Oyster Creek cooling system harms the Bay 5 Ways

The Oyster Creek nuclear reactor’s cooling system sucks through 1.4 billion gallons of Barnegat Bay water each day, greatly harming the bay.
This is 2.3% of the bay’s volume per day. Cooling towers can easily end this abuse. Even North Korea uses cooling towers.
Please contact Governor Corzine.

Save Barnegat Bay
906-B Grand Central Ave
Lavallette, NJ 08735

February 1, 2007

As printed in the Asbury Park Press and other papers:

Contact: 732-830-3600

Governor Corzine Must Use Clean Water Act to Protect Barnegat Bay

By William deCamp Jr.

Close to the heart of Barnegat Bay, nestled along its western shoreline, near marshes and waterfront homes, and crossing beneath Route 9, lies one of New Jersey’s strangest artifacts: the only river in the world that flows backward.

The rush of water landward up the Forked River has nothing to do with the lunar pull upon the tides. It is pulled rather by the force of greed through a channel of political expediency, and it is literally sucking the life out of Barnegat Bay.

Each and every day, the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station pulls 1.4 billion gallons of Barnegat Bay water into its “once-through” cooling system. The water is sucked up the Forked River and spat out – superheated and greatly depleted of living organisms – into Oyster Creek.

Many persons remain unaware of this carnage – and indeed unaware of the very presence of the oldest nuclear plant in America – on account of a single fact: while other energy producing plants use highly visible cooling towers to minimize the volume and environmental impact of their cooling systems, Oyster Creek does not.

This negligence results in at least five kinds of ecological damage to Barnegat Bay:

– Massive destruction of biomass. Shellfish larvae, fish eggs, plankton, and microorganisms of many kinds suffer high mortality as they are strained out of the water at the intake (“impingement”) or as they are superheated inside the plant (“entrainment”). Billions of fish and aquatic organisms are killed.

– Thermal pollution. The water in the Oyster Creek discharge canal is extremely warm – up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit – which alters the natural character of Barnegat Bay. A looming question is whether this extreme artificial warmth is contributing to the prevalence of stinging sea nettle jellyfish, Chrysaora quinquecirrha, currently one of the most severe environmental problems of Barnegat Bay.

– Destruction of endangered sea turtles. Critically endangered Kemps Ridley, Atlantic Green, and Loggerhead turtles are killed each year as they are attracted to the warm water and then sucked toward death on the cooling system intake. The number of Diamondback Terrapins lost is not known.

– Large fish kills occur in the winter when the plant temporarily shuts down for maintenance or mishap. Hundreds of fish attracted to the artificial warmth of Oyster Creek’s outflow suffer fatal shock from the sudden onset of cold water.

– Biocides such as chlorine are allowed to be released into Oyster Creek and Barnegat Bay at levels known to be lethal to striped bass, bunker, and other species.

All these problems have a simple, sane solution. The plant’s archaic “once through” cooling system can be replaced with a much lower volume “closed loop” system of cooling towers, a routine solution during the twentieth century and no less of a necessity in the twenty-first. This step would reduce mortality by 95%.

The most frustrating aspect of Oyster Creek’s elementary failure to protect the waters of Barnegat Bay is that installation of a closed loop cooling system is already required by the Clean Water Act.

Governor Corzine and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection are aware of this requirement, which was recently reaffirmed for another plant by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Yet Oyster Creek’s permit renewal under the Clean Water Act has been delayed by the state for years.

By withholding action Governor Corzine is placing the profits and convenience of utilities and unions before the public interest and the health of a vital natural resource. This neglect is committed for the sake of a nuclear reactor that creates only about 1% of the electricity on our regional grid.

If Governor Corzine cannot muster the minimal political courage to require a closed loop cooling system at this superannuated plant, what hope is there that he will protect us as the harrowing facts of Oyster Creek’s corroding nuclear containment continue to unfold?

By his inaction Governor Corzine is taking the easy path of leaving it to environmentalists to solve his political problem through legal appeals. If environmentalists get the courts to say “no”, then Corzine doesn’t have to take the heat from the utilities and the unions.

But courts sometimes err, and when they do the public and our natural resources suffer. Gubernatorial acquiescence rather than leadership risks a legacy of destruction and tragedy. What do we have a Governor for?

Interested citizens may remind Governor Corzine of the requirements of the Clean Water Act by:

Writing Governor Corzine at PO Box 001, Trenton, NJ 08625
Phoning Governor Corzine at 609-292-6000 or
Emailing from the Governor’s website: [topic: natural resources, clean water]

Tell Governor Corzine to enforce the Clean Water Act by requiring a closed loop cooling system at Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station. Barnegat Bay deserves no less. Let’s get the Forked River flowing seaward again.

William deCamp Jr. is Chairman of the Board of Directors of Save Barnegat Bay, www.savebarnegatbay.org.

* * * * * * * * * *

Even North Korea uses cooling towers.

Read Clean Ocean Action’s comments on Oyster Creek.

Learn More about how nuclear plant cooling systems harm marine life.

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