N.J. nuclear plant operators defend safety, reliability of operations

The operators of New Jersey’s four nuclear power plants sought to highlight differences Wednesday between their plants and the one

The operators of New Jersey’s four nuclear power plants sought to highlight differences Wednesday between their plants and the one damaged following the earthquake and tsunami last month in Japan.

During a joint Assembly committee hearing officials of PSEG, which operates three of the plants, and Exelon, which operates the nation’s oldest plant at Oyster Creek, told Assembly members that there is little chance in New Jersey of a disaster on the scale of what struck Japan.

Among other things, PSEG told the committee that its plants at Hope Creek and Salem are built to withstand an earthquake of 6.5 on the Richter scale, and are designed to withstand flood levels of 22.9 feet above ground level. The Japan quake measured 9.0 on the Richter scale.

Bill Levis, president and CEO of PSEG, said the largest quake in the state was in 1783 and was at magnitude 5.3. The maximum recorded water level at their site was 8.5 feet above sea level (3 feet below ground level) in 1950, PSEG said.

Exelon Senior Vice President Joe Grimes said they are confident the plants could withstand the kind of quakes that normally might be expected to hit the state.

He said that among other things, Oyster Creek has on-site diesel generators in case of lost power, three banks of batteries for safety and redundancy, reinforced concrete structures, and is elevated 23 feet above sea level, greater than any probable maximum tidal surge.

Assemblyman John McKeon, (D-27), Essex, chairman of the Environment and Solid Waste Committee, raised questions about the concern of on-site spent fuel storage and the cooling period before it can be moved into “dry cask’’ storage from being kept in water.

Officials said spent fuel will be moved to “dry-cask’’ storage after it cools, but McKeon asked how much could be moved tomorrow if there was a need.  And Grimes said as much as 50 percent might be able to be moved if it was called for. The operators also said it is not a matter of money that would prevent such a move.

Upendra J. Chivukula, (D-17), chairman of the Assembly Telecom & Utilities Committee, and an engineer who has worked with nuclear power plants, said the purpose of the hearing was to gather information to assess the state’s preparedness in light of what happened in Japan as well as the state’s changing population demographics and developing technology.

“This is a work in progress,’’ he said of the ongoing nature of making sure the plants are safe.

http://www.politickernj.com/46578/state-officials-discuss-nuclear-emergency-preparedness-nj

N.J. nuclear plant operators defend safety, reliability of operations