The federal government will increase its oversight of the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in Ocean County after an inspection indicated deficient maintenance work on a safety-related relief valve, officials say. 

In 2016, United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspectors found a problem with one of the plant’s five electromatic relief valves that is used to depressurize the reactor during a pipe break, agency spokesman Neil Sheehan said in a release. 

The inspection finding indicates a low to moderate safety significance.

"These valves serve a key safety function and therefore it is important that they be available to help mitigate severe accidents at the plant,” said NRC Region I Administrator Dan Dorman. “We will conduct a supplemental inspection at Oyster Creek to ensure the underlying problems that led to this issue have been appropriately addressed.”

Exelon verified correct assembly of the valves following the most recent refueling and maintenance outage at the plant, Sheehan said.

Oyster Creek is located about 60 miles east of Philadelphia in the Forked River section of Lacey Township. Built in 1969, it generates enough electricity to power 600,000 homes, or roughly all the homes in Monmouth and Ocean counties combined.

The plant reached an agreement with the state to close the plant by 2019 despite holding a federal license to operate through 2029.

But decomissioning work will continue after the plant goes offline as fuel from the site cannot be moved to dry storage for at least 10 years, according to a Oyster Creek FAQ published by the state. 

Exelon 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 Oyster Creek closure is on the state's 10-point Barnegat Bay action plan.