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Something Reeks At Oyster Creek

Oyster Creek nuclear plant - one of the nation's oldest "Zombie Plants"

[Update below]

NJ Newsroom reports that “nuclear safety advocates” have made a “personal appeal” in a letter to Governor Christie regarding safety issues at the Oyster Creek nuclear plant.

Those “advocates” include the NJ Environmental Federation (NJEF).

The NJEF letter, ignoring all this, begins with gushing praise of Gov. Christie’s response to Superstorm Sandy:

As Governor, your leadership through Hurricane Sandy has been inspiring and your use of the bully pulpit quite effective. We write because you must employ that skill set again, right now, on a very urgent public safety matter explained below.

The NJEF letter credits “luck” with preventing a catastrophe:

Luckily, Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station (OC) was shutdown for routine maintenance during Sandy and has not yet restarted. Since then, we have learned that the situation was intense with an elevated level of risk then and it remains so today.

Well, I call bullshit on all that (and see this for a real nuclear safety advocate). 

The risks NJEF mentions are real – including stuff like this:

Source: "Japanese Nuclear Accident And US Response" - NEI, Public hearing on (4/7/11 - Trenton)

There was no “luck” involved. And I don’t even recall even seeing NJEF folks at that hearing – or am I thinking of the NJPDES permit hearing in Lacey? –  but that is beside the point.

The point is, the Oyster Creek plant would have been closed permanently by now if the NJ Environmental Federation did not cut a political deal and use it as a pawn.

Dave Pringle, NJEF (R) meets with his friend, DEP Commissioner Martin (L)

The plant would have closed because the Corzine Administration DEP issued a permit that mandated installation of cooling towers to protect Barnegat Bay.

Exelon publicly stated that they would close the plant if they were required to install costly cooling towers. They would close despite a federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approval that allowed them to operate another 20 years because it was not cost effective to retrofit the plant with costly cooling towers.

But Gov. Christie, bowing to Exelon’s profits and concerns expressed by Republican local officials regarding job loss and impacts on the local tax base, revoked the Corzine DEP permit and cut a deal with Exelon to allow the plant to operate 10 more years.

I called that deal a “horrible precedent” (12/21/10 Asbury Park Press) ( a conclusion publicly disputed by the attorney on the NJEF NRC petition, who supported the Christie deal he now so conveniently ignores).

This was all part of a back room deal with the NJ Environmental Federation (NJEF) – who were duped by Christie.

NJEF agreed to endorse the Gov. and praise him publicly for negotiating a 10 year closure deal, purportedly 10 years prior to the 20 year NRC allowed (but they somehow ignored the Corzine DEP permit closure).

NJEF then cynically used the Exelon deal and Christie endorsement opportunistically to extract other pet projects from the Gov. (what Republican Presidential candidate Romney called “gifts”).

Are we now supposed to forget all this?

For NJEF to now call on Gov. Christie to address plant safety issue reeks. The letter and press release are nothing more than another disgusting stunt.

Over a week ago, Exelon publicly announced a willingess to close the plant:

Exelon Corp. (EXC), the largest U.S. nuclear plant operator, would consider closing its Oyster Creek station before the plant’s planned 2019 decommissioning, Chief Executive Officer Christopher Crane said.

Exelon would accelerate plans to close Oyster Creek in Forked River, New Jersey, if it faced unexpected new capital costs at a time when depressed power prices and cheap renewable energy are squeezing nuclear generation margins, Crane said in an interview yesterday.

(Exelon was reacting to and putting lipstick on the pig of a new round of post Sandy NRC inspections and problems at the plant).

So the NJEF petition to the NRC seeking closure due to Sandy is a transparent attempt to take credit for influencing a corporate decsion alreasdy made. Disgusting in light of the history.

(and I can imagine this news headline:  NJEF praises Christie and then takes credit for the closure as the next step in this disgusting charade).

It’s like the boy who killed his parents pleading to the judge for mercy as an orphan.

Ms. Trauro of NJEF and the other signatories to that letter should take a long hard look in the mirror.

This is Hope Creek, NOT Oyster Creek - provided only to illustrate flood/storm surge risks

Update – of course, we would not want to forget this curious development – I wonder why DEP cancelled that public hearing?:

IMMEDIATE RELEASE                           Contact: Lawrence Ragonese (609) 292-2994
November 1, 2012                                                   Lawrence Hajna       (609) 984-1795
Bob Considine         ( 609) 984-1795

***November 1, 2012***


TRENTON – The Department of Environmental Protection is announcing the postponement of an Oyster Creek Safety Advisory Panel public meeting scheduled for Monday, Nov. 5, due to Hurricane Sandy.

The meeting, which was to take place at the Ocean County Administration Building in Toms River, will be rescheduled at a later date.

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  1. Bill Neil
    November 21st, 2012 at 12:23 | #1

    Fascinating Bill. Those expensive cooling towers seem to cause all sorts of trouble, including troubles inside the conservation community.

    Let me take your readers back to the Delaware Bay nuclear plants, at Salem, and the fight for cooling towers there, in the early 1990’s Then PSE&G (and were their other owners of the plants, I believe there were because it was such a massive undertaking) did not want to install them, and had commissioned studies in volumes up to the ceiling to show that the lack of the towers was not harming aquatic populations in the Bay.

