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Oyster Creek nuclear power plant alert terminated

Risk of environmentally induced overheating threatens local area residents

Oyster Creek nuclear generating plant, located in Lacey Township about 80 miles from Downe Township, lost electric power during tropical storm Sandy and temporary generators were used to cool the plant to prevent overheating and potential risk to area residents. Most of New jersey is presumed to be within the area of immediate risk in the event of an overheating incident similar to the catastrophe that occurred in Japan. Smaller releases of nuclear contamination are a more common occurrence.  The  Nuclear Regulatory Commission monitors of nuclear power plants during a storm and posts news releases at http://www.nrc.gov

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection issued this news release on Wednesday October 31 after the alert was ended:

The formal "alert'' status at the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in Lacey Township was terminated at 3:52 a.m. today after the water levels at the plant's intake system decreased to normal levels, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has confirmed this morning.

Offsite power also has been restored to the nuclear power facility, which had lost electrical service due to Hurricane Sandy and was using backup generators to power water pumps that cool the fuel stored in the nuclear reactor.

Water levels at the plant's intake system are now at about 3 feet and declining, below the six-foot level that triggers a formal alert notification. The rising levels were the result of high tides, wind direction and storm surge that were caused by the storm. The notification of an "alert'' is the second lowest NRC action level.

The NRC in a statement noted that Oyster Creek was in "safe condition,'' with agency inspectors on site.

Formal notifications of the alert were properly made, as required by the Exelon Corp, owners of the plant, to the NRC, state Department of Environmental Protection and state Office of Emergency Management.

The Oyster Creek reactor had been off-line prior to Sandy for previously scheduled refueling and maintenance operations. The DEP and NRC continue to observe operations at Oyster Creek and the state's other nuclear facilities.

DEP nuclear engineers monitor daily operations at the state's power plants on a regular basis and will continue to monitor their status throughout the aftermath of the storm. Under the New Jersey Radiation Accident Response Act, the DEP and State Police coordinate and implement comprehensive state, county, and municipal response to nuclear emergencies and establish requirements for protecting the public in the event of nuclear emergencies.

The state has highly trained staff ready to initiate, at a moment's notice, an effective response to any nuclear power plant issue.

BaySave President Tony Novak issued this statement: "Keep in mind this is just one storm and one single potential incident of threat to public safety. Many more will follow. We have had three other "100 year floods" since 2008 and there are many more to come. Virtually every climatologist predicts that storms like Sandy will appear mild in comparison to the storms of out grandchildren. We expect more numerous weather events, more frequent tidal flooding and, most importantly, we expect to sustain more severe damage and erosion from lower grade storms and flooding in the future due to the interaction of the various forces, increased energy level of the water and reduced ability of the shoreline to sustain this repeated assault. In short, most of the damaged area in Downe will be permanently inundated sooner rather than later. The point is that this is the new "norm" and we need to plan accordingly. The old ways of shoreline infrastructure management by government and private industry simply will not work. We urge NJ governments and industry to join the growing number of communities all along the U.S. coast that have adopted a "soft footprint" approach with a long term plan of strategic retreat from the inundation areas. Oyster Creek will be closed, partly in response to environmental/safety concerns, it is just a question of when".