Oyster Creek retires after 49 years

18 September 2018

Exelon Generation's Oyster Creek nuclear power plant retired from service yesterday after 49 years of electricity generation. The single-unit boiling water reactor was the oldest operating nuclear power plant in the USA.

Oyster Creek (Image: Exelon)

Construction of the 619 MWe plant began at Forked River, New Jersey in December 1964, with first criticality in May 1969 and grid connection that September. The plant entered commercial operation on 1 December 1969 - the same day as Nine Mile Point 1, which now becomes the USA's oldest operating nuclear power plant.

Over its operating lifetime Oyster Creek produced nearly 200 million MWh of carbon-free electricity and thus offset the emission of more than 140 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, Exelon said.

In January this year the plant continued operating at reduced power levels when winter storm Grayson brought record-breaking extreme weather to the region.

Although licensed to operate until 2029, Exelon decided in 2010 to retire the plant early after revisions to New Jersey's water use rules would have required it to build new cooling towers at an estimated cost of more than USD800 million. Exelon announced in February this year that the plant, which was required to close by the end of 2019 under an agreement with the State of New Jersey, would cease operations at the end of its current operating cycle.

Work will now begin to remove the reactor's nuclear fuel for storage in the plant's used fuel pool, after which preparations will begin for dismantlement and long-term decommissioning. Oyster Creek is to be sold to Holtec International in a transaction expected to close in 2019 subject to regulatory approvals, after which Holtec and SNC-Lavalin joint venture Comprehensive Decommissioning International will be responsible for decommissioning the plant. About 300 of Oyster Creek's employees are to remain at the plant to carry out decommissioning work with Exelon and ultimately with Holtec.

Oyster Creek Site Vice President Tim Moore celebrated the "proud legacy" of the plant and its employees.

"Eventually these buildings will disappear, but the station’s legacy of safe, reliable operations, community involvement, and environmental stewardship will never fade," he said.

Gary Quinn, a member of the committee of nearby Lacey Township - which incorporates an atomic symbol in its coat of arms in recognition of the plant - said Lacey saluted Oyster Creek and its employees for their service and goodwill to the township and the surrounding communities.

"Although we are sad to see this icon of the community cease operations, we look forward to a continued strong relationship with those at the facility as it enters into decommissioning," he said.

Oyster Creek was one of four nuclear units which together generated 38.5% of New Jersey's electricity. The state earlier this year passed legislation to establish a Zero Emissions Certificate programme which will support the continued operation of the single-unit Hope Creek and twin-unit Salem plants.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News