Relicensing of Nation's Oldest Nuclear Station Challenged in Federal Court

Nuclear license renewal sparks protest

Coalition asks federal court to overturn NRC

June 02, 2009


Star-Ledger Staff

Two months after the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in Lacey Township, New Jersey, won a 20-year extension of its license, a coalition of environmental and citizens groups has asked a federal court to overturn the decision.

Citing inadequate information provided to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission about the plant's safety, the coalition wants a federal court to invalidate the relicensing of the 40-year-old facility.


"We are appealing the decision because the Nuclear Regulatory Commission did not have sufficient information available to it to decide whether Oyster Creek can operate safely for the next 20 years," said the coalition's attorney, Richard Webster, of the Eastern Environmental Law Center.

The coalition is composed of the New Jersey Environmental Federation, the New Jersey Sierra Club, the Public Interest Research Group, the Nuclear Information Resource Service and Grandmothers, Mothers and More for Energy Safety (GRAMMES).

They contend the continued operation of the plant, which stores 650 tons of radioactive waste in an above-ground fuel pool, is an unnecessary risk for the 3.5 million people who live within a 50-mile radius of Oyster Creek -- the nation's oldest nuclear power plant. They said its safety record is the second worst of the nuclear plants throughout the country and its thermal releases into a nearby body of water create environmental problems for Barnegat Bay.

The NRC issued the 20-year on April 8, the day before the plant's operating license was scheduled to expire. Its relicensing had all but been assured after the NRC on April 1 voted to dismiss a complaint by the coalition alleging the drywell liner, which encases the reactor and contains steam during an accident, is too corroded to enable the plant to operate safely.

But officials at Exelon Generation Co. LLC, the plant's owner, said corrosion problems have been addressed with repairs and modifications since they were uncovered in the 1980s and 1990s. They said ongoing monitoring of the drywell and calculations of the walls' thickness keep them apprised of any potential issues.

MaryAnn Spoto may be reached at