Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station

Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station
Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station

Oyster Creek Nuclear Plant in 1998, at the time it was owned & operated by GPU
Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station is located in New Jersey
Location of Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station
Country United States
Location Lacey Township, New Jersey
Coordinates 39°48′53″N 74°12′18″W / 39.81472°N 74.205°W / 39.81472; -74.205Coordinates: 39°48′53″N 74°12′18″W / 39.81472°N 74.205°W / 39.81472; -74.205
Status Operational
Construction began 1965–1969
Commission date December 23, 1969
Licence expiration April 9, 2029
Operator(s) Exelon
Constructor(s) Burns & Roe, Inc.
Reactor information
Reactor type(s) BWR-2
Reactor supplier(s) General Electric
Power generation information
Installed capacity 636 MWe
Annual generation 5,077 GW·h
Oyster Creek

Oyster Creek nuclear power station is a single unit 636 MWe boiling water reactor power plant located on an 800 acre (3.2 km²) site adjacent to the Oyster Creek in the Forked River section of Lacey Township in Ocean County, New Jersey. The facility is currently owned and operated by Exelon Corporation and is the oldest operating nuclear power plant in the United States. The plant first came online on December 1, 1969, and is licensed to operate until April 9, 2029. The plant gets its cooling water from Barnegat Bay, a brackish estuary that empties into the Atlantic Ocean through the Barnegat Inlet.

Oyster Creek is one of four licensed nuclear power reactors in New Jersey. The others are the two units at the Salem Nuclear Power Plant, and the one unit at Hope Creek Nuclear Generating Station.[1] As of January 1, 2005, New Jersey ranked 10th among the 31 States with nuclear capacity for total MWe generated. In 2003, nuclear power generated over one half of the electricity in the state.[2][dead link]

In 1999, GPU agreed to sell the Oyster Creek Nuclear Plant to AmerGen Energy for $10 million.[3] AmerGen was later purchased by Exelon in 2003.[4] Exelon fully integrated AmerGen's former assets, including Oyster Creek, in early 2009.[5]


Surrounding population

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission defines two emergency planning zones around nuclear power plants: a plume exposure pathway zone with a radius of 10 miles (16 km), concerned primarily with exposure to, and inhalation of, airborne radioactive contamination, and an ingestion pathway zone of about 50 miles (80 km), concerned primarily with ingestion of food and liquid contaminated by radioactivity.[6]

The 2010 U.S. population within 10 miles (16 km) of Oyster Creek was 133,609, an increase of 35.8 percent in a decade, according to an analysis of U.S. Census data for msnbc.com. The 2010 U.S. population within 50 miles (80 km) was 4,482,261, an increase of 10.4 percent since 2000. Cities within 50 miles include Atlantic City (30 miles to city center), Toms River (10 miles to city center), Lakewood (19 miles to city center), Asbury Park (30 miles to city center), Cherry Hill (42 miles to city center).[7]


Oyster Creek is a single unit 636 MWe boiling water reactor power plant which first came online on December 1, 1969; it is the oldest operating nuclear power plant in the United States. Located 50 miles east of Philadelphia and 75 miles south of New York City,[8] the plant gets its cooling water from Barnegat Bay, a brackish estuary that empties into the Atlantic Ocean through the Barnegat Inlet.

Oyster Creek was originally licensed for 40 years, but in April 2009 its license was extended for another 20 years by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission. "Based on the Atomic Energy Act, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issues licenses for commercial power reactors to operate for up to 40 years and allows these licenses to be renewed for up to another 20 years. A 40-year license term was selected on the basis of economic and antitrust considerations, not technical limitations."[9]

License extension

In July 2005, Exelon submitted an application to the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a 20-year extension of the existing 40-year license for Oyster Creek, which was due to expire in 2009. According to a 2006 survey commissioned by the operators, relicensing of the power plant was supported by the majority of citizens living in areas surrounding the plant, and by local elected officials.[10] However, some local opposition to re-licensing was evident at public hearings on the issue. On May 31, 2007, several Ocean County residents attended the Atomic Safety Licensing Board (ASLB) hearing in the county administration building. At that meeting, several of the local residents were opposed to re-licensing of the nuclear power plant.[11]