    Remember folks, these were much newer plants than the one at Oyster Creek which is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, in the nation. So far, no big surprise, a powerful business wanted to save money and wanted to continue using the cheaper and more damaging direct water intakes, pulling small creatures into the heart of the heating cooling machinery…with significant losses…but the issue became…our side couldn’t prove, and couldn’t out study PSE&G that those losses were actually leading to diminished adult species counts…I remember Dery Bennett arguing that that point shouldn’t be the crux of the issue: the known losses were an enormous pressure on aquatic populations in a dynamic system where many other factors were working…so far it hadn’t caused, by itself, the populations to drop at the top of the food chain, but that didn’t mean serious pressures were not at work…and as most good enviros know, fish populations studies are real tough and sometimes very ambiguous scientific terrain…tough to measure and tough to exterpolate from…

    Then came the ugly kicker: The Nature Conservancy, NJ Audubon and I believe it was the NJ Conservation Foundation were coming out against requiring the cooling towers and would be working with PSE&G on projects the company would fund to restore habit, wetlands, mostly, in South Jersey. I was not privvy to the inside decision at NJ Audubon, and got a warning to stay out, but was horrified at the open division in conservation ranks this was causing, with the “new” non-regulatory Mike Cantania of the Nature Conservancy leading the charge against the towers. I didn’t like the smell of the whole thing but didn’t have the expertise in the great cooling tower debate, which had taken place with a lot of rancor at the national level. Worse, I had the clear sense there was no one with that standing inside NJ to make the counter argument. And the saddest thing was that I sensed that the three groups siding with PSE&G really liked it that way.

    I picked up the phone and called Robert Kennedy,Jr., whom I did not know well, exaplained the problem, and asked him who the leading enviro was on the issue, I wanted to bring the feuding parties together for a debate with someone who really knew the issue and who could match Cantania’s determination. That person was John Cronin, the Hudson River Keeper, no shrinking violet when it came to issues like this.

    To condense matters, it came to a real dust up between Cronin and Cantania, with Mike challenging Cronin – who was certain what the law required (federal law) the construction of the towers – charging that if he were that certain then why not go for summary judgement? I don’t recall all the details of what Cronin hurled back, but there were a lot of thunder bolts about Cantania’s tactics and the precedents this would set for similar issues around the nation.

    There was also a nasty internal NJ Audubon Society side for me, but because Thanksgiving is right around the corner, I’ll spare everyone, but what happened has done a lot to shape my attitudes towards the Republican Right. I also remember very well that I got no thanks from PIRG or the NJEF for sticking my nose into to this bloody mess, which was a lesson of how easy it is to divide the environmental community. A true community would have had the type of debate – Cronin vs Catania before a final decision was made and the great divisions went public. And I’ll have to let others fill in how this played out down in Salem over the years.


    Bill Neil

  2. November 21st, 2012 at 12:36 | #2

    @Bill Neil

    Thanks Bill, once again your historical experience is very important.

    A little mitigation money goes a long way in buying certain “conservation group” support.

    NJEF has recognized that and has crafted their own form of “entrepreneurialism”.

    After I wrote this, I got an email forwarded to (not sent direct from the sponsors) of an upcoming conference on Shore rebuilding.

    Not surprisingly, the same faces, the same organizations, and the same discredited strategy and tactics are jumping on the Sandy Rebuild Bandwagon – NJ Future, et al.

    Perhaps worse, the weenies, who can smell a funding opportunity a mile away, have already cornered the “adaptation” market – check out this cast of characters:


    The more I learn, the deeper my loathing.

  3. Bill Neil
    November 21st, 2012 at 12:55 | #3

    Well I’ll be damned Bill, there is PSE&G Services and Mike Catania again, right up near the top. The more I get the feel for this, the more I think the real policy work might happen at the federal level; as a matter of fact I’ve already sent some hard questions that way: are you really going to dispurse 30-60 billion in disaster relief and rebuilding assistance when elected officialdom in NJ (lets see if Senator Sweeney means what he has been quoted for saying…)says it can all be put back just as it was, no questions aked (oh and yes, let’s not forget the Republican Right mantra: no bureaucracy and red tape – and we must add, no serious public policy discussions in the open – it remains to be seen if they can be “contained.” ).

    The emergency relief should be generous and sent with all speed; the rebuild money can’t be rushed out with no questions and no strings…and when the bi-partisan Austerians go for Social Security and Medicaid and God knows what else while billions go to misdirected same old in harms way at the coast…then we’ll have a debate that will make the Cronin-Catania dust up look like afternoon tea in Morris County.

    Let me finish on the proper upbeat note: perhaps we can look forward to re-runs of “I Claudius” on PBS for the holiday season…Cheers….

  4. Bill Neil
    November 21st, 2012 at 13:53 | #4

    Bill that’s a fascinating list you linked to, that Climate Change Adaptability Council at Rutgers…one name really caught my eye: Marty Johnson, President of Isles, who/which has done so much work in the Trenton ghetto – and always chasing grants and financial support, understandably. About two years ago, I was watching the History channel and they were running a series on gang warfare around the nation, and they did a long segment on Trenton. I couldn’t believe what I heard and saw because when I left NJ in 2000, Trenton still seemed governable, the least desparate of the troubled NJ cities. It had never been able to lure private sector redevelopment – as I know you well know from the Merrill Lynch-Hopewell cause celebre which did so much to discredit the NJ State Plan – but I was shocked at how fast Trenton had imploded, despite all Isles good work.

    So what I’m wondering is how big rebuild bucks for the NJ Coast is going to go down with Marty, if it goes out no questions asked, build it back just as before…and Trenton gets…well,you can fill in the rest yourself (selves.)

  1. June 12th, 2015 at 09:24 | #1
  2. June 12th, 2015 at 18:18 | #2
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