Nuclear Engineer: NJ’s Oyster Creek plant was two classification levels from a Fukushima event — People had to be brought in during Sandy to take command of emergency center… That actually happened (AUDIO)

Published: November 3rd, 2012 at 12:08 am ET


Interview with Nuclear Engineer Chris Harris
Nutrimedical Report
Nov. 1, 2012

Chris Harris, former licensed Senior Reactor Operator and engineer: [New Jersey’s Oyster Creek nuclear plant] lost power and had to declare the alert, that’s a high one. The next two steps would be a site area emergency and then a general emergency, that’s a Fukushima event. So they had two to go.

What that means is, it means you staff up your emergency centers. People had to be brought in during a hurricane to take command of the emergency centers.

I just wanted you to realize what this means, people had to be put in harm’s way and in danger getting to a site, a facility where they could take command.

And that actually happened. Could you imagine if they couldn’t make it there and people didn’t realize who was in the chain of command, who was in really control? A lot of confusion can happen about that.

Full broadcast here

Published: November 3rd, 2012 at 12:08 am ET


Related Posts

  1. Newspaper: “Disturbing risks” have emerged at NJ’s Oyster Creek nuke plant after Sandy — Reactor may be decommissioned early November 16, 2012
  2. NRC: Spent fuel pool cooling lost at NJ’s Oyster Creek nuclear plant during Hurricane Sandy November 2, 2012
  3. Gundersen: Cracks found in reactor at NJ’s Oyster Creek nuclear plant (AUDIO) November 12, 2012
  4. Sandy “appears to have shifted” islands near NJ’s Oyster Creek nuclear plant — Surge smashed through homes close by — Feds begin special inspection at facility November 13, 2012
  5. Now 5 Nuke Plants with Problems from Sandy: New Jersey’s Salem reactor shuts down as water pumps “not available” — Trouble with both units at New York’s 9 Mile Point — Also Oyster Creek, Indian Point, Limerick October 30, 2012

33 comments to Nuclear Engineer: NJ’s Oyster Creek plant was two classification levels from a Fukushima event — People had to be brought in during Sandy to take command of emergency center… That actually happened (AUDIO)

  • weeman

    Don't worry we where two steps from analization, everything is under control, nothing to be concerned about go back to your mediocre life and be happy you have power for your IPad that what matters isn't it.
    Sad but true, I've tried to bring this to light you have did the same and the response is sad,
    let them eat pletunium

  • AGreenRoad AGreenRoad

    Salem I New Jersey Nuclear Plant Loses Primary Plus Backup Cooling System; via A Green Road

    • Radio VicFromOregon

      AGreenRoad, thank you always from creating your website with so much vital information and sharing it with the world. There is so much there i can't even begin to read it all, but, it is so well organized that i can alway find something i need or want to learn more about. The true librarian of the bunch are you.

    • NoPrevarication NoPrevarication


      The link below will take you to a Report by Robert Alvarez in May of 2011 called "Spent Nuclear Fuel Pools in the U.S.; Reducing the Deadly Risks of Storage." (published about three months after the Fukushima events). Click on the link, then click on the upper right where it says "Download Spent Nuclear Fuel Pools in the U.S.

      Concerning the recent events at Salem nuclear power plant, you will find on p. 26, that this particular nuclear power plant carries 1,659 metric tons of spent fuel. It has two boiling water reactors (BWR). It has 7,154 total assemblies. Mr. Alvarez states that only 25% of spent fuel in the U.S. is stored in dry casks. He also states that most of the spent fuel pools in BWRs are housed om reactor buildings several stories above ground.

      There are many more horrifying facts in this 31 page document. I urge everyone to read it carefully. You will never feel the same about nuclear power plants again. Once read, you will understand why we MUST decommission all NPPs in the U.S. immediately and put the fuel in dry cask storage.

  • AGreenRoad AGreenRoad

    Just wait until it is a TV and radio show! Anyone interested?

  • Still no current Oyster Creek photos of any flooding.

    NONE that I can find. Zero!

    I wonder why that is? I've seen pictures of flooded subways, streets, houses, and blown electrical transformers but no nuclear facilities.

    Just 'how high' was the water at Oyster Creek?

    I guess a photo is like a thousand words, …and they aren't saying anything.

