New Jersey Anti-Nuclear Groups Fight On

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Fast Fission Podcast #20 – MP3 File

In April of 2009, after a long fight with well-funded anti-nuclear groups, the Oyster Creek Nuclear Plant in New Jersey was granted a 20 year license extension.  At the time, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission called Oyster Creek’s application “the most extensive license renewal to date.”  It’s worth noting that the NRC commissioners voted 3 to 1 in favor of the license extension, the only dissenting vote was from Gregory Jaczko who was subsequently appointed NRC Chairman by President Obama and continues to serve in that position.

Image of Oyster Creek FacilityAnti-nuclear groups viewed the plant’s license extension as a temporary setback, and they are again trying to shut down the plant.  They have been unable to show any safety or environmental basis for their cause, so they are taking another approach – trying to force the owners to make enormous plant modifications they hope will make the plant too expensive to operate.  They have succeeded in getting a bill in front of the New Jersey state government that would force the plant to install cooling towers, something that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars.  They argue that the plant’s cooling water intake from Barnagat Bay kills fish and a forcing the plant to use cooling towers would reduce the number of fish killed by the plant’s cooling water system.  The anti-nukes are trying to get the State to require cooling towers as a condition of renewing the plant’s water discharge permit.

A similar tactic was attempted by the anti-nuclear group Riverkeeper in New York against the Indian Point nuclear plant.  That case went all the way to the US Supreme Court.  In the end Riverkeeper’s claim was denied.

Local newspapers are predicting large crowds will be on hand Monday, December 14 at the State House Annex in Trenton where the hearings will take place.  This will be an interesting case because similar bills are before both houses of the NJ legislature, and lame duck Governor, Jon Corzine opposed the plant’s license renewal.

These attempts to portray nuclear plants as evil fish killers are laughable.  All central station power plants use large quantities of cooling water.  They pull the water in and discharge it back a few degrees warmer.  Environmental permits already specify how much the plants are allowed to heat the water, and I’ve known of times when power plants have reduced power because they were approaching the water discharge thermal limits, particularly in the heat of the summer.  Also, many plants like Indian Point were forced years ago to install multi-million dollar fish catching systems on the water intakes to gently redirect the fish away from the intake screens to safety in the warm discharge water.

I for one am tired of hearing the newspapers and television news refer to anti-nuclear organizations as “environmental” or “public advocacy” groups.”  It is easy to argue that ill-informed anti-nuclear activism has resulted in serious damage to the environment and cost many lives by slowing down the growth of nuclear energy.  Air and water pollution caused by the alternatives, burning fossil fuels, has far more impact on our health and environment.  Let’s stop calling groups like Riverkeeper, New Jersey Public Interest Research Group, and the Radiation & Public Health Project “environmentalists” and “public advocates”.  Instead, let’s call them what they are: anti-nuclear groups.

Let’s also acknowledge it’s quite possible to be both pro-nuclear AND pro-environment.  In fact, the two go hand in hand.

John Wheeler

Author: John Wheeler

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