Hearing covers plan for incident

Thursday, July 02, 2009
By Bill Gallo Jr.

SALEM - State representatives met with the public here Wednesday night for an annual review of the emergency plan which would be put into effect if there were a threatening release of radiation from any of the three nuclear reactors here in the county.

Required by state law, the public hearing on the New Jersey Radiological Response Plan gives residents a chance to question or give their comments to the agency representatives responsible carrying out the plan.

The plan is a coordinated effort between the New Jersey State Police, which would be the lead agency in case of an emergency, and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. It spells out the duties and roles that state, county and local officials would play in case of an actual release of radiation at any of PSEG Nuclear's three reactors on Artificial Island in Lower Alloways Creek Township.

With the command structure set out in the plan, "the plan essentially does not change" from year to year, according to Patrick Mulligan, manager of the DEP's Bureau of Nuclear Engineering.

Joseph Mangano, associate coordinator of the Unplug Salem Campaign, a group which has long called for the shutdown of the three nuclear reactors on the Island, again echoed one of the group's main contentions from past hearings: "The evacuation plan as written will not work. It would lead to chaos."

Mangano maintained that "the Delaware Memorial Bridge, Interstate 295 and the New Jersey Turnpike would turn into parking lots" if a full-scale evacuation were ordered.

In an answer to one of his questions, DEP representatives said there are no plans to issue potassium iodide tablets (also known as KI) to residents living outside of the 10-mile Emergency Planning Zone which surrounds the Island.

The KI tablets help to protect the thyroid gland from exposure to radioactive iodine which may occur in the event of a nuclear plant accident.

Mangano also brought up his organization's concern over the apparent abandonment by the Obama administration of using the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada as a repository for highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel now being stored on-site at the nation's power plants, including those at Artificial Island.

Mangano asked if this would impact the emergency response plan the state has formulated.

"There would be no impact on our ability of how we respond to an incident at nuclear power plant," said Nicholas J. DePierro of the DEP's Bureau of Nuclear Engineering.

Mangano also asked whether the DEP will be playing a role in the bid by PSEG Nuclear to gain 20-year license extensions for its three plants here.

Mulligan said his agency had a role in the relicensing process at Oyster Creek in Ocean County and has already done preliminary work with PSEG as it moved forward.

He said experience gained from the Oyster Creek relicensing would be a benefit in working on the issue at the Island.

Jane Nogaki of the New Jersey Environmental Federation urged the DEP to carefully look at the three plants here as they go through the relicensing process. She said she especially had concerns with underground pipes at the plants.

Nogaki also questioned how effective any evacuation plan, which has not been tested, would be.

"I strongly suggest this evacuation plan be fully deployed because this paper plan may not come to fruition if needed."

Delaware residents Freda Berryhill of Wilmington and Nancy Willing of Newark also spoke at Wednesday night's hearing. They both said they'd like to see the State of Delaware hold hearings on its emergency response plan like New Jersey.

Part of the 10-mile Emergency Planning Zone from the Island crosses the Delaware River into Delaware. After the meeting both met with a representative from Delaware's Emergency Management Agency who was on hand as an observer here.

Wednesday's hearing was preceded by a one-hour informal session where the public could talk one-on-one with representatives from the DEP and state police.

An other hearing dealing the Artificial Island plants will be held in Bridgeton on July 15. On July 21, representatives from the two agencies will hold another hearing in Tom River which will focus on the emergency plans in place in case of an incident at the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in Ocean County.

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