The ASLB's decision on May 31, 2007 hearing led to a full public hearing on the issue of the monitoring of corrosion in the plant's drywell liner. The hearing was scheduled for September 24, 2007 in the county seat Toms River.[12] In 2008, the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board twice rejected citizens' contentions concerning Oyster Creek. The majority of the three-judge panel ruled in favor of the plant, deciding "that the group's motion did not follow the proper guidelines for late-filed contentions and failed to link an alleged inadequacy to a significant safety issue."[13]

In May 2007, the state Attorney General's Office, on behalf of the state Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), petitioned the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals to compel the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to consider the potential for a terrorist attack as part of the criteria for Oyster Creek's licensing renewal process.[14] In July 2007, the NJDEP faulted both Exelon and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for relying on environmental studies that were up to 30 years old at the time of Exelon's relicensing application. The NJDEP refused to make a "positive consistency determination" for Oyster Creek, as required by the federal Coastal Zone Management Act. The positive determination is required for all applicants seeking to relicense an existing facility.[15]

On April 8, 2009 the plant was granted a license extension to operate until April 9, 2029. This came a week after the Nuclear Regulatory Commission voted 3-1 against an appeal by anti-nuclear groups.[16]

There was some opposition from anti-nuclear groups. According to Harvey Wasserman: "The re-licensing process did not require a test of metals in the core, which can become dangerously embrittled after decades of exposure to super-hot water and intense radiation."[8]

As of June 2009, five environmental and citizen groups appealing the decision in the federal court. Richard Webster, attorney for the groups, claims the NRC did not have sufficient information to determine whether the plant can operate safely for the next 20 years.[17][18]

“This has been the most extensive license renewal review to date, including the first adjudicatory hearing of a license renewal application,” said Eric Leeds, NRC’s director of Nuclear Reactor Regulation. “The staff’s licensing and inspection scrutiny, along with the independent contributions of the ACRS, the ASLB and various citizen groups, should give the people of New Jersey added confidence that Oyster Creek will remain safe during its continued operation.”[19]

A week after Oyster Creek got its new 20-year license, workers found a tritium leak which came from two buried pipes that had not been properly insulated the last time they were worked on in 1991. A second tritium leak was discovered in August, 2009, from a pipe leading into an electrical turbine building. The tritium contaminated groundwater on the plant site and has been flowing into Barnegat Bay.

In December, 2010, Exelon reported that Oyster Creek will close in 2019, 10 years earlier than planned and will not have to install cooling towers.[20]


As a part of Exelon Corporation, Oyster Creek follows the corporation's environmental policy.[21]

In August 2009, workers found and stopped two small leaks of tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen.[22] An NRC investigation found the levels to be too low to be a danger to public health. The leaks originated from two buried pipes that had not been properly insulated when they were last worked on in 1991.[23] A second leak was discovered in August 2009, from a pipe leading into an electrical turbine building. Tritium levels found in this leak were measured at 10 microcuries per liter of water, higher than the 5 to 6 microcuries per liter found in the earlier leak.[24] Tritium contaminated groundwater remained on site and had not spread to any public water supplies.[25]

In May 2010, the New Jersey DEP announced that water from the leak had spread to a nearby aquifer, though it stated there "was no imminent danger" to water supplies. At the current rate of migration, the water will reach the closest public wells within 10 to 15 years. The DEP stated there are several ways to address the problem, such as pumping out the tainted water, or injecting fresh water to force the tainted water backwards. A spokesman for Oyster Creek said they are working with the state on the issue, and have seen contamination levels steadily dropping, sometimes by "as much as 90%".[26]


Oyster Creek's owners also pursue a policy of helping local and statewide environmental projects and organizations improve the environment, through financial support or the resources of its employees' time and expertise.[27] Supported environmental projects include:

  • "Sport Fish Fund," a not-for-profit organization that administers the reef-building fund to construct a 46-acre (190,000 m2) patch reef within the Barnegat Light Reef. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Division of Fish and Wildlife oversees the Artificial Reef Program.
  • Purchasing a boat for the Rutgers University Cooperative Extension Service Clam Restoration Project, working to re-establish clam beds in the Barnegat Bay.
  • Partnering with Drexel University to track sea turtles, which are rescued at the station. The turtles recoup at the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, before being returned to their habitat.
  • New Jersey Audubon Society in regard of the society's efforts to help rescue and clean waterfowl impacted by an oil spill on the Delaware River.


