The nation’s oldest nuclear power plant, already out of service for scheduled refueling, was put on alert late Monday after waters from Superstorm Sandy rose 6 feet above sea level.
Conditions were still safe at and around Oyster Creek, a plant in Lacey Township, N.J., and at all other U.S. nuclear plants, said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which oversees plant safety. No plants that had been up and running before the storm were planning to shut down.
High water levels at Oyster Creek, which generates enough electricity to power 600,000 homes a year, prompted safety officials to declare an “unusual event” around 7 p.m. About two hours later, the situation was upgraded to an “alert,” the second-lowest in a four-tiered warning system.
The plant’s owner, Exelon Corp., said power was also disrupted in the station’s switchyard, but backup diesel generators were providing stable power, with more than two weeks of fuel on hand.
A rising tide, the direction of the wind and the storm’s surge combined to raise water levels in the plant’s intake structure, the NRC said. The agency said that water levels are expected to recede within hours and that the plant, which went online in 1969 and is set to close in 2019, is watertight and capable of withstanding hurricane-force winds.