Green Delaware Action Alert #85

 Salem--The Atomic Vacuum Cleaner:
        Cooling water intakes devastate the Delaware

        Public hearings Jan 23, 25, on permit for Salem Nukes

Port Penn, DE.  January 21, 2001.  People traveling in Delaware see a giant cooling tower and three nuclear reactor domes on the East side of the Delaware River in Salem County, New Jersey.  The reactors, Salem I, Salem II, and Hope Creek, each generate–when running, which  they often aren’t--about 1000 megawatts of electricity.  But this nuclear complex–collectively known as “Salem,” has long been criticized as one of  the most troubled and unsafe in the world.  The cooling tower serves only the Hope Creek reactor.  The Salem I and II reactors have obsolete “once through (open circuit)” cooling systems, taking up to three billion gallons of water per day from the river.  The water cools the power plants and returns to the river.  Billions of fish and larva are killed, devastating marine life in one of the most ecologically important estuaries in the world. Regulators generally don’t consider the cumulative effects of the multiple once-through cooling systems along the river.  Others include Conectiv’s Edge Moor Power Plant (mostly coal fired), and Motiva oil refinery.  Cooling towers recirculate water, taking only enough from the river to make up for evaporation--about one-tenth as much as once-through systems.

       The US Clean Water Act calls for the “best technology available” to reduce harm to water bodies, such as that caused by Salem.  At one time the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection–which issues permits to Salem under authority from the Federal EPA–proposed to require cooling towers to be built for Salem I and II.  The owners of the plant, Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G), used their political clout to escape the law.  (PSE&G is the largest political contributor in the State of New Jersey, and was a “Bronze Sponsor” of the Inauguration of Del.  Gov.  Ruth Ann Minner.)  Instead of cooling towers PSE&G began an “Estuary Enhancement Program” of (1) converting salt hay farms back into tidal wetlands by breaching centuries-old dikes, (2) trying to kill off Phragmites, a common but invasive marsh grass, and grow Spartina, another marsh grass, in it’s place, and (3) paying for projects such as dam repairs and tide gates in Delaware.  PSE&G claims these measures increase the “productivity” of coastal wetlands in nurturing fish, offsetting the harm done by the open cooling systems more cheaply than cooling towers.

       The Unplug Salem coalition of about 90 groups–Green Delaware is one–wants Salem to either shut down or install cooling towers.  Unplug doesn’t like the Estuary Enhancement Program because (1) there’s little evidence that it works, (2) about 25000 pounds of dangerous weed killers have been sprayed on the marshes, with more to come, but the “Phrag” just keeps on growing, and (3) the money flowing from PSE&G to armies of consultants and public 
agencies corrupts the regulatory process.   PSE&G also works with regulators to set up stooge “environmental” orgs such as the “Partnership for the Delaware Estuary.”

        The Salem permit is up for renewal and New Jersey again isn’t requiring cooling towers.  The “advisory committee” for the permit drafting included the PSE&G-influenced “Partnership for the Delaware Estuary,” which has given PSE&G an award.   (Delaware regulators gave this “Partnership with the Polluters” free office space while harassing Green Delaware with demands for our membership list.  See GreenDel News #29 for details.)   No independent environmental advocates were included.   Delaware officials, the EPA, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and many advocacy groups are unsatisfied with the proposed permit.

        Delaware, of course, is impacted as much or more than New Jersey by Salem.  In 1994–the last time around--the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) raised objections to the Salem permit but then signed a “settlement” under which PSE&G spent about ten million dollars on projects in Delaware.  Some saw this as a sellout, others as making the best of a bad situation.  This time around, DNREC commissioned a study of fish losses and intends to raise some objections to the draft permit.  It remains to be seen whether Delaware officials will demand cooling towers, or whether there will be another “settlement.”  Will the Minner administration show more gumption than former did Gov. 
Carper?  Green Delaware has no doubt that Delaware Fish and Wildlife professionals understand how Salem and the other cooling systems are devastating the Delaware.

        Public hearings are scheduled for TUESDAY, JANUARY 23, 3pm to 5pm and again at 7pm to 10pm at the Pennsville Memorial High School Auditorium, 111 South Broadway, Pennsville, Salem County, NJ (just across the Del. Mem. Bridge from New Castle DE), and THURSDAY, JANUARY 25, 2pm to 5pm and 7pm to 10pm, at Cumberland Community College Auditorium, College Road, Vineland, Cumberland County, NJ.  No hearings are scheduled in Delaware.

        The record will remain open until February 28.  Comments can be sent to New Jersey (, DNREC (, and EPA ( Paper mail to Debra Hammond, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, P.O. Box 029, Trenton, NJ, 08625.  Be sure to identify your comments as such and ask for a response.  

OTHER ACTION: contact Gov.  Minner (, 302.739.4101).  Ask that Delaware demand cooling towers to protect our River.

        People who care about migratory birds, people who care about fishing and crabbing in the Delaware, people who want to see the Delaware Estuary return to it’s natural, healthy, productive state, all have a stake in cleaning up or shutting down the Salem nukes.  For more information see, http:/, and  The State of New Jersey’s positions can be found at http:/

Let us know what you think. 

Email us at

or contact
Alan J. Muller, Exec. Director
P.O. Box 69
Port Penn, DE 19731
302-834-3466 Voice
302-836-3005 FAX

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This page was last updated on January 28, 2001.