The parent company of the nation's oldest operating nuclear power plant is trying to get out of making additional post-Fukushima disaster prevention upgrades.

A new Oyster Creek siren next to an old one
Townsquare Media NJ

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires nuclear power plants throughout the country to install hardened vents to reactor containment vessels, to release combustible gas in the event of a disaster, but Exelon has requested an extension until 2020 for the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station.

"They argue that they have sufficient means to deal with a severe accident, including a system that is very effective at removing heat after an accident," said Neil Sheehan, NRC spokesman.

Sheehan said the NRC will be weighing Exelon's contentions, as far as whether they're justified in not making the retrofits. Officials will also be taking into consideration that the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant is scheduled to shut down permanently in 2019, making the vents no longer necessary.

In a written statement, Oyster Creek site communications manager Suzanne D'Ambrosio said:

Three years after the events at Fukushima, U.S. nuclear stations are even safer and more prepared for the unimaginable. New flexible equipment is in place, seismic and flooding analyses have been performed, and equipment modifications are being considered.

The NRC is requiring plants with hardened containment vents, like Oyster Creek, to submit plans to enhance them by the end of this month. The enhanced vents themselves wouldn't be fully operational until the fall of 2018. Due to Oyster Creek's early retirement in 2019, the hardened vent enhancement is not practical or required to ensure safe plant operation. Exelon is requesting an extension to comply with the NRC filing deadline.

Exelon's approach is consistent with requests being made by other utilities. The station's existing hardened vent remains fully operational and capable of protecting the plant, its workers and the public in the unlikely event of a severe event."

Sheehan didn't have an explanation as to why Exelon requested an extension, and not an exemption, to the requirement. He said the NRC has a year to make its decision.

For Townsquare Media's previous report on this topic, click here.