NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

September 19, 2013

Will the Seabrook plant be next?


Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

The recent decision to close the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant was characterized by Entergy, its owner, as “economic,” the result of an unfavorable energy marketplace. Vermont Yankee also suffered from serious, costly safety problems, which, undoubtedly, contributed to the plant’s demise as well. These safety problems have prompted vocal and persistent reaction from Vermont residents for many years. Vermonters remember, for instance, that in 2007 one of Vermont Yankee’s cooling towers collapsed. Subsequently, Vermont’s Department of Health reported traces of radioactive tritium in the Connecticut River (traced back to the plant), and found fish in the Connecticut River with detectable levels of strontium-90 in their bones and edible flesh. Vermont’s governor summed up the closure decision by stating, “This is the right decision for Vermont.”

The Seabrook nuclear plant faces the same “economic” challenges that supposedly closed Vermont Yankee. Likewise, Seabrook is dogged by serious, dangerous and ongoing safety problems.

Specifically:

In July 2013, Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) reported cracked steam generator tubes. This has been a recurring problem.

The Seabrook plant is plagued by degradation of the plant’s concrete foundation resulting from “alkali-silica reaction (ASR),” a condition that weakens concrete structures. Seabrook is the only U.S. plant hobbled by ASR, which has been characterized by the NRC as “moderate to severe” and which affects some key safety structures. Although the NRC has approved operation for the short term, the plant is conducting a long-term reliability study of the concrete. Obviously, this weakening could jeopardize public safety, especially if a severe earthquake were to occur (a 4.0 earthquake recently occurred about 20 miles from the plant).

A 2012 Stanford University study published in The Washington Post identified the Seabrook plant as one of the most vulnerable nuclear power plants in the United States to flooding due to rising sea levels and storm surges.

The Seabrook plant stores most of its spent fuel primarily in relatively unstable wet storage, while it could be using safer, more-stable dry cask storage.

The cost of fixing these massive safety problems specific to the Seabrook plant will be huge. Also, plant owners will incur additional costs to comply with new post-Fukushima fixes ordered by the NRC.

Will Seabrook be the next Vermont Yankee? Facing sizable safety challenges, the vocal concerns of numerous local, state and federal officials, and a less-lucrative energy marketplace, Seabrook owners and stockholders — as those at Vermont Yankee — will have to decide if it is worth the financial risk to continue operating the plant.

Perhaps, Seabrook’s owner and shareholders are willing to take the financial risk to continue operating Seabrook and will shut it down as soon as it no longer proves to be profitable. But, it is us —the residents surrounding this plant — who bear the greater risks: our lives, our businesses and our property are at stake.

Joanna Hammond

Amesbury

Bruce Skud

Newburyport

Co-founders, No More Fukushimas