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Group wants end to N-plant water releases, fish kills
By JARRETT RENSHAW Staff Writer, (609) 978-2015

OCEAN TOWNSHIP - - New Jersey Public Interest Research Group, coastal groups and several local fisherman gathered downstream from the Oyster Creek Nuclear Power plant Tuesday to highlight the plant's history of fish kills.

The meeting was intended to rally opposition to the state Department of Environmental Protection granting a new thermal discharge permit to the plant.

"The Oyster Creek Plant has had a history of violating the law and allowing its pollution to kill thousands of fish in local waterways," said Doug O'Malley, NJPIRG"s clean water advocate.

The current permit for cooling water intake and thermal discharges has expired, and Oyster Creek is in the process of renewing the five-year permit.

The Ocean County plant uses water from the South Branch of the Forked River to cool its reactor, discharging 1.2 billion gallons daily of heated wastewater and dilution water into a canal that flows into Oyster Creek.

The most recent fish kill occurred in the fall of 2002, when due to an unexpected shutdown of the plant there was a dumping of heated water that raised the temperature of the water to more than 100 degrees.

The heated water normally is diluted with cooler water, but plant operators shut down the dilution mechanism to perform scheduled maintenance on a transformer, according to newspaper accounts at the time

The state Department of Environmental Protection issued a $370,000 fine for the fish kill, which is being appealed by the owners of the plant.

Fisherman said the warmer water is inviting to anglers because it attracts larger fish, but said the bad outweighs the good.

"There are more striped bass killed by the plant than New Jersey fisherman catch in a year and that is wrong," said Tom Fote, legislative liaison for the New Jersey Anglers Association

Officials from the nuclear power plant were not available for comment.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, billions of gallons of heated water are withdrawn annually by cooling water plants.

Withdrawing so much cooling water pulls many organisms into the intake structure. The water contains many aquatic organisms, including fish, shellfish, fish larvae and eggs, sea turtles and others, that are either killed or injured.

The press conference comes on the heels of an announcement by the EPA that it has developed a systematic way to address fish kills.

The EPA estimates that the new rule will protect more than 200 million pounds of aquatic organisms annually.

It is unclear whether this new rule applies to Oyster Creek.

[ 02-18-2004, 09:43 AM: Message edited by: NIGHTSTRIKES ]
 

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Oyster Creek N-plant seeks license extension until 2029
By JARRETT RENSHAW Staff Writer, (609) 978-2015

LACEY TOWNSHIP - AmerGen Energy will seek to renew the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station's operating license, which, if approved, would allow

the nation's oldest nuclear plant to continue operating until 2029.

"Today, we are formally announcing our intentions to seek a license renewal, which we plan to do in the spring of 2005," AmerGen Vice President Bud Swenson said during a news conference at the plant Thursday.

The Oyster Creek Generating Station began its commercial service in December 1969 and was one of the first commercial nuclear power plants in the nation.

Like all nuclear power plants, it initially received a 40-year license. The 40-year license was based on financial reasons, not technical ones.

The plant's current license will expire in April 2009, and the plant is seeking a 20-year extension.

The filing is due by April 9, 2004, but the company will file late, sometime in 2005, giving up its right to remain open if the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is still reviewing the application in 2009. Historically, the NRC takes 17 to 22 months to decide on a renewal application.

Thursday's decision follows months of primarily one-sided debate on the possible renewal, which included weekly news conferences and town meetings held by advocacy groups urging the plant not to seek the license renewal.

The ultimate decision to seek the license was financial, Swenson said.

In December 2003, Exelon Corp. became the sole owner of AmerGen, purchasing British Energy's 50 percent stake in the company.

Exelon is one of the most profitable energy companies in the world, with annual profits in the billions - a contrast with the struggling British Energy.

"I don't think we would have been here if it wasn't for Exelon purchasing AmerGen," Swenson said.

The application process alone costs several million dollars, Swenson said.

With interests in several energy markets, the company wants to maintain a diverse portfolio, Exelon spokesman David Simon said.

"We looked at our markets and determined that the Oyster Creek power plant will continue to be successful and would remain a viable part of diverse portfolio," Simon said.

Officials said that Oyster Creek nuclear power plant provides 9 percent of the state's electricity, along with 1 percent of the power on a tri-state grid.

Officials said the plant has the potential to provide power to 600,000 homes.

Information provided by plant officials cites the plant's economic impact as one of its strongest assets in the community.

According to officials, Oyster Creek employs 451 people. The annual salary at Oyster Creek is $69,606, which is 11 percent more than average income in the county, officials said.

Oyster Creek pays millions in state and local taxes each year. The biggest beneficiary is Lacey Township, which fought for the plant to come to town in the 1960s and receives more than $11 million annually because of the plant.

During the news conference, officials defended themselves from claims that the plant poses a safety risk to the public.

"We constantly maintain and replace parts every day. If a part fails, a backup part is triggered," Swenson said.

Swenson said the company spends $10 million annually to replace and maintain parts.

The company's decision, although expected, drew some criticism Thursday, mostly from groups that have been campaigning against the renewal for the past several months.

"Exelon's decision today shows that the company cares more about profits than the millions of people living within Oyster Creek's midst," said Suzzanne Letta, energy advocate for the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group.

More than 10 municipalities, including Stafford and Dover townships, and the Ocean County Board of Freeholders passed resolutions against the renewal.

Some called for the immediate shutdown of the plant, while others called for denial of the license unless the plant meets all current safety standards.

Lacey Township was the only municipality that passed a resolution in favor of the plant.

Advocacy groups also were concerned with the plant's ability to store spent fuel, which is a growing problem as federal officials continue to try to gain access to Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada.

Officials said they have enough room - given current conditions - to continue to store the spent fuel at the plant until 2012. They also said they have the ability to build more storage facilities in the future.

Oyster Creek officials said they would begin going on the offensive now that their intentions have been announced.

"We need to get out there and turn this into a factual argument instead of an argument based on emotion," Swenson said.

They plan to meet with Barnegat Township residents March 1, and a town meeting is scheduled at Lacey Township High School on Tuesday

If the company decided against renewal, or if it is denied, it would begin the 10-year decommissioning process.

NRC officials said jobs would not be lost during the process, but the economic impact would be felt over time.
 
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