Oyster Creek Station New Jersey Asbestos

In 1969, the Exelon Corporation established the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station. Located near the Lacey Township of New Jersey, the facility is currently the oldest functioning nuclear power plant in the United States. Oyster creek uses a boiling water reactor to generate electricity, taking the cooling water necessary from the Barnegat Bay, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean.

The plant’s operation license is valid until 2029, after being extended in 2009 by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. This commission can provide operating licenses that are valid for up to 40 years, and can provide extensions of up to 20 years, as is the case with Oyster Creek. Licensing terms are based on multiple considerations, including the economy, not necessarily just technical limitations.

Exelon Corporation conducted a survey of residents residing in the surrounding areas of the power plant in 2006, ultimately finding that the majority supported reissuing the license for operation. Even though some residents opposed reissuing the license at an Atomic Safety Licensing Board hearing, the board rejected these concerns and supported Oyster Creek’s license renewal.

The plant experienced two relatively minor incidents of radioactive leakage in August of 2009, when plant employees discovered tritium leaks in improperly insulated pipes. The pipes were repaired and properly insulated, though the groundwater on the site was contaminated. This groundwater has not spread beyond this location and has not contaminated water supplies used by the public. At the current rate of water migration, it is possible that this groundwater will reach publicly-used water wells in ten or more years, as stated by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

As part of three other nuclear power plants in the state, the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station has contributed to New Jersey’s ranking as the tenth state for total megawatts generated. Over half of the state of New Jersey was powered by nuclear power in 2003.

Up until the 1970s, asbestos was commonly used in many different industrial facilities, including nuclear power plants. It was not until after this time that the public was aware that asbestos could be responsible for multiple health problems for those who had worked around it without modern regulatory precautions, such as respirators. Without safety equipment or the removal of this material, workers throughout the first three quarters of the 1900s were regularly exposed to asbestos dust in these facilities.


U.S. Energy Information Administration

United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission