Several people took aim at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission last night specifically regarding recommendations from senior management who recommended that the Mark I and Mark II containment systems within Oyster Creek be equipped with a severe accident capable vent and a high capacity radiation filter.
Although the venting systems will be improved, the filter aspect has been rejected, according to several speakers, including Paul Gunter, Director of the Reactor Oversight Project for Beyond Nuclear, who was among about five people who addressed the NRC at a public open house, held at the Holiday Inn in Manahawkin.
Gunter and others are concerned that not providing a filter in the case of a severe accident could put the public at risk.
But Darrell Roberts, who works with the Division of Reactor Projects, said that the commission has directed its technical staff to improve venting pressure during potential accidents at 31 U.S. reactors, including Oyster Creek.
"There is adequate systems in place to prevent accidents, and safety systems are installed to mitigate accidents and prevent accidents, and provide adequate filtrate of containment during an accident," Roberts said.
The Commission’s decision, in March, came two years after the Fukushima meltdown in Japan and requires hardened venting systems at boiling-water reactors with Mark I and Mark II containments.
Questions from the audience also focused on potential global warming scenarios and rising water levels as they relate to Oyster Creek, and if rising sea levels could hazards for the plant's operation.
But officials noted that even during Sandy, water levels reached a peak of 7.4 feet -- apparently above the threshold -- but the pump motors did not flood.
"All of the plants are required to reanalyze their flooding patterns and they are required to take into consideration any changes in local infrastructure, local geography elevations, and changes in topography when considering new flood hazards," Roberts said.
Overall, Oyster Creek, which is a single boiling-water reactor located in Lacey Township, operated safely during 2012. At the end of the fourth quarter of 2012, the plant did not have any inspection findings that were greater than green (rising to the level requiring additional NRC oversight) or any performance indicators that were other than green (exceeding the threshold for the indicator and requiring additional NRC oversight).
As a result, Oyster Creek will continue to receive the NRC’s normal level of oversight during 2013. Plants that meet criteria set out by the NRC receive the normal level of oversight, which still consists of a detailed regime involving thousands of hours of inspection.
In 2012, the agency devoted approximately 6,500 hours of inspection to the Oyster Creek plant, which is owned by Exelon Generation Co. LLC. This included inspections focused on the plant’s performance during Hurricane Sandy, which assessed the reasons for an "alert” declaration during the storm.
The annual assessment letter for Oyster Creek is available on the NRC website at: http://www.nrc.gov/NRR/OVERSIGHT/ASSESS/LETTERS/oc_2012q4.pdf . The notice for the open house is available in the NRC’s Agencywide Documents Access and Management System (ADAMS) under accession number ML13057A284. ADAMS is available at: http://adams.nrc.gov/wba/. Help in using ADAMS can be obtained via the NRC’s Public Document Room at 1-800-397-4209 or 301-415-4737, or by e-mail at: PDR.Resource@NRC.GOV.
Routine inspections are carried out by the NRC Resident Inspectors assigned to each plant and by inspection specialists from the agency’s Region I Office in King of Prussia, Pa. Among the areas of performance to be inspected at Oyster Creek this year by NRC specialists are activities associated with radiological safety, emergency planning, control room operator requalification testing and underground piping and tanks.
Current performance information for Oyster Creek is available on the NRC web site at: http://www.nrc.gov/NRR/OVERSIGHT/ASSESS/OC/oc_chart.htm.