Anti-Nuclear Groups Call For Post-Sandy Inspections [AUDIO]
Anti Nuclear activists are asking the Governor's office and Nuclear Regulatory Commission to keep Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station offline until the plant's emergency procedures and evacuation plans are re-evaluated following Hurricane Sandy.
Members of Beyond Nuclear, GRAMMES, and the New Jersey League of Women Voters have filed a formal emergency legal proceeding claiming the storm revealed major safety concerns within the plant's safety precautions and rendered prior emergency plans useless.
They claim the evacuation plan was inadequate before Sandy, however the storm caused many people to be relocated away from their home, causing a shift in population which could affect evacuation routes.
"It's totally inappropriate to consider restarting the reactor when you have people within ten miles in evacuation shelters. As far as we know, those shelters have no evacuation plan," says Richard Webster, Attorney for the Environmental Enforcement Project at Public Justice.
The petition, filed by Webster, addresses concerns discovered in the plant during the outage:
· The intake canal was inches away from totally flooding pumps key to the cooling system;
· The pre-Sandy evacuation plan fails to address the post-Sandy reality of new population centers in evacuation shelters and other places, clogged streets with debris and construction vehicles, and displaced emergency responders;
· Sandy proved the design basis (how strong a storm the plant can withstand) inadequate;
· The barrier island's natural physical defenses are now weaker and make OC more vulnerable than before Sandy;
· Inspections during the outage revealed new cracks or precursors to cracks in and/or around the reactor vessel and control rods; and
· 33 of 43 emergency sirens were inoperable at the height of Sandy.
With so many residents evacuated from their homes, the petitioners are upset over the failure of emergency sirens throughout the area.
"Those sirens don't need to be just fixed back to how they started, they obviously need to be hardened so that if there's another storm of similar magnitude they can actually stand that and maintain notification ability," explains Webster. "During a storm if your power goes out you have very limited access to media that's exactly when those sirens are needed and the fact that they failed during a storm is a major cause for concern."
The advocates are calling for the Governor and the NRC to not reopen Oyster Creek until the evacuation plan is updated to reflect the new reality post-Sandy, cracks found in vital areas are investigated, changes are made to the facility to safeguard against the possibility of similar storms, and public meetings are held by the NRC and the DEP's Oyster Creek Safety Advisory Panel to answer the public's questions.
"What this storm shows is that at first we need better flood defenses just because of this storm, but it shows that we need total new look at what kind of storms we can experience along the Jersey Shore and what kind of flood defenses Oyster Creek needs," says Webster.
Now that the petition has been submitted, the NRC will form a petition review board to investigate the claims.
"We will bring together staffers of expertise in all of the areas that are being called into question in the petition and they will do an initial assessment on whether the issues warrant further review," says Neil Sheehan, spokesperson for the NRC.
Sheehan reminds FEMA has primary responsibility on evaluating off site response for all US power plants, including Oyster Creek, while the NRC is responsible for on site response.
"We would expect FEMA to signal that they are fully comfortable with the emergency plan being effective before the plant can come back online."
Noting it would include any doubts as to the evacuation plan in the wake of the storm.