A task force set up to examine emergency plans at New Jersey's four nuclear reactors in the aftermath of the Japanese nuclear disaster wants more pumps at the plants, and is seeking to ensure that emergency generators at three plants in Salem County are interconnected enough to function in a disaster.
The state's Nuclear Review Task Force was formed in late March, shortly after the disaster at a Japanese nuclear power plant brought on by an earthquake and tsunami that knocked out power to critical cooling systems.
"We confirmed that we already have excellent safety features at our nuclear power plants and a top-notch emergency preparedness and response system in place in New Jersey, one that is continuously the focus of practice and improvement," said Bob Martin, the state's environmental protection commissioner. "But we had an obligation to examine the science and facts of the tragedy in Japan to see if there were early lessons learned to help make our preparedness and response plan even better. We understand you can never be too prepared, never be too comfortable in thinking you have all of the answers."
The report also found no reason to increase a 10-mile emergency planning zone beyond the four plants: Oyster Creek in Lacey Township, and Salem I and II and Hope Creek in Lower Alloways Creek Township.
The task force examined emergency response arrangements; conducted technical reviews of plant operations; and examined evacuation plans, emergency communications to the public and the chain of command and control at each of the state's nuclear facilities.
The task force asked the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to evaluate the interconnections of generators at all three nuclear plants on Artificial Island in Lower Alloways Creek, and recommended working with the plants' owners, Exelon and PSEG Nuclear, to develop procedures to quickly move essential equipment to deal with potential emergencies.
It called for increasing the number of emergency diesel pumps at nuclear plants to handle cooling for all damaged systems; it did not specify how many pumps are already at each plant. It also recommended adding video monitors to view the spent fuel pool level from multiple locations; creating regional agreements between nuclear plant operators to provide access to pumps and generators, and pressing federal authorities to come up with a permanent national depository for spent nuclear fuel.
The report also recommended ensuring that battery backup is installed in a timely manner for the emergency siren network surrounding Oyster Creek.
The task force plans to issue its final response in the fall. Until then, the utilities and the NRC will be invited to comment on the preliminary recommendations.
PSEG Nuclear will review the task force's recommendations and determine what can be implemented, a spokesman said. A message seeking comment was left for Exelon.
Associated Press writer Samantha Henry in Newark contributed to this report.