Bruce Skud, Newburyport and Joanna Hammond, Amesbury
Co-founders, No More Fukushimas
In 2011, a tsunami destroyed Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant. It took two weeks to stabilize four nuclear reactors; more than 100,000 people were evacuated; and the economic loss is estimated to be as much as $500 billion. Today, radiation remains at dangerously high levels, preventing residents from returning home.
Fukushima occurred even though Japan has a regulatory agency modeled on the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Fukushima officials had claimed that the plant was absolutely safe. Seabrook's director of safety makes this same hollow claim.
We have a tsunami of reasons to believe that the Seabrook plant is unsafe. In 2012, the NRC announced that the plant's concrete foundation is "degraded" due to "alkali-silica reaction " (ASR), which results in micro-cracking. This occurs because the elements used in the plant's concrete are reacting with water, both the water in the salt marsh that surrounds the plant and rainwater. Micro-cracking has been identified in 150 Seabrook plant locations, including five NRC-designated "safety structures" — the reactor's containment building.
Further compromising safety, Seabrook is in an earthquake zone: a 4.0-level earthquake recently occurred only 50 miles away. Nevertheless, the plant has recklessly applied for a 20-year license extension.
Seabrook is the only US nuke plant to have been plagued by ASR, so the NRC and plant officials are in uncharted waters. The NRC acknowledges there is "no known way" to stop the progression of ASR or remedy what already exists.
The C-10 Foundation and the Union of Concerned Scientists found that the measurement of micro-cracks — the tool the NRC uses to assess the extent of degradation — is a wholly inadequate way to assess the concrete's long-term reliability. The NRC has inexplicably entrusted the plant owner to conduct the tests that the NRC will rely on to assess whether the plant should be relicensed. This is patently outrageous given the magnitude of the ASR problem, and NRC's unfamiliarity with ASR.
We all know that safe evacuation is not possible, considering this recent winter or summer traffic congestion. How can responders evacuate thousands of school children and nursing home residents? Evacuation is destined to be a catastrophe because only communities that lie within 10 miles of the plant are even required to have plans. When Fukushima blew, the US government recommended that American citizens in Japan move 50 miles away.
With our lives and livelihood at stake, the state of Massachusetts should advocate for the Seabrook plant's closure.
Aboul B. Khan, Selectman, Seabrook, N.H.
As a selectman of the town of Seabrook, a former member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, and a small business owner, I've had the opportunity to see firsthand the benefit of having NextEra Energy Seabrook producing safe, clean, reliable electricity right here in our own backyard.
The Seabrook Station is good for the economy, good for the environment, and good for the community. The plant is an irreplaceable asset and an economic engine for this region; generating a half billion dollars annually in local economic activity while supporting thousands of good-paying jobs in New Hampshire. The Seabrook Station generates more than half of New Hampshire's total electricity while avoiding the emissions of nearly 4 million tons of carbon dioxide annually — the equivalent of taking almost 700,000 cars off the road.
More near and dear to my heart, Seabrook Station is a good neighbor. The people who run the plant have consistently provided the support requested by the town in helping make Seabrook a safer and more pleasant place to live. The plant has supported numerous local infrastructure investment projects and community initiatives, including the Railroad Avenue and Rocks Road projects and building a shooting range on its property for training its security officers, while also making it available to other regional law enforcement agencies including Seabrook Police. The plant provided the support to rebuild the Brown's River Culvert to restore marine life in the surrounding estuary, and the plant actively supports environmental organizations such as the Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership.
To imagine life without the Seabrook Station, we can look at what's happening in Vermont. The premature closure of Vermont Yankee has had a drastic impact on the region. More than 1,100 jobs have been lost and $480 million in regional economic activity has disappeared along with the plant's 600 megawatts of safe, clean electricity.
Not only should the state of New Hampshire continue its support for Seabrook Station, but more needs to be done at the policy level to ensure nuclear energy remains an affordable, clean energy source for our state as well as our country. In addition, Seabrook's 20-year license extension should be granted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in a timely fashion.
Seabrook Station is an irreplaceable asset for our region and I am very happy to have the plant as my neighbor.
Globe correspondent Brenda Buote solicited opinions for this exchange. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.