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(POACNews) 04/08/09 Lacey Twp, NJ The Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Station has received licencing approval for twenty more years. Frank Galipo/Special to the POAC

LACEY TOWNSHIP - Inspectors cited the Oyster Creek Generating Station for two low-level safety issues found during a shutdown of the plant in July.

Two emergency backup systems at the plant were not functioning properly when inspected as a result of an electrical storm that shut down the plant July 12.

The results of the inspection were released Wednesday by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

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One finding involved the emergency diesel generator, which is used to provide backup power in the event of an emergency. Contacts on the generator had degraded, and inspectors found that the generator could not start up as fast as required by the NRC. A breaker was supposed to close within 7.3 seconds, but during the inspection, it took 91 seconds to close.

"Those seconds could be crucial in a severe-accident scenario," NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said.

The other finding involved some sandblasting material in water instrument piping in one of the plant's isolation condensation chambers. The chambers are used to store water that cools parts of the plant during an emergency. The sandblasting material should have been identified and removed during maintenance in November 2008, the NRC said.

In both cases, there were other backup systems that worked fine, according to both the NRC and Oyster Creek officials. The contacts on the generator were replaced immediately and the sandblasting grit was removed, according to David Benson, a spokesman for Oyster Creek.

The two events were classified as "green," the lowest level of safety significance. The NRC reported that operator Exelon took immediate steps to correct the problems after they were identified.

Oyster Creek has had 12 such findings this year from the NRC and the plant. The plant already has received criticism this year from environmental groups for other shutdowns due to various problems.

"History has shown us that the older the plant gets, the more problems it has," said Matt Elliott, clean energy advocate for Environment New Jersey.

Oyster Creek is the oldest continuously operating nuclear plant in the country. In April, its operating license was renewed for 20 years.

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