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Residents Question Geologic Fault at Nuke Plant

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Wednesday addressed safety concerns from local residents.

A 1974 geologic report was the subject of much discussion during a meeting in Limerick Township on Wednesday. 

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission hosted the meeting to discuss with the public an annual safety performance assessment of Exelon's Limerick nuclear power plant.

There was no agenda for the event, which included workers from the NRC and Exelon.

Members of The Alliance For A Clean Environment brought copies of the nearly 40-year-old report, produced by Dames and Moore for the Philadelphia Electric Company, and a geologic map that shows several faults near the Limerick plant. 

ACE -- a non-profit founded in the late 1980's that disbanded, rejuvenated in 1995 and has roughly 1,000 members -- works to protect the environment and address public health issues in Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties.

"There are some faults that are in the vicinity of the plant," said Andrew Rosebrook, NRC senior project engineer. The Ramapo Fault is about 17 miles from Limerick and the Chalfont Fault is nearly nine miles from the nuclear plant, he said adding that a fault is basically a weak spot in the ground.

"These faults are extremely old," Rosebrook said and added it's "pretty unlikely" the faults would become active. 

The plant was designed with layers of safety features to withstand an earthquake measuring about six on the Richter scale, he said. 

However, plant safetly operations don't always work as planned, which was the case during a recent .

"You can't make everything totally fail proof," he said.

Rosebrook said he and his family live about five miles from the Limerick plant.

"I feel nuclear power is a very safe industry especially compared to other methods," he said. Plant operators, local fire and police departments practice to handle emergencies at the plant, he said.

"We force them to practice safety," he said.

The nuclear power industry learned a lot from disasters at plants in Chernobyl and Fukushima, Rosebrook said.

"It is our job to make sure they are operating the plant safely," he said.

Dana Melia, communications manager for Exelon's Limerick Generating Station, said roughly 860 employees are on site at the Limerick plant at any given time.

"Every task that we do is focused around safe operations of that system," she said.

Steve Aaron, a member of the PA Energy Alliance, funded by Exelon, was at the event to promote nuclear energy. 

Aaron worked as communications director under Tom Ridge, governor of Pennsylvania from 1995–2001, and Mark Schweiker when Ridge resigned to become Homeland Security advisor under President George W. Bush.

"I got to witness sort of firsthand the professionalism of the industry," Aaron said of the nuclear power field's response to security threats during the events of Sept. 11, 2001. "I was very impressed."

Aaron said roughly 80 percent of 800 residents polled across the state in June, 2012 support nuclear energy. 

"The numbers remain very strong," he said. 

Nuclear power plants also create blue and white collar jobs, he said.

Betty Shank of Lower Pottsgrove Township said she'd rather see Exelon put their employees to work for other energy sources.

Shank and her husband Charlie lived near the Limerick site before the nuclear power plant was built roughly 30 years ago. At that time, she borrowed books -- from a book mobile that stopped at the Limerick Diner -- to learn more about the production of nuclear energy.

"Nothing that I read comforted me," she said. "I didn't want it here."

And the more she learned over the years, the more concerned she became.

The plumes that spew from the plant towers are toxic, she said.

"It's not just steam," she said. "It's loads of chemicals."

Shank hopes Exelon's license will not be renewed. Nuclear energy plants in the U.S. are licensed to operate for 40 years. Limerick Unit 1’s original license continues through Oct. 26, 2024 and Unit 2’s license continues through June 22, 2029. With license renewal, Unit 1 and Unit 2 would be permitted to operate until 2044 and 2049.

Shank said she'd prefer the company find a different way to produce energy.

"They could build ... maybe a solar park, keep people working and make it safer," she said. "The nuclear waste dump would stop growing ... The NRC and Exelon could still be heroes."

