Coulrt upholds NRC action on nuclear power plant license

A federal appeals court May 18 upheld the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) decision to renew the operating license for Exelon's 645 MW Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in New Jersey.

Five environmental and citizens groups claimed the NRC didn't have sufficient information to determine whether the plant, which entered service in 1969,  can operate safely for the next 20 years. The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia found the NRC did not abuse its discretion in rejecting the objections.

The Associated Press reported that the court also said Japan's nuclear crisis does not provide a reason to review Oyster Creek's license. Oyster Creek is a General Electric Type 2 boiling water reactor.

In December 2010, Exelon decided to shut the plant down in 2019, 10 years ahead of schedule. They reached a deal with Gov. Chris Christie's administration in December calling for the early shutdown in return for the state dropping its insistence that Oyster Creek build one or more costly cooling towers to end the plant's use of billions of gallons of creek water to cool the plant.

The NRC granted Oyster Creek a new 20-year license in April 2009, rejecting criticism from a coalition of residents and environmental groups that the plant was too old and degraded to operate safely for another two decades.

Opposition centered on corrosion to the plant's drywell shield, a metal enclosure that keeps superheated radioactive steam within a containment building around the reactor. The NRC determined the shield is safe despite previous water leaks that caused rust to eat away parts of it. Exelon had applied a strong coating material to the liner and removed a sand bed at the base of the reactor that was found to hold moisture.

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