Salem 2 nuclear reactor cuts power because of river 'grassing'


Delaware energy: NRC judges nuclear safety

Regulators to discuss Salem/Hope Creek findings

By JEFF MONTGOMERY The News Journal April 4, 2010

An annual rating of the Salem/Hope Creek nuclear complex will go before the public Tuesday during a Nuclear Regulatory Commission regional staff review in Salem, N.J.

Federal officials already have concluded that the power plant's three reactors operated safely in 2009, and said that company management improvements justify ending special oversight of the plant's safety practices and workplace culture.

"Each year, the NRC steps back and assesses the performance of nuclear power plants in a systematic and detailed manner," NRC Region 1 Administrator Samuel J. Collins said. "We take these reviews very seriously and they help guide our oversight in the year ahead."

Maintenance and safety-related concerns in the past led to an NRC order for improvements and additional monitoring of the plant.

The annual meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the PSEG Energy & Environmental Resource Center, 244 Chestnut St., Salem.


PSEG Nuclear owns and operates the site along the Delaware River in Lower Alloways Creek Township, N.J., east of Odessa. Its reactors can generate more than 3,400 megawatts of electricity.

The company last year began an elaborate review process aimed at securing 20-year service life extensions for Salem Units 1 and 2 and the Hope Creek reactor. PSEG also is considering a project that could add a fourth reactor to the site, but has not reported a decision.

The company also recently proposed changes that would allow the plant to generate radioactive cobalt product from its reactors for use in medical equipment and other industries.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, the Unplug Salem Campaign and the NJ Environmental Federation all recently urged the NRC to reject the cobalt production venture.

"At a site chronically plagued by human performance problems, PSEG proposes to reduce safety margins by replacing physically assured protection ... with protection requiring zero mistakes by workers," said David Lochbaum, who directs the UCS Nuclear Safety Project.

Unplug Salem and other environmental groups also have argued against the permit extensions, saying that the NRC and New Jersey should require a new cooling water system for the Salem units

The Salem plants use a "once-through" cooling water process that cycles billions of gallons Delaware River water through the plant each day to manage heat -- effectively using the river as a radiator. Critics say that a cooling tower similar to the one operating at Hope Creek could reduce river water demands and drastically reduce huge losses of fish and other aquatic life to the plants big intakes and pumps.


PSEG has long said cooling tower costs would be too high for the plant, and currently pays for compensatory environmental projects, including marsh restorations.

Exelon, owner of the Oyster Creek nuclear plant in southeast New Jersey, recently threatened to shut down that plant after New Jersey regulators concluded that Oyster Creek needs to abandon its once-through cooling water system and build an alternative to protect the environment.

PSEG's operation and Delaware are at the center of one of the nation's densest collections of nuclear power plants. In addition to Salem and Hope Creek, reactors operate at Peach Bottom west of Philadelphia and Limerick just northeast of the city, as well as at Calvert Cliffs along the west side of the Chesapeake Bay, roughly in line with Delmar.

Large parts of Delaware are inside the 50-mile planning zone for the Calvert Cliffs, Limerick and Peach Bottom plants, in addition to Salem/Hope Creek. The number of Delaware residents living inside the 10-mile emergency planning zone for PSEG's plant is larger than the count for New Jersey's EPZ.