To: Editor, Gloucester County Times
Your editorial of December 30th on the Tritium leak at Salem missed the point of the problems at PSEG's nuclear plants: it is indeed the safety culture that is the key point. When I made that statement to your reporter I was not "braying", but telling him the truth. Let me explain my reasoning.
For years, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has allowed the spent fuel pools at Salem Units 1 and 2 to leak, rather than require PSEG to undertake costly repairs to fix the leaks. Drains carried the leaking radioactive water into holding tanks. The radioactive water was then diluted and dumped into the Delaware Bay.
In 1998, PSEG made a modification to the drains for Salem Unit 1. The water stopped going into the holding tanks. But the leak hadn't stopped. PSEG staff just did not ask the question: "where is the leaking spent fuel pool water going?" Maybe they thought that the leak stopped by an act of God.
What if it hadn't been tritium, which is bad enough, but something more deadly, leaking? If PSEG staff screwed up on the tritium leak, what else are they screwing up on? That is what I mean by safety culture: how PSEG's staff reacted to problems concerning the safety of the nuclear plant and the citizens of South Jersey.
If you don't believe the UNPLUG Salem Campaign, that safety culture at Salem and Hope Creek is poor, then maybe you'll believe R.V. Crienjak, staff member of the NRC's Division of Reactor Safety. He wrote to me in a letter dated 11/24/03, the following:
"Over the past several years, NRC has identified inconsistencies in performance at Salem and Hope Creek, particularly in the area of problem identification and resolution. In our last annual and mid-cycle assessments of overall performance, we have identified problem identification and resolution as a substantive cross-cutting issue which means that NRC will focus more closely in those areas.
" Our source at PSEG tells us that "safety culture is worse than at Davis-Besse." Davis-Besse is the Ohio nuclear plant that came within a quarter-inch liner of having a TMI-style loss of cooling accident. I'm sure that everyone would prefer to not have a Three Mile Island on the Delaware.
We in the UNPLUG Salem Campaign don't 'bray'. We take our watchdog role seriously, and stick to the facts.
We were right about the defective steam generators in Salem Unit 2. PSEG will now be replacing them.
And we are right about the dangerously poor safety culture at all three of PSEG's nuclear plants.