Dead Fish


The NRC has recently made public its responses to the EPA’s comments on the General Environmental Impact Statement of the Seabrook nuclear power station in a letter to the Boston EPA dated 3 August 2015. (NRC docket number 50-443: FINAL PLANT-SPECIFIC SUPPLEMENT 46 TO THE GENERIC ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT FOR LICENSE RENEWAL OF NUCLEAR PLANTS REGARDING SEABROOK STATION, UNIT 1(TAC NO. ME3959).

The EPA’s comments reveal data about the massive impact of the Seabrook cooling system on local aquaculture and marine species. It also cites on-going concerns about leaks from the spent fuel pool and the fact that, despite recommendations from the NRC, the owners of Seabrook, NextEra have failed to make public the results of its groundwater monitoring. The DSEIS (read report here) shows “destabilization” of the marine environment as a result of the normal operation of Seabrook’s cooling system with an impact it called “LARGE for winter flounder, rainbow smelt, and other species that would be adversely affected from climate change, such as lobster and Atlantic cod.”


The EPA states that the following losses occur to the marine environment yearly:

Due to Entrainment:

•fish eggs: 1 billion (this is the mean, the maximum is 2x that figure)
•fish larvae: about 260 million, with the peak estimate being approximately 1 billion larva per year
•Bivalve larvae: 18 x 1012 larval bivalve are lost, with peak years being 3.5 times more.

Due to Impingement:
•fish and lobsters mean: 21,000 (7200 – 72,000)
•rainbow smelt: 1000 per year Species of concern for NOAA

In addition, trawling tests show a “statistically significant reduction in the nearfield abundance of rainbow smelt and winter flounder. The data also suggested a nearfield reduction in silver hake.” THE EPA calls for sampling over a wider area to further clarify the impact of Seabrook’s cooling system. “EPA believes that an expansion of the geographic coverage of the trawl program is in order to better characterize the full scope of the impacts.”


The recently released letter reveals that the EPA called for a study of alternative cooling systems for Seabrook as part of its re-licensing process. “EPA regards these concerns to be significant enough to warrant careful assessment of a range of alternatives for structural and operational modifications to the Seabrook cooling system that could reduce these adverse impacts should the plant be relicensed. In addition, we recommend that the FSEIS fully discuss and evaluate the comparative environmental impacts of these alternatives�. The information from the analysis should be utilized to support NRC decision-making under the criteria applicable to its licensing decision.” The EPA wants the NRC to determine whether Seabrook should build a different cooling system given the large impact the current cooling system is having on marine life near the plant.

Furthermore, the letter reveals that the NRC concedes that if a new plant were being built today, it would need a different type of cooling system. “The NRC recognizes” (page 8-4) “…the mounting concerns for potential adverse impacts to aquatic ecosystems from once-through cooling systems…” and suggests (page 8-14) that “a new plant constructed today would likely use closed cycle cooling due to the potential for aquatic impacts.”


Finally, the EPA references on-going concerns with leaks from Seabrook’s spent fuel pool, the monitoring of those leaks, and the failure to publicly disclose the results. Tritium is known to have been leaking since 1999, and the EPA calls for monitoring for additional radionuclides, including Cesium 137 and Strontium 90. It notes that despite being told in 2010 it should make its results public, NextEra has not done so. “Seabrook’s efforts related to groundwater contamination should be reported publicly and subject to review by appropriate regulators. Information related to groundwater tritium contamination should be made easily accessible by the public.”

The EPA’s comments show that Seabrook is adversely impacting the marine environment and the groundwater tremendously and continuously. It has kept its findings from the public as well. The NRC must do everything in its power to ensure that Seabrook does not endanger the safety of the environment – and the human population – of the surrounding areas.