LACEY TOWNSHIP - It's that time of year again, when you hear sirens around noontime, and they keep sounding after you've expected them to trail off. "This is a test. This is only a test."

It's the test of all 42 sirens in the 10-mile Emergency Planning Zone around the Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Plant in Forked River. The three-minute, semi-annual test starts at 12 PM on Tuesday, December 5.

It isn't a signal to evacuate. The sirens, if activated during a nuclear emergency, constitute an alert to follow the Emergency Broadcast System on radio or TV.

The Ocean County Office of Emergency Management manages the siren system, and Exelon maintains it.

Several years ago, the company installed a completely new set with stronger tones and greater range than the originals.

To date, no emergency has required them to be set off. It remains unclear whether the sirens will be tested, or maintained, during and after decommissioning, when the reactor no longer functions, in light of the decades of spent fuel rods that will remain on site. Ocean County Sheriff Mike Mastronardy recently remarked that he was in discussions with plant operators.

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