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Safety Problems at Salem and Hope Creek

Note: This is an excerpt from the letter submitted by UCS to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

June 9, 2004
Mr. A. Randolph Blough, Director - Division of Reactor Projects
United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission Region I
475 Allendale Road
King of Prussia, PA 19406-1415

SUBJECT: SAFETY CULTURE PROBLEMS AT THE SALEM AND HOPE CREEK GENERATING STATIONS

Dear Mr. Blough:

On May 21, 2004, PSEG Nuclear LLC (PSEG) provided the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) the results from three independent assessments recently conducted at the Salem and Hope Creek nuclear plant site: (1) Synergy in December 2003, (2) Utility Services Alliance (USA) in February 2004, and (3) Independent Assessment Team in May 2004.1 PSEG will discuss these results and their plans to address them with the NRC during a public meeting scheduled for June 16th. The purpose of this letter is to provide the NRC staff with our perspectives on the results and the steps necessary to protect the public.

The USA assessment results are most disturbing. USA applied a rating system to 90 characteristics they rolled up into 12 attributes. USA rated the characteristics as Exceptional, Strength, Competent, Needs Some Improvement, and Needs Much Improvement.

  • PSEG SCORED "LESS THAN COMPETENT" ON ALL 12 ATTRIBUTES.

  • PSEG SCORED "LESS THAN COMPETENT" ON 73 OF 90 CHARACTERISTICS.

Scoring "Less Than Competent" on 73 of 90 characteristics and all 12 attributes might be reasonably viewed as posing a tangible risk to public health and safety warranting the reactors to be shut down. But to the nuclear industry and the NRC, it's still good enough. In fact, even the worst possible score on every single one of the 90 characteristics would not, by itself, prompt the NRC to ask PSEG to shut down the reactors.

USA further determined the "Plant Physical Condition Reflects Tolerance for Mediocrity." Quoting an old cliché, "you get what you pay for." Salem and Hope Creek are not in good physical condition because PSEG didn't pay to properly maintain the site in good condition. They paid for, and got, mediocrity. And I'm not alone in this belief. The Independent Assessment Team identified the:

  • PERCEPTION THAT NUCLEAR IS NOT FIXING LONG STANDING EQUIPMENT ISSUES BECAUSE CORPORATE IS NOT PROVIDING THE FUNDS.

And then there's the Synergy assessment. Synergy concluded:

  • ORGANIZATION FAILS TO ESTABLISH TRUSTING RELATIONSHIPS.

In fact, one of the lowest ratings Synergy reported was the work force's "Confidence in Management." If the work force at Salem and Hope Creek lacks confidence in PSEG's management, why should Main Street or Wall Street or the Board of Directors or Capitol Hill or NRC or any one trust them?


1UCS acknowledges that PSEG voluntarily made these reports publicly available and commends the company for this initiative.

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