NRC Grants New Completion Date for Oyster Creek’s Final Cybersecurity Upgrades

Jan 10, 2018
File Photo by: Jack Reynolds

Exelon Corp., the Illinois-based utility company that owns and operates the Oyster Creek Generating Station, successfully petitioned the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to transfer full implementation of new cybersecurity requirements until after the plant permanently shuts down next year.

In an April 2017 letter, the company submitted a license amendment request for the completion schedule for the plant’s Milestone 8 requirement, which was slated to be completed by Dec. 31, 2017, to be moved until at least Aug. 31, 2021, or to a date after the plant permanently comes offline. The plant is slated to go offline Dec. 31, 2019.

“We have now approved the request,” Neil Sheehan, public information officer for the NRC’s Region 1 office, said. “This is based on the fact that because Oyster Creek has already achieved Milestones 1 to 7 of our cybersecurity requirements, the bulk of the required upgrades are already in place. This completed work ensures that most risk-significant and security critical digital assets, or CDAs, remain secure.”

Sheehan said Exelon has already put into practice certain Milestone 8 procedures, including critical digital asset configuration management, cybersecurity incident response and recovery, and cybersecurity training.

“Another factor is the limited remaining operational lifespan for Oyster Creek; the Milestone 8 enhancements would only be needed for about an additional two years,” he said of the NRC’s decision to grant the request. “Meanwhile, the Milestone 1 through 7 controls will help ensure the plant remains safe in terms of cybersecurity.”

In 2009, the NRC published a cybersecurity rule to ensure the functions of digital computers, communication systems and networks associated with safety, security and emergency preparedness at the plants are protected from cyber attacks, Sheehan said.

“There were two phases for plants to come into compliance with the requirements,” he said. “The first phase was completed in 2012 and involves the implementation of controls to protect plants’ most significant digital assets.”

The second phase – due to be completed by the end of last year – entails full implementation of all changes required. This includes additional cyber controls; cybersecurity awareness training for employees; incident response drills and testing; configuration management controls; and supply chain protection, Sheehan said.

Oyster Creek is a single-unit boiling water reactor, located on 800 acres in the Forked River section of Lacey Township. 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 as part of an agreement Exelon struck with the state Department of Environmental Protection.

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. 

Gina G. Scala

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