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Oyster Creek Passes Safety Assessment, But Leaves Environmentalists Unhappy [AUDIO]

Peter Weeks, member of Save Barnegat Bay, stands outside of the meeting with signs of protest
Peter Weeks, member of Save Barnegat Bay, stands outside of the meeting with signs of protest (Ilya Hemlin Townsquare Media NJ)

The yearly safety assessment by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) of the Oyster Creek Power Plant came back with positive results, however anti nuclear activists claim the NRC continues to not be forthcoming with information.

The annual report, which is issued in March and includes the inspection, also gives the NRC a chance to hold a forum with the public. However the Commission’s decision to hold an “open house” style forum in the Stafford Holiday Inn on Route 72 Wednesday evening where the public freely walked around displays and spoke one-on-one with NRC, Exelon, or Anti Nuclear representatives drew ire from some.

The group Grandmothers Mother and More For Energy Safety (GRAMMES) is one of the organizations

Oyster Creek Display
Oyster Creek Display (Ilya Hemlin Townsquare Media NJ)

upset with the format, claiming the open house is a “dog and pony show”. One gripe many dejectors to the NRC and Exelon claimed by not having an open forum like in “traditional” meetings it isolates the public from one another.

Diane Screnci, public affairs officer with the NRC says the open house allows for “less formal discussion with the NRC staff and those who are interested in Oyster Creek.”

Screnci notes the open house meetings are popular throughout the area, and are used for plants that contain no major safety concerns; which Oyster Creek did not according to the report.

Jeffery Kulp, Senior Resident Inspector for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission works daily in Oyster Creek and was in charge of the assessment report for the Lacey Plant which was the culmination of over 5200 hours of examination.

He notes Oyster Creek’s operation, maintenance, testing, and material conditions of the plant came up with no issues that are a cause for a concern.

Jeffery Kulp, NRC Senior Resident Inspector at Oyster Creek speaking with residents
Jeffery Kulp, NRC Senior Resident Inspector at Oyster Creek speaking with residents (Ilya Hemlin Townsquare Media NJ)

“We found some things here and there but all of it was very low significance.” Says Kulp.

He notes the plants good record in the assessment is the reason why the open house meeting was scheduled.

“[The violations] were of a very low safety significance in that realm, and when you have a plant that is in that realm we have a very small and poster board style meeting.”

Kukp says that for plants that have greater violations the requirements are more stringent.

“We do have a few plants in the United States that do have a requirement for a formal meeting.”

One of the advantages of the smaller meeting Kulp notes is it makes discussing the subject simpler.

“It’s very difficult to explain the nuances of nuclear power to a large group of people at the same time.” Says Kulp. He says that often times in a public setting questions are asked and the answers need to be thought out and conveyed in an understandable manner for the general public.

“There is a lot of experience in what we do and we get very comfortable with and we get very comfortable with it and it’s not the experience of the general public. It is a very difficult thing to explain some of the things that we do in layman terms, we try.”

NRC
(Ilya Hemlin Townsquare Media NJ)

Peter Weeks, a member of Save Barnegat Bay, set up a table at the open house meeting with information of the dangers of nuclear power.

He says the open meeting doesn’t hold the NRC responsible for its information.

”Even if it were a hearing we’ve never been to a hearing where there is any record of it.” Says Weeks.

He says the meeting reiterated the same points of nuclear power being “safe, clean, and reliable”, and he says in light of the Japanese disaster the public’s view on nuclear power plants needs to be augmented.

The NRC mandated improvements involving release pressure vents for nuclear plants that have the same reactor type as the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan, which Oyster Creek has.

“After Fukushima you have to wonder if anything in the industry is safe clean and reliable.” Says Weeks

He says anti nuclear proponents also need to work to prevent any renewal of the Price Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act, which expires in 2017 and indemnifies the nuclear industry against liability claims while providing compensation coverage for residents.

“If you have an uninsurable industry, how safe could it be?” notes Weeks.

The NRC has also announced it will hold another public meeting, done in a more “formal” style with a public comment session. The date, time, and location are yet to be announced.

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