Stephen Eickhoff April 19, 2012 at 08:22 PM
Mrs. Shank might want to get her information from newer and hopefully more accurate sources. The emissions from cooling towers are only water vapor and whatever was in the water. If anything harmful is found in the emissions, it's because the water was contaminated to begin with. And considering that it's in the best interest of Exelon to filter that water-- because chemicals will damage the equipment, and acid will break down the concrete-- I highly doubt the cloud is "toxic".
Lorraine Ruppe April 24, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Mr. Eickhoff, I learned that air pollutants from Limerick include radiation, PM-10 (Montgomery County is among the highest for PM-10 emissions in the nation, no wonder),VOCs, NOx, SO2, Arsenic, Cadmium, Chromium, Lead, PCBs, Halogens. Toxic chemicals are added everyday to Limerick cooling towers, from 32 sources -2 cooling towers, 3 Boilers, 8 Generators, 8 Diesel oil tanks, 8 day tanks, emergency spray pond, degreasing unit and waste oil sources.There is NO filtration from any of these sources! According to Limerick's NPDES permit renewal between 94,293 to 192,614 pounds of chemicals per DAY are used. Some examples of these toxic additives from Limerick's MSDS sheet include sulfuric acid, chlorine, phosphoric acid, zinc oxide, sodium hydroxide,etc. So how can the "cloud" possibly be non-toxic?
Stephen Eickhoff April 25, 2012 at 01:38 AM
Janitors in schools use many potentially harmful chemicals. Should schools stop using cleaning products just in case they get out? Just because chemicals are used in a facility does not mean they are a threat. Otherwise, we would have to ban wind generators and solar panels because of the lead and acid in the batteries... and solar panels because of the cocktail of chemicals used to build them. They're safe while they're intact... but that's the point right? When they are compromised-- or disposed at the end of their life-- they expose us to polyvinyl fluoride, nitrogen trifluoride, arsenic, cadmium telluride, hexafluoroethane, and lead. I also recommend that you obtain your info from more than one source, which offers its numbers without attribution. Most of those chemicals you mention come from just the diesel fuel used to run auxiliary systems. Particulate filters and catalysts have long been available for diesel engines so, if Limerick lacks those, perhaps we should lobby them to implement them rather than trying to shut them down. I used to work for a major manufacturer of catalysts, so I believe I have a sufficient level of knowledge to speak on the subject. So you've pointed out that diesel engines are dirty! Make sure you tell everyone with a Jetta TDI they're killing the earth! Then cover your ears when people tell you that most green technology needs either deadly lead-acid batteries or reservoirs of chlorine-laden water to provide base load!
Lorraine Ruppe April 25, 2012 at 03:22 AM
In answer to your first question, yes schools should stop using toxic cleaning products around the children, and of course teachers. These products can cause headaches, allergic reactions and many more adverse health effects when exposed to day after day. Organic cleaning products are commonly available, and parents should insist on these. So many people have chemical sensitivities and are suffering severely, from being forced to breathe and touch these toxic ingredients in everyday living. . As far as Limerick is concerned, all I need to know is that Limerick Nuclear Plant is a MAJOR air polluter. Facts compiled from Limerick Nuclear Plant's own Title V Pollution Permit is where I got my information. Why should or would I obtain information from another source? What source would that be?
Stephen Eickhoff April 26, 2012 at 03:10 AM
That would be a source other than acereport.org, which is the first hit on Google for "limerick title v permit" and doesn't list the source for any of its other information. Acereport.org is not a primary source. That being said, Limerick does have a title V permit and I pointed out that this is due to the use of FOUR diesel generators for backup systems. You know, those things that allow for a safe shutdown in the event of a Fukushima-size event. My source is the Exelon press release from March. http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20120310/NEWS01/120319924/exelon-outlines-post-fukushima-safety-measures-at-limerick-nuke-plant You don't even know what an organic cleaning product is! As if a cleaning product made of natural ingredients can't cause allergies! It is a logical fallacy to assume that something is superior because it is "natural" or "organic".

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