Action: Salem Nukes–One of the area’s really big environmental scandals…..

Photograph of Salem 1

The Salem 1 and 2 reactors

 

is allowing two of the three nuclear reactors on Artificial island (Salem I and II and Hope Creek I) to operate without cooling towers.  For those unfamiliar, the Hope Creek cooling tower is plainly visible from Route 1 while driving up and down Delaware on Route 1.

Hope Creek has a cooling tower because it was built later than the Salem pair.

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Actions you can take:

Ask Delaware Governor Jack Markell to insist on cooling towers in the new Salem permit:  jack.markell@state.de.us,  302.577.3210 , email form if you preferComment on Markell’s Facebook page.

Ask New Jersey to schedule more public hearings, to extend the public comment period, and to insist on cooling towers:  susan.rosenwinkel@dep.nj.gov

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Salem 1

Operating License: Issued – 12/01/1976
Renewed Operating License: Issued – 06/30/2011
License Expires: 08/13/2036

Salem 2

Operating License: Issued – 05/20/1981
Renewed Operating License:  Issued – 06/30/2011
License Expires: 04/18/2040

Hope Creek

Operating License: Issued – 07/25/1986
Renewed Operating License: Issued – 7/20/2011
License Expires: 04/11/2046

These reactors, originally licensed for 25 years, have had their licenses extended another 25 years.  While extending the Salem 1 and 2 licenses, the US Nuclear Regulatory Agency paid no attention to environmental concerns and did not require cooling towers to be installed as a condition of the “relicensing.”  (Green Delaware and others submitted comments to the NRC on this, but the NRC is a branch of the nuclear industry….)

The most recent Salem cooling water permit was issued in 2001 and expired in 2006.

Why does this matter?  Damage to the Delaware Estuary

Nuclear reactors are thermally inefficient, meaning they produce more “waste heat” per unit of electricity than almost any other power source.  The average US nuclear reactor, in 2013, converted 33 percent of its heat output into electricity.  So the other 67 percent had to go somewhere else–into the air (via cooling towers) or into a lake or river or ocean.   For the two Salem reactors this amounts to about 15 billion btus per hour, and it takes around three billion gallons per day to get rid of that much heat.

This has several effects on the river.  One, or course, is simply heating it up.  Another is “impingement,” meaning the plants and animals caught on the water intake screens.  Some of these survive the experience and some do not.  The third is “entrainment,” meaning the small critters, eggs, and larva that pass through the screens and into the cooling system.  The vast majority of these are cooked and come out dead.  Toxic materials, such as metals dissolved from the systems, are also discharged.

All this has the effect of killing several billion “adult equivalent” fish per year, greatly reducing populations in the Delaware River and Estuary.  And of course, there is the cumulative effect of many other cooling systems up and down the River, such as those of the Delaware City Refinery.

Cooling towers

Photograph of Hope Creek 1

The Hope Creek 1 cooling tower

Cooling towers, such as Hope Creek I has, recirculate most of the water, reducing flow of river water to five percent or less of what it would be with a Salem-style “open circuit” or “once through” cooling system.  Cooling towers have issues of their own but greatly reduce damage to marine populations.

For decades the Clean Water Act has called for the use of Best Technology Available (BTA) to abate the effects of cooling systems.  Clearly, BTA is cooling towers.  Every five years the Clean Water Act permit for Salem is supposed to be reviewed and reissued.  Frequently, the regulatory agencies don’t bother, and at present the Salem permit is years expired.

Every time the permit comes up, environmental interests call for cooling towers, and the nuke plant owners, PSEG Nuclear, offer various excuses why they should not be required to obey the Clean Water Act.  Mostly, they say it’s too expensive.  Every time, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection rolls over, with the concurrence of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and the US Environmental Protection Agency.

The real reasons are:

(1)  PSEG has long been the biggest political contributor in New Jersey.  Like utilities in many places, it has a certain political, financial, and psychological dominance that elected officials and regulators can’t stand up to.

(2)  PSEG has bought off a large number of “environmental” organizations and academics.  Look for example, at the so-called “Partnership for the Delaware Estuary,” an industrial front group supported by regulators, and regularly quoted by mainstream media as if it was for real.  Look at the list of Board members and see:  “Alison Kraus, PSEG Nuclear, LLC” (and reps of many of the other biggest river-polluters such as DuPont).  Now, look at the page of this industrial stooge operation and see if you see any heads-up on the PSEG permit (or the Delaware City Refinery permit, or any other.)

(3)  PSEG operates an “Estuary Enhancement Program,” that, sort of, is supposed to make up for the damage done by the cooling systems.  The idea is that wetlands are restored, creating better habitat for critters, compensating for those killed by the cooling systems.  This is mostly bullshit, but provides a convenient channel for paying off “scientists,” contractors, and officials.

Some of the “enhancement projects” may in fact be beneficial, but others are not.  For example, tens of thousands of pounds of the cancer-causing Monsanto herbicide Glyphosate have been sprayed on the marshes of Delaware and South Jersey in futile attempts to eradicate phragmites (reed grass).

(4)  In a May, 2-14 rollover, one of the worst environmental actions of the Obama administration, EPA decided that many power plants could continue to get away without cooling towers.

The role of Delaware

Delaware, of course, has as big a stake as New Jersey in the harm done by the Salem reactors.  Delaware officials could insist on cooling towers.  But they don’t.  What they do, every permitting cycle, is raise objections to draft permits until PSEG coughs up a few million dollars for “enhancement” projects in Delaware.  Then they roll over.

Another reactor?

PSEG is seeking an Early Site Permit, part of a process that would allow them to build another reactor at Artificial Island.  The permitting process for new nukes has been carefully and systematically rigged by the nuke industry and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to take the public out of the loop.

What you can do now

At the moment New Jersey officials have drafted another rollover permit and are holding public hearings and taking public comment on it:

“A non-adversarial public hearing has been scheduled on Wednesday, August 5, 2015 from 3-5 pm and 7-9 pm (or end of testimony, whichever comes first) at the Old County Court House, 104 Market Street,Salem, NJ 08079 to provide an opportunity for interested persons to present and submit information on the proposed action.” [We don’t know what “non-adversarial means.]

Written comments can be submitted in writing to Pilar Patterson, Chief, or Attention: Comments on Public Notice NJ0005622, at Mail Code 401-02B, Division of Water Quality, Bureau of Surface Water Permitting, P.O. Box 420, Trenton, NJ 08625-0420 by the close of the public comment period. 
Comments via email are also acceptable and can be sent to susan.rosenwinkel@dep.nj.gov.

Actions you can take:

Ask Delaware Governor Jack Markell to insist on cooling towers in the new Salem permit:  jack.markell@state.de.us,  302.577.3210 , email form if you preferComment on Markell’s Facebook page.

Ask New Jersey to schedule more public hearings, to extend the public comment period, and to insist on cooling towers:  susan.rosenwinkel@dep.nj.gov

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