Salem I New Jersey Nuclear Plant Loses Primary Plus Backup Cooling System

Nuclear power stations such as the Salem 1 plant in New Jersey are generally built against the will and wishes of the people who live in the local community. 

In all cases, federal political pressure, federal approvals, federal level taxpayer money, loans, subsidies and grants are combined with the corporate welfare and bribery system to make a nuclear plant happen, despite the local community objecting to it. 

Building nuclear power plants close to major population centers is a crazy/insane idea. The best place to build these highly toxic, radiation releasing monsters is in a place FURTHEST away from all people, but quite the opposite is what generally happens in the USA, as well as other countries.  

All nuclear power plants are highly vulnerable in case of natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes. Since they are all built near water, they are prone to flooding, tsunamis and other water related problems. Click on the link to hear Dr. Busby, an expert on nuclear power, talk about this..

What FORCED six nuclear power plants in the North East USA to shut down recently? What happened at at the Salem I plant specifically? Can a Category 1 hurricane really cause this much havoc and create a very real risk of a melt down/melt through?

At the Salem 1 nuclear power plant, they have a three step safety system. The first safety system consists of six water pumps taking in water and circulating it through the bowels of the nuclear power plant, in order to keep the nuclear reactor and spent fuel pools cool enough to NOT melt down or blow up, as happened in Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Fukushima, just to name a few.  In other words, all nuclear power plants are bombs, with only a few ‘safety’ systems stopping the bombs from going off. 

ALL six huge circulating pumps were knocked out by storm surge waves generated a level 1 Hurricane at this particular nuclear plant. As a result, steam was released, to keep the plant cool, using an emergency backup cooling sytem. However, this steam contains some radioactivity, and this is probably why the NRC highly advises nuclear plants to do this for no longer than 30 minutes. 

“Steam dumps can involve the release of other radioactive gasses in addition to tritium. They often include krypton and xenon gases. Krytpon-90 and xenon-137 are gases that transition into strontium-90 and cesium-137 within minutes.”

Confirmation that Salem-1 have to shut down early Tuesday due to waves from the hurricane were hidden in an industry news feed; wave “hit the plant’s circulating water building, requiring the shutdown, PSEG Nuclear chairman and CEO Ralph Izzo said during a press teleconference.”

Huge waves knocking out a nuclear plant is almost exactly what happened at Fukushima, differing ONLY in the size of the waves. The only difference is that the waves were smaller at Salem 1 compared to Fukushima. What would have happened with a Cat 5 hurricane, or an earthquake with a tsunami, just like Fukushima, with a 20 foot storm surge/waves? Salem 1 would have melted down or blown up, just as surely as Fukushima did.  NONE of the nuclear reactors are ready for a HUGE storm, so it is purely luck that keeps them operating. Counting on pure chance to protect cities and countries from disaster not the way to build a sustainable future.

The main backup system for cooling water once the circulating pumps are lost is a huge water tank that drains water via gravity and dumps it into the hot reactor core cooling system. This system only lasts for a day however. Then what?

In case of power loss, emergency diesel generators can run the pumps, but not if waves knock them out. The generators can run electrical controls, valves and equipment, but they do NOT cool the spent fuel pools, located five stories about the ground. NONE of the nuclear power plants have backup cooling systems for the spent fuel pools, despite them actually being more dangerous and toxic than the reactor cores.

As we saw with Fukushima, if power is lost and these emergency generators fail due to a hurricane, flood or earthquake, plus the grid goes down due to the storm or other natural disaster, then there is NOTHING left to prevent a meltdown or nuclear explosion caused by nothing more than lack of cooling water for the spent fuel pools.

The water coming from the emergency backup tank lasts about 1 day. Steam carries heat away, while preventing a meltdown or explosion. But the spent fuel pools on top of the building also need cooling water within several days, or they start boiling and drying up. If they dry out (this happened with Fukushima), then the spent fuel in them melts down, burns and/or explodes, causing an even WORSE nuclear disaster than the reactor melting down, because the volume of spent fuel is many times larger than what is in any nuclear reactor, and it is totally open to the air, with no safety systems to hold in any radiation or buffer any explosion, etc.

Let’s focus back on the safety cooling systems at Salem 1 nuclear power plant..

