DEP ISSUES NJPDES PERMIT TO OYSTER CREEK NUCLEAR PLANT
IN ACCORDANCE WITH PLANT CLOSURE AGREEMENT
(11/P142) TRENTON - The Department of Environmental Protection today issued a New Jersey Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NJPDES) permit renewal to the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in accordance with the agreement negotiated by the state and Exelon Corp. to close the plant a decade ahead of its federal license expiration.
The NJPDES permit allows the Lacey Township power plant to continue to withdraw reactor cooling water from the Forked River and discharge it into Oyster Creek. The permit incorporates the conditions of the Dec. 9, 2010 Administrative Consent Order (ACO) between Exelon Corp. and the DEP which calls for Exelon to cease power generation operations by the end of 2019, even though its federal operating license expires in 2029. The NJPDES permit renewal takes effect April 1, 2012.
"The early closure of the Oyster Creek plant is a major win for the long-term health of the Barnegat Bay ecosystem," said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin. "The Christie Administration took firm and decisive action in reaching this unprecedented agreement to close the nation's oldest commercial nuclear reactor. That closure is the key component of the Governor's 10-point plan to restore the bay from decades of ecological decline."
The DEP carefully considered requiring Exelon to retrofit the plant with closed-cycle cooling tower technology but determined that this would involve a complicated and wide-scale construction project involving substantial costs.
As a result of Exelon's commitment to terminate operations no later than Dec. 31, 2019, the DEP determined that closed-cycle cooling is not the best technology available given the length of time that would be required to retrofit the plant and the limited lifespan of the facility after implementation of the closed-cycle cooling system.
The time to design, permit and construct such a system would likely be at least seven years, compared with the agreement which will result in the plant's closure in eight years.
The facility also has physical constraints which limit the location and types of closed-cycle systems that could be installed. Relocation of major water piping systems and the security perimeter also would be necessary.
Exelon has committed to working with the DEP toward the safe closure of the nuclear plant.
The DEP has also launched the Oyster Creek Safety Advisory Panel to augment oversight of the safe operation of the nuclear power plant leading up to its closure. That panel, chaired by Commissioner Martin, held its first meeting this week.
Also sitting on the panel are Dr. Adam Cohen, chief operations officer at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, and Charles B. McKenna, Director of the State Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness. DEP nuclear engineers and experts will provide their expertise to the panel and serve as its staff.
Governor Christie launched the 10-point Barnegat Bay Restoration Plan on Dec. 9, 2010, by announcing the agreement to close the Oyster Creek plant ahead of schedule. The Barnegat Bay Plan sets in place multifaceted strategies to restore and enhance the bay, including efforts to reduce stormwater pollution, develop water quality standards, close key gaps in scientific data, improve public stewardship of the bay, and preserve land in the bay's 660-square-mile watershed.
The DEP issued a draft NJPDES permit for Oyster Creek on June 1, triggering a public review and comment process. Twenty-eight people and organizations submitted comments. Two public hearing sessions were held on July 7.
To view a copy of the final permit renewal and the DEP's Response to Comments document, visit: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/dwq/pdf/oystercreekfinalpermit.pdf
To view Governor Christie's comprehensive 10-point Barnegat Bay Restoration Plan, visit: http://www.nj.gov/dep/barnegatbay/