Closed Oyster Creek nuclear plant to hold emergency siren test

An emergency evacuation pamphlet shows the 10-mile radius around Oyster Creek Generating Station. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

An emergency evacuation pamphlet shows the 10-mile radius around Oyster Creek Generating Station. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in Forked River will conduct a semi-annual, full volume test of its emergency warning sirens Tuesday.

The sirens will blare for three minutes beginning around noon.

The purpose of the test is to notify residents to tune to an Emergency Alert System (EAS) radio or a television station in case of an emergency.

In 2013, Exelon Generation, the plant’s operator, replaced all 42 emergency warning sirens within a 10-mile radius around the Ocean County facility with new, state-of-the-art units featuring battery back-up.

Oyster Creek stopped operating in September. In October, the federal government granted Exelon permission to amend the plant’s emergency plan after it permanently defueled the nuclear reactor.

The decision will allow the operator to discontinue the Emergency Planning Zone within a 10-mile radius and eliminate the use of emergency sirens. But the changes cannot be implemented until 12 months after the plant’s closure, allowing the spent fuel to cool sufficiently to reduce the risk of a fire and radioactivity spread.

The plant must continue to maintain an on-site emergency plan and emergency response capabilities. In the event of an emergency, the operator must notify the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and state authorities.

The plant went online in December 1969, the same day as the Nine Mile Point Nuclear Generating Station near Oswego, New York. But Oyster Creek’s original license was granted first.

Exelon Generation agreed to shut down the plant in return for not being required to build costly cooling towers requested by the state Department of Environmental Protection that would minimize the impact on fish and other marine life in the creek.

The plant has dealt with corrosion and leaks during its time in service, but the owner says the facility has always been safe.

In July, Exelon Generation announced that Holtec International had agreed to purchase the property. The agreement remains under review by the federal government. Holtec has requested a decision by May 1, 2019.

The company will contract with Camden, New Jersey-based Comprehensive Decommissioning International to decommission the plant within eight years, more than 50 years ahead of the industry-allowed 60-year timeline.

Holtec, formed in New Jersey and now has its headquarters in Jupiter, Florida, has submitted a license application for a facility in New Mexico to accept spent nuclear fuel from all plants in the United States, including Oyster Creek. The company says transporting all fuel to that facility would allow the company to return the site to unrestricted use.

Exelon Generation had previously announced that the decommission plan would cost $1.4 billion.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.