Oyster Creek & Nuclear Power After Fukushima

by L J Furman, MBA on October 27, 2013

in Connecting the Dots, Nuclear Energy, Oyster Creek, photovoltaic, Wind Power

Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station

Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Plant, Courtesy Exelon

A public hearing will take place October 28, 2013, at the Clarion Hotel, 815 Route 37 West, Toms River, NJ. The subject of the hearing will be the National Academy of Sciences, NAS, study on nuclear power plants and cancer and “Lessons Learned from Fukushima.”

As I see it, the most important lessons from Fukushima are:

  1. Three of the Fukushima Dai’ichi nuclear reactors withstood the earthquake, the tsunami and the aftershocks. We can engineer systems that will withstand various scenarios, but this raises the cost such that nuclear cannot compete in a de-regulated energy market – see The Economist, here – and we cannot  engineer against all possible events.
  2. The radioactive plume reached across the Pacific to North America, just as the plume from Chernobyl reached across the Atlantic to North America. An accident anywhere, when it involves dispersion of toxic materials, is an accident everywhere,
  3. We have seen four (4) meltdowns in the 54 years between the passage of the Price Anderson Act and the disasters at Chernobyl and Fukushima. The risk of a catastrophic accident such as a melt-down may be low, but a catastrophic accident, is by definition, catastrophic.
  4. The losses from Fukushima are estimated in the Trillions of Dollars. The economic value of the electricity produced by the six nuclear reactors is probably less than $100 Billion. Generating electricity from nuclear power is like taking heroin for a headache: The cure is worse than the disease.

There is a fifth lesson to be learned; this from the NJ Clean Energy Program in New Jersey and Vestas, the wind company. As noted on the NJ Clean Energy Program – Project Activity Pages, we in New Jersey now have have 1,117.5 Megawatts (MW) of grid tied photovoltaic solar electric generating capacity, almost double the 636 MW of Oyster Creek. Vestas is offering 8 MW wind turbines.


Offshore Wind Farm

Offshore Wind Farm

The National Academy of Sciences is continuing a Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NRC, funded study on cancer mortality and incidence risks in populations living near NRC-licensed facilities (pdf).Phase 1 “explored the feasibility of conducting an updated study by developing modern methods to perform the analysis.”

Phase II “will be to proceed … through pilot studies at seven sites … Dresden in Illinois, Millstone in Connecticut, Oyster Creek in New Jersey, Haddam Neck (decommissioned) in Connecticut, Big Rock Point (decommissioned) in Michigan, San Onofre in California, and Nuclear Fuel Services in Tennessee. Upon completion of the pilot studies, NAS will comment whether further study is beneficial, and the NRC staff will determine whether to perform the studies at all NRC-licensed facilities….”

Covered by Jeffrey Brown, in the Asbury Park Presshere, this epidemiological study grew out of the work by Dr. Joseph Sauer, who studied cancer rates in his neighborhood, near the Braidwood generating station in Illinois. Brown reported that Dr. Sauer’s epidemiological study, “found elevated pediatric cancer rates in ZIP codes near the plant while the leak was occurring. His research also found elevated pediatric cancer incidences in neighborhoods surrounding other nuclear plants in Illinois.”

Discussing Oyster Creek, Janet Tauro, chair of the New Jersey Environmental Federation/Clean Water Action Board of Directors, in an op-ed piece in the Asbury Park Presshere, wrote:

• The fuel pool that holds more than 750 metric tons of highly radioactive waste carries a high risk from an accident or terrorist strike. Experts have warned that the pool must be brought to low density, and the highly radioactive rods stored in hardened dry casks.

• The plant does not meet the provisions of its original licensing agreement, …. A faulty vent system does not have filters that would shield the public from radiation in the event of a core meltdown.

• There is no emergency backup power to the fuel pool to keep it cool if power is lost at the plant.The plant has a list of fire safety violations that have gone unaddressed for decades.

• The Government Accounting Office last spring determined the evacuation plan was flawed because it did not take into account “shadow” evacuations, the masses of panicked people who would flee outside the designated 10-mile zone, jamming roads and escape routes. There are 3.5 million people living within 50 miles of Oyster Creek.

• Service pumps, an integral cooling system component, in the intake canal were inches away from being submerged during Sandy, threatening to turn the Jersey Shore into another Fukushima. Citizens had requested that the pumps be replaced with submersible ones that would operate underwater.

It is also important to note that offshore wind turbines are designed to withstand hurricanes and tsunamis. However, in the event that a few fall the damage will be limited to the value of those turbines. As these turbines cost $3 to $20 Million to build, ship and install, the financial damage will be in the Millions, perhaps in the Hundreds of Millions and the damage will persist for a few years. As we are finding out from Fukushima, if one nuclear plant in a complex undergoes a melt-down, the whole complex may be shut-down and de-commissioned and much of the surrounding area may be evacuated – the damages will be in the Trillions; in the Millions of Millions and will persist for a very long time.

Larry Furman is a candidate for General Assembly  (Site / Join / Contribute) to represent NJ Legislative District 12, which stretches from Matawan to New Hanover and includes Old Bridge, Manalapan, Englishtown, Roosevelt, Millstone, Jackson, and various other towns (click here). He is also an analyst with Popular Logistics. He holds a Bachelor’s in Biology, and an MBA in “Managing for Sustainability” from Marlboro College, Vermont. He also has experience in information technology. He can be reached at ‘Larry” at Furman For New Jersey. com.

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