    • enoughalready45 enoughalready45

      @ChasAha re: Pictures of Oyster Creek

      Remember when the Nebraska nuclear facility, Ft. Calhoun, flooded in 2011 after the Fukushima incident. The government banned flyovers of helicopters because they didn't want aerial pictures going out showing the site surrounded by water. There was no real reason to ban flyovers for safety reasons. That was last year and under the same government administration so I think the same thing is happening here. Would be interesting if the government banned flyovers of the Oyster Creek facility.

  • kalidances

    @ChasAha there are very solid reasons for no photos I think:

    "…At 41-year-old Oyster Creek in Lacey Township, the country’s oldest operating reactor, the latest tritium troubles started in April 2009, a week after it was relicensed for 20 more years. That’s when plant workers discovered tritium by chance in about 3,000 gallons of water that had leaked into a concrete vault housing electrical lines.

    Since then, workers have found leaking tritium three more times at concentrations up to 10.8 million picocuries per liter — 540 times the EPA’s drinking water limit — the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection said. None has been directly measured in drinking water, but it has been found in an aquifer and in a canal discharging into nearby Barnegat Bay, a popular spot for swimming, boating and fishing.

    Exelon’s piping problems

    To Oyster Creek owner Exelon — the country’s biggest nuclear operator, with 17 units — piping problems are just a fact of life. At a meeting with regulators in 2009, representatives of Exelon acknowledged that “100 percent verification of piping integrity is not practical,” a copy of its presentation said.

    Of course, the company could dig up the pipes and check them out. But that would be costly."

    • PavewayIII PavewayIII

      Exelon's business strategy with nuclear reactors: Snap 'em up cheap and run 'em into the ground until the license expires. Then get them re-licensed for another twenty years. Its a real cash cow – the damn things practically run themselves! Toss in some MOX and you're practically printing your own money. Hell, you can even raise rates whenever you want. Blame it on expensive government regulations when the PUCs start whining. Bonus: you don't NEED insurance – the taxpayers got your back.

  • timemachine2020 timemachine2020

    Hi all. I was monotoring the radiation network during Sandy quite frequently to monitor the east coast plants after the news of Oyster creek, 9 mile, and sandy point. Watched readings fluctuate all the way into the 90s but never reach over 100. They have come down somewhat since. While I was monotoring these I couldn't help but notice that in north central oklahoma there was a reading that kept getting higher and higher. I found this interesting because there are no nuke plants there that I know of. The readings over a three day period kept climbing until it got into the 90s. While it was climbing into the 90s suddenly it completely disappeared. Any ideas on what that was? But what really got my attention at 4:45 am central time a huge reading in oregon far west central part I saw a reading pop up of 3796 with double circles around it. Needless to say I freaked at bit on that one. It stayed there for three refresh cycles and then jumped to an astounding 4658. That really gt my attention. After 2 refreshes it disappeared completely and has not returned. I started checking youtube and sure enough there was a new video of the smaller reading but nothing on the bigger one. Any ideas on what that was or if mabey it was false? Seemed wierd to see both for about 5 minutes and then poof they were gone. Think site is hacked mabey by sam to kill big reads??? LMK please. TY

  • timemachine2020 timemachine2020

    BTY Those high readings were on 11/2/2012 @ 4:45 am central

  • timemachine2020 timemachine2020

    I have pictures of those readings for what its worth

  • guezilla

    Meh, this is getting tiresome, but I'll still call this nonsense. The NRC action levels are "Notification", "Alert", "Site Emergency" and "General Emergency" triggered by pre-determined site-specific thresholds. In this case it was flood levels reaching a specific level deemed to require closer monitoring of water levels. The NRC action levels are not a valid indication of actual risk let alone actual accidents; and by this same language a janitor stubbing their toe is "ONLY 4 classifications from Fukushima event".
    A declaration of alert-level is considered non-emergency, a possible precursor to emergency, which only requires putting key emergency people on standby (ie. notifying them they may be needed). If Oyster Creek actually DID staff emergency centers, all the more power to them; these are not people who would be dragging people out of burning buildings in the towns anyway, but nuclear specialists and managers whose duty and expertise it actually is.
    Of course, the NRC action levels are not applied correctly as evidenced by Salem 1, where reactor scram without main feedwater available, compromise of secondary coolant loop and apparent inability to reach cold-shutdown as evidenced by operating-level heat & pressure 5 hours after scram should have triggered at least Site Emergency response, but they declared non-emergency instead. So all this is assuming Oyster Creek isn't forgetting to declare something, such as prolonged loss of reactor decay heat removal.