1) The first emergency backup system is called an atmospheric steam dump, but this can fail if the pressure builds up and blows seals, which is what happened at Salem 1 during the storm. 

2) If that fails, then it is time to turn on the core spray subsystem, but this does not work as well as the circulating pumps or the huge amount of water dumped on the core from the huge water tank located above the plant, which runs out within a day. 

3) So if the above are not sufficient to cool the core, and the core continues heating, it is time to run, because another Fukushima or Chernobyl may very well happen, given another couple of hours. 

The step from emergency backup plan 1 to emergency backup plan 2 happened at the Salem plant, when the #11 low pressure turbine disc ruptured.  Where is the proof that it was not just one safety system that failed, but TWO out of three failed safety cooling systems?


“At 0513, following [a] Unit 1 manual [reactor] trip due to loss of condenser cooling, a manual steam line isolation was initiated due to a high condenser back pressure. All main steam line isolation valves responded as expected. The high condenser back pressure resulted in the #11 low pressure turbine rupture disc relieving. Unit 1 remains in mode 3 with Reactor Coolant System temperature at 549 [degrees] and stable. Reactor Coolant System pressure is 2235 psig and in automatic control. Pressurizer level is on program at 26 percent level and in automatic control. Core cooling is via aux feed water and the steam generator levels are on program. There were no [personnel] injuries.”
When something ruptures, that is NOT NORMAL. Imagine a disc in your back rupturing, or your intestines rupturing, or your heart rupturing. When something ruptures, that is BAD. You cannot call a rupture ‘normal’. The fact that these people are calling a rupture ‘normal’ points to the psychopathy of corporations, who care nothing about communities, workers, the environment, health or safety. 

Bottom line, when a plant is not operating ‘normally’, it is allowing more and more radiation out, and there is less and less control over the nuclear bomb that IS a nuclear reactor. Radioactive releases are an every day thing at nuclear power plants. Large radiation releases are not quite as common but they happen more often than people realize.

Typically, NRC action and reporting levels are not applied in time for ANY nuclear accident, so that it can serve to warn and protect the public. Chernobyl, Fukushima and TMI all serve as examples of how the NRC warning system did not work or it was not applied correctly. 

At Salem 1, a scram was forced on the plant without main feedwater available. Then the secondary coolant loop was compromised and taken out. Salem 1 could not reach cold shutdown, because it still had high heat and pressure levels FIVE HOURS hours after scram was started. (Scram is an emergency shutdown) 

This non cold shutdown and loss of a primary and secondary cooling system should have resulted in a Site Emergency response AND an NRC reporting of this event in a higher classification, but the plant operator chose to pretend this whole non-event was NOT an emergency, and declared that everything was ‘normal’. After all, a long term loss of reactor decay heat removal is exactly what leads to a meltdown AND other really bad things happening inside of a reactor or spent fuel pool. No mention was made of the temperatures of the spent fuel pool water either. It must have been ‘normal’ as well, right?

What follows are just a few of MANY examples of some radiation releases from just ONE plant, that they were CITED for. Other radiation releases happen, which are NOT discovered, because people do not walk around with Geiger Counters, and plants NEVER disclose to the public what is coming out of the vent stacks in a transparent, easy to see manner. This data is always hidden, secret or hard to find. Since radiation is invisible, the industry can get away with just about anything. 

On the 25th February, 1983, “a catastrophe at the Salem 1 reactor in New Jersey was averted by just 90 seconds when the plant was shut down manually, following the failure of automatic shutdown systems to act properly. The same automatic systems had failed to respond in an incident three days before, and other problems plagued this plant as well, such as a 3,000 gallon leak of radioactive water in June 1981 at the Salem 2 reactor, a 23,000 gallon leak of “mildly” radioactive water (which splashed onto 16 workers) in February 1982, and radioactive gas leaks in March 1981 and September 1982 from Salem 1.”

Further; “in April 1998, the NRC cited the owner of the Oyster Creek nuclear plant in New Jersey for releases of radioactively contaminated gas (NRC, 1998). 

Oyster Creek uses two isolation condensers to remove decay heat produced by the reactor core when the normal heat removal systems are unavailable. Oyster Creek’s Final Safety Analysis Report stated that the isolation condensers would be filled with clean, non-radioactive water. But for nearly 30 years, workers had been filling the condensers with radioactively contaminated water. As that water evaporated, it was vented directly to the atmosphere.

