Safety advisory panel to monitor nuke plant

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin has signed an Administrative Order creating an Oyster Creek Safety Advisory Panel to further enhance oversight of the safe operation of the nuclear power plant leading up to its closure by the end of 2019.

The Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station is in Lacey Township, Ocean County.

“The closure of Oyster Creek is a key component of Gov. Christie’s plan to restore and protect the ecologically stressed Barnegat Bay,” Martin said in a press release. “The panel’s mission is to augment what we expect will be a thoroughly professional job by [owner] Exelon Corp., under the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s oversight, as they continue to operate and then close the Oyster Creek reactor, and to ensure that the process is as open and transparent as possible.”

The Oyster Creek SafetyAdvisory Panel will actively engage the public as it reviews ongoing operations and safety plans in the years leading up to plant closure, according to the press release. The panel also will monitor Exelon’s compliance with the Administrative Consent Order signed Dec. 9, 2010, which is designed to ensure that the shutdown is executed in a safe, wellplanned manner.

The Administrative Consent Order includes an implementation schedule, progress report requirements, and requirements for development of post-shutdown activities.

Martin will chair the three-member panel, which will include Charles B. McKenna, director of the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness. In consultation with community and environmental groups, Martin will name an independent expert in nuclear safety to serve as the third member. DEP nuclear engineers and experts will provide expertise and serve as staff to the panel.

Among its duties, the panel will:  Review facility safety operations, decommissioning planning and compliance with the Dec. 9, 2010, Administrative Consent Order, and make recommendations for improvements or further evaluation.

 Seek public input on issues and communicate their findings and concerns.

 Make recommendations to the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

 Review records and conduct independent inspections of the facility as needed or, with approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, participate in that agency’s inspections.

 Issue reports on review findings and hold public meetings, at a minimum annually, to discuss the reports.

According to the press release, closure of the Oyster Creek plant is an important component of the Christie administration’s multifaceted plan to restore and protect the ecologically unique and economically important Barnegat Bay. Other components include providing funding to local governments for vital storm-water infrastructure improvements in the bay’s watershed; adopting the strictest-in-the-nation lawn fertilizer rules statewide; and enacting soil restoration standards to reduce stormwater runoff across New Jersey.

The Oyster Creek plant began operations in 1969, making it the nation’s oldest nuclear reactor. In December, the Christie administration negotiated an agreement with Exelon Corp. to shut down the reactor, which diverts large volumes of cooling water from the bay, rather than build a closed-cycle cooling system to reduce impacts to aquatic life. The deadline for shutdown is Dec. 31, 2019, 10 years ahead of Oyster Creek’s license expiration, according to the press release.