Exelon will weigh whether to decommission its Oyster Creek nuclear plant earlier than planned if its economics worsen between now and 2019.

Clinton nuclear plant. Source: NRCAt that point the New Jersey reactor would be 50 years old and at the end of a 2010 agreement related to its cooling system that called for decommissioning 10 years before its operating license expires. Exelon would consider closing it even sooner if faced with unexpected capital costs and low power prices, Exelon CEO Christopher Crane recently told Bloomberg.

According to Exelon, Oyster Creek was the first large-scale commercial nuclear plant in the country. It began operating in 1969, making its GE type 2 boiling water reactor the oldest U.S. power reactor in use.

Crane also noted that the utility has deferred uprates at its LaSalle and Limerick plants for near-term savings of $1.2 billion. The company will also begin refueling on a yearly basis at the Clinton plant in Illinois to increase its profitability, which is among the lowest in the Exelon fleet. Cheap wind power in the Illinois market has eaten into Clinton's margins, but Crane said the plant is not under consideration for decommissioning.

Photo: Exelon's Clinton nuclear plant