December 1996, the NRC cited the owner of the Oyster Creek nuclear plant in New Jersey for the accidental release of 133,000 gallons of radioactively contaminated water into Barnegat Bay (NRC, 1996).

August 2009: Workers discovered radioactively contaminated water leaking into the ground from where a condensate transfer pipe passed through the turbine building wall.”

There have been many unplanned released of dangerous radiation from Salem 1 nuclear power plant… too many to count. Check it out at…

Even normal operations at Salem 1 makes it sound like it is a horribly old and worn out car that is just barely still running, ready to blow up any second; “in March [2004], the consultants hired to evaluate the plant [at Salem] added to the list of problems: emergency diesel generators had 160 backlogged maintenance orders, some older than 18 months; water circulation pumps repeatedly failed; workers complained of “oil leaks and roof leaks”; hydraulic systems used to move the control rods inside one reactor leaked; fumes from one generator were so bad that workers nearby had to wear breathing masks; and engineers were forced to bypass nine nonworking sensors used to measure the reaction in the nuclear core because there were no replacement parts.”

What happens when a Category 5 hurricane hits a new nuclear plant, with everything working, and built to modern day safety standards, compared to the same Cat 5 hurricane hitting an old, worn out and ‘fragile’ nuclear plant, with known defects, known insufficient safety systems, where lots of things are broken or not working at all? Someday, we will find out, just like the people living in Japan found out what happens. They are paying the consequences for ignoring the dangers and disaster that eventually happened. So let’s go back into how Salem 1 operates for a bit. 

Salem 1 normally operates under a vacuum. The vacuum is usually around 29 inches. The condenser circuit in Salem 1 is designed for a vaccuum, not pressure. When cooling water is lost due to loss of all six water cooling pumps, the vaccuum disappears, and the system starts pressurizing.  The ‘cooling’ condenser system is designed for vacuum, not pressure.

Once the cooling pumps are lost, the pressure builds up in the condenser system until a disc rupture happens. Wikipedia offers a look at the basic operation of a pressurized water reactor at

Once the seal in the cooling system ruptures, the cooling system is leaking out of the rupture, directly into the air, along with the emergency steam operation, which already has radiation contamination. The options for cooling the reactor have been reduced by the rupture and the system is now in a much more precarious situation, where any small additional thing that happens can turn this emergency into a major, full blown melt down, melt through and/or explosion, just like Fukushima, Chernobyl or TMI.

If the rupture happens during a vacuum, then the system will suck in outside air, which must be vented back out to the atmosphere, but while it is in the system, it picks up radiation, which goes back out into the atmosphere. Either way, radiation is being released both into the containment structure, up the vents or going out with the steam.

Once the temperature of the cooling system increases to 550 degrees, and/or 2235 pounds per square inch, and there is no more cooling capacity left in the system, then a dry steam point happens in the system. This is the point where a small mistake by the operators can spell disaster. The dry steam which happens at this point can create a cascade of things that result in a melt down and/or explosion much like Chernobyl or Fukushima. 

In a Pressure Water Reactor there are three loops that cool a nuclear reactor. The first cooling loop (the six pumps) was knocked out by waves from the hurricane, and/or by debris. Depending on which story is being told, one or the other was the cause of the cooling pumps failing. Either way, this FIRST cooling loop is gone and toasted.

The SECOND condensate loop also operates as a backup to the first, in order to cool the nuclear reactor as well, but it blew out, so this SECOND cooling system is now out of operation and cannot cool the reactor.

The only cooling loop left is the THIRD evaporative one. But that is a VERY tricky process, and can easily go wrong at any point in the game, resulting in all kinds of bad things happening. By putting in too much water, or too little, either way ends up very badly for this situation, potentially causing it to go out of control. The fact that the nuclear plant operator chose to call this situation ‘normal’ and not call out the emergency team to man an emergency station speaks volumes about the hubris and callousness of the nuclear industry.

Once this THIRD and final loop goes bad, the ONLY option left to cool a hot reactor core is the radioactive loop, direct to the core. Water dumped directly on the core creates radioactive steam, which is vented directly to the atmosphere. If this process is not done properly, or not enough water is put on the core, then a Fukushima event follows. Of course, this option means lots of radiation is being released. What are the chances that the operator will disclose that this radiation release is happening, if they lie about all of the previous things going bad and pretend it is all ‘normal’?

