AmerGen fined $1 million for Oyster Creek fish kills

Berkeley resolution: Nuke plant should be closed

Published in the Ocean County Observer 11/07/2003

BERKELEY -- A resolution was passed unanimously by the Township Council calling for the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in Lacey Township to be decommissioned by April 2004, allowing a transitional period to ensure that all employees are retrained and rehired.

The resolution calls for the plant to be replaced with clean energy solutions, including renewable energy such as solar and wind power for which state funds are available.

But David Simon, a representative of Exelon, the parent company that operates the plant, said accusations made against Oyster Creek are far-fetched and disturbing.

"It's deliberately put out there without looking at the facts," he said. "I have three kids and I would go live near any one of our plants. They are well protected and well fortified."

However, Councilman John Naparano said he felt it was the council's responsibility to speak out, given the public's interest and cause for concern.

"According to the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission), the emissions could spread over 500 miles, covering our people here," he said, "and as a councilman, our council has an obligation to the people we serve and not the special interest groups . . . I'd rather be safe than sorry. I have to think of the people we represent and I would hate to think of what would happen and we did nothing about it."

The council was approached by members of the Jersey Shore Nuclear Watch, who have been advocates for shutting the plant down. The council had previously taken a stance against the power plant in 1994 and adopted a resolution on May 13, 2003 requesting an independent evacuation study and a plan for Oyster Creek.

He said the public interest groups, such as Jersey Shore Nuclear Watch, have been able to provide convincing research regarding the danger the plant poses to the general health and well being of the public.

The resolution states that a minute supply of energy is produced by the power plant, claiming that less than one percent is produced for a country-wide power grid.

But Simon, the Exelon representative, disagreed, questioning how New Jersey would replace 660 megawatts of power that is currently generated by the plan.

"If the people of New Jersey would be willing to put up a thousand windmills or numerous solar panels to replace that kind of energy, then fine," he said.

The township's resolution also cites the community's lack of confidence in the current evacuation plan.

But Simon noted that the evacuation plan was designed to handle all emergency scenarios, adding the fuel storage tank is designed to withstand severe weather conditions, including a major hurricane or tornado. If there is a crash, such as an airliner hitting the plant, the chance of a nuclear accident is "almost nil, but we can't say 100 percent." Simon said.

"These are hardened facilities," he said, "designed with reinforced structure with steel and concrete."

Simon said in if there was ever a release from the plant, the wind direction will only send the emissions in one direction.

"You would have a very directed wave," he said, adding it would be carried by the wind "in a very small area."

Edith Gbur, chairperson of the Jersey Shore Nuclear Watch, defended the group's position against Oyster Creek, saying there are numerous studies to support their concerns, particularly regarding what could happen during a terrorist attack.

Gbur said she is elated with Berkeley's resolution.

"Berkeley is a pioneer and they are really concerned about the people living there," she said. "I'm hoping the other townships will follow them."

Simon, however, said the company is responsive to the public, and willing to work with the municipalities to alleviate any concerns.

"We understand there is concern," he said. "We have a citizens task force, we work with them, we want to be receptive and open to do something to improve how we operate."