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NJ’s Oyster Creek Poster Child for “Zombie Nuke Plants”

Salem, NJ nuke plant

Salem, NJ nuke plant

In a critically important article aptly titled “Zombie Nuke Plants“, The Nation magazine – spurred by recent radioactive leaks from the Three Mile Island plant – is focusing national attention and catalyzing a debate on the risks from aging nuclear power plants.

And  NJ’s own Oyster Creek is the poster child for the problem:

Oyster Creek Generating Station, in suburban Lacey Township, New Jersey, opened the same month Richard Nixon took office vowing to bring “an honorable peace” to Vietnam. This nuke plant, the oldest in the country, was slated to close in 2009 when its original forty-year license was ending. It had seen four decades of service, using radioactively produced heat to boil water into high-pressure steam that ran continuously through hundreds of miles of increasingly brittle and stressed piping.

If constructed today, Oyster Creek would not be licensed, because it does not meet current safety standards. Yet on April 8 the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)–the government agency overseeing the industry–relicensed Oyster Creek, extending its life span twenty years beyond what was originally intended.

Nuclear power has been spun as a technological solution to the global warming crisis.  But regardless of the debate about the so-called “nuclear renaissance”, (which we wrote about in “Final Nair In Nukes Coffin?”), far more significant risks are posed by the nation’s aging fleet of 1960’s and 1970’s designed nuclear power plants that are operating beyond their design life.

Money Island - distribution lines just north of Salem plant

Money Island - distribution lines just north of Salem plant

Nuclear industry capture of and control over the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), a lax safety culture, deregulation, and economic drive for profits are creating huge risks as these plants age and are “up-rated” to produce far more power and operate at unsafe levels.

Read the complete article here:

And a few words while  we are on the topic of Oyster Creek.

BEFORE the election, I received the below “Vote Christie”  statement from the NJ Environmental Federation.

Note the deceptively parsed language alleging a contrast with Corzine on installation of cooling towers at Oyster Creek nuclear power plant to protect Barnegat Bay:

On Election Day Vote Environment-Vote Chris Christie

Contrary to Corzine, Christie has committed to the following as you already know:
• Increasing protections for our most vulnerable and important waterways through the state’s Category 1 program;
• Replenishing the state’s bankrupt open space program;
• Requiring the state’s nuclear plants to stop their destruction in and around Barnegat Bay and the Delaware River;
• Opposing the proposed coal plant in Linden; and
• Issuing an executive order to reduce killer diesel soot pollution.

Noting a lot of ambiguity and unsure of what NJEF meant by the weasel words “stop their destruction“, I went over to the Christie web page and – curiously – found a much clearer commitment with respect to the Oyster Creek cooling tower issue. Christie strongly implied a promise to install cooling towers, although the word smithing still gave him an out on the basis of “putting the taxpayers on the hook”. Regardless, one still must ask: why would a candidate – a person expected to hedge on controversial issues – express a clearer commitment than an environmental group?

Here’s what Christie promised on cooling towers:

Restoring the Delaware and Barnegat BayI will make it a priority to identify and implement strategies for better cooling systems at Oyster Creek and Salem. We cannot ignore this issue. I will not. There has to be a better way to cool Oyster Creek and Salem without putting – New Jersey taxpayers on the hook, and we will do it.

But JUST DAYS AFTER the election, Christie was asked point blank by Kirk Moore (environmental writer for the Asbury Park Press) about his views on cooling towers at Oyster Creek, to which Christie replied:

“For Barnegat Bay, Christie said he will seek a solution for the issue of cooling water discharge from the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station, though he stopped short of an outright commitment to requiring that cooling towers be built at the 40-year-old reactor.”

So, WTF is going on here?

1. Why has Christie been given a pass from running away from a major – and one of his only environmental – “commitment” upon which the NJEF endorsement was based?

2. The Asbury Park Press has extensively covered and editorialized on the Oyster Creek cooling tower issue. Yet it looks like the Kirk Moore story with the Christie Oyster Creek statement was not published in the APP. It instead ran in the Nov. 7 Courier Post under an inflammatory and diversionary headline: “Christie: COAH “has to be gutted”.

Why didn’t this story run in the APP? (the headline could have been “Christie Waffles on Oyster Creek Cooling Towers”

3. Why is no one calling out Christie and NJEF for this deception?

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  1. June 1st, 2011 at 17:27 | #1

    Now thatÂ’s sbtule! Great to hear from you.

  2. Silence DoGood
    December 1st, 2012 at 19:13 | #2

    I find this all very disconcerting, regarding Christie’s initial position on environmental protections, and the lack of direct follow-through after some time in office.

    Some things to clear up in relation to NJEF and the Governor.

    – NJEF publicly endorsed Christie because of his avowed commitment to environmental protections, and many inside the organization were not pleased with his lack of follow-through well after election, (hence they gave him a D- on his environmental “report card” http://nj1015.com/environmental-report-card-gives-christie-bad-grades/). After it was clear that Governor Christie had little intention of following through with the Environmental Commitments on his platform, NJEF publicly expressed their position on his lackluster efforts.

    On these notes, I feel it unfair to include NJEF in any deception, when it is clear that it was NJEF who was most-deceived in this situation, and that it was Christie who benefited from their endorsement, with no intention of sticking firm to his environmental promises.

    I am interested to discover why the Kirk Moore story was never published in APP. But not expecting to ever find out.

    My suspicions are thus: something foul reeks from the political/media sewer system in New Jersey. This shouldn’t surprise, considering the level of corruption rampant throughout the states public offices and the news outlets that obfuscate and deflect instead of investigate and inform.

  1. January 10th, 2010 at 14:03 | #1
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