Environmental, Community Groups Praise Closure of Oyster Creek Nuke
Environmental and grassroots organizations greeted Governor Christie’s announcement that Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station will close in nine years as a validation of their long fight to bring safety concerns to light.
“Getting Exelon to take Oyster Creek offline in nine years is validation that this plant should never have been relicensed for twenty years,” said Janet Tauro, of Grandmothers, Mothers, and More (GRAMMES), a grassroots organization that was part of the coalition that fought the relicensing. “All of the money that Exelon poured into attorneys, a public relations machine, and glitzy, misleading advertising campaigns could not change the unalterable fact that this plant was not designed to safely operate beyond its retirement date.”
Peggi Sturmfels, program organizer for New Jersey Environmental Federation (NJEF), the NJ Chapter of Clean Water Action, called the early shutdown “a win for the long term health of Barnegat Bay” and noted that cooling tower litigation and federal regulation would likely have taken longer with an uncertain result. “The Christie Administration’s leadership here with its emphasis on our call for a safety review board with penalty for inaction provides a model that should be replicated at all nuclear plants, whatever their age.”
The independent review board will ensure that Exelon does not ignore safety issues, and will be a watchdog for the public, which combined with an upcoming appeal of relicensing, the activists believe will lead to an earlier shutdown than Exelon acknowledged in a release last night.
“Exelon has correctly acknowledged that the plant could close even earlier than announced today,” said Richard Webster, Power-Cotchett Attorney at Public Justice. Public Justice is representing a coalition of five citizens and environmental groups in the appeal. The coalition alleges that the NRC did not correct known gaps in safety at the plant before relicensing, and that citizens were unlawfully prevented from raising critical safety issues related to aging at Oyster Creek, the country’s oldest nuclear plant with the second worst safety record.
Amy Goldsmith, state director of the NJ Environmental Federation, said that the planned closure opens up new avenues for the state to pursue green technology. “Today we are embarking on an organized phase out to green power,” said Goldsmith. “We now have more tools at our disposal to save the bay, and prevent future public and ecological harm from radiation, fishkills, and thermal pollution.”
She noted that even though the plant will shut down, a majority of the workforce will be employed through a decommissioning phase that could last a decade, and the security and management of the tons of accumulated radioactive nuclear waste will continue forever. “We will continue our work as advocates with the Administration and all stakeholders to restore the Bay, and ensure a just transition for workers.”
The coalition involved in the appeal of Oyster Creek’s relicensing include: The New Jersey Environmental Federation, NJ Chapter of Clean Water Action, Grandmothers, Mothers, and More For Energy Safety (GRAMMES), Sierra Club, Environment New Jersey, and Beyond Nuclear. The coalition’s original contention to fight the relicensing of Oyster Creek was handled by the Eastern Environmental Law Center.