    • enoughalready45 enoughalready45

      At issue is the nuclear industry and the media's reluctance to report problems at nuclear facilities. We have heard about every other incident and scene pictures of initial, ongoing and potential (gas leaks) hazards related to the hurricane but the lack of information going out to the public about the nuclear facilies appear to have been sensored.

      The government agencies, nuclear industry and media can try and playdown the seriousness of the incidents now after the fact. Statements like "a possible precursor to emergency, which only requires putting key emergency people on standby". Is like saying "a storm is predicted, which only requires police, fire, hospital, emergency management and government command centers to be stationed on the ready." When the public hears something like that they understand the "real" potential for a problem exists. This is what happened at the nuclear facilies and should not be downplayed just because now after the fact they got lucky and higher level incident didn't happen.

      The public should have known what was going on when it was happening and if people don't make a big deal about this we won't know the next time either. Call you Congressmen and Women and let them know you are not happy about this lack of timely transparency.

      • guezilla

        I beg to differ, at issue *here* is that Oyster Creek merely notified authorities that "IFF the water level keeps rising AND the reactor wasn't in cold shutdown, then we MIGHT lose some of main feedwater and have an emergency."

        The water level didn't keep rising, and the reactor was in cold shutdown, the SPF could have been cooled with on-site water with days to spare. This is the process working as it is supposed to, and as it should, even proving they're overly cautious and the nuclear industry can actually point to this as success and proof things are working.

        The anti-nuclear movement (which I consider myself a part) is reacting and commenting as if everything that possibly could go wrong went wrong, and then some, and half of US is now radioactive wasteland (cf. "Fukushima event", "show us the pictures" etc.). ANYBODY can plainly see this is not happening, which is why the nuclear lobby is having a laugh and the pro-nuclear publications a field day. If the intention is to end nuclear by exaggerations and outright lies you're well on the way, but got ways to go as the regulators and decision makers actually DO understand these issues.

        (Have to continue in next post…)

      • guezilla


        The irony of the situation, of course, is that exactly what was unneccessarily alerted about at OC *actually* happened at Salem 1, and then some. ALL condenser circulators were lost either before or during reactor scram from 100% with unspecified other damage, yet we didn't hear as much as an alert before or after the fact.

        So keep on ignoring the actual risks and accidents, while making noise about non-events and imaginary bogeys; the nuclear industry will be thanking, as they do have enough real issues to hide.

        • NoNukes NoNukes

          guezilla: "The anti-nuclear movement (which I consider myself a part) is reacting and commenting as if everything that possibly could go wrong went wrong, and then some, and half of US is now radioactive wasteland (cf. "Fukushima event", "show us the pictures" etc.)." NoNukes: This is a fallacy, a false characterization of the "anti-nuclear movement" that you keep repeating. I read widely in the anti-nuclear movement, and haven't read anything like "half the US is now radioactive wasteland." The repetition of this "Straw Man," this misrepresentation of the anti-nuclear movement, suggests that you are no part of it. "strawman
          You misrepresented someone's argument to make it easier to attack.
          By exaggerating, misrepresenting, or just completely fabricating someone's argument, it's much easier to present your own position as being reasonable or valid. This kind of dishonesty not only undermines rational discourse, it also harms one's own position because it brings your credibility into question – if you're willing to misrepresent your opponent's argument in the negative, might you also be willing to exaggerate your own in the positive?

          • guezilla

            It would seem you haven't been reading even these forums if you haven't read "anything like". I will refrain from bringing up (any more) specific examples as I've been already told off for such, but the examples are there for all to see.

            In fact you haven't even been reading my post, as I clearly said "reacting and commenting as if", not that I was making a literal quote or even a generally held belief while YOU in turn build the strawman that I misrepresented someone's argument.

            And while I do not consider "being part of the anti-nuclear movement" to be a badge of honor to brandish around, if you really are an arbitrator of who gets to belong it or not, then I guess I can only bow my head to your superior judgement on the issue.

            On the other hand it seems we're in agreement about the big lines of the actual issue, just differ in focus. The almost cyclopsian focus on Oyster Creek SFP when there are other glaring issues from Salem 1 and Oyster Creek just in connection to the hurricane boggles the mind.

            According to the notifications to NRC, the SFP cooling couldn't have been off for more than a hour while it would take several days of no attention to develop into a problem. Yet they've admitted to loss of shutdown cooling. According to for example loss of shutdown cooling carries higher risk of core meltdown than at full power, and damage may begin in significantly under hour.

            • NoNukes NoNukes

              guezilla, The difference is that I quoted your exact words, and you haven't quoted anyone. I said that I haven't read anything "like" (not "literally," but the equivalent to your "as if") the "anti-nuclear movement" saying that half , "half the US is now radioactive wasteland." I haven't read anything like that, especially not in the movement as a whole. Quotes are always helpful, and especially necessary if you are going to continue to accuse an entire movement of over-reacting. Salem is important, and so is Oyster Creek, and Indian Point, Nine Mile Point, etc., etc. We don't know the truth about any of them.

          • guezilla

            I might have to (re-)start my own blog, the post length limit here is good for trying to keep discussions to the point and trains brevity, BUT it hurts accuracy as I do have to takes various shortcuts from characterizing opinions to leaving out references or other important notes.

            The reference in my last post (cnra-r2006-4) deals mostly with PWR's, as Oyster Creek is GE Mark I BWR, it is not completely relevant for OC's loss of shutdown cooling. However, for a non-nuclear-professionally it's fairly hard to get access to stuff that is exactly relevant.

   : "We note that risk during Low-Power and Shutdown operations has been estimated to be comparable to that of full power operations". -Nuclear Regulator Commission

            The aforementioned reference: "Lanore, in [6], observed that, for reactors in France, the risk of core melt when the reactor is in a shutdown conditions is significant, and even higher than during full power, for particular plant configurations."

            As such, a nuclear power plant being in so-called "shutdown" condition is NO reason to relax guard and dismiss the possibility of core damage or even meltdown.

            From the same document, "For many of these instances the time for the primary coolant to reach saturation
            temperature, for a loss of shutdown cooling, was less than 30 minutes." This is somewhat PWR specific, but working "worst case estimate".

        • NoPrevarication NoPrevarication


          Thanks for your comment. This is exactly what we should be focusing on and getting the truth about. It is Salem first but also Oyster Point. And apparently there were six reactors in trouble, not two. I feel confident we will never be given the truth.

  • enoughalready45 enoughalready45

    Sorry about the typos, forgot to check before posting.
    You get the jist of it.

  • jackassrig

    "“100 percent verification of piping integrity is not practical,” a copy of its presentation said."

    Well the nuc industry can develop their version of a smart pig. The majors use smart pigs to survey every square inch of the interior of a pipeline, flowline, etc. Smart pigs can find erosion thinning and corrosion thinning. The nucs just do not want to spend the money. The technology is there, they just don't want to spend the money.

  • jackassrig

    These guys squeak when they walk.

  • dosdos dosdos

    If you are thinking of voting for Romney:

    'Romney has said he would simplify the current lengthy Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing process to fast track the approval of new reactors with approved design or near-existing facilities, thereby allowing projects to be completed in under two years. “By instating shorter approval times and addressing other nuclear power industry problems, Romney’s plans are expected to lead to a more rapid expansion for this industry than is projected under Obama’s policies,” (IBISWorld)'

    • NoPrevarication NoPrevarication


      And Jill Stein's promises are even better. She is totally opposed to nuclear power (see the Green Party platform). No more nukes. Nada. Zilch.

  • patb2009

    lets look at TMI

    When they had fuel damage they went to a site emergency and when they realized it was leaking they went to a general emergency

    the way i figure it was they wer eone failure away from a loss of control crisis.

  • Sickputer

    Fukushima Daiichi has contaminated Japan for centuries and the radiation continues to leak. The 100 plants in America are all potential disasters on the same scale. The sheer momentum of money and government control is keeping the industry staggering along like a herd of terminally ill skid row winos. The difference being when a wino dies he doesn't take down an entire country.

    Scattershooting: I agree that Big Brother controls bad news of nuclear plants, particularly a week before an important election. Will the storm disruption help one candidate? Possibly. But which one? The creaky old Electoral College process makes candidates pursue 5-10 key states. A popular vote process would put a kink in those strategies.

  • GlowInTheDark GlowInTheDark

    BREAKING! The time has come!? This could be the beginning.
    The Martial Law is in effect and forcibly removing people in NJ.