Again, this whole cover up and denial process points to the way the nuclear industry shines on the public about the very real dangers of EVERY nuclear power plant and all nuclear weapons. 

There are also other issues around and under the Salem 1 nuclear power plant that make it much more dangerous than just any other nuclear power plant. First, it is located near water that can overwhelm all safety systems, and knock ALL OF THEM OUT, almost instantly, just like what happened at Fukushima. We already know that this risk is there, because a baby hurricane just knocked the plant out of operation and almost caused a meltdown.

A second huge hazard is located underneath Salem I. According to Berryhill, the Salem/Hope Creek nuclear plants were built on soil that may very well liquify in case of an earthquake, which would lead to a structural collapse, and then a meltdown or explosion. Of course, the owners, PSEG, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission deny this concern, but that denial seems to par for the course and always happen with any concern around any nuclear power plant. The Fukushima pro nuclear ‘experts’ denied an earthquake or a tsunami could ever affect the Fukushima plant and claimed that none had ever happened in history.  

Third, the evacuation planning for surrounding towns and cities downwind of the nuclear power plant is TOTALLY insufficient, much like Chernobyl and Fukushima. If a radiation release accident happens, it will more than likely be too little and too late, with little or no information that people can use for evacuation planning.

What happens when the power fails, which is often the case in a huge storm? Pretend that this plant had melted down during and after a huge power failure and flood. Now how are the warning radiation meters, sirens and systems that depend on electricity going to work? The same thing happened at Fukushima. All of the warning systems were knocked offline, because they all depended on power working. So while the plant is melting down, no one is warned, and no one is evacuated, until it is too late.

But then there are also the political obstacles to community safety and emergency preparedness, because the nuclear industry ‘owns’ most politicians of the Dualopoly. Delaware State Senator Brian Bushweller could also be acting as an obstacle to both sufficient evacuation, information and safety planning, as he seems to be ‘owned’ by the nuclear industry.

Then there is the bias of the mass media, which either minimizes, ignores, denies or spins the stories around nuclear dangers. Of course, the media is either owned outright by the nuclear conglomerate, or is ‘influenced’ by these massive corporations through their equally massive advertising budgets and PR campaigns. To prove this, we can point at the downplaying or minimization of what happened. 

Here is the NRC report of the Salem 1 incident; : “A subsequent loss of the 2 remaining circulators required transition of decay heat removal from condenser steam dumps to the 11-14 MS10s (atmospheric steam dump).” The plant only had six pumps, so this report shows that ALL SIX PUMPS were lost. The loss of these pumps was due to WAVES from storm surge, much like Fukushima lost all pumps and generators due to a Tsunami. 

All major and mass media news sources are saying that only four pumps were lost and that the loss of pumps was ONLY due to debris from the river, (NOT WAVES); 

They also ignore the fact that the whole plant was disconnected from the grid and that a backup cooling system was lost through the blowout of a rupture disc. Third, the large tank that provides backup cooling only lasts a day, if they lose primary and secondary cooling, which is what happened here. Basically, this plant LOST ALL THREE COOLING SYSTEMS. What happened after that? No one knows. No further information has been released. 

Three Mile Island had a core meltdown due to lack of cooling water. Fukushima had MULTIPLE core and spent fuel meltdowns and melt throughs due to loss of cooling water. Why would this plant behave any differently? 

The ONLY news coming from Salem I is that the plant has NO TIMELINE for restarting. If the pumps were only clogged with debris, and nothing else happened, why would it not be up and running again, generating much needed income for the operator?

Bottom line, if you do not get more informed and own/use a Geiger Counter, you are putting your family at risk, just the same as if you do not use seat belts, smoke alarm, or a CO detector. 

For a local contact for issues around Salem 1 nuclear power plant, contact – Norm Cohen – 609-335-8176 E-Mail  .

Another local contact is Green Delaware. Green Delaware is a community based organization working on environment and public health issues. They provide useful information you can use. Please consider contributing or volunteering. Reach us at 302.834.3466 ,, or Box 69, Port Penn, DE, USA, 19731-0069

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