitigate for climate change and plan for sea level rise to keep people out of harm’s way,” said Jeff Tittel. “Without requiring cooling towers, the DEP has made these plants more vulnerable to flooding and sea level rise. This has actually caused the Salem plant to go offline numerous times because in the past they were concerned that the intake areas would become clogged with grass and other vegetative debris from the River.”
For years, people have been calling for safety improvements to the Salem and Hope Creek plant such as putting in better venting, backup systems for dealing with flooding or knocking out generation, and cooling towers in case of a storm surge. To prevent a future disaster and increasing water quality impacts to the Delaware estuary, this plant should be closed and replaced with renewable energy. New Jersey must phase out the dirtiest and most dangerous energy sources and instead promote energy security, green jobs, and stimulate our economy and through renewable energy. Our state can benefit from clean energy jobs, while helping reduce water and air pollution.
“The DEP must do its job and protect the environment as well as people living in the 50-mile radius of this nuclear power plant. We believe that the Salem and Hope Creek Nuclear Power Plants must be closed to avoid future impacts to the Delaware River, its estuary, as well as the people who live nearby. New Jersey must move forward with safe clean renewable energy like wind and solar, not only to protect public health, but also ensure public safety,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the new Jersey Sierra Club. “As the nuclear scientist Ed Teller once said, ‘People believe they can make nuclear power fool-proof. The problem is there are too many fools proving it is not fool proof’.
The public hearing will take place Wednesday, July 13th at 6:00 PM at the Woodland Country Day School on 1216 Roadstown Road in Bridgeton, New Jersey. The next hearing will take place on July 20that 6:00PM on 135 Cemetery Rd, Pilesgrove, New Jersey.