NRC OK’s Changes to Emergency Plans for Closed Nuke Plant

Effective After Sept. 17, 2019
Oct 24, 2018

An approved change to the Oyster Creek Generating Station’s license allows Exelon Generation to remove the 10-mile Emergency Planning Zone around the plant and the need for emergency sirens within that zone. It also updates the emergency plan to reflect the defueled condition of the reactor. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which oversees all U.S.-based nuclear power plants, approved the license amendment Oct. 17, 14 months after Exelon submitted its request.

The five-member, presidentially appointed commission that oversees the NRC approved changes to Oyster Creek’s emergency plan in July.

“Oyster Creek, which permanently ceased operations on Sept. 17, must continue to maintain an on-site emergency plan and emergency response capabilities,” Neil Sheehan, NRC public information officer for Region 1, said, “and it will need to notify the NRC and the state if an emergency is declared at the plant.”

Sheehan said the changes cannot be put int effect until on or after Sept. 17, 2019, 12 months after the plant came offline.

“The timeframe for the changes to take effect is based on Exelon’s analysis showing the fuel in the spent fuel pool will have cooled sufficiently as of that time to significantly reduce the risk of a fire in the pool that could release radioactivity to the environment,” he said, noting the NRC’s decision includes Exelon’s analysis showing a radiological consequence of design-basis accidents will not exceed the limits of the EPA early-phase PAGs (protective action guidelines) at the exclusion area boundary.

“The NRC staff has determined that the amendment involves no significant increase in the amounts, and no significant change in the types, of any effluents that may be released offsite, and that there is no significant increase in individual or cumulative occupational radiation exposure,” according to its findings, in which it notes the commission previously issued a proposed finding that the amendment involves no significant hazards consideration, and there has been no public comment on such finding published in the federal registry.

The NRC notified the state of New Jersey regarding its decision in August, according to its findings. The state officials had no comments, also noted in its findings.

Oyster Creek operators scrammed the nuclear power plant one last time on Sept. 17, ending nearly five decades of producing carbon-free electricity at the Route 9 site. On Sept. 25, Exelon notified the NRC all of the fuel had been removed from the reactor vessel. As a result, the nuke plant is no longer authorized for the operation of the reactor, or emplacement or retention of fuel into the reactor vessel, according to the NRC.

Spent nuclear fuel will be stored on site in the spent fuel pool and a dry cask independent spent fuel storage installation.

“The Commission has concluded, based on the considerations discussed: there is reasonable assurance that the health and safety of the public will not be endangered by operation in the proposed manner, there is reasonable assurance that such activities will be conducted in compliance with the Commission's regulations, and the issuance of the amendment will not be inimical to the common defense and security or to the health and safety of the public,” according to the NRC’s decision.

Exelon Generation, the Illinois-based utility giant that owns and until last month operated Oyster Creek, submitted a request for emergency planning exemptions in August 2017. From December 2017 through March 2018, company officials provided additional information to the federal agency, according to Sheehan.

Exelon’s license amendment request, which would implement the plant’s emergency plan exemptions, was submitted to the NRC on Aug. 29, 2017. This request modified the plant’s license to reflect such changes as the emergency action level scheme, emergency response staffing, emergency communications, emergency facilities and equipment, emergency exercises and drills, he said.

By the time the changes can be implemented, Exelon officials are hopeful the NRC will have made a decision regarding a license transfer to Holtec International, a New Jersey-based company looking to purchase the closed plant and decommission it. The two companies submitted a joint license transfer application request to the NRC in August.

— Gina G. Scala

ggscala@thesandpaper.net

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