NRC: Dredge Materials from the Forked River Channels Don’t Pose Public Risk

Dec 20, 2017

The material dredged recently from Forked River channels and stored at the nearby Finninger Farm poses no threat to the public, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The work was part of a $2.5 million project to dredge Forked River and Barnegat Bay channels, including Forked River, Forked River Middle Branch and Spur, the South Spur and the channel known as Elks Channel. The project was designed to ensure the navigational safety of those waterways.

Finninger Farm is adjacent to the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in Forked River. The power plant uses Oyster Creek as its cooling element rather than cooling towers. The site, which is owned by Exelon Corp., the Illinois-based utility company that owns the nuke plant, is not subject to the same licensing requirements as the plant property.

“Given the very low radioactivity levels involving the dredged material, we do no believe there are any public safety concerns,” said Neil Sheehan, public information officer for the NRC Region 1. “Oyster Creek, like all U.S. nuclear power plants, is required to maintain a Radiological Environmental Monitoring Program, which would encompass the Finninger Farm property. We inspect this program on a regular basis. The results indicate the plant and its environs are well within applicable regulatory limits.”

Sheehan said the dredge material storage should not have any impact on the future use of the property. Oyster Creek is a single-unit boiling water reactor, located on 800 acres neighboring Oyster Creek. It first came online in December 1969, and is licensed to operated through April 9, 2029 but is slated to come offline permanently Dec. 31, 2019 in an agreement with the state so parent company doesn’t have to build cooling towers. Oyster Creek is one of four nuclear power plants licensed to operate in New Jersey. Salem Nuclear Power Plant has two units; the fourth unit is at Hope Creek Nuclear Generating Station.

“NRC staff determined the potential annual radioactive dose from the dredged material would be less than 1 millirem,” Sheehan said, noting a millirem is a measure of exposure to radiation. “To put that in perspective, the average American is exposed to about 620 millirems of radioactivity on an annual basis from natural and man-made sources.”

The less-than-1-millirem level would also be well below the regulatory yearly limit for the public of 100 millirems from plant operations and the unrestricted (property) release criteria of 25 millirems or “as low as reasonably achievable,” according to Sheehan.

The Forked River channels dredge project began in August and was completed on time in September, according to Dan Triana, public information officer for the state Department of Transportation.

“The dredge spoils were hydraulically transported to the Oyster Creek confined disposal facility to drain,” Triana said, noting the site is the only available facility in the area where the state can place material dredged out of the Barnegat and Forked River channel complexes to drain. “Without it, the dredging project could not be completed, and the navigable waterways could not be maintained.”

Gina G. Scala


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