Employees at the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant averaged less radiation exposure from 2005 through 2008 than workers at any other nuclear power plant in the United States.[28]

In early May 2011, the operator of the plant reported that its fuel supplier, General Electric, notified it that mathematical errors were made which could resulted in reactor fuel’s getting hotter than operator thought.[29]

Seismic risk

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's estimate of the risk each year of an earthquake intense enough to cause core damage to the reactor at Oyster Creek was 1 in 71,429, according to an NRC study published in August 2010.[30][31]


See also


  1. ^ "NRC - Licensed Facilities by Region or State - New Jersey". US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. http://www.nrc.gov/info-finder/region-state/newjersey.html. Retrieved 2011-03-13. 
  2. ^ "New Jersey Nuclear Industry". United States Department of Energy. http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/nuclear/page/at_a_glance/states/statesnj.html. Retrieved 2008-08-23. "The leading source of electricity in 2004 in the State was nuclear power. In 2004, National nuclear generation reached record levels. In New Jersey, the nuclear industry's share of electric output dropped by 4 percent as coal and gas modestly increased their share." 
  3. ^ NYT Metro Business; GPU to Sell Oyster Creek
  5. ^ Exelon Generation Formally Integrates AmerGen Assets Into Exelon Nuclear
  6. ^ http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/emerg-plan-prep-nuc-power-bg.html
  7. ^ Bill Dedman, Nuclear neighbors: Population rises near US reactors, msnbc.com, April 14, 2011 http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42555888/ns/us_news-life/ Accessed May 1, 2011.
  8. ^ a b Harvey Wasserman, CounterPunch, April 10, 2009, Another $50 Billion for Rust Bucket Nukes?
  9. ^ NRC:Backgrounder on Reactor License Renewal
  10. ^ AmerGen press release, August 15, 2006, Results of Public Opinion Survey Regarding Oyster Creek Relicensing
  11. ^ Examiner, June 28, 2007, Oyster Creek's time is up, residents tell board
  12. ^ Asbury Park Press, June 20, 2007, [1][dead link]
  13. ^ The Press of Atlantic City
  14. ^ Three Mile Island Alert, N.J. FILES APPEAL OF RULING ON REACTOR, April 26, 2007
  15. ^ Brick Township Bulletin, July 5, 2007, Board sides with citizens' groups on Oyster Creek
  16. ^ The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 9, 2009, Oyster Creek nuclear plant gets 20-year license renewal
  17. ^ NJ nuclear plant opponents appeal relicensing
  18. ^ Nuclear license renewal sparks protest
  20. ^ NJ Nuke Plant Closing 10 Years Early
  21. ^ Climate change demands action. We’re not waiting.
  22. ^ Officials: Oyster Creek nuclear plant tritium leak stopped, no danger to public
  23. ^ Christopher Dela Cruz (April 16, 2009). "Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in N.J. probles possible chemical release". New Jersey Star-Ledger. http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2009/04/oyster_creek_nuclear_power_pla_1.html. 
  24. ^ These amounts may be compared to the exposure due to the normal potassium content of the human body, 2.5 g per kg,[12] or 175 grams in a 70 kg adult. This potassium will naturally generate 175 g × 31 Bq/g ≈ 5400 Bq of radiation, through the person's lifetime.Ben Leach (August 26, 2009). "Tritium found in new leak at Oyster Creek nuclear plant". Press of Atlantic City. http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/news/top_three/article_ebddb4fc-9249-11de-ab1e-001cc4c002e0.html. 
  25. ^ Wayne Parry (September 9, 2009). "Nation’s oldest nuclear plant is showing its age". Associated Press. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32760401/ns/us_news-environment. 
  26. ^ [2][dead link]
  27. ^ Oyster Creek philanthropy page
  28. ^ "Oyster Creek workers exposed to less radiation than those at other plants". Press of Atlantic City. August 21, 2008. http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/183/story/234706.html. Retrieved 2008-08-23. "Employees at the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant averaged less radiation exposure during the last three years than those at any other BWR plant in the country, according to a report released Tuesday by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission." [dead link]
  29. ^ Matthew L. Wald (2011-05-11). "Nuclear Problems in the Rearview Mirror". The New York Times. http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/05/11/nuclear-problems-in-the-rearview-mirror/. 
  30. ^ Bill Dedman, What are the odds? US nuke plants ranked by quake risk, msnbc.com, March 17, 2011 http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42103936/ Accessed April 19, 2011.
  31. ^ http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/i/msnbc/Sections/NEWS/quake%20nrc%20risk%20estimates.pdf

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