PSEG will file an early site permit for the state’s fifth reactor
Environmental groups in New Jersey have something new to be unhappy about. Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) told the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) it will file an Early Site Permit (ESP) for a new nuclear reactor to be located in Lower Alloways Creek Township on the Delaware River in Salem County, NJ. If built a new reactor will join Salem 1 & 2 units and the Hope Creek reactor all operated by PSEG.
The NRC held an informational meeting on May 6 in Salem County to begin the lengthy regulatory process that could lead to approval of construction of a new reactor. The ESP is the first step in a process which could take up to 20 years depending on how fast the utility chooses to develop the project.
Green groups fast off the mark
Environmental groups were quick to criticize the move parroting familiar lines about why nuclear energy won’t work. Jane Nogaki, spoke for the New Jersey Environmental Federation. Nogaki, who according to her web site profile, is an expert on pesticides, told the meeting the new reactor is not needed.
She said that wind energy "would outcompete nuclear and coal every time." She said the utility should not move forward with plans for a new reactor because it does not have a plan to dispose of spent nuclear fuel.
Christine Guhl, speaking for the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club, expressed similar views. She told the news media an new nuclear plant will compete for investor funds that should be going to renewable energy projects. She added that nuclear power plants “are not cost effective.” Ms. Guhl, who works out of the Trenton, NJ, office of the Sierra Club, is an advocate for wind power.
Local elected officials in favor
Elected officials praised the utility. Salem County Commissioner Bruce Bobbit said that with unemployment at 12%, the new plants would provide new jobs to the region. Lower Alloways Creek Mayor Ellen Pompper said she has no problem with it.
“The other 3 plants are right in the town’s back yard. No one from the public has come to any township meeting with any concern. I have not received any phone calls from any resident."
ESP is not a decision document
PSEG spokesman Joe Delmar pointed out the ESP is not a commitment to build a reactor, but does identify a site that is suitable for one. Delmar said the biggest area of uncertainty for a new reactor will be cost issues.
PSEG also said that once the ESP is submitted it will take the NRC about two years to review it. A decision to build a new reactor will require an application for a combined construction and operating license (COL) which could cost the utility $25-50 million. It would then take the NRC another four years to review that application. Assuming the utility pursues the process with reasonable speed, it could break ground for a new reactor by the latter half of the next decade.
If built, the new reactor would be located next to the three other units. Salem 1 & 2 generate a combined total of about 2,300 MW and Hope Creek generates another 1,000 MW making the site one of the biggest nuclear power stations in the country. A fourth reactor would most likely be built in the power range of 1,000-1,500 MW based on current reactor designs planned for other sites in the U.S.
Relicensing existing reactors
PSEG is also pursuing relicensing of the three existing reactors. NRC resident inspector Harry Balain reportedly told the Atlantic City Press May 6 that “Salem is struggling with performance issues.” However, he also said the plants are safe. “The performance has been trending up.”
In response Tom Joyce, PSEG Nuclear’s president and chief nuclear officer, said, “At PSEG, we understand our obligation to the local community, the environment and our friends, families and coworkers to provide safe, reliable, economic and green energy.”
“We operate our plants within a culture of safety and transparency. We encourage our employees to raise issues and to be open on how we can do things better. There are always lessons to be learned. Our success is made possible by our 1,500 employees.
Joyce also pointed out that the future prospects for a new plant, and public support for it, depend on how well the firm operate the plants it has in revenue service.
“There are no surprises. Not in our operations and certainly not with our stakeholders. As I say to our employees — ‘there is no new nuclear, without good old nuclear.’
Anti-nuclear focus on cooling towers
Elsewhere in New Jersey environmental groups have been on the offensive trying to close down the Oyster Creek nuclear reactor on the state’s Atlantic coast. The strategy is to impose onerous costs for cooling towers which would force Exelon, the reactor’s owner and operator, to shut it down rather than pay hundreds of millions to build the towers.
The plant uses a once through cooling system. Environmental groups say the water intake kills fish. The plant’s operators and marine science studies dispute that claim pointing out the warm water from the cooling water discharge enhances the productivity of Barnegat Bay. Marine studies have shown that nutrient loadings in the bay reduce oxygen in the water. The brackish bay is subject to tidal forces and slow mixing of salt and fresh water.
Update May 26
26 May (NucNet): Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) filed an early site permit (ESP) application with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission as part of its efforts to construct an additional nuclear unit in the state of New Jersey.
PSEG Power president Bill Levis said the application is “an important first step” in the regulatory process to determine if a new plant is viable. Filing the application is not a commitment to build, but it would determine that the location for a potential new unit is suitable.
The preferred location for a new unit is next to PSEG Salem and Hope Creek nuclear plants in New Jersey. Salem has two pressurized water reactor units in commercial operation and Hope Creek has a single boiling water reactor.
An ESP is valid for 20 years and can potentially be renewed for an additional 10 to 20 years. PSEG would need to submit and receive approval from the NRC for a combined operating licence (COL) in order to actually construct and operate a new plant.
# # #