The off site emergency management review for the Oyster Creek Power Plant in Lacey is postponed into next year thanks to Hurricane Irene.

The delay was approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) which requires that every power plant goes through a two part graded emergency exercise once every two years. The first part is a grade of a location's on site response which is conducted by the NRC. It ascertains whether the company is properly classifying the event properly communicating with the outside world what is going on.

The second part, which is the one Oyster Creek was unable to conduct, is the off site test overseen by FEMA. The review assess whether the state, counties, or local towns are making the right decision in terms of protective actions. Whether there should be evacuations sheltering in place, whether citizens should be advised to take potassium iodide tablets, those kinds of key decisions.

Neil Sheehan, spokesman for the NRC, explains that "Because of the impacts of hurricane Irene obviously the offsite players that would be involved with this were tied up with other matters."

Exelon, the parent company of Oyster Creek, made a request to postpone the off site test from September 27th until June 2012 which the NRC approved.

Though the offsite portion's date was moved, Sheehan says the on site test was conducted without issues. "The company itself was still ready to go through with the exercise. We went ahead and conducted the onsite portion on September 27th. We did not identify any findings; we found that the onsite part went smoothly."

Sheehan says that postponing the assessment is a "one time exemption", noting that it is a very rare occurrence where a natural disaster forced the review to be pushed forward. "It's very rare, in fact I cannot immediately think of another case where an exercise was postponed. "

Moving the review forward also gives Oyster Creek the opportunity to push their 2012 exercise to 2013. However Sheehan says "regardless during the 2012-2013 period they would still need to do another graded emergency exercise and all of the players are fully aware of that."

Sheehan adds that though this is an unusual situation, "given the impact of hurricane Irene, we felt this was a warranted request so we gone ahead and approved it."