Press of Atlantic City
April 5, 2005


By Jerome Montes, (856) 794-5115

The radioactive steam leak that shut down the Hope Creek nuclear
reactor on March 27 was not caused by vibrations in the reactor's B
recirculation pump, according to a preliminary analysis by facility

A spokesman for the Public Service Enterprise Group, the Newark-based
company that owns the plant, said the leak appears to have been caused
by a faulty weld in piping connected to a system containing the
controversial pump.

Critics have said the leak was probably caused by the pump's bowed
shaft, which is prone to massive vibrations. They had called on PSEG
to replace the equipment during Hope Creek's last outage.

PSEG spokesman Skip Sindoni said the weld had been eliminated by
shortening that section of the piping. He said a corresponding weld
associated with the reactor's A recirculation pump had also been
eliminated as a precaution.

He said other parts of the system are being checked to ensure no
problems exist.

Sindoni said that until PSEG understood the full cause and conditions
surrounding the leak there would be no definite timetable for
restarting the plant.

The leak occurred in the facility's innermost containment area and
posed no threat to plant employees, PSEG officials have said.

The shaft of the 20-foot B pump became the subject of heated debate
after a radioactive steam leak shut down Hope Creek in October.

Organizations ranging from local activist groups to the state
Department of Environmental Protection had called for its replacement
before Hope Creek could be restarted.

In January, the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the reactor
could be operated safely so long as PSEG agreed to increased
monitoring of the pump and to replace the equipment during the next
planned or unplanned outage of sufficient duration.

The leakage leading to the March shutdown had been building since
February, facility officials said.

Nuclear facilities are allowed a certain amount of steam leakage, and
PSEG said the shutdown occurred long before the leakage passed Hope
Creek's safety threshold.

Federal officials said their own inspectors are reviewing PSEG's
handling of the problem.

"We do not currently have a hold that would prevent the plant from
restarting," said NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan. "However, our inspectors
will be reviewing the company's root cause analysis and repairs before
the unit is returned to service."

Unplug Salem coalition coordinator Norm Cohen, who has maintained the
pump equipment should be replaced, was skeptical of PSEG's analysis.

"I'm not a nuclear engineer, but I'd say vibrations can cause a faulty
weld to be more likely to break," Cohen said.

Hope Creek is one of three reactors owned by PSEG at the Salem Nuclear
Generating Station.

The company is in the midst of a $12 billion merger with Chicago-based
Exelon. The merger has been strongly opposed by a coalition of state
and national consumer groups.

The deal would create the nation's largest nuclear power company that
would own all four of New Jersey's reactors. Exelon operates Ocean
County's Oyster Creek reactor through a subsidiary.

Consumer advocates argue the merger could make the entity's customers
more vulnerable to rate increases.

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