NRC Reports on Oyster Creek Hurricane Performance

Photo of the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station, Unit 1, located near Forked River, N.J.
A photo of the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station, Unit 1, located near Forked River, N.J.
Courtesy:©Exelon Nuclear

Neil Sheehan
Public Affairs Officer
Region I

The NRC staff has issued the findings of the Special Inspection it conducted at the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant to review events related to “Superstorm” Sandy. The inspection was launched on Nov. 13.

Our three-member team’s primary focus was the timing of the emergency declarations at the Lacey Township (Ocean County), N.J. facility during the storm. Sandy-generated high water levels at the plant’s water intake structure, prompting first an “Unusual Event” declaration and later an “Alert” declaration.

The inspectors also reviewed preparations by Exelon, the plant’s owner, prior to the storm’s arrival; equipment performance; and overall command and control from an emergency preparedness perspective.

The inspectors’ report is now available on the NRC website. The team has concluded that the declarations were timely and accurate and that plant personnel appropriately carried out their duties during the storm.

At the same time, the inspectors did observe several areas where performance could be improved. Some examples included heightened awareness of emergency declaration thresholds, clearer documentation in control room records and ensuring reliable back-up power for the plant’s emergency operations facility.

The report also contains a company-identified violation determined to be of very low safety significance related to the use of incorrect meteorological tower data.

In general, the report underscores how plant operators dealt with the harsh conditions at the water intake structure and other challenges, such as the loss of off-site power for a time.

While the Special Inspection is finished, the NRC’s Resident Inspectors at Oyster Creek will provide additional observations about plant performance during the storm in an upcoming report.

What’s more, an NRC Petition Review Board continues working on a petition, submitted by several environmental organizations, that raises questions regarding plant performance during the storm. The board on Jan. 3rd conducted a public meeting with the petitioners to gather more information about their concerns. As NRC staff made clear, their goal was to listen to the petitioners, though the staff did explain why the NRC denied the petitioners’ request to keep Oyster Creek shut down following the storm.