Superstorm Sandy raises even more concerns about the continued safe operation of the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station.

During the first public hearing of the Oyster Creek Safety Advisory Panel Monday night, set up by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the four-member panel heard concerns about evacuation, malfunctioning sirens, rising plant water levels and possible water-related electrical damage following the storm.

Jeff Tittel of the New Jersey Sierra Club called for an independent inspection of the facility to determine the condition of the facility following Superstorm Sandy. "I think that is a real concern, dry storage cast, electrical systems, backup systems."

In Ocean County, Ocean Township Committeeman Joe Lachawiec says the panel needs to address future storm surge and flooding events. He noted the increased frequency of 100 and 500 year floods and if the new FEMA Flood Maps, calling for elevating structures in certain flood zones, will be factored in when it comes to Oyster Creek. "What about the dry cast storage? That's probably right around sea level, maybe four feet about sea level. So, will that have to be raised about eight feet?"

Peg Sturmfels of the New Jersey Environmental Federation also raised concerns about the impact a hurricane, coupled with a radiological emergency, would have on public sheltering.

Janet Tauro of Grandmothers Mothers and More for Energy Safety (GRAMMYS) called on the panel to insure Oyster Creek doesn't languish at the Lacey Township site when it closes in 2019.

"We need the plant to be taken a part and the radioactive fuel in the fuel pool put into dry cast storage."

Committeeman Lachawiec also raised questions about forecasted amount of spent nuclear fuel rods that will be kept at the site, saying that it is more than what Oyster Creek is slated to use. He asked the panel if the Lacey facility would be taking in spent fuel rods from other nuclear sites?

NJDEP Commissioner Bob Martin says their role is to keep track of what's going on at Oyster Creek as they prepare to close in 2019, "and make sure we're reviewing what's going on at the plant, making sure their closure procedures are working and make sure that they're not cutting corners along the way here." Martin says the panel is not only taking comments from the public during Monday's public hearing but he says they're taking questions from the public as they are sent to them through calls, letters and e-mails. "We take those in, we review those ourselves, we discuss those with the NRC if we think they're credible. Issues that have to be addressed with the NRC we certainly bring it to them right away."

DEP Spokesman Larry Ragonese says the key mission o f the panel is to :

  • Review the facility's safety operations
  • Look at Decommissioning plans
  • Look at its compliance with rules and regulations
  • Make recommendations for any further improvements of what is being done in preparing for the plants closure

The panel is also charged with reviewing the plant's records and conducting independent inspections.

The public hearing was held at the Ocean County Administration Building in Toms River after being postponed November 5th because of Superstorm Sandy. Panel members are expected to come out with a report, that includes Monday's comments this Spring.