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Watchdogs warn that Gulf oil spill could threaten reactor safety

Nuclear watchdog groups are raising concerns about the safe operation of coastal nuclear power plants threatened by the BP oil spill. In a letter to several U.S. government agencies the groups – Beyond Nuclear, Three Mile Island Alert and The Unplug Salem Campaign – warn that if surface or submerged oil-contaminated water were to infiltrate reactor water intake systems, serious damage to safety systems could result.

The Crystal River Nuclear Power Plant on the Florida Gulf Coast and Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station, on the Atlantic Florida coast, are potentially the most imminently threatened.

In a letter to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the US Coast Guard, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of Homeland Security, the watchdog groups call for an across-the-board and transparent analysis of all critical actions which will be necessary to prevent damage to coastal reactors posed by the threat of contaminated water. The letter asks for assurances that comprehensive guidance from federal agencies is being provided to reactor licensees. It also calls for the constant monitoring of the oil plumes.

"BP is disputing that underwater oil plumes are spreading throughout the Gulf region," said Paul Gunter, Director of the Reactor Oversight Project for the Takoma Park, MD based organization Beyond Nuclear. "It is vital that an NRC safety analysis be made public before coastal reactors take in billions of gallons of oil-contaminated water."

Read the press release and letter here.