Microsoft word - oyster creek talking points.doc
Oyster Creek Talking Points I urge the NJDEP to protect the Barnegat Bay by requiring Exelon Corporation, owner of Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Plant to use best available technology to control the plant’s environmental impacts by installing a closed loop cooling tower. This technology is a cost-effective way to stop extensive environmental damage caused by the power plant’s current “once-through” cooling method. The legislation is designed to protect the Barnegat Bay Estuary from large scale degradation caused by the plant. This is part of a series of actions needed to protect the Bay which is dying. Scientists who study the Bay say we must act quickly, with so much degradation of water quality and aquatic life in the Bay, the Bay could soon reach a point of no return when it can no longer be restored. Stop Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Plant From Damaging the Barnegat Bay Every day, the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station pulls up to 1.7 billion gallons of Barnegat Bay water into its antiquated “once-through” cooling system. The water is sucked up the Forked River to cool the plant and then discharged into Oyster Creek at as much as 110 degrees (much warmer than it entered) and depleted of living organisms. The effect of the plant’s use of the water is cumulative as ten times the entire volume of the Bay cycles through the plant every year. This is literally raising the year round over-all temperature of the Bay and straining the life out of the Bay, a valuable New Jersey natural treasure home to crabs, fish, birds, and other wildlife.
* Scientists estimate that the power plant kills billions of fish and aquatic organisms each year. Shellfish larvae, fish eggs, plankton (small animals and plants), and microorganisms of many kinds suffer high mortality as they are strained out of the water at the intake or as they are drawn into and moved through the cooling system where they are subject to heat shock, mechanical stress, and lethal levels of chlorine. The huge loss of life at the plant is reason enough to act on the problem, but it’s important to note that the problem goes well beyond the initial loss of life at the plant. The loss of life at the plant, much of which serves as the base of the food chain, has repercussions in the entire estuary, diminishing the health of fish and other aquatic species.
* Declining Fish Species Population. The National Marine Fisheries Service has stated that the cumulative impacts of thermal discharge and the intake and entrapment of aquatic life by the Oyster Creek plant have a direct negative impact on Essential Fish Habitat species (such as flounder) and their prey species.
* Persistent thermal pollution. The water in the Oyster Creek discharge canal is extremely warm – up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit – which alters the natural character of Oyster Creek and Barnegat Bay. With increased ambient water temperatures in the Bay, bacteria has thrived in the Bay, leading to unhealthy and excessive alga blooms. This has caused a problem for aquatic life as overgrown algae has depleted the dissolved oxygen levels in the Bay, something aquatic life need to thrive. As a result, much of the Bay is considered impaired by the NJDEP for its low levels of oxygen. Further, scientists believe the extreme artificial warmth caused by Oyster Creek is contributing to the prevalence of stinging sea nettle jellyfish, 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.
* 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 and their toxic byproducts are allowed to be released into Oyster Creek and Barnegat Bay at levels known to be lethal to striped bass, bunker, and other species important to commercial and recreational fishing.
Closed Loop Cooling Towers Can Solve the Problem The plant’s archaic “once through” cooling system can be replaced with a much lower volume “closed loop” system of cooling towers, a requirement of plants built today. This step would dramatically reduce the amount of cooling water used by the plant by up to 95% and decrease mortality of aquatic life in the Bay by at least 90%. A Closed Loop Cooling System – Small Price to Pay to End Environmental Damage Installation of a closed loop cooling system on the Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Plant would cost an estimated $50 to $300 million (not the inflated price circulated by Exelon and other industry lobbyists), which the company would amortize over ten years. The natural resources of Barnegat Bay create hundreds of millions of dollars of economic value annually. They are the foundation of the shore region’s economy. Every year, millions of dollars of damage to these public resources are created by the power plant. The loss of fish and other Bay wildlife, and the economic services provided by the Bay equal hundreds of millions of lost dollars over the operating life of Oyster Creek. Who pays that hefty price? The commercial fishermen who rely on the Bay, the businesses at the shore which depend on recreational fishing, local businesses which benefit from recreational boaters, and the state of New Jersey whose tax revenue diminishes when recreation and commercial use of the Bay are diminished. Who Should Pay the Price of a Closed Loop Cooling System? Simply put, the plant owner Exelon Corporation. Requiring cooling towers would have NO appreciable effect on electricity prices, which are set by natural gas plants in New Jersey. This means energy consumers in the state will pay no additional costs. All generating companies in New Jersey get the same price per kilowatt hour of energy produced, and that price is set by the power plants that are most expensive to run -- natural gas. And, because the Oyster Creek Power Plant provides base-load energy and not energy for moments of peak demand, these plants can not affect the market price of power. They are only price-takers in the market. Exelon Corporation Can Easily Afford A Closed Loop Cooling System The cost to Exelon to install a cooling tower on Oyster Creek would not be a burden on the company’s ability to operate its facilities nor would it cause the company to conclude that it makes financial sense to close the plant. Exelon has been the most profitable U.S. utility company each of the past two years. Its profits rose 8.1 percent this past quarter alone (more than $700 million, in one quarter). The company’s total earnings for the last quarter were $4.34 billion.
The Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Plant is very profitable, and will remain so, even with the added capital cost of upgrading the cooling system. In fact, the average annual profit of the nation’s 104 nuclear reactors in 2008 was one million dollars a day. In 2007, a firm of equity analysts reported to New Jersey environmental groups that the Oyster Creek plant earned Exelon $140 million in profits that year. In a July 31, 2006 media release (attached), Exelon claimed to be making around $25 per MW hour produced that year. Assuming plant capacity of 600 MW and a capacity factor of 90%, their gross profit that year was $118 million. In 2006, the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant which is similar in size to Oyster Creek earned Entergy $100 million in profits for that year alone. Based on this evidence, annual profits at the Oyster Creek Plant can be estimated at anywhere from $100 million to $200 million. One important thing to note is that Exelon bought Oyster Creek Nuclear Power plant for a song -- only $10M in 1999, greatly reducing Exelon’s overhead expenses to own and operate the plant and as a result, increasing its ability to profit from the plant. It’s safe to estimate that over the last ten years that Exelon has owned the plant, it has earned at least one billion in pure profit. Requiring Exelon to Upgrade the Plant Brings Jobs to New Jersey Installation of cooling towers would bring green jobs to New Jersey. Hundreds of skilled laborers and professionals would be needed to design and construct cooling towers, which takes at least a year to build.
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