Limerick Relicensing Is A Big Mistake

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OP-ED: Limerick Re-Licensing Is A Big Mistake

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

We strongly object to NRC’s preparations for re-licensing Limerick Nuclear Plant (Mercury, Sept. 2, 2014) because public safety has been given a backseat to Exelon’s economic interests. This is especially worrisome because NRC has drastically weakened its own regulations to re-license Limerick, despite Limerick’s aging systems and equipment which are plagued by corrosion, thinning, pitting, fatigue, erosion, leaching, embrittlement and stress corrosion cracking. The list of opportunities for disaster is endless.

Exelon’s records show that some monitors have been out of service at Limerick for more than a year. Automated systems have failed, discovered only after accidents occur. Public statements by NRC and Exelon following such incidents have failed to provide timely, accurate disclosure to the public. The result is that impacted residents have received no more respect than the Schuylkill River which is being destroyed by Limerick operations and the air that it is being polluted for Exelon’s profits.

NRC and Exelon have gone through the motions required for re-licensing, but it’s all for show. The enormous risks that our region faces from Limerick’s ever-growing high-level radioactive waste storage threats have been ignored by NRC. The Continued Storage Rule does not stop the production of Limerick’s high-level radioactive waste which remains lethal, virtually forever.

Hollow evacuation plans, lack of meaningful regulation, perfunctory public inclusion, and NRC’s willful blindness to the consequences of our routine radiation exposure increase public risk. It’s a nightmare, affecting the health of our families and the environmental legacy we leave our children and grandchildren.

Back in the 1980s before Limerick construction was complete, a suit was filed when the public understood that Limerick operations would violate clean air standards and that design alternatives should have been considered. The suit was won in court, but successfully stalled until Limerick construction was complete. Back then, too many officials fell into the trap of weighing economic factors more heavily than public protection. Elsewhere, more enlightened thinking led to cancelled construction plans and closed plants.

We have learned that Limerick’s construction is substandard and that its reactors, fuel pools, control room, turbine building and radwaste storage building actually sit on top of open earthquake fault fractures, filled in with cement.

Exelon has made no secret of the fact that its first concerns are profits and investors. We have been reduced to pawns in a game of nuclear roulette. We get sick. Our drinking water supply is reduced and contaminated. Our air is polluted. And on top of that, we are forced to pay for Limerick’s business costs, as well as PECO/Exelon’s costly mistakes.

It would be the height of injustice for NRC to relicense Limerick Nuclear Plant and allow this corporate abuse to continue, when safer electric power has been proven to be viable and available.

The last step in relicensing depends on the decision of just one person, the director of the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation. We strongly urge that before making a final decision on relicensing Limerick, NRC’s director carefully evaluate Limerick’s unresolved and unfixable issues including:

  • Security concerns like terrorism and cyber attacks
  • Catastrophic earthquake risks due to Limerick’s substandard construction directly on top of fault fractures
  • Unprecedented water pollution and depletion of our vital drinking water supply
  • Lax fire standards
  • Lack of adequate water to deal with potential multiple meltdowns
  • The legal challenge by the National Resources Defense Council related to Limerick’s outdated SAMA.

Our politicians need to open their eyes and see that the safety of millions of people and our environmental future hang in the balance of Limerick relicensing. There is no need to live with so many risks when safer, cleaner, cheaper alternatives are viable, available, and could replace Limerick Nuclear Plant now. We urge all officials to call for the closure of Limerick to protect public interests.

— Betty and Charlie Shank


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