January 13, 2004
PSEG's History at Salem and Hope Creek Puts Public Safety at the Bottom of the Totem Pole
Testimony Before Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee
My name is Suzanne Leta and I am the energy associate for New Jersey Public Interest Research Group.
NJPIRG is a statewide citizen-based public interest advocacy organization with over 25,000 members across the state.
For the past several years, NJPIRG has worked to reduce our dependence on dirty, dangerous sources of energy by increasing energy efficiency and the generation of clean, renewable, safe sources of energy like wind and solar power.
NJPIRG has several concerns about safety at the Salem and Hope Creek reactors and have been working with Unplug Salem, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Dr. Kymn Harvin, a former Organizational Manager at Salem turned whistleblower.
I would like to highlight our two primary concerns-a problematic safety culture at the Salem and Hope Creek reactors and the NRC's recent decision to allow PSEG to restart the Hope Creek reactor without replacing a faulty recirculation pump.
The first concern is the problematic safety culture at the Salem and Hope Creek reactors.
On May 21, 2004, PSEG provided the NRC the results from three independent assessments conducted at the Salem and Hope Creek in 2003 and 2004.
In their assessment, the Utility Services Alliance (USA) applied a rating system of 90 characteristics combined in 12 attributes.
PSEG scored "less than competent" in all 12 attributes and "less than competent" in 73 of the 90 characteristics.
They further determined that "plant physical condition reflects tolerance for mediocrity," meaning that PSEG didn't want to pay the necessary costs to keep the site in good condition.
In the second assessment, the Independent Assessment Team identified the "perception that nuclear is not fixing long standing equipment issues because corporate is not providing the funds."
Lastly, the Synergy assessment concluded that the "organization fails to establish trusting relationships."
One of the lowest ratings the Synergy assessment reported was the work force's "confidence in management."
In addition, over a period of several years the NRC reported PSEG's numerous failures to identify and correct problems at Salem and Hope Creek and has concluded that PSEG's corrective action program is ineffective, in clear violation of federal regulations requiring plant owners to perform adequate corrective actions.
Nonetheless, the NRC has allowed the plants to continue operating.
Inherently connected to the safety culture problems at the Salem and Hope Creek plants lies our second primary concern-the NRC's recent decision to allow the Hope Creek plant to re-start without requiring PSEG to replace the recirculation pump.
On October 10, 2004, the plant was manually shut down due to the failure of the plant's 18-year old recirculation pump, which has been vibrating and damaging other vital equipment.
The recirculation pump provides and adjustable flow of water that flows into the reactor core which is then used to increase or decrease the power level.
If the pump bursts, it could cause an accident by spilling cooling water from the reactor vessel.
On Tuesday, the NRC ignored public safety concerns and allowing PSEG to continue operating the plant without replacing the pump until the next refueling cycle, 17 months from now.
The NRC required PSEG to install additional vibration sensors that may help to detect a problem, but they also stated that the remaining pump shaft life couldn't be reasonably predicted or calculated.
At last night's public meeting, the NRC confirmed that a new recirculation pump has already been designed; the parts have been manufactured, and the specialists required to install it in will be available in March.
But rather than losing a mere two months of revenue, PSEG lobbied to keep the plant running with the faulty pump until a planned shut down for a refueling cycle next spring.
Even the New Jersey DEP, an agency that originally took the right position and opposed a re-start without replacing the plant, gave into pressure from PSEG by stating last night that they agreed with the NRC's final decision.
We cannot depend on Exelon, PSEG or the NRC to make the right decisions about the safety of the Salem reactors.
We need state officials to step up to the plate; unfortunately, the DEP couldn't follow through.
As it is your responsibility to protect public safety, I urge you to do everything you can to prevent Hope Creek from re-starting unless PSEG replaces the recirculation pump.
Lastly, Exelon Corporation is formally taking over the management of PSEG's three reactors at the Salem site this coming Monday, January 17, 2005.
The management contract between the two companies was signed December 20, 2004, the same day that Exelon announced their plans to acquire PSEG for more than $12 billion in stock.
Exelon would like the public to believe that their nuclear management model is just the opposite of PSEG and promote the company as having an "outstanding record." But when we dig beneath the surface, Exelon has its own skeletons in the closet.
Time after time, Exelon has put profits over public safety, and has fired concerned employees in the process.
New management does not imply improvement.
Suzanne Leta Energy Associate NJPIRG
11 N. Willow St
Trenton, NJ 08608
609 394 8155 x310