NRC Annual Oyster Creek Performance Meeting May 25

May 24, 2017

Although the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station operated safely last year, the white finding assigned by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission after an inspection found a deficiency in work on a safety-related valve could be a topic at Thursday’s annual performance assessment meeting.

The public meeting is slated for 6 p.m., on Thursday, May 25, at the Holiday Inn Manahawkin, Route 72 West. The regulatory commission’s full-time resident inspectors will be among the agency personnel to discuss plant performance.

“When we launched our reactor process in 2000, we made a commitment to meet with the public on a yearly basis to discuss the safety performance of each U.S. operating nuclear power plant,” Neil Sheehan, NRC public affairs officer for Region 1, said. “It provides an opportunity for area residents to hear directly from the agency’s front-line personnel about how the nuclear plant in their community is doing in terms of complying with federal safety requirements.”

It was during a 2016 NRC inspection at Oyster Creek that a deficiency was found with one of the plant’s electromatic relief valves, which are used to depressurize the reactor during a pipe break. There are five of this type of valve at the Lacey Township-based nuke plant. In March, Exelon met with the NRC’s Region I Office to discuss the issue. At that time, the Illinois-based company confirmed proper assembly of the valves after the fall 2016 refueling and maintenance outage at the plant.

“Exelon will need to take steps to fix the underlying issues that contributed to this safety concern,” said NRC Region I Administrator Dan Dorman. “When those steps have been taken, we will send a team of inspectors to the plant to validate that the changes put in place are thorough, comprehensive and improve the plant’s safety posture.”

Sheehan said there is no specific deadline for Exelon to fix the problem, and the company will let the regulatory commission know when it’s ready for a team inspection.

“Our expectation is that the company will have done the work necessary to prepare for the inspection before it notifies us, including a root cause evaluation of why the problem happened,” he explained. “The finding involves both equipment and personnel. The valve was incorrectly assembled and therefore would not have been able to perform its function.”

Daily inspections are performed by two resident inspectors assigned to Oyster Creek, Sheehan said. “Reviews are also carried out at the sites by specialist inspectors assigned to the agency’s Region 1 Office.”

The white finding, according to NRC oversight, is of low to moderate safety significance. The feds use a color-coded system to categorize inspection findings. Colors range from green, for very low, to white, yellow or red – the last is a substantial safety or security consequence.

“Any inspection findings or performance indicators that are greater than green (very low safety significance) trigger increased NRC oversight,” Sheehan said, adding there is no way to accurately predict the size of the meeting turnout.

The base-load nuclear generating station is a single unit boiling water reactor, located on 800 acres on neighboring Oyster Creek. It first came online in December 1969. It is licensed to operate through April 9, 2029, but is slated to come offline permanently Dec. 31, 2019.

Oyster Creek is one of four nuclear power plants licensed to operate in New Jersey. Salem Nuclear Power Plant has two units, and the fourth unit is at Hope Creek Nuclear Generating Station.

— Gina G. Scala

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