Salem & Hope Creek Tee up for Early Site Permit

The NRC has completed the Final Safety Evaluation Report for an Early Site Permit application from PSEG Nuclear. The report concludes there are no safety aspects that would stop the agency from issuing the permit for a site adjacent to the existing Salem and Hope Creek nuclear power plants in Salem County, NJ, on the shores of the Delaware Bay.

An Early Site Permit allows a nuclear utility to address site-related issues, such as environmental impacts, for possible future construction and operation of a nuclear power plant at the site. During this process, the NRC notifies all stakeholders (including state and local agencies, and the public) as to how and when they may participate in the ESP process.

The 688-page report describes the agency’s review of the application, and incorporates comments from the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards. The NRC staff reviewed information on topics including:

  • site seismology, geology, meteorology and hydrology;
  • risks from potential accidents resulting from operation of a nuclear plant at the site;
  • the site’s ability to support adequate physical security for a nuclear plant; and
  • the proposed complete and integrated emergency plan PSEG would implement if a reactor was built at the site.

The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board will hold a hearing on the report which will determine whether the staff’s review supports the findings necessary to issue the report.

By issuing an early site permit (ESP), the NRC approves one or more sites for a nuclear power facility, independent of an application for a construction permit or combined license. An ESP is valid for 10 to 20 years from the date it is issued, and can be renewed for an additional 10 to 20 years.

According to estimates of the economic benefits of a new reactor they include;

  • 4100 construction workforce jobs and 600 permanent operations workforce jobs
  • Additional 586 local and 4,000 regional indirect jobs during construction and 185 local and 1265 regional indirect jobs during operation due to multiplier effect.
  • $15m per year in new plant purchases within 4 county economic impact area  and $339m per year in new plant purchases within New Jersey

PSEG has not selected a reactor reference design for the site nor has it committed itself to a date when it would apply to the NRC for a COL.

Hope Creek Nuclear Generating Station is on the same site as the two-unit Salem Nuclear Power Plant. The plant is owned and operated by PSEG Nuclear LLC. It has one reactor, a 1268 MW BWR. The complex was designed for two units, but the second unit was cancelled in 1981. The plant came online on July 25, 1986

The Salem Nuclear Plant is composed of two PWR units one with 1174 MW was built in 1977 and the other built in 1981 is a 1130 MW unit.

Battle over fish and cooling towers joined at Salem-Hope Creek

An environmental group with members in New Jersey and Delaware is attacking the State of New Jersey’s draft water quality permit for the two Salem units. The group claims the water intakes for the cooling circuits of the twin reactors kill billions of fish and other aquatic organisms. The group has radically revised upward a previous estimate of the economic impacts of the fish kill.

Despite a preference for cooling towers in EPA regulations, the federal rules also provide for exceptions based on cost benefit analyses. PSEG Nuclear, which owns and operates the Salem reactors,. says from a cost perspective the cooling towers are not a viable option. The cost of construction would be more than $1 billion.

The environmental group recently upped its estimate of the fishery losses from $8 million over 20 years to $577 million.

New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) says the process of making a decision still has a way to go. For its part PSEG says that it has taken steps to put screens in place to keep the fish out of the cooling system.

This isn’t the first time that environmental groups have used the case for cooling towers to try to impose ruinous costs on an operating nuclear reactor. The same tactics have been brought to bear on the twin units at Entergy’s Indian Point power station which supplies 2200 MW to the New York City metro area.

In New York the contentions surrounding license renewal for the reactors have been intense with New York Andrew Cuomo siding with green groups in their attacks on the license renewal.

Where the case may not be so robust in New Jersey is that the NRC just completed the environmental studies for an Early Site Permit for a new reactor at the Salem-Hope Creek complex and did not identify fish kills as a deal breaker. In fact, the agency said it found nothing in its safety studies that would preclude issuing the permit.

The NJ DEP will be hard pressed, evaluating its decision on a water quality permit for the Salem reactors to say there is a fish problem. It is pretty clear that any permit issued by DEP will not require cooling towers. Both DEP and PSEG expect green groups to turn to the courts to pursue their agenda.

Maybe the green groups haven’t gotten the message yet, or maybe they don’t want to acknowledge it. What really matters is that underneath their concerns about fish, what the greens really want to do is to close the reactors. That’s some fish story.

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