Oyster Creek Maintained Public Health and Safety in 2017

Mar 14, 2018

The Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station preserved public health and safety during 2017, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s end-of-cycle assessment of the Lacey Township-based plant. The federal agency takes into consideration performance indicators, inspector results and enforcement actions in making its determination.

“The NRC plans to conduct ROP (rector oversight process) baseline inspections at your facility,” the federal agency wrote in a Feb. 28 to Exelon Corp., the Illinois-based utility company that owns and operates the plant, noting all inspection findings had very low safety significance and all performance indicators were within the expected range.

Oyster Creek had one white finding, a low-level safety significance, involving one of the plant’s electromatic relief valves to depressurize the reactor during a pipe break. There are five of this type of valve at the plant. The NRC ended its increased oversight at the nuke in the fall. The deficiency was discovered during a 2016 NRC inspection at the nuclear plant.

The finding, according to the NRC, is of low to moderate safety significance and is considered a white finding. The feds use a color-coded system to categorize inspection findings. Colors range from green, for very low, to white, yellow and red – a substantial safety or security consequence. Any finding higher than green results in an automatic increase in oversight.

The inspection dates included in the Feb. 28 letter to Exelon officials are subject to change since the company announced early last month its intention to take Oyster Creek, the oldest operating nuclear power plant in the country, permanently offline in October, 14 months earlier than anticipated. Exelon was originally granted a 20-year license renewal by the NRC, which would allow Oyster Creek to operate as a base-load electricity generator through April 9, 2029. The nuke was later scheduled to come offline Dec. 31, 2019, in an agreement Exelon struck with the state to forgo building cooling towers at the site.

The company has yet to announce how it will handle decommissioning, but it has 60 years to complete the process. There are two options for decommissioning: decontamination and safe storage. In safe storage, a nuclear power plant is maintained as is and positioned in protective storage for an extensive period of time. Decontamination is often associated with immediate decommissioning and allows the operators to remove equipment and materials with higher levels of radiation, such as spent nuclear fuel rods.

The facility is a single unit boiling water reactor, located on 800 acres on neighboring Oyster Creek. It first came online in December 1969. Oyster Creek is one of four nuclear power plants licensed to operate in New Jersey. Salem Nuclear Power Plant has two units; the fourth is at Hope Creek Nuclear Generating Station.

— Gina